New chapter opens for online retail

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Cashing in on the boom in the country’s retail sector, leading booksellers as well as publishers are now turning online to boost sales. 
 
After setting up book cafes that offer customers facilities to sip tea, listen to music or browse the net apart from buying books, new-age book stores are now looking to expand their customer base through online sales. 
 
According to estimates drawn by the Central Statistical Organisation Statistics, 2006, the total books, music and gift retail industry in the country that is currently pegged at Rs 11,500 crore has witnessed an increase of 17.3 per cent from last year. 
 
Spurred on by the boom in the country’s retail industry there has been a sustained efforts by booksellers to change the way books are purchased. Many leading bookstores and retail chains such as Oxford, Landmark and Crosswords have transformed the older bookstore format. With an average size of 8,000 sq ft to 15,000 sq feet that is around eight times that of the traditional stores, these newer stores sport facilities for readers to read, drink tea as well as listen to and buy music and movies.Dehradun-headquartered ‘The English Book Depot Book Cafe,’ for example seeks to change the shopping and retail of books in the country.“Our mission is to set up a chain of Book Cafe outlets all over India, to offer a superior book shopping experience and to reinvent the way the books are bought and sold in India,” says Sandeep Dutt, managing director and chief executive of the EBD Book Cafe.With a gradual expansion of leisure retail outlets in the country together with a rise in the young, urban educated and English-spea king middle class, publishing and book retailing in India has become an interesting investment prospect. 
 
Their initiative called Book Cafes is aimed at redefining the concept of reading. It’s more like reading with a group of friends over a cup of coffee. It’s not just about books and coffee -it’s more. It’s all about creating a homely atmosphere for relaxing; being comfortable. And the intangible values are the friendly warm comfortable ambiance and the supportive staff. According to Market Research Indian Retail Overview, 2006 the performance of some of the leading music and gift retailers show that retail presence during 2005 and 2006 grew by 20 per cent. Further, there was a growth of 13 per cent in 2005 and 29 per cent in 2006, in terms of outlets. Retail chains and online retailers such as Rediffusion, Landmark, E-tail and Fabmart along with mushrooming bookstore chains across the country are also seen as a positive for the future of India’s book business, which is looking bright partly because of higher educational enrollments as well as government efforts to promote literacy. 
 
Bookstores such as Caf Turtle, Full Circle, the Oxford BookStore, the Corner Bookstore, Teksons Bookshop in the Capital and others by young entrepreneurs are changing “the way of reading”, taking it to a totally different dimension to what was once considered a “leisure activity”. 
 
The market research published on Indian Retail Overview, 2006 shows that the books, music and gifts are a fast-growing business activity with an annual growth 12.6 per cent. Book cafes, though a relatively new and small market, thus look set for explosive growth. 
 
“Compared with last year, we have grown 300 per cent in terms of online book sales. In fact, in just over four months of time, our sales have increased tremendously”, says Venki, Business Head, landmarkonthenet.Com. The Book Cafe owners are certain that by selling books, from within the espresso bars and other such co-locations that has a footfall of over 100 plus customers in a day will help achieve growth in book sales. 
 
This whole thing, therefore, also indicates that there is a huge potential of employment opportunities in this segment in the days to come which is obviously a promising sign for the educated youths of the country. 
 
“Our company has set up a Multi Format book retail chain. The Flexi-format structure has a capability to use 300 to 1500 sq. Feet space. Finally, E-commerce and the ERP software will enable delivery of books anytime and anywhere”, says Shamin Akhtar Ansari of the Book Cafe. 
 
The Book Cafe is primarily focusing itself on receiving online orders from different parts of the country and then delivering the books at the customer’s doorstep, whatever it costs the company does not matter! Shop at www.Bookcafe.In and get books delivered at your doorstep. 
 
What began as an experiment in Dehra Dun has now been established in Ludhiana, Jaipur, Kanpur, Indore, Patiala, Chandigarh, Pune, New Delhi, Udaipur, Agra, Gurgaon, Lucknow, and Pondicherry. The company aspires to open over 100 outlets in three years just for the book lovers. 
 
“For the best results in online marketing, we have tied up with Sify and Rediff for the vertical shopping as we have our customer base increasing everyday from Shillong and Nagaland to Chennai and Andhra Pradesh. We are trying to bring about a change from ‘breakaway model to clickmodel’ of book purchasing”, elaborates Venki. 
 
According to Sandeep, “In a developing and intellect driven economy, books are indeed the most suitable product to promote and sell. The product has been test marketed over the years from the flagship store, There is considerable potential in the Book Caf business. In particular one important segment, the youngsters and middle ages, 15 to 40 year-olds who want leisure and a great place to browse, are not having their needs properly met. These customers find it difficult to get good books and are looking for a place to spend their leisure hours. They will find that the Book Caf gives them real value.” 

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