Co-op Bookshop fights back with acquisition in glimmer of hope for book industry

The Co-op Bookshop has defied the trend of the shrinking retail book industry through the acquisition of Melbourne University and SPP Medical and Legal bookshops.

The Co-op has secured a long-term licence to operate both bookshops under the Co-op brand for an undisclosed amount.

This latest acquisition now gives it a retail footprint of 43 bookshops across Australia and positions it as Australia’s second largest bookshop chain.

The move stands in stark contrast to the fate of other Australian book stores with both Borders and Angus & Robertson chains collapsing last year.

Greg Smith, chief marketing officer at Co-op, told SmartCompany the acquisition showed bricks and mortar book stores were not dead.

“We are an omni-channel retailer and we will pursue all channels. We currently have 43 stores and we are going to expand quite significantly and will be growing online as well,” says Smith.

“We are on a growth path. I know this is countercyclical and counter to the bookselling industry, but our model is such that we are quite sharp with our business practices and it is our relationship with our members that drives our business.”

Smith says Co-op won the tender because of its national footprint, history of 54 years in the book industry and relationships with its customers.

“We are the largest campus bookseller in the country and we have the expertise at every level when it comes to helping students,” says Smith.

“It is all about building a great relationship. We partner with the student while on campus and then beyond, we have life-long membership.

“Once you leave university your relationship with knowledge does not end.”

Brian Walker, retail specialist at The Retail Doctor, told SmartCompany that Co-Op was succeeding where other book retailers were failing as it had a defined audience rather than being a retail offering to the general public.

“It certainly shows that, to a specialised audience, a targeted audience, a book store still very much makes sense,” says Walker.

“It is an integrated offer because they are clever enough to see the tertiary and academic markets clearly still have a demand for hard copy books.”

Walker says research shows that in a social or community context the tactile or physical experience, such as retail, is very important.

“It is a nice example of sticking to your knitting – I think it actually makes sense because it is such a closed community,” he says.



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