A domestic online bookseller once part of the collapsed Borders group is attempting to rebrand and establish a hold on the market with an ambitious marketing deal – promising to beat Amazon prices by 10%.
The pledge comes as the domestic online market continues to compete against offshore sales. Booksellers in particular have had a tough time, competing against international giants like Amazon and other department stores.
But the promise to cut prices also forms part of a re-education campaign, with the company struggling to shed the bad reputation it received when it was part of Borders.
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“There was some damage to the brand in administration,” says Bookworld chief executive James Webber. “We traded using the Borders name last year, and we did okay, but it’s clear to us that it’ll be harder to re-engage using the Borders brand than if we launched something new.”
Webber told SmartCompany he believes there’s an opportunity to undercut these global powerhouses, saying local customers would prefer to buy from Australian stores.
“There is a misconception in Australia that there aren’t local alternatives that can either meet price or delivery with Amazon, and we want to change that.”
Bookworld is promising free shipping and delivery within two to three days of books that are located in the country. Some others take between 10 to 14 days, which is on par with Amazon’s cheapest delivery rates.
Webber also says this isn’t a loss-leading exercise. While some books are carrying a loss, and obviously margins are thinner across the board, the marketing push won’t be a monetary black hole.
“We want to grow this business, and an important part of that is making sure we can be competitive,” he says.
The marketing pledge also comes alongside a massive advertising push in print, radio and television. Webber says the audience is already there, with the site receiving plenty of hits last Christmas. It just needs to expand.
“We know there’s a desire for people to shop locally,” he says.
That much is true. Surveys have shown Australians prefer domestic retailers, but the sticking point is price. If shoppers can save money by buying overseas, they will.
The biggest challenge will be disassociating the company from Borders, Webber says. While the retail arm was shut down, the digital assets were sold to publishing group Pearson, where Bookworld now forms part of the company’s retail effort.
That strategy, he says, will be a long-term one.
“Bookworld can stand for more things than just an online retailer. We’re not tied to what happens in stores, it’s now a pureplay retailer that can create its own dynamics and culture.”
“We have a loyal customer base who we have transitioned across, and I’d say they are happy.”
He won’t reveal revenue, but says it’s on par with the local online booksellers. That would place revenue in the tens of millions, possibly between $25-30 million.
But for Webber, it’s not enough: “We want people to know who we are.”