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British Bookshops expands with three new branches
11.10.10 | Victoria Gallagher
British Bookshops will have expanded its number of stores by 30% by mid-October from 39 to 51 after a management buy-out in February.
The retailer has seen considerable expansion since the beginning of the year when managing director John Simpson led the management buy-out. The ownership of the chain shifted from private equity firm Endless, which had bought British Bookshops from Eason in May 2009 for an undisclosed sum.
Simpson said: “Things have been going well, we’ve had a good summer.” After the buy-out Simpson took over the Sussex-based business with 39 stores. At the time of Eason taking a stake in Sussex Stationers and British Bookshops in 2004 the chain had 52 branches. By the middle of this month, however, the chain will be back up to 51 branches.
Simpson said the turnaround had gone well and the company has opened new stores in Brighton, Croydon and Guildford.
A new store in Reading, opened on 30th September, was its 49th branch. Most recently a store in Exeter opened on 5th October and another will open in Richmond, Surrey on 19th October. Simpson said that each new store is creating about 10 jobs on average.
The company was originally south-east-based but has broken out of this region. Its most northerly store is Evesham in Worcestershire, and the estate goes as far as Exeter in the west and Dover in the east.
Simpson added that in searching for new locations the retailer had looked at demographics and explored the typical customer profile. With the head office still located in Brighton, he said proximity to the town has also had some importance.
As for further expansion, Simpson said: “In the business plan we’ve got another chunk of new stores for next year, but we’re going to see how [we] settle down over Christmas.
“Business is going all right. We offer very competitive prices. We don’t do any offers as such—we discount all the books we sell but we don’t do buy-one-get-one-free or whatever it is.
“We focus on just a single price option and in the current environment customers seem to really appreciate that, because they don’t want to spend £20 on a book or £20 on stationery unnecessarily.”
British Bookshops is also focusing on its local offerings and Simpson said the company was trying to optimise this.
“We do a lot of work with local schools, a lot of stuff with local communities,” he said. “We try to get actively involved with the local community. We do a lot with local authors, signings, events, this sort of stuff, because the big guys are just not interested in these local authors.”
A new website launched in June is going well, said Simpson, particularly the online ordering that is integrated with stores.