Ottakar's in own-brand push

<p>Fiona Fraser</p><p>Ottakar's has developed a range of own-brand and exclusive product in a bid to differentiate its offer and uphold margin for Christmas.</p><p>The publishing partner for the own-brand selection is Francis Frith, a specialist in historical photographs, maps, books and gifts.</p><p>A total of 54 Ottakar's branches will each stock 850 copies of a hardback book about their local town's contemporary culture and its history. Priced at &#163;14.99, the books include colour and black and white photography and local facts. Authors will be established local historians and guides.</p><p>Graham Edmonds, who as children's books category controller at W H Smith built a range of WHS-branded educational titles, joined Ottakar's last October to develop own-brand and exclusive product.</p><p>He said the new ranges generated higher margins, and would help to "mitigate against the effects of price promotions" in the build-up to Christmas. "It also enables us to differentiate ourselves with a creative range that plays to our strengths in local and history books."</p><p>Francis Frith will also produce local question books, miscellany gift books and historical walking guides for the chain. A stationery range is to include address books, diaries, visitor books, notebooks and calendars. A gift range comprising coasters, framed prints, jigsaw puzzles and snowdomes will feature photographs of local towns.</p><p>Ottakar's has invested &#163;1m in stock for the next two Christmas seasons, and will launch the range in October. It will be publicised through local papers and festivals.</p><p>Another deal will see the chain collaborate with Michael O'Mara Books on an exclusive range of &#163;5.99 humour books, including The Little Book of Facts UK, The Book of Lies, and 101 Ways To Improve Your Mind. Ottakar's will also sell an exclusive UK edition of The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker.</p><p>Mr Edmonds said: "We have got to be flexible--each deal is different. But publishers are sometimes publishing blind. We are in touch with what our customers want."</p><p></p>