Govind Shrikhande, the mustachioed and mild-mannered managing director of India’s early retail chain Shoppers Stop, set up in 1991, is betting on toys, kids and partners to drive the company’s bookstore business Crossword, which is struggling in the age of e-commerce, and was rumoured to have recently been put on the block.
The 51-year old Shrikhande, the man put in-charge to turn around the fortunes of Crossword, hopes children’s books, expansion through franchisees and even-smaller stores can drive the brand and help revive the chain that Shoppers Stop acquired in 2000 for Rs. 25 crore.
“We have been working hard the last 12-15 months to change the basic nature of our bookstore business. Unlike a few years ago the non-books segment now dominates this business more,” said Shrikhande.
The current sales mix for the books and the non-books business at Crossword is 55:45 as against 75: 45 four years ago.
“The children’s business is doing very well and we are looking at taking advantage of it in a big way through books, stationery and toys,” he said.
Unlike Tata-owned Landmark, which is a large format bookstore chain, Crossword has smaller stores with an average space of 3,000-3,500 square feet. The company is looking at tightening them further.
“Besides opening more franchisee-owned stores, we’ll tighten the existing and the newer stores further to an average space of 2,000-2,500 square feet, to save on rentals,” said Shrikhande.
At present there are 88 Crossword stores of which about half are company owned. It aims to open six stores every year.