Booktopia Acquires Bookworld and Angus & Robertson Online

By Sam Gopal | 03 Aug 2015

The Aussie online book market is about to change as Bookworld and Angus & Robertson are sold to pureplay Booktopia, to leverage the combined infrastructures.

Penguin Random House Australia CEO Gabrielle Coyne today announced the sale of Bookworld, the online book retailer that operates bookworld.com.au and angusrobertson.com.au, to Booktopia.

The transaction will bring together Australia’s two largest online book businesses.

Coyne said “As publishers, connecting authors with readers is at the core of what we do and a strong online player is but one of the many ways this happens.

“Bookworld and Booktopia share the same commitment to delivering a first class online experience for Australian readers, and together will have the economies of scale and the brands to strengthen and grow an important channel.”

Since it was purchased in 2011, the Bookworld business has more than doubled, its loyalty programme has trebled, and a new platform implemented. It has also won a number of awards, claiming the title of Australia’s largest online bookstore back in 2013 and been named a Top 50 Online Retailer by Power Retail for the past three years – number 33 in the latest edition of theE-Commerce Leaders’ Playbook.

Bookworld was also voted number one Apostle in Power Retail‘s E-Commerce Marketing Gospel last year, based on its bus stop pop-up marketing initiative. The news comes just a few short months after the online retailer snapped up an ever-increasing share of a $2 billion book market, with sales rising 40 percent over the past two years back in April.

James Webber, CEO of Bookworld, said, “I am extremely proud of what the Bookworld team have achieved in such a short time and it has been very gratifying to see this recognised by the industry awards we have won over the last couple of years.

“I am also equally excited about the opportunities created by the bringing together of these two great businesses.

“This significantly strengthens this growing and increasingly important channel to market.”

Tony Nash, CEO of Booktopia and nominee for this year’s industry recognition award at the ORIAs, said, “Penguin Random House Australia have done a tremendous job growing the Bookworld business over the past few years and we have been impressed in what they have accomplished thus far.

“We look forward to the challenge of delighting the book buying community across all our websites as more and more people buy their books online.”

Booktopia was established in 2004 and is now one of the top pureplay (online only) retailers in Australia, shortlisted for ORIAs for both best pureplay and online customer service. There are over 100,000 in stock titles ready-to-ship from their 10,000 square metre headquarters and distribution centre in Sydney and the Bookworld business will take full advantage of the infrastructure and systems already in place.

It is anticipated Booktopia will take operational control in mid-August, after which James Webber will leave the business. Terms of the acquisition will not be disclosed.

Power Retail was able to grab Tony Nash for a quick chat to congratulate him on the acquisition and to get some further insights into how it came about.

What made Booktopia the right fit for this acquisition?

When Penguin bought Bookworld it consequently merged with Random House, which is 53 percent owned by a German company that believes in keeping retail to retail and publishing to publishers.

There was therefore a rigorous selection process of who to sell too and it obviously came down to numbers, but who also represented the right fit for the Bookwrold and Angus & Robertson customers. Once we were selected we did our due diligence to make sure we were comfortable taking on the business.

We have the good fortune of having started 11.5 years ago. At that point, many said we were too late and had missed out. But we experience 30-40 percent year-on-year growth, and revenue achieved in the last financial year has us sitting as a $54 million business.

We have the infrastructure in place to bolster the two websites, plus the distribution and supplier relationships. They only had 2.5 years to build that business and get it out of the gravitational force of being a start-up and required a lot of money to be spent, plus balancing the equal priority of publishing.

Will Bookworld and Angus & Robertson continue to operate under their own brand names?

There is definitely no plan to merge Bookworld and Angus & Robertson under Booktopia. Each brand has its own customer base and needs to keep its own identity.

We offer a different online experience. Booktopia is a little noisier in terms of email marketing, TV, a recording studio interviewing authors, promos and competitions. We’re a hub, and the biggest by a long way. We’re a retailer with its finger on the pulse.

Bookworld and Angus & Robertson customers like the books on offer and the price point, but don’t want all the noise of emails and social. Ultimately, we’re two distinct buying experiences selling the same product.

What are the immediate plans following the acquisition? 

Currently we’re prepping for the transition date at which point the ordering will cut over to Booktopia to take orders on our systems. There’s a lot of complexity involved. Booktopia uses in-house systems for its website, CMS and distribution. Bookworld is run on hybris, with its own development team. So we will work with the hybris team to make that integration happen and continue the development of the site.

What does Booktopia hope to achieve in the short and long term as a result?

We’re focused on our distribution centre investment. We currently stock 100,000 SKUs, but we’re aiming to grow that to 220,000 to offer our customers a faster turnaround time from ordering to delivery. That’s mission critical in providing good online service.

We need to extend our customer service team to handle more enquiries on orders. Booktopia features its phone number on its site and we’re committed to having one on both the Bookworld and Angus & Robertson sites. This will lead to more calls, so we need to hire more people to handle those enquiries. 

In terms of the loyalty program, Bookworld offers its Citizen members promos and offers, and we’ll be looking at that program and what we can do to improve it. But we plan to keep it in place.

Angus & Robertson is an 129 year-old iconic Australian brand that has already catered to seven generations, and Booktopia has been given the responsibility of seeing that brand well into the 21st century and to be a book retailer for future generations. We’re very excited about that and it’s an important part of the acquisition.

In the UK, Amazon has the lion’s market share and as such can demand and take a dictatorial approach when it comes to publishers. It really is a case of all the eggs in one basket.

Booktopia’s job is to make sure that in the Australian market, there is more than one basket; that publishers and book buyers know there is an alternative so Amazon can’t come in and dictate the market. It’s a collegiate and collaborative industry we’re working in, and we must continue to foster that. 

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