Almost four years since Bookworld emerged as the new face of Borders, the online retailer is snapping an ever-increasing share of a $2 billion book market, with sales rising 40 percent over the past two years. In fact, sales are exceeding the level reached by Borders and Angus & Robertson before their parent company, REDgroup Retail, was liquidated in 2011.
Chief Executive of Bookworld, James Webber attributes Bookworld’s growth to being competitive on price and convenience, a low-cost distribution model and a two to three day delivery with fixed $5.50 delivery fee, or free delivery for orders over $30. Such strategies have seen the book retailer stand ground against larger online juggernauts like Amazon and The Book Depository, and even local omnichannel retailers like Dymocks.
UK publishing house Pearson bought the Borders and Angus & Robertson assets for less than $5 million. The Borders site was rebranded to Bookworld, while the Angus & Robertson brand was retained and operates as a division of Bookworld.
“When REDgroup went bust, all those stores closed and we lost a lot of traffic to the sites – it took us the best part of two years to recover from that,” Webber, who previously ran REDgroup’s e-commerce operations, told The Australian Financial Review. “We’re now in new fields because we are bigger than we ever were back then – we have been growing at more than 40 percent a year and there’s no reason to think we can’t continue that.”
The positive sales figures for Bookworld corresponds to an equally promising growth in the online book sales market as a whole, with IBISWorld reporting that online book sales have surged 26 percent a year. This is in contrast to a declining rate of sales for the retail book sector, which has fallen more than five percent a year over the past five years.
Webber has in part attributed the falling Aussie dollar to the growth of Bookworld’s sales, which although results in a higher cost for books published outside of Australia, does make customers aware that it’s more expensive to buy books from overseas. The dollar has fallen 18 percent over the past eight months, making it easier for the online book retailer to uphold its 10 percent price guarantee against Amazon. While these overseas sites can be anywhere between 10 to 25 percent cheaper than online prices in Australia, the cost of delivery from the US or the UK still makes overseas purchases prohibitive and therefore Bookworld’s pricing more comparable.
At the end of last year, Bookworld moved from a third party e-commerce platform to SAP’s hybris platform, which has contributed to the boost in sales by rendering pages faster on web and new mobile sites, driving conversion rates and enabling the company to better manage its 1.5 million registered customers, product range of 23 million SKUs and 14 separate suppliers. Delivery is also being expedited, with the retailer sharing a 30,000 square meter warehouse space with Random House, part of the Pearson Group, making it is the largest book warehouse in Australia.
“From that we’re able to deliver faster and across a greater range of products because it’s all under the one roof,” said Webber said.
In the face of rapid consolidation among other pureplay retailers, Webber is ruling out a merger with locally owned online retailer Booktopia, saying there is room in the market for two domestic online booksellers.
“We’re both growing at the moment. I think there’s a big enough pie for both of us [as] the majority of the market is still going offshore,” he said. “We just need to educate the Australian consumer there are very competitive local options available to them.”
Bookworld was featured in our Top 100 online retailers at number 33 in the latest edition of the E-Commerce Leaders’ Playbook.