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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Latest Bestsellers

It is not the usual Dan Brown or J K Rowling novel. Bookshops seem to be the hottest sellers in the last one week. The Tata group acquired 75% of Landmark in an all cash deal worth Rs. 103 crores. Landmark started off in Chennai and then claimed that they are a 3C company having branches in Coimbatore and Calcutta. Down the line they might have realized that Coimbatore was not the right choice and they closed shop there (can somebody validate this fact?). They also have an outlet in Forum Mall in Bangalore and one of my friends told me that Landmark plans to open another outlet in Triplicane in Chennai. The Tatas are aggressive in retail and Hemu Ramiah might have found the offer too good to resist. Landmark has been credited with the new age book retailing in Chennai. They also pioneered the introduction of audio listening stations (Nakamichi?) in India. This was quite a craze at that time.

Having been to Westside (Tata’s retailing venture) I was not quite impressed with the way it was run. Globus, Shoppers Stop and Lifestyle are way ahead. The main thing which I didn’t like about Westside was the fact that they were selling only in-house brands. In this age of choice, if you offer only in-house brands to the customer he may not be very happy. I don’t know whether Westside is still run in the same format. Financial Express had hinted that Tata’s might be launching a consumer durables entity as well. Consumer Durables has so far been dominated by regional players like Viveks. Looks like the Tata’s want to grab a piece of every aspect of retailing.

Just a few days ago, Deccan Chronicle announced that it would be acquiring Odyssey. Odyssey has outlets in Chennai and in some smaller Southern cities. While Tata’s thirst to acquire Landmark is understandable, I don’t understand the logic behind DC’s acquisition of Odyssey. I don’t see too many synergies between DC and Odyssey. At a broader level, it is quite heartening to know that readership of books is on the increase. The record sales in recent Book fairs is a clear indication that reading habits are not on the decline. On the face of it, it looks quite surprising as most people feel that TV, Radio and Internet are dominating people’s lives.

Other retailers like Strand Book Stall also want to cash in on this boom and want to sell out if 'value systems' match. Given the high rentals, e-tailing must be the way forward. Although e-tailing seems to be on the increase, it doesn’t seem to have created a dent in the sales of the brick and mortar retailers. The fact that the brick and mortar retailers themselves have an online sales option ensures that there is not much price differential between the offline sales and the online sales. If the government allows FDI in retail, we could possible see the entry of Barnes and Noble and Borders.


  • I thought globus sells in-house brands only...Agree with u totally on WestSide..Landmark(the one in Spencers)Chennai really rocks..

    By Blogger Prabha, at 2:30 PM  

  • Westside had included consumer durables as well, I had been to their showrooms in Delhi sometime back, they had all the choices you could get in any other biggie..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:10 PM  

  • Prabha.. I had been to Globus during my last winter holidays. They don't sell in-house brands alone. They sell others as well.

    Kaps.. It is sad to note that Unique companies are going out of the field handing over the orgnstns to biggies. It may be good in terms of consolidation, but the uniqueness in book retailing will be missing. (which Higginbothams has establishd long time back)

    By Blogger Ram.C, at 3:14 PM  

  • On Prabha's comment, Globus does sell other brands.. I was there couple of mths ago.

    DC acquiring Odyssey is a bit strange.. as you say, I don't see anything in common between them.

    I dunno how the face of Triplicane has changed in the last few years.. but I wonder the wisdom behind Landmark opening a branch there, although triplicane in general and "pycrofts road/Bharathi Salai" in particular has quite a lot of book shops.

    By Blogger Chakra Sampath, at 3:46 PM  

  • good piece of information-vasanthi.rediffblogs.com

    By Blogger vasanthi emmanuel, at 4:59 PM  

  • My sources tell me that the Odyssey owner Ashwin is a part of the parivaar that owns DC. So it's more like a left hand acquiring the right hand deal. You're right about your analysis about Westside. They are very-tata in their approach: boring, slow and un-agressive. Hope they don't kill the brand landmark. But landmark may have bit the bullet because they needed financial oxygen. They just said yes to the first half-decent suitor. I won't be surprised if Foodworld is hawked next. Followed by Subhiksha. Then Viveks.

    By Blogger anantha, at 5:47 PM  

  • Yes, Landmark closed down their Coimbatore shop some 6 plus months back... It's now renamed as Anweshana and another group is running it....

    By Blogger Peak Day Blues, at 8:33 PM  

  • Good post Kaps...

    You said:
    The main thing which I didn’t like about Westside was the fact that they were selling only in-house brands.

    Now, that need not be a negative. For example GAP, Old Navy or Abercrombie & Fitch sell only in-house brands, and don't do too badly, because they've built brandname. This might be Westside's strategy, given that this is an early market, and there are brand names to be made.

    Agree, disagree?

    By Blogger Sunil, at 6:11 AM  

  • @Prabha,
    Others have answered your question. Spencer's landmark is always crowded

    Thanks for dropping by. The Chennai outlet of Westside doesn't sell consumer durables

    Higginbothams is a bit laidback in book retailing. but they have a nice location and an amazing collection of books. Not sure whether they have diversified into CD's, soft toys etc.

    The triplicane outlet might be a smaller one.


    Thanks for the inside info. I guess Subhiksha is not doing well these days. this was the impression which I got after talking to few customers. they are not bothered about stock outs and other customer complaints. I think they have lost their initial momentum.

    Thanks for the clarification

    You are right. If your in-house brand is popular you can still do business. However I don't prefer walking into Westside to pick up something where I don't know about the quality of the product. in the long run, this might work out. but when they are located in Spencers Plaza in Chennai....they are competing with all the established brands.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 2:43 PM  

  • I have very fond memories of Landmark. They were the first book store that allowed in-store reading. Their ambience is awsome.. compare this to Higginbothams. I know a few folks who worked there part-time, went on to get MBA's from IIM's. Kudos to the couple who started landmark.

    By Blogger Venky Krishnamoorthy, at 1:02 PM  

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