Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 20th 2015 Contents AUGUST 20 • 2015 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG5
While most book-
the start of the
wants to increase its competitive advantage by
offering an online portal initially to its Chagua-
nas-based customers to purchase textbooks and
Charran s Bookstore wants to use that same
online portal for its Corporate Social Respon-
sibility (CSR) project. The CSR project involves
listing and promoting entrepreneurs from the
Chaguanas area on that online portal so they
can get the start they are looking for.
The bookstore, which has been in the textbook
and school supplies business for more than six
decades, is an employer of 50 people at its Char-
ran s Plaza location and has three other locations
in Trinidad at San Juan, Tunapuna and Trincity
Managing director, Vishnu Charran, spoke to
the Business Guardian on Monday at Charran s
Plaza, 31, Main Road Chaguanas to talk about
back to school sales and staying competitive in
a business in which technology is a main com-
petitor to traditional books and bookstores.
Charran said the company is aiming to have
the online portal operational by December 2015.
Asked what prompted the decision, he said:
"Because of all the Internet shopping and every-
one has a smartphone. You hear everyone saying
that they are shopping online so, why not shop
online at Charran s bookstore?"
Delivery would be part of the company s online
service experience even though there would be
an added cost. Charran said some of his cus-
tomers have already signalled that they would
be willing to pay the extra charge.
Stationery and school uniforms are the bulk
of the expenses that parents must shoulder at
this time of year, he said, and not necessarily
schoolbooks, as the Government has its textbook
Commenting on competition in providing
school supplies, Charran said establishments
such as Price Smart are no competition.
Having an online portal as well as a physical
store represents the future of doing business in
Chaguanas, according to Charran, even as the
borough is aiming to achieve City status.
As he gets ready to make changes to adapt
to the taste patterns of some his Chaguanas
customer base, he reminisced about what the
book business was when he started: "Long ago
there were no local publishers so all the books
used to come from the United Kingdom so all
the publishers used to visit the schools to offer
them books. It meant not all schools had the
same text. Then the local publishers started to
blossom (pushing out the UK publishers)."
Commenting on back-to-school sales, Charran
said despite the state of the economy, there
would still be demand for uniforms and other
school supplies. Sales are slow however.
While the trends for customers purchasing
back-to-school supplies have been to shop during
the last week in August and the first week in
September, Nigel Khan, owner of Nigel R Khan
Booksellers said for this year, shoppers have
opted to shop in July rather than last minute.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Khan
said his 13 stores experienced a "surprising"
high in sales for July 2015, which he attributed
to customers wanting to avoid the week prior
to general elections.
With the Government assisting primary and
secondary school students by providing some
textbooks, it means expenditure is on the remain-
ing few textbooks and stationery. Asked whether
the taste patterns for stationery such as pencils
or even pens are steering toward brand name
items, he said customers are buying "smart"
and are looking for high quality products that
perform the same function as the brand named
"The T&T consumer-pattern of spending has
changed today compared with 15 to 20 years
ago when customers would go to a bookstore
on a seasonal basis, compared to now, where
there is a consistent flow of customers," Khan
said. The secret to having repeat customers is
staying consistent with providing the products
that they want, Khan said.
Commenting on the online portal that Nigel
R Khan launched one year ago, which allows
parents to upload their book lists, Khan said the
sales are "good," on that online portal. There
has been a decline in its usage.
He added that customers are showing more
signs of wanting to go to a store to purchase
specific items and would use the online facility
for "product availability and pricing."
It costs $35 to deliver the books and school
supplies therefore most customers would be
more inclined to go to the store. He described
his online customer base as "still in the minority,"
as they do not contribute a lot to the company s
Commenting on the decision by Charran s
Bookstore to create an online portal, Khan said
it would not create any competition for his busi-
ness since "we have a great online presence.
The future of bookselling has turned towards
distribution, which means having the right prod-
uct available at the right time on a consistent
The book business is not about selling a book,
but about the entire experience including having
the right service and being treated fairly all the
time. In order to have the right service it means
having the right amount of staff to provide the
service, but for his business "its hard to get
people who are self-motivated."
He however, described his existing staff as
being committed because they love what they
do. Also, having a good human resource depart-
ment is important to any company to retain and
attract the right staff. Khan said the company s
wage structure in terms of the entire package
offered to his employees is "above the industry
Asked whether technology has contributed
to a declining profit margins of local bookstores,
Khan said technology has expanded the interest
of readers, as the lines between the tablet and
e-reader have become unpopular.
"With books you have focused reading on
one topic and there are no distractions but with
tablets there is Facebook. Five years ago the
Kindle was the number one item for Christmas
but that has changed because people have gone
back to the traditional books."
Referring to the supply of foreign exchange
in the T&T market, Khan said the low supply
affects the credibility of businesses as a whole
and on a wider scale it affects the reputation of
hnu Charran, owner of Charran's Bookstore
OTO MARCUS GONZALES
Links Archive August 19th 2015 August 21st 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page