Blackwell’s, the bookshop of more than a hundred years that originated in Oxford, recently moved its music shop from 23-25 Broad Street to join its main bookshop and headquarter 200 feet away. The former site, owned by Oxford City Council, had accommodated the music shop for twelve years since its first move from Holywell Street in 2001.
Luke Rickett, the music shop manager, told Cherwell no redundancy was resulted from the relocation. All its twenty employees have been kept in position. Despite the smaller space, the music shop managed to fit in all its collections after some remodelling.
Rickett said, “Our old location needed a refit. It wasn’t up to date with the latest standards for disabled customers because there was no lift. Essentially, we decided that it was just much easier to leave that premises and move here.”
He added, “We have got less room but the same stock. So we had to get a bit creative about display.”
Besides the convenience of technical support and additional footfall from main shop, the relocation is also one of Blackwell’s series endeavours to cut cost and refocus the business on its core retail services.
David Prescott, Blackwell’s chief executive officer, emphasized their new restructuring strategy, “the Blackwell’s board is focused on our bookshop business and the direct opportunity to develop our digital offering to student, academic and professional customers.”
Owner Toby Blackwell aims to deploy “employee partnership” similar to that of John Lewis once the company turns profits.
Rickett responded positively to the plan, “I think it’s a good idea. It’s a real incentive for staffs and workers behind the scene to put an effort into the company and make sure it performs as well as it can.”
Blackwell’s has made steady progress in turning around the dwindling business. It has reduced its operating losses from £10.2 in 2010 down to £1.5m in 2012 and expects to yield a profit by the end of the year.
When asked about the difficulties Blackwell’s faces with the rapid structural shift of consumer behaviour in the market, Rickett answered, “Our biggest challenge is to make sure we offer expertise and customer service and specialist knowledge that people can’t get on Amazon.”