Thursday, February 10, 2011

Footfalls increase as Mumbai bookstores experiment

Footfalls increase as Mumbai bookstores experiment
Published: Friday, Feb 11, 2011, 3:28 IST By Humaira Ansari Place: Mumbai Agency: DNA
In the name of live events, one would typically associate bookstores with book launches and reading sessions.
The audience — an assorted concoction of society’s high-heeled, the literati and of course the quintessential book lovers. Few book browsers present at the venue would stick along. But that was then.
Picture this: It’s a Sunday morning and a bunch of gleeful kids are engrossed in making props — Akbar’s crown or a capseller’s hat, which they will later put to creative use while enacting famous childhood tales. An art-cum-story-telling workshop, only that the venue is not a conventional private art class. Walk into a Crossword Bookstore on a Sunday morning, and you’ll realise it’s a regular feature here.
The activity is part of Crossword Children’s Hour, something the bookstore started with its first store at Mahalaxmi, 14 years back. But what started as a mere story-telling session on a Sunday morning has now evolved into much more.
The result, a gamut of activities — colouring contest, extempore story narrations, singing, drama, fancy dress and dancing contests to festive workshops around Diwali and name it, and they have it all.
“Our target audience is essentially children between the ages of 4-12 years. Through these workshops we want to inculcate reading as a habit. We are sowing the seeds now, so we can reap its benefits 7-8 years down the line,” says Sivaraman Balakrishnan, manager marketing, Crossword Bookstores.
And since the stores are selling more than just books, read: toys, stationery, DVDs, there is a constant need to take on marketing initiatives to push sales in the respective categories.
“Landmark caters to not just books. We have large areas dedicated to toys, DVDs and games. Hence the promotional activities need to be balanced out,” says Lijin Thomas, head marketing, Landmark.
From Scrabble to Squap contests and Hot Wheels Racing to Lego Block Building Challenge — Landmark conducts periodic contests. Many of the events are organised to get the products off the shelves. And kid’s fare is a regular event every December. “Toy activation in a coordinated fashion started in 2008 and every year in the month of December sales go up by 25-30%,” Thomas adds.Besides tangible sales, these events also mean an increase in footfalls at the store. Children’s Hour at Crossword for instance has no registration fee, but the attendance for the Sunday sessions have increased by 30% last year alone.
Thomas also contends that the toy specific events are essentially hosted in a challenge or contest format because, “children like to experience certain toys rather than just seeing demos”.
It is of little surprise that when famed cartoon superstars, Spiderman or Dora visit the store, sales of stationery that includes these characters increases.
Moving outside the ambit of children-related activities, Oxford hosts a variety of non-children centric events as well. Panel discussions on social issues like LGBT and 26/11, theatre workshops, live music performances, tarot reading and occasional movie screenings etc, the store has ventured out to include a bouquet of events other than just readings.
Tathagata Chowdhary, a theatre producer, was looking for fresh actors for his play. And he chose Oxford (at Churchgate) as the venue to hold his theatre workshop. “The store is one place in town which is close to many colleges in the city. The crowd is young and there’s a lot of connect,” says Chowdhary who was happy with the response.
Earlier, Chowdhary had also organised a panel discussion on one of the longest running plays in the history of English theatre The Mousetrap based on Agatha Christie’s novel. And for people who see these events as a distraction; Chowdhary holds that these activities, be it at coffee shops or bookstores are value additions. “A person who reads Agatha is more than likely to attend a related discussion,” says he.
To each to his own. But for now, as bookstore shelves become all inclusive, and marketing minds dish out fun activities, customers aren’t complaining. Not just as yet.
Browsing books, how about a tarot reading?
I have been doing tarot reading at Oxford for three years. The energy of the shop makes a lot of difference. And the candles and bright table cloth attracts many walk-in customers. The bookstore also ensures that the footfalls comprise educated people. My clientele includes bankers, corporates, government officials, students and home-makers. Over three yearsmany repeat clients have become my brand ambassadors. Earlier I used to operate from 5-8, now I am sitting there till 10pm. People like the idea that a tarot reader is sitting there and not running away the next day.They can always get back to me. Rajni Tandon, tarot reader at Oxford Bookstore
Stories, song, dance and more for kids...
We’ve been organising events around our new storybook series, The Adventures of Toto the Auto, at various Landmark stores and the kids have absolutely loved it. The bookstore is a great venue to connect with parents and engage the children in stories, songs, dance and drawing. We see the crowds growing with each subsequent event and now even have parents contacting us to do the same event for them at their kid’s birthday party.Preeti Vyas, CEO, FunOKPlease Publishing India
Story-telling with a difference
I think it’s very exciting to use alternate spaces and not stick to conventional ones. The story-telling workshops we hold at Crossword include reading, story-telling and story enacting. And the creative workshops use art and craft as a medium to hook the children. Though the various media —internet, gaming, television —are stimulating, there’s very little left to the imagination. It is important to inculcate the habit of reading in children. And the art story workshops at Crossword is one of the ways we try to generate and retain children’s interest in reading. Raell Padamsee, head, Academy for Creative Expression
Source: DNA dated 11/02/2011

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