What would you do, if most of your customers only shop twice a year, for a grudge purchase?
This was the challenge Juliet from Vic Books faced in the early 2000s, until her customers started visiting her stores every day!
Vic Books is a book store based in Victoria University of Wellington, where 80% of revenue came from students buying text books at the start of each trimester.
As an avid lover of books from an early age, Juliet’s passion of reading blossomed into a full-time job. Now she’s the General Manager of Vic Books, which now has 2 stores, an online shop, and a team of up to forty staff in peak season.
This is her story.
Vic Books Ethos
“We tune into the desires of our customers”, so a good team and ethical suppliers are key. “We compost, and use organic milk, because a lot of our customers are focused on sustainability. We truly believe this is the right thing to do – being authentic to our brand and our customers”.
Vic Books has a unique structure, “everything we do stays on campus, as Vic Books is 100% student owned, with the profits going back to the Victoria University of Wellington Students Association, benefitting all students”.
The Vic Books Environment
Juliet strives to create an ambient space for her customers – a place they can enjoy a coffee, feel the pages of a book, meet friends or relax solo.
“We’ve blurred the line, between university and public, attracting the local community, as well as students and uni faculty. We want everyone to feel welcome to hang out. Coming to visit Vic Books is habitual, for a morning coffee or a sandwich.”
Vic Books Evolution
Vic Books has pivoted over the years, and it’s not just a book store. It’s a cafe, a dairy, a post shop, a gift store, and even a dry-cleaning agent! As a community hub, Juliet runs popular events: The Vic Books Book Club, story time for kids and parents, book launches featuring authors… the list goes on.
When it comes to her second store, Juliet understands that the answer isn’t to replicate a successful model from the hilltop Kelburn campus, to the CBD-based Pipitea campus. “With different customers in a different environment, we needed to re-think our offering, and value proposition.”
Vic Books & Technology
While eBooks has been disruptive in the educational market, there is still a strong preference for print – “in some cases a return to print after publishing in digital format”! Juliet says that “they don’t have to be one thing or the other, digital and print can sit happily alongside each other depending on the reader’s circumstance. For example, reading digitally is great for travelling, but research shows that information is retained more effectively through reading printed material”.
Vic Book’s Challenges Today
“Amazon is here now, and has been for a few years. But we’re focused on our customers, what they want, and the experience we deliver for them. The work Retail NZ is doing on GST for international purchases certainly will help our business. We will still build our business around our expertise, knowledge and love of what we do for community which is our strength.”
Juliet’s Pro Tip for Retailers
“Don’t keep looking back over your shoulder, continually learn, and always look for opportunities. Focus on your value proposition – know who your customers are, what they want and what they need.”
Juliet has an unwavering goal of Vic books being her customers’ home away from home – she offers her customers value, both tangible and emotional.
Thanks Juliet for chatting to Retail NZ about Vic Books!