Dymocks stores in Queensgate and Mt Eden in New Zealand have ended their franchise agreements and are now trading as independent booksellers under the names United Booksellers and Black Sheep Books. As previously reported by Bookseller+Publisher, Dymocks Tauranga has also recently rebranded under the name Chapter 2, leaving just one Dymocks store in New Zealand, in Newmarket.
Darren Gilchrist’s Dymocks in Queensgate, Lower Hutt’s Westfield shopping centre, was likely the first to adopt a new identity when the Dymocks Group decided not to renew the store’s franchise which expired last year.
‘We’ve been independent for a while,’ said Gilchrist. ‘It is better because we are not paying franchise fees, but of course our suppliers all reduced their discounts, so I’m just seeing how things go.
‘It is pretty tough competing with Book Depository, Amazon, Mighty Ape and The Warehouse discounting. We are picking up only half the sales of new releases we used to get. Once the Auckland CBD and Wellington Dymocks stores closed we lost the profile they used to create for the brand.’
Black Sheep Books
Caroline Rolls, owner of the Mt Eden bookshop, formerly a Dymocks franchise and now renamed, told The Read, ‘the bookstore was always an independent business albeit operating under the franchise brand of Dymocks'.
‘When the store opened in 2008 the wider franchise was a large group across New Zealand, which benefitted our Mt Eden business in a number of ways. With a large number of store closures across the group since 2008, the benefit of the association became less compelling so we agreed to an amicable split with Dymocks.’
‘We have recently re-launched under the brand Black Sheep Books. This gives us a blank sheet of paper to work from and we have taken that opportunity to add new non-book products such as gifts, stationery and party supplies, change the feel of the store to a more fun environment and are soon to launch our online business under www.blacksheepbooks.co.nz.
‘We have the same great team but are now able to focus on offering a wider range with a better feel to the shop.’
Rolls has changed the look of the shop completely, painting many bookshelves in a pale blue and adding new rustic wood fittings as a focal point.
Els Jones of the former Dymocks Tauranga said her move to rebrand as an independent bookstore was not expected. ‘But after Darren [Gilchrist]’s store lease was not renewed and Caroline [Rolls] opted out, I rang Dymocks Australia head office and asked what the future held. They said they were committed to the brand in New Zealand ... but a week later phoned and asked if we would like to be released from the franchise agreement.’
‘As Newmarket would then be the only store left in New Zealand apart from us, we decided to change over and did this on 1 May. ’
‘In the end we are happy as we lose a bit on discount but save on franchise fees and overall come out slightly better.’
Chapter 2 now has its own Facebook page to keep in touch with customers and Jones is optimistic about the future as an independent bookseller.
Dymocks general manager Steve Cox confirmed to Bookseller+Publisher that the three stores have recently rebranded as independents, and said that Dymocks is continuing its presence in New Zealand with the Newmarket store. While Cox said that the company is ‘focussed on the Australian market’, and is ‘actively opening new stores’ in Australia, he said Dymocks would ‘assess’ the situation if an opportunity came up to open another store in New Zealand.
This is an edited version of an article by Jillian Ewert that first appeared in Booksellers New Zealand’s The Read.