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The next chapter for the UAE’s Borders bookstore

The next chapter for the UAE’s Borders bookstore

Vivek Bahirwani, director of Borders, discusses why reading is going from strength the strength in the region

How has past year been for Borders? What highlights have you enjoyed and what challenges have you faced?

The past year has been good at Borders. We have grown the number of stores within the region and have also seen new customers come into the store, and with the help of social media customers are now aware of the new stores as well as the new merchandise that’s available. One of our main highlights was opening our latest store at The Dubai Mall.

The digital era has posed many questions for retailers, with some analysts pointing to the decline of physical stores. How does Borders strike the balance between e-commerce and having a physical presence?

Being a book store we feel the physical presence is of most importance as it’s important for the customers to have an experience while purchasing their books. It’s all about them using the sensory tools whilst purchasing something new, or going through the process of selecting which book suits them best. Customers with children enjoy allowing their kids to choose the stories they want to read, or even just sit and read with them in the children area.

What digitisation plans does the company have? And what does the future hold for your physical stores?

We are working on launching our website, but as of now we are extremely active on our social media pages so customers are aware of the books, toys and offers we have in stores. We are currently growing and have opened new stores in The Dubai Mall and Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi, and plan to open more in the future.

Over the years Borders has developed its product mix, with a significant growth in toys, games, stationery and art products.Do you expect to diversify even more in the coming year? Are books still a major part of Borders’ plans moving forward, or is consumer spending focused elsewhere?

We strive to maintain our company motto of being the place for knowledge and entertainment through the region. Hence, we feel customers should be able to purchase everything under one roof. Whether they’re looking for back-to-school stationery, Christmas gifts or just simple souvenirs, we’ve got everything covered at Borders.

Consumer spending depends on the various seasons and reasons they have for spending. For example, when it’s Christmas we will see more of a shift in sales towards the toys. On the other hand, back to school is more books and stationery focused. Books is the core of our business and will always remain our main focus.

The National Media Council recently gave permission to five book industry companies – including Borders – to monitor the content of books themselves. How will you approach this responsibility? Will it help speed up processes and drive efficiency?

As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. This is one such responsibility we take very seriously as we are providing knowledge to our consumers through the books they read. We aim to keep the quality of content provided at its highest, while speeding up the process of providing knowledge and inspiration to our consumers. This enables us to give consumers what they want, when they want, much more quickly – allowing us to keep them satisfied.

How strong is the literary environment in the region? Are you encouraged by the success of the book fairs and festivals that take place? Or does more need to be done to encourage reading and literacy in the GCC?

With the UAE always promoting and encouraging reading – for example during the Year of Reading or the Year of Zayed – we feel the literary environment is growing stronger. Book fairs are an important part of our business as well; we hold a few of them for schools, government organisations and various corporate head offices, and we also took part at the Sharjah book fair last year and saw a tremendous amount of schools visiting and encouraging children to read.

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