Upstairs for thinking as book shops face decline

University Book Shop manager Phillippa Duffy stands in an empty upstairs space the shop is looking to rent out. Photo by Craig Baxter.
University Book Shop manager Phillippa Duffy stands in an empty upstairs space the shop is looking to rent out. Photo by Craig Baxter.

More change is on the cards at Dunedin's University Book Shop (UBS), with a plan to rent out the upstairs of the building.

The plan comes as book shops worldwide continue to face declining sales and the growth of e-books and online sales. Book shop manager Phillippa Duffy said it was ''likely'' an option to consolidate the Great King St store on the ground floor and rent out the upstairs would go ahead.

This would mean either an end to its long-running ''non-stop sale'' or moving it to a potentially expanded downstairs shop floor.

''There is no plan to make the book shop smaller,'' Ms Duffy said.

An architect had been hired ''to see what's possible'' with the about 540sq m upstairs space, which included a large area where textbooks used to be sold.

''We want to progress things quite quickly, but we don't have enough information yet to [give a date].''

The plan would involve ''significant'' costs to bring the upstairs floor up to commercial standard, which meant it was likely, for the second consecutive year, no dividend would be paid to the Otago University Students' Association (OUSA), which owns the shop.

By renting out the upper floor the shop could increase the dividends it paid to the OUSA and possibly invest in other areas of its business, including a digital strategy.

The plans come after previous changes at the shop, including restructuring last year which resulted in the number of full-time equivalent positions being reduced from 19 to 13.

The shop had also opened and then extended a branch on the University of Otago campus and opened a children's room at its Great King St site.

It had recently attended the New Zealand Book Sellers conference where it was one of three finalists in the South Island independent book shop of the year.

''I think that's a real vote of confidence from the industry that we are doing the right things.''

OUSA general manager Darel Hall, when speaking about the association's financial returns for last year, said it had been happy to forgo a dividend ''to contribute in the investment in the book shop''.

''It's fair to say that we are very positive about the changes being made, both from the services provided to students and in terms of future returns.''

In 2012 OUSA received a dividend of $50,000 from the UBS.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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