Like most industries, the book business is fighting for its life after nearly a year of coronavirus restrictions.
Luxor, the biggest bookstore chain in the Czech Republic, has so far recorded 200 million CZK in losses and continues to face never-ending lockdowns that won’t allow people in their stores. The restrictions have allowed people to order books online and pick them up in person, but that doesn’t particularly bode well when 70% of Luxor’s customers prefer to buy books in person.
In an interview with Aktualne.cz, František Mala, head of Luxor’s parent company Euromedia, laid out Luxor’s current situation with the pandemic and how it plans to survive.
“It’s not ideal, but I have to adapt…”
“It all depends on how long the lockdown lasts and how long Luxor’s stores are closed. That’s where anti-pandemic measures hit us hardest.”
All of Luxor’s employees are in home office. Mala actually supports home office and doesn’t see the company ever fully going back to working in-person.
“We’re not going to stay in home office permanently, but we also probably won’t return to the exact conditions as before the pandemic. Personally, I support working from home. Under the right conditions, it can increase employee satisfaction.”
Luxor’s business is being propped up by shareholders who dumped their own money into the company to keep it alive after it became apparent that the government wasn’t going to help. When they first shut down their stores in March of 2020, Luxor had to put a halt on payments to its third-party publishers who sell books in their stores. Additionally, the business had to cut some wages, and reduce the number of products sold in their stores.
There is no stated plan yet as far as getting money for expenses while under lockdown. Mala says the situation is obviously severe, but that they’re not making any dramatic decisions just yet.
“Of course we are planning various financing alternatives, but right now it’s difficult to known when we’re going to be allowed to reopen.”
In the past, Luxor, like other big book chains, invested a lot of money in finding ways to keep customers hanging around the book store. These investments included opening coffee shops, starting book clubs, and engaging customers with reward programs, all of which are presently not generating any cash.
Euromedia’s chief remains optimistic though, and still believes that once things “get back to normal,” the growth that the chain saw pre-pandemic will continue.
“We always look at the business as opportunistically as possible… I’m taking over the company in order to fuel its growth, and increase the quality of services and make things sustainable in the long run.”
“The pre-crisis book market grew by 2-3% a year. When we get back to normal, I expect modest growth to continue.”
Luxor opened its first store on Wenceslas Square in 2002 and has since amassed 36 locations across the country.
Featured image via @knihkupectvi_luxor