Will Indigo change the future of bookselling?

Canadian bookstore giant Indigo hopes to expand into the US. But its stores will be like no other bookstore in the US: part bookstore, part 'cultural department store.'

Todd Buchanan
Indigo partners with Mattel to sell American Girl dolls in its stores.

US bookstores may soon face competition from their northern neighbor. Indigo Books & Music, Canada's biggest bookstore chain, was one of North America's only big-box chain bookstores that survived the threats posed by e-reading and Amazon. Now, Indigo says it wants to expand in the US.

That's according to Chief Executive Officer Heather Reisman, who spoke with Bloomberg in an article published Tuesday.

“I want the stock back up at 20 and beyond, that’s my ambition: make this thrive and then take it outside the country,” Ms. Reisman told Bloomberg.

If her plans are successful, Indigo will be like no other bookstore in the US: part bookstore, part "cultural department store," a concept Barnes & Noble has adopted but which Indigo has developed further.

The Canadian company, which was founded in 1996, is expanding into home decorating, dining ware, and personal technology, and according to reports, its revamped stores will give added prominence to the lifestyle products by branding and showcasing them in smaller "shops" located within the larger Indigo store.

For example, customers will be able to browse Indigo Home, Indigo Kids, and Indigo Tech by walking through specialized branded shops within the chain's larger bricks-and-mortar store.

"The new physical format store will feel like you can meander through a series of shops, each one anchored by books," Reisman told the CBC in a 2013 interview.

Indigo, which operates 221 stores across Canada, is set to unveil a new store model next year that will showcase the concept, and Reisman aims to take it beyond Canada.

For example, Indigo has partnered with Apple and Mattel to sell products such as iPads and American Girl dolls in its stores.

Already, lifestyle products like dishes, dolls, and candles, make up 30 per cent of sales, Reisman told Bloomberg, and could grow to about half of sales.

For American bookworms, Indigo may represent the secret to survival and the future of bookselling: a cultural department store-cum-bookstore that's not just about books.

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