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Bertelsmann Trying Retail in France
Herbert R. Lottman -- 5/25/98
Moves to tighten up Bertelsmann's club and marketing operations have begun in Europe, with the replacement of France Loisirs' managing director, Hans von Freyberg, by Marc Sommer, until now responsible for marketing at the German Bertelsmann club. Von Freyberg won't remain idle for long; he has been assigned to group strategy in Italy, the only European nation in which the Bertelsmann club is not the market leader.
Back in France, Bertelsmann is demonstrating that its first genuine retail bookselling test remains just that -- a test. Two years ago, Bertelsmann opened the first of what was to be a chain of traditional outlets -- unconnected with club operations -- called Place du Livre, designed as attractive neighborhood shops with a narrow range of modestly priced new titles and a significant percentage of remainders. The first to open, in an off-center shopping street in Paris, has been developing satisfactorily despite the industry-wide stagnation in sales. A second outlet, opened in Nevers (a smallish provincial center), is reportedly on target. But a third venture, in Marseilles, France's second city, was shut down last month.

Meanwhile, Bertelsmann is about to open a Place du Livre in Colombes, a suburb of Paris, with a selling area of some 2150 square feet, which would allow as many as 5000 titles to be displayed. The objective, reports Livres Hebdo, is to establish a national network of 150 shops, which would represent three times more stores than market leader FNAC. For its part, the France Loisirs club operates a network of 200 boutiques for members only. The boutiques are also being revamped to better serve their customers.
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