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Canada's Largest French-Language Book Chain Moves into English Market
Leah Eichler -- 4/17/00

After 25 years in Quebec's bookselling market, Renaud-Bray has decided to venture into the English language.

Asked why it decided to make the jump right now, when other bookstores are floundering, Pierre Renaud told PW confidently, "Why not." Renaud said that the chain has been "testing the waters" by selling English language books at its stores for the last three or four years and feels the market is ready.

The 25-bookstore chain hired Stephen Quick, formerly vice-president at Stoddart Publishing, as its English-language book buyer in January. Quick said he was brought in to extend the market and have a closer liaison with English-language publishers in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

Before Quick was hired, English-language books accounted for 3%-5% of Renaud-Bray's total sales. It hopes to extend that to 10% this year. Renaud insists the chain will not abandon the French-language market and said he has no intention of opening a purely English-language store.

He did say, however, that the chain will open a superstore in Quebec City this year and will expand one of its Montreal stores in order to accommodate additional English-language titles. Renaud-Bray will also expand its online bookselling presence.

Quick explained that Renaud-Bray wants to move into higher-end business books and may consider opening stores outside of Quebec. The company is keeping an eye on Toronto, Paris and possibly New York City.

In contrast to Chapters and Indigo, Renaud-Bray d s not separate English-language books from the French on its bookshelves. Its customers are predominantly Francophones who purchase specific books in English either because they are cheaper or because they are not offered in French.

"There may not be a French-language East-Asian cookbook," Renaud said as an example. "Practical, business and technology books in French are too expensive. Sometimes, we sell a book an English and then, a year later, it gets translated into French. At that point we may stop selling the English-language version."

Renaud acquired the Champigny and Garneau chains last year, creating a chain with annual revenues of C$65 million.

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