Black Bond Books Expands in West
Leah Eichler -- 11/13/00

As Chapters reached its 75-store goal recently, little was said or heard of Black Bond Books, British Columbia's largest independent bookstore chain that has just opened its 11th location in White Rock. Although you cannot find music or gardening tools in any of Black Bond Books' stores, co-owner Cathy Jesson insists that the chain had to continuously make changes to survive and stay in tune with its customers needs, often moving locations and selling discount books.

"What's happened in the industry has forced everyone to make changes, at least those that are going to survive," Jesson told PW. Out of its 11 stores, seven are full-price bookstores while the other four have "a discount theme." "We have always had very good contacts in the publishers' overstock line, and we've relied on that to get us through the period that we are in. It has made us quite successful, actually." Jesson believes there is a strong market for discount books "as long as you have really good ones. What [customers] are looking for is the same things they saw last year, only this year it is a third of the cost."

Cathy owns the chain with her husband, Mel. "We have had sort of a tear this fall: we've opened three locations, one more than we wanted to, but the opportunity was too good. It was a location we wanted 20 years ago, and circumstances came up and we still wanted it 20 years later," Jesson said of the White Rock location. Most of the Black Bond outlets, which have a staff of about 70, are in shopping malls.

The Jessons have no intention of expanding further at the moment, nor are they interested in opening stores outside British Columbia. "For a little while, I would like to stay where we are," Jesson said, adding that she wanted to be sure they were not overextending themselves. "We would like to stay with what we've got and make each one successful." Jesson said the stores are doing a "brisk business," and last month several of the stores saw a 25% increase in sales. "In this market, I am just high-five happy."