Founded in 1991 in Winnipeg, Login Canada has grown to become Canada’s largest distributor of academic, professional, and STM titles. Last fall, the company went through a management buyout, with the new ownership team consisting of Mark Champagne, president/CEO; Russell Friesen, v-p of sales/CMO; and Sharon Murray, v-p of finance/CFO.
“Russell and I have been with the company from the start,” Champagne said. “And Sharon has been here nearly as long. We have seen the business go through ups and downs, and the fact that we bought the company is a signal that we believe in the future of the business for decades to come.”
Login had an especially fruitful 2018, during which it saw 8% growth in unit sales and 6% revenue increase over 2017—the first growth the company had seen in nine years. It stocks 11,000 titles from more than 650 publishers, specializing in the fields of allied health, computer sciences, dentistry, film, medicine, music, nursing, pharmacy, psychology, veterinary medicine, and social sciences. It offers service across Canada from two warehouses—one in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and another in Mississauga, Ontario. In all, the company provides access to more than 1.4 million print titles as well as 130,000 e-books.
“Our marquee accounts are Elsevier, F.A. Davis Co., and Wolters Kluwer,” Champagne said, “though we have 100 publishers for exclusive distribution in Canada and a further 200 for wholesale distribution.” The latest pickup for the company was Taylor & Francis, which returned to Login after years with another distributor. “They rightsized their operations and found us to be the right fit.”
Asked what makes Login competitive in the market, Champagne was quick to credit his staff and colleagues. “Service is, ultimately, what we are selling,” he said, noting that the staff—which now numbers 40—was one of the factors that was heavily weighted when he and his partners were considering the management buyout. “There is some anxiety when you do something like what we did, but I have such confidence in them. I’d pick our team and go into any industry.”
Champagne also noted that Login’s technological savvy and logistical setup make it easy to service clients across the nation. “All of our software is proprietary and custom-made by us,” he said. “This makes us very nimble: if someone needs a file from us, they can get it in seconds and minutes, not weeks and months.”
As might be expected, the company’s major accounts are institutions, both professional and academic. “We have eight sales reps, and they keep in touch with so many people that we know when a title has become assigned reading at a university, for example,” Champagne said. Login also serves Amazon and Indigo, but that business remains modest. “Retail sales are 20% of our business,” he noted.
Reflecting on his time in the industry, Champagne said that the company has seen some challenges. “When tech came into play and there was a growing enthusiasm for networkable content in higher ed and STM, publishers tightened up their catalogues,” he recalled, admitting that it cut into Login’s sales. “But we have seen the low point, and while customers can still choose how they want a title, print or digital, the market clearly favors books. Professors may try digital for a year, but often they go back to print books.”
One area of innovation where Login has staked a claim is e-commerce, and it now powers more than 100 white-label online bookstores.
Champagne is sanguine about the future: “I’m in my 28th year with Login, and I see a lot of life left in this business.”