Wrights Bookshop becomes Paper Plus franchise
Times are changing in the world of booksellers, as Cambridge's local bookstore swaps the name on its door for a Paper Plus sign.
Wrights Bookshop, which has been operating independently in Cambridge for 24 years, will become a Paper Plus franchise on July 1.
Wrights owner Hamish Wright - the fourth generation of a family of booksellers - will own the Paper Plus franchise.
His attitude to the change is positive, and he said he would maintain a level of autonomy as the owner of the franchise.
"You won't see a change in staff. You won't see a change in service."
The self-described "match-maker" of books and readers said the store will continue to stock books from niche genres that are popular in Cambridge, such as horses, embroidery and cycling.
He was disappointed to lose the "Wrights" name on the door. The franchise will be named Paper Plus Cambridge.
A number of factors contributed to the decision for Wright, including Paper Plus' marketing and promotions budget as well as its wide range and access to exclusive products.
Wright also wanted to prepare his business for the future and head off the possibility of Paper Plus opening a rival store in Cambridge.
"You've always got three options: you can stay the same, you can change, or get out. If I stay the same I will wither and die. I don't want to get out because I love the industry too much."
Paper Plus Group chief executive Rob Smith said he was delighted to welcome Wrights Booksellers into the fold. He said Wrights' offering and customer base was a natural fit with the Paper Plus brand.
"Working with Wrights Booksellers will mean we can develop the best possible product and service offering for Cambridge, employing local expertise and knowledge."
Bookstores have struggled to keep afloat in the internet age, especially with the advent of ebooks.
When someone buys an e-reader from a Paper Plus, the franchise owner makes a small profit from their future ebook purchases, though this is hardly a sustainable business model by itself.
Wright said the ebook market has increased interest in reading, and people were actually reading more.
"The hobby of reading is alive and well."
He said book publishers were innovating to add value to physical books, including adding augmented reality - interactivity with electronic devices - to children's books and a return to beautifully bound hardbacks.
"An author can't sign an ebook."
The shop will also expand its stationery range, which has proven to be a good profit earner for bookstores.
"Stationery will be a radical change for us because we do it very poorly at the moment," said Wright.
Wright said the Paper Plus "family" was supportive, giving him a network of franchisees to talk to about business issues and help track down rare books.
He hopes the store would not be closed during the transitional period, though it may have to close early some days to allow for big changes, like laying new carpet.