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Marking a change in strategy from its smaller, walk-in stores, Steimatzky is preparing to open its first cafe-style bookstore in Jerusalem by Pessah next year.
"The new store will be bigger, will have a sit down caf area and will offer DVDs and music, but the main theme will, of course, be books," said Roee Freibach, newly appointed vice president marketing and sales at Steimatzky.
The store will cover about 750 square meters, compared to the average 60-100 square meter stores the chain currently operates and will be located in the new Mamilla development opposite the Old City's Jaffa Gate. Freibach said the store's opening was pending completion of the development, which has been plagued by delays and legal complications. Freibach added that he has been told the section where Steimatzky will be located will be ready by April 2007.
Rather than comparing the new store to the popular Barnes & Noble stores in the US, Freibach said it would be on a smaller scale and more be in the mould of the French chain "Fnac," which combines the book theme with sales of electronic and music products and gives customers the opportunity to buy coffee and sit in the store viewing the products.
He would not expound on how many such stores were in the works.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to gain more of a hold on its customer information, Steimatzky said Wednesday it will launch a new members club at the beginning of next year, which will be independent of credit card companies.
"Rather offering what we want to sell to the customer, we are looking to respond to what the customer wants," Freibach said.
Often companies partner with a credit card company in their members clubs because it is cheaper to do so but they lose control of customer information and of their relationship with the customer, he explained.
The company said the new club will offer discounts on a diverse range of products sold at the chain including books, DVDs and CDs and that it will arrange cultural events for members. In addition, members will be given the opportunity to make early purchases of books due for launch.
The change in strategy comes a year after investment firm Markstone Capital Group bought the company from the Steimatzky family for an estimated NIS 200 million. The company recently appointed Iris Barel as its new chief executive officer and created a new marketing position that previously had been fulfilled by the CEO.
"This [club launch] is the first in future steps to be taken on behalf of Steimatzky customers and which will strengthen our status as a leading brand in Israeli culture," CEO Barel said. "The strategy transforms our customers from being anonymous to ones that we know personally by focusing on their preferences."
This is just a pinch of things to come, marketing VP Freibach added.