Ark: This is how we will stand up to Amazon

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Norwegian bookstore chain Ark is growing – especially online.
But Amazon’s shadow is all over the future of Norwegian bookstores.
”If you make a customer shop on our website, it might be the most important thing you do for Ark”, says John Tørres Thuv, CEO of Ark bokhandel.






Ark is a young bookstore chain, founded in 1990, now with a network of 108 stores which makes it the biggest in Norway.

Three years ago it did not even have a webshop, tells CEO John Tørres Thuv, giving a breath introduction at Retailkonferansen in Oslo.

Today the online store is more than ten percent of the total turnover, with a growth of 30 percent per year. Over 50 percent of the visitors come from mobile devices.

There are also 500 000 ”Ark-friends” in the customer program.

But recent years John Tørres Thuv has spoken about how to beat Amazon, once the online giant decides to target Norway for real.

”These are not a threat to us,” he says and shows a map of physical and online booksellers in the Nordics.

”It’s just Amazon. We can’t beat them. But we shall be the best chain in the world to stand up to Amazon.”

The official strategy is an omnichannel solution, with a fast click and collect service making the order available to the customer within an hour with an advanced stock keeping system.

”It’s first when the customer enters the store, we can do the real job.”

But there are of course challenges here. The big data needs to be taken care of – and the customer service is really hard work for most bookstores. Traditionally bookstore staff have great knowledge in books – but are far from the best sellers.

”We try to employ people with the right skills¡, John Tørres Thuv answers and adds that Swedish Akademibokhandeln has made some visits to Norway.

”But they are better than us in customer service.”

Akademibokhandeln has ended up in the bottom of several Swedish Mystery shopper surveys.

And what about the need for a quick delivery to the customer. Online shopping surveys show that Scandinavian customers does not care if the delivery takes one or three days?

”I just know that”, John Tørres Thuv says.