The Gibert bookstore located 15 bis, boulevard Saint-Denis, in Paris, inaugurates its renovated version on Thursday, September 30. The ground floor and the first floor offer 45,000 references of books, both new and second-hand, as well as stationery. In the basement, hundreds of Pink Floyd and Bob Marley LPs are sold to fans. Until then, nothing more normal.
What changes radically concerns the use of the last two floors. They will be invested by associations to offer neighborhood residents an introduction to chess for children, yoga, pottery or French as a foreign language lessons. There will also be concerts, conferences and book signings. Young shoots will also be able to present their creations there, such as ceramics for example.
“It will be a meeting place. Our idea is to open the store to the life of the neighborhood ”, explain Marc Bittoré and Olivier Pounit-Gibert, both chairmen of the Gibert Joseph group’s management board. And to make the eyes soft with the sores of the district. The owners of the place preferred this solution to the one which, in order to increase the sales area for books, required them, they say, to undertake very expensive work to install an elevator or escalators.
“Need for funding”
The family group, which has 25 stores across France after having closed seven since 2020 (including four emblematic Place Saint-Michel, in Paris), remains in poor financial condition. “Place Saint-Michel, we had to face an unfortunate conjunction, between the movement of“gyellow islands ”, strikes against pensions, the pandemic [de Covid-19], the repair of the RER and the halt of tourists. We were suffocated and we recorded a 50% drop in our turnover ”, explains Marc Bittoré.
Gibert Joseph – who absorbed Gibert Jeune in 2017 – will still have a large deficit in 2021. If the bookstore sector, crowned with a new symbolic status during the health crisis, has managed to spend the last five months without scratching, the group saw its turnover of 135 million euros in its annual financial year ended at the end of March 2020 fall by 30% the following year. And even in recovering colors during the last six months, the company has not returned to its pre-crisis low.
Gibert Joseph benefited from a loan guaranteed by the State of 10 million euros. “We are not preventing ourselves from opening up the capital, which is now exclusively family-owned, to other investors. The subject is on the table, but we have not mandated a banking pool ”, explains Olivier Pounit-Gibert. If the group was the pioneer in online sales, “We need financing to develop ourselves and face the competition”, he believes.
The group of 700 employees, which carried out 80% of its activity in school publishing before 2005, had to carry out a Copernican revolution. If the flagship of 26, boulevard Saint-Michel remains by far the largest in terms of number of references (350,000) in Paris, very little investment has been made there. From now on, the group is looking more to invest in small stores, such as the corner of the Printemps store, in Nation, a bookstore that only sells new and ” works well “, according to Olivier Pounit-Gibert. Without yoga or failures.