BUSINESS

Indigo CEO Heather Reisman Says Lifestyle Goods Will Drive Growth Plans

06/29/2015 03:26 EDT | Updated 06/29/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Despite recent high-profile failures in Canadian retail, Indigo CEO Heather Reisman said Monday that the market is poised for a resurgence and her company is looking to grow.

At the company's annual general meeting in Toronto, Reisman said Indigo Books and Music Inc. is well-placed to navigate the choppy waters that sunk both Future Shop and Target Canada in the past six months.

"If you give them a compelling physical experience, customers want to have it," she said, adding that in-store traffic increased by two per cent in the company's 2014 fiscal year.

Indigo lost $3.5 million in the year ending March 28, 2015, improving on its $31 million loss the year before.

Facing online competition and price cuts from rivals at Wal-Mart and Amazon, Indigo is working to widen its appeal beyond books.

In the past five years the company has expanded its offerings beyond books and music to include a wide variety of lifestyle items including housewares, electronic devices, and toys and gifts from the likes of Lego and American Girl.

The company is now looking to expand that concept to more of its 218 stores while remaining one of Canada's largest booksellers, Reisman said.

She said the company will open a new flagship location in Toronto's Sherway Gardens mall in February 2016.

Indigo has 91 large stores under its own name and the Chapters brand, as well as 127 smaller stores in malls and other shopping centres under the Coles brand as well as others.

After closing eight stores last year, Indigo has plans to grow again, Reisman said.

"We're in the mode in looking to expand a bit in smaller markets," she said. "There is nothing in our portfolio that I see today that we would not want to sustain."

Indigo has invested in its online storefront and offers ebook downloads as well as free shipping to nearby stores.

Reisman said Indigo has been more resilient than music or movie retailers because it gives customers easy access to books in whatever form they choose.

And unlike music and movies, where consumption has switched from physical to digital, nothing beats the feel of a good book, she added.

"When you want to sit back and enjoy a book and actually engage in it, I think physical books are just a great technology," she said.

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