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Crossword exits Elgin Rd

Come Tuesday, there will be no Crossword on Elgin Road.

But booklovers take heart, the iconic 15,000sq ft bookstore is not going the Music World way, done in by online sales, downloads and piracy. A new bookstore is all set to begin its Calcutta story at the exact same place, hopefully on Tuesday itself.

Primarc Group, which operates the Crossword franchise in Calcutta, has decided not to renew its contract with the national book chain after it expires on April 14, 2014.

“Our 10-year agreement with Crossword is coming to an end and we are exiting absolutely as per contract,” Sidharth Pansari, the director of Primarc, told Metro.

While Primarc will now operate the Elgin Road store under a new name, to be unveiled on Poila Baisakh, the company will cease to run the other Crossword outlets in the city — at City Centre, Salt Lake and New Town, South City Mall and Diamond Plaza.

Crossword has confirmed that these stores will be run by the parent chain once the contract with Primarc ends.

When asked why he opted out of the national franchise, Pansari said the bookstore was more a passion than a commercial venture — Primarc’s main businesses are garments and real estate — so he wanted to create something that’s unique and “one of the best bookstores in the country”.

“There are things that you can do and things that you can’t do within an existing brand. I wanted to create something unique, that’s why I felt it’s better to start something on my own. My vision is to make this one of the best bookstores in the country. Like Rhythm House in Bombay is a benchmark for certain things in India. Or the former HMV store on Oxford Street in London,” Pansari explained.

According to Pansari, the nature of book-buying is changing. “Earlier, people used to come to a store like Crossword for the range. But today online retailers play a bigger role because they can have greater availability. In such a scenario, a brick-and-mortar bookstore will have to offer more than range, it now has to be about the overall experience.”

At Elgin Road, the experience will include “things that go well with books”, like personalised stationery and services like gift-wrapping.

“A customer who doesn’t even buy something from the store can come and get an item gift-wrapped here,” Pansari said.

That apart, the new store will have souvenirs and items under the new brand, which has an elegant black-and-white colour code. There will be a section called Pen & Ink, offering a variety of pens and writing instrument and ink, as well as a range of paper.

Another highlight will be a comics-themed café that will not just serve up sips and bites but conversations as well. “We want do a lot but all this will take time, we’ll introduce things month on month, because we’re not closing the store to make the changes,” Pansari explained.

Technology will be harnessed to increase the range of books available. Apart from kiosks and iPads to help a customer browse the store’s stock, the plan is to link the search to publishers across the country so that customers can order books that are not available at the store and pick them up later.

The store will have a new loyalty programme, not the points-based system of Crossword but a discounts-based card. Existing points on the Crossword card can be redeemed at the Elgin Road store till Monday and thereafter at the other Crossword outlets. The Crossword card will not be valid at the new store.

While the staff at Elgin Road will be retained, the books are being offered at fat discounts till Monday to make way for a “bigger and better” inventory.

And the name of the new store? That, of course, is another story.