Story of Shared Stories Group
“Shared Stories Group (SSG) needed to create an omni-channel platform that balanced traditional publishing and digital opportunities, while including retailers in the mix. And Walvis was there to help them write an innovative new chapter.”
Storytelling is one of our oldest recreational activities. And from the days of listening to stories told around the campfire to reading eBooks on our devices, one thing hasn’t changed.
When we pick up a book to read, it doesn’t just let us escape into another world for a little while. These days, it also lets us escape away from our “always connected” 24/7 digital world.
Walvis steps in to help transform the book world
In 2016, Walvis recognized a good opportunity in SSG and invested in Bookchoice, its e-book technology platform. But the company had been lacking a high volume of good quality books. Walvis therefore executed a reverse takeover of VBK, a Dutch publisher that publishes more than 1,000 books each year.
Walvis invests in innovation and technology. And at first, it may seem odd that they invested in the biggest Dutch book publisher. But it all made sense when they invested in SSG, the Dutch market leader in book sales. In December 2017, SSG acquired Bruna, an iconic brand in the world of bookstores.
“We needed to create a digital road for consumers and a new central e-commerce platform for Bruna. One of our challenges was how to get our Dutch retail franchises excited about the omni-channel strategy and supportive of our e-commerce activities.”Stefan Hutten, CEO of SSG and Bruna
Bookchoice for avid book lovers
Bookchoice is known as the ‘digital book service in your pocket.’ Each month Bookchoice members can download their books onto any device or access them directly on the Bookchoice app. Today, Bookchoice has approximately 40,000 paid members.
Bruna bridges digital with retail book sellers
In the meantime, Walvis had discovered another profitable growth opportunity with Bruna, a 150-year old famous Dutch retail chain that also needed an investment.
Bruna is the market leader in children’s, books, magazines, newspapers and greeting cards and more in 275 shops that mainly sell traditional books. Bruna was an ideal additional business for Walvis to take over, given both booksellers operate in the same Dutch market.
Walvis was the perfect match
“Walvis was a good choice for us. I’d already had experience working with Joop Drechsel, former Walvis CEO, and knew they were very knowledgeable about digital developments and could offer their experience and perspectives,” explains Stefan.
“We’re in the people business; and Walvis gave us more than just numbers,” adds Stefan who enjoys having Walvis as a sparring partner. “They knew the challenges we faced, understood our business and their investment helped us launch our new digital platform.”
And Walvis recognized SSG’s growth potential in the book selling business with its digital strategy. It was a good fit that has worked well for both Walvis and SSG. “Our sales continue to grow, and more people are reading our books. Our retailers are happy too. Someone can order a book online and then can pick it up at their local retail store right away.”
Shared Stories is a success story in itself
After the acquisition, Walvis did research to determine if an integration of VBK publishing, Bookchoice and Bruna would be successful. But they determined that more stand-alone growth per company would be the best case scenario.
Today, SSG shows steady growth. And Bruna.nl continues to play a key role in SSG’s omnichannel strategy and sales of its range of books.
Even though book lovers can listen to an audio book, turn the pages of a physical book, or enjoy an e-reader, the good news is that people are still reading books. Reading is a trend and here to stay.
“There’s a personal satisfaction in reading a book and imagining the characters and other worlds,” says Stefan. “Today, with so many devices and so much information people don’t like to be constantly connected and accessible.”
At the end of the day, innovation and technology can indeed play an important role both in digital and traditional books. And this is something that Stefan is very glad to see, both as a CEO and as an avid book reader.
Shared Stories Group by the numbers
Founded in 2010
50 owned stores