Connacht Tribune, November 29, 2010.
Arts Week with Judy Murphy
Staying ahead of the posse is vital when it comes to surviving in business, whether that business is selling bags or books.
The Kenny family, who are celebrating 70 years in business this year have proven the truth of this maxim and are leading the way again with their new website, www.kennys.ie which makes them one of the world's largest independent bookshop sites.
Their new website offers five million new books as well as unique, rare and second hand books, explains Karen Golden, the third generation of the family to work in Kennys.
Their vast online bookshop has come about following extensive research and negotiations with retailers in the UK and the US, resulting in strategic partnerships with book suppliers who have put their stock on the Galway company's website, says Karen. Of the five million books on the website, 4.8m are coming from UK and US partners, with the remaining 200,000 being the books that Kennys themselves stock. This means that Kennys website can offer online buyers the type of choice they'd get on Amazon.
On a Friday morning, just a few weeks after the launch of the website, Kennys are processing 125 orders that were received that day from all over the world for the stock in their own warehouse. It's the equivalent of having that many customers walk through the doors, and just like 'live' customers, many of them are buying several books. Listing books online is nothing new for Kennys – they first did this in 1994 and are now the longest bookshop in the world online.
For the past 16 years as well as selling books on their own website they've been listed on 15 other portals including Amazon, Abe and Barnes & Noble.
What is unusual is the amount of books being offered on this new website, and the fact that Kennys offer free shipping worldwide on all titles, which Amazon doesn't do. Customers can shop in euro, sterling or dollars, with other currencies coming soon. And online shoppers have the option of paying by laser card, something which will appeal to Irish customers who currently can't use laser on international sites. The state-of-the-art software on this website allows them to price match with giants such as Amazon to ensure they are competitive.
It also lets them upload constant information about what books are available to online purchasers from their own and other sites. Do giants like Amazon have a difficulty with an independent bookshop like Kennys setting up an online bookshop of this scale? Not really, says Karen. The buzz word for it is "co-opetition", but in reality, a company like Kennys aren't a threat to Amazon.
In fact, when it comes to second-hand books, Kennys is one of Amazon's main suppliers, with a five star rating because of its efficiency, explains Karen.
"On all the portals, the important thing is your 'fulfilment rate'. That means if you get orders through Amazon you have to have the books in supply and honour the order. Otherwise Amazon will blacklist you." Kennys are a five-star seller on all sites at present but if you don't meet standards your star ratings drop, says Karen. That doesn't look likely to happen any time soon, given their approach to business.
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Connacht Tribune