Selling more titles than any other Australian business, Booktopia is one of the country’s leading online retailers. We sat down with Co-Founder and CEO, Tony Nash, to discuss his career and the effect that the virus crisis may have on the e-commerce industry.
Tony Nash was awarded the All Star Legends award at the 2020 All Star Bash. While this is an excellent achievement for Nash, he understands that you can’t take these opportunities for granted.
“…in these uncertain times it is absolutely clear that you can take nothing for granted,” Nash tells Power Retail. “Being crowned an Industry Legend is a moment in time, and there are no guarantees about the future. It is a thrill for Booktopia or myself to win any award but if I could pass on one insight on how I experience these things is this, it is like a signpost on the side of the road confirming you are heading in the right direction, but within moments it is in your rear vision mirror and not too long later it is out of sight. The signpost is not the destination. The destination is the destination.”
Throughout Booktopia’s existence, there have been some genuinely proud moments for Nash. “Seeing people’s careers flourish has been really satisfying,” he says. “They have come in with a certain skill set and have exited or moved into senior management or leadership positions because Booktopia has grown and they have stepped up to the challenge of the roles they have earned.”
Online retail has undoubtedly changed since Booktopia began “The long and slow journey that our suppliers have been on to understand the opportunity that was there for them,” Nash says. “Publishers are an ancient and established group of companies. It took several years before they saw the light. Now we are working strategically with them in so many ways.”
Of course, it hasn’t been without its challenges – right now, COVID-19 remains one that affects everyone. “Everyone is being challenged by their “What if” scenarios,” Nash explains. “Some sectors are not robust at all. We are very fortunate to be in a category where demand is stable. But we do not take anything for granted. What if our supply chain of books dries up? What if our Distribution Centre must be closed? Etc. Everyone is on high alert right now, and no one will take their business for granted in the future, if they ever did.”
As far as the aftermath of COVID-19 goes, Nash believes it may get worse before it gets better. “There will be [a recession] after COVID-19, there are no two ways about it, maybe even a depression,” Nash says. “Many commercial systems are being broken right now. We have no idea where this will end. Dare I say it, but there will be thousands of books and movies written about this like there were on the Crash of 1929, World War II and so on. Everyone on the planet is part of a social and commercial shift.”
On a more positive note, the future of e-commerce may experience a boom as a result of mass self-quarantines. So, where does Tony Nash see the future of e-commerce in 12 months? “Online sales will take a huge leap forward,” he tells Power Retail. “More people than ever would have changed their purchasing habits over the next six months. Some businesses will go under.”
As consumers shift towards online, their ‘appetite’ may also change, Nash suggests. “But the appetite and demand by consumers to buy online will be bigger than ever.”
How can retailers stay healthy in the future, despite its uncertainty? Nash offers some advice: “If companies can find a way to hibernate, stay afloat, downsize and survive… there will be a huge pot of gold awaiting them at the end of this period of uncertainty and flux.”
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