Opening a branch at One Bonifacio High Street was a long time coming for National Book Store. On Friday, March 31, one of the country’s oldest book stores and office supply chains officially launches its first branch at One BHS, located at the mall’s second floor.
“To be honest, I've been wanting to have a National Book Store branch in BHS for almost 20 years. We just haven’t had the opportunity,” NBS Group president Adrian Ramos says when we meet him at the store’s soft launch Wednesday. “We’re so excited to be here because BHS is a place where our core demographic really hangs out. We're happy to bring the National Book Store experience here to BHS.”
The branch at One BHS is NBS’ sixth branch in BGC—there’s an NBS at Market! Market!, SM Aura, Uptown Mall, Venice Grand Canal Mall, and Vista Mall—and the 235th in the country.
Ramos says this also marks the “comeback” of the 80-year-old company. Like most businesses, NBS was also greatly hit by the pandemic. “Yes, the past couple of years made things a little bit more challenging. But if I can show you, we’re back!” says the book store chain chief as he tours us around the new branch. “We are slowly getting back to being what National Book Store is. Of course it's going to take time. Things don't fix themselves overnight.”
For the most part, this “comeback” is also about “going back to our roots”—the mission that his grandmother, Socorro Ramos, firmly believed in when she started the business in 1942. That is providing value-for-money products for Filipino families. “Lola’s tagline was, ‘Where the only thing less is the price.’ Today, when a lot of Filipinos are so value-conscious and inflation is a challenge for everybody, it’s important for Filipino families to get their school supplies, learning materials at affordable prices.”
Going thru the challenges of the pandemic, Ramos says they had to look back at the stories told by his lola who’s now 99 years old. “Back then, they went through wars, fires, typhoons, earthquake. You think about that and it gives you strength and hope that when things are tough, you fall down, you pick yourself back up and keep fighting. And that was the inspiration for all of us to meet the challenges of the pandemic head on.”
Thus, they make sure to have value-for-money items for their customers (the store calls them Sulit Finds) and to also expand the selection in their house brand Best Buy. Ramos says they are even more customer-centric now, zeroing in on what their target market is looking for. By this, he means offering not necessarily the books that are “in season” but the most affordable ones.
“A lot of people say, ‘Filipinos don't want to read anymore.’ That's not true. Many still want to read. They just want to find great deals,” says Ramos, citing the impressive turnout of their “10 for P100” book promo at NBS Cubao outlet.
As for the other changes he’s been rolling out, Ramos says they put in a lot of effort in improving customer experience by upgrading the signages and organizing product displays, making sure everything is easy to find. NBS in BHS, although still quite small compared to other NBS branches, has possibly every school or office supply one will need. He says he also made sure the space is bright and appealing, especially to young people.
In lieu of the Laking National card, customers can now sign up for free for the Laking National QR, NBS’ new and upgraded rewards program where they can earn and redeem Sulit Coins with every purchase. They can also upgrade to Laking National QR for the added benefit of up to 10% off on select books and supplies. Learn more: bit.ly/nbslnqr.
Ramos is excited about the future, as the company is set to open other branches throughout the rest of the year. “At the end of the day, we go back to our mission, and that's what drives us,” he says. “Education is so important for the future of Filipinos and it's our job to support them in their pursuit of learning.”