CHENNAI: It was with a heavy heart that we recently bid farewell to Landmark, in the basement of Apex Plaza, Nungambakkam — the bookstore that gave us countless books and a sea of memories . City Express finds out why the place remains Chennaiites’ favourite among the other book stores.
“In people’s minds, Landmark is always a book and music store. When the store was established first in Nungambakkam, the concept of offering greeting cards, music and movies was something new. In any case, books come first than any other category,” says Sivaraman Balakrishnan, senior marketing manager, Landmark stores.
Launched in December 1987 by Hemu Ramaiah, the franchise grew in numbers and Tata enterprise took over the chain of stores in 2008. Since then, Landmark has expanded to include toys, stationery, gaming, electronics, gift articles, and home decor, art and craft, and sports accessories. With 18 large format stores across India, the oldest retail arm of Tata, in Nungambakkam, shut down on May 18.
“Now, books have been moved to the branches in Spencer Plaza and Citi Centre. With heavy discounting from other online services, survival was always a question of concern. Landmark can’t be a mall on its own. When the store started accumulating CDs, DVDs, jute bags, stationery items, comfort wears, cushions, chocolates, wall-hangings, toys, the size of the book stack started shrinking. Walkmans couldn’t sustain in the market. Likewise, Landmark had to cut down on books to accommodate other items as well,” says Balakrishnan with a smile.
Regional manager Nasser explains how they had to close the store because of the expiry of the retail lease period among the other reasons. “We had infrastructure and water seepage problems in the building. Moreover, there was a steady decline in the number of people frequenting the store, placing orders online,” he said.
I had no trouble persuading my friends to accompany me to the store because we were assured that there was always something for everyone. The staff at the store would recognise and help you with whatever you were looking for. It was somehow on a more personal level than the employee-customer relationship existing at other stores
— Aishwarya Ramesh, Writer
‘Landmark, you will be missed’
As a visitor to Chennai every year during my school vacations, till about three years ago, my knowledge of Chennai was just limited to a few locations — one being Nungambakkam Landmark. I could spend a number of days there just gazing through all the books on the racks. I used to wonder when Muscat — the city I used to live in — would get such a wonderful bookstore. It’s quite disheartening to see the shop close down now and it’s like losing a part of my childhood. It’s like an arm of Chennai being amputated according to me. We might get a better store in its place but Landmark is irreplaceable
— Prashant Balaji, Student, Anna University
For me, the location of the shop itself was like discovering a treasure trove after going through an adventure. The shop, tucked away in a quiet basement beside one of the most busiest roads, was amazing. in fact, the shop and its content had the power to pause time . it contained anything and everything and gave us a ticket to a fantasy land of books and games. It had one of the best collections of books and a wide variety of gaming options
— R Raajesh, Software/Business Analyst
It’s putting off to visit other branches, which do not even seem to be about books. They resemble a lifestyle showroom. Candles, groceries and interiors are the only things missing
— Niveditha Sreenivasan, Model
Landmark was the hot-spot for book lovers. There’s no quality book-cum-gift shop found in the vicinity OF four colleges (MOP Vaishnav, Loyola, Stella Maris and WCC). Besides soothing music and cozy atmosphere, there’s something special about the place. It feels empty without the store
— Deeptha Sreedhar, Freelance Journalist
Many people hardly knew that such a place existed. Though the store was not ‘visible’ like other branches, I preferred this branch over others because of the parking facility. When I go to malls, I purposely don’t visit Landmark Because I tend to sit and read there for hours and end up paying more than `400 as fee every time
— Srimathi Sridharan, dubbing artiste/content writer