For the first time in 150 years, CSS Bookshop shut its doors to customers following the lockdown order.
The bookshop has occupied the ground floor of 50/52, Nnamdi Azikiwe Street, Lagos Island, since it was founded in 1869, long before Nigeria’s independence.
A lot has changed over the century about the oldest bookshop in the country with over 40 branches.
Dare Oluwatuyi, the managing director, said its modus operandi has evolved over time, noting that, despite the influx of publishing companies, the bookshop has continued to lead.
“We are well established and the quality of our service we render is being maintained since its establishment. As things evolved, we also evolved. We are dynamic and have changed with technology and trends in the world. We are still maintaining our lead and the kind of merchandise we display in our bookshops, we have varieties and not just books alone.
“We cater for offices, stationery, and equipment. We print church materials, various Bibles and church literature. We are also into e-marketing, e-books and other resources, which have helped us to be in tune with current trends in the world,” he said.
“In addition to selling books, the bookstore has interests in property and birthed the CSS Sterling Press Printing and publishing division (CSS Sterling Printers), having been established in 1913. With regular retooling and maintenance over the years, the division is the oldest surviving printing and publishing company in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Oluwatuyi said the bookstore has lived up to expectations in terms of technology and distribution of its products to the public.
“We ensure that we surpass our clients’ expectations. The kind of display we have and the variety of merchandise that we also exhibit, the quality and number of staff, the equipment we deploy into our services and the quality of our production from the press both for clients and ourselves. The distribution and logistics that we put in place stand us out. We service schools, tertiary institutions and multi-national companies. If we can do that, it goes to show that we are still leading.
“What has kept the company going is integrity and service delivery and quality of our production, which brings clients to continually patronise our services.”
But the changing times have had a toll on the company. The lockdown due to coronavirus has affected so many companies in terms of monetary value and the bookshop is no different.
“We have lost a lot. We followed the directive to curb the spread of the virus, because the safety of our staff is paramount to us,” the managing director noted.
The economic impact of the coronavirus also reflects in the administration of the company, according to Oluwatuyi.
He said: “Our company is just a tree within a thick forest. Whatever happens in the forest equally happens in this place. We have the interest and welfare of our staff at heart. However, the survival of the company comes first, it is when the company survives that the staff will have a place to go.”
For the Sterling Printers of the CSS Book Store not to go underground, he urged government to rescue the creative industry and do whatever needs to be done to keep it afloat.
“This pandemic was not expected by anybody. It took everybody by surprise. The first thing the government has done is to survive and to ensure that not many lives are lost. The government knows that life must continue after COVID-19. They have held meetings with various sectors of the economy. A lot is expected from the government in this regard.
“The creative industry is the most affected. The press is down, bookshops are closed, schools are closed and we don’t know when they would open. Until they open, no food for the people. We expect that the government should suspend the increase in value added tax (VAT), which they introduced last year, so that it will serve as buffer for companies to stay afloat.”
Oluwatuyi enjoined Nigerian businesses to think out of the box. He said: “Things will no longer be the same. COVID-19 has changed a lot of things. I advise all to align with the guidelines that government has laid down.”