Guts Lead to Glory at Usborne Books & More

by Barbara Seale

Click here to order the March 2015 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


Company Profile

Founded: 1989
Headquarters: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Executives: Founder and CEO Randall White and Vice President Heather Cobb
Products: Educational children’s books


 Randall White and Heather Cobb

Randall White and Heather Cobb

It was a David and Goliath decision—one that would make any direct seller proud. More importantly, it set the stage for growth for Usborne Books & More, one of the direct selling industry’s few book sellers.

Usborne Books & More (UBAM) is the direct selling division of Educational Development Corp. (EDC), which has been in business in the United States since 1978. It sells children’s educational books primarily at parties, and some of the consultants also sell at book fairs, as well as to libraries and schools. UBAM has always been a bit of a rebel-with-a-cause, gaining its first steady market of home schoolers and being led by outspoken EDC CEO and Usborne Books & More Founder Randall White. The thorn in its side: Amazon.com.

Amazon was buying EDC’s books primarily from a wholesaler and slashing the retail price to the bone, including large orders sold to libraries and schools. If you’ve ever thumbed through a book at a retail store but then purchased it online at Amazon to save a couple of bucks, you have done what some Usborne Books & More customers have also done—much to the chagrin of UBAM consultants.

When the Usborne Books & More consultants who sold to schools and libraries—about 20 percent of the company’s business—encountered the practice, it didn’t just frustrate them. It threatened their business. The consultant might have gone through layers and layers of administration, making repeated presentations on book collections, getting enthusiastic, positive feedback, only to have the library make its final purchase through Amazon. It’s not a situation that leads to consultant retention. By 2012 the practice hit the company hard. Consultants started quitting, and sales dropped 20 percent.

By early 2012 White had had enough. He asked the wholesaler, which at the time accounted for 20 percent of EDC’s sales, to stop selling the company’s books through the online retailer. The wholesaler refused, but White was determined. He cancelled its account, all but eliminating the sale of EDC’s books directly from Amazon.com.


Usborne Books & More has now recorded 19 consecutive months of growth, with the past six months each posting monthly gains in excess of 40 percent over the same months in 2013.


Growth Genesis

The action was bold, and it spoke loudly to UBAM’s consultants. They loved it. It told them that White had their backs. Even though slinging a stone at giant Amazon was a risky move, as White told The New York Times in his characteristic style, “You never have the chance to make 7,000 women happy in one day.”

White calls it the most important action he, as the company’s founder, has ever taken. Consultants were energized to hold more parties and approach more schools and libraries, knowing that consumers would purchase from them, rather than online. That confidence led to recruiting, as well. Fueled by additional incentives from Usborne Books & More, selling and recruiting have increased, creating a snowball effect. Growth has hit an all-time high. Since its low point in 2012, the company more than doubled its number of active consultants by the end of 2014 and now has 8,000 active consultants. More importantly, growth has continued.

From February to June 2014 revenue grew more than … Click here to read the full story at Direct Selling News.

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About Direct Selling News
Direct Selling News Magazine has been serving direct selling and network marketing executives since 2004. Each issue of Direct Selling News offers content on topics that shape the dynamics of our industry.

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