-By Soul Sword-
I first set my eyes on “Landmark” book store in Nungambakkam, Chennai in the year 1999. I visited the store as I had to buy a folder for my art sheets required at school. Those were the days when the stores didn’t have attractive layouts or look inviting. People flocked to them as long as the items were available.
Located in the basement of a commercial building, Landmark was no different with respect to its exteriors. But inside the store, it was a different story. I was greeted with the latest music releases playing in the background which gave it a welcoming ambience. I was thrilled seeing the endless racks of bookshelves which covered the expanse of the store. The books were beautifully displayed under neatly labelled sections. The staff didn’t mind if you picked up the books and flipped through the pages (this wasn’t allowed in other stores). The staffs were knowledgeable and helpful.
There was a large collection of greeting cards. It was crowded with adults who were trying to find a card matching their taste. I got on to exploring the store. The book collection ranged from comics to fiction, non-fiction, self-help etc arranged in shelves that were taller than me. You name it and they had it. I felt like I was in wonderland. I picked up some books that suited my age. I told myself that I will read books from all the shelves when I grow up. My mother told me that we were getting late and promised to bring me here again another day. I agreed and started walking towards the stationery section. Here again, they had an amazing stationery collection. On the way to the billing counter, I crossed the music section (which had CD’s and cassettes), movies section, toys section and the gift section. That day I returned home very happy feeling like I had found a treasure.
Soon after, I was a regular at the store. I used to spend hours together there. As I grew up, the store grew along with me. The store opened branches in 3 other malls and gained popularity with every growing day. They were bigger than this store but I still visited this one. The store started having a lot of events like book signings, etc. I still remember the day when I spotted a whole rack of gaming CDs. I was overjoyed as I bought the ones which looked interesting.
A visit to Landmark wasn’t just the joy of shopping. It was the joy which came when using the items purchased which lasted for a long time.
As I started college, I only ended up frequenting the store more than before. I used to look for excuses to head there. A friend’s birthday gift, a greeting card, toys for a child’s birthday or even a small thing like a pen were enough reasons to visit Landmark.
My friends tagged along when I introduced the store to them. The store always had something new to offer with every visit. Their music collection was to die for. I always went to the store to see the festive decorations that they put up for every festival be it Pongal, Diwali, Navratri, Christmas or New year. It was a treat for the eyes.
After completing my education, my visits to the store reduced, as I discovered that work isn’t as forgiving as studying. It took up more time. But whenever I had free time, Landmark was always there, waiting for me.
One day (2014), I read an article in the newspaper which reported that Landmark was shutting down in Chennai. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Landmark was everyone’s favourite store. People loved the store and yet it was closing down.
I went to the store the following week and was greeted by empty shelves. The books, stationery and CD’s were already packed in cardboard boxes. There was little left of the stock and as I was walking through the store, the staff were already in the process of packing them away. I enquired if the store was moving. The staff didn’t know about that. Their answers weren’t promising. I picked up some items as souvenirs and walked out of the store after billing.
As I walked out, I didn’t feel the usual satisfaction that I always got every time I walked out of the store. At first, I thought it was only me, but then I looked at my friend who had an odd look on her face. I also looked at a few customers who walked out of the store looking gloomy. We all knew that this will be our last visit to the store.
The store closed down the week after and all its branches in Chennai followed suit (except one but that was nowhere close to this one).
That day I realised how attached I had grown to the store and the part it had played in my life all along.
Many stores immediately capitalised on Landmark’s closure and yes, I did visit every one of them. They were more colourful, they had more themes and they did have similar vibes. They had a great collection, but none of them was ‘Landmark’. Six years have passed since the store’s closure. Landmark has left a void that no other store can fill. I am sure many Chennaites would agree with this line, “Yes it is nice, but it isn’t Landmark”.
Sometimes when I visit the stores and don’t find something, the first thought that crosses my mind is “If Landmark was still open, they would have this item.”
In marketing, there is a whole chapter dedicated to Brand Loyalty. It simply describes the concept as “the positive feelings towards a brand and dedication to purchase the same product or service repeatedly, regardless of a competitor’s actions or changes in the environment.” But I feel there is much more to it. This is more of an emotion and brand loyalty is too simple a word to describe it…
-By Soul Sword-