It all started with a bit of trouble. That’s how Bestseller book store owner Jackie Calvo-Anderson described her first days at the helm of book and magazine wholesaler Micronesia Media Distributors Inc.
“I was given the opportunity by my father, the late Jerry Calvo, to run a company—Micronesia Media—when I first started. I didn’t have the work experience, only a business degree, and they are two different things,” Calvo-Anderson recalled. “So you come out of college thinking you know everything, and you don’t, and I was actually coming into a troubled company that I needed to turn around.”
Fresh out of college, she was tasked with getting the struggling company back on its feet. “I was pretty much put in a position to take over control where the money went,” she said. Twenty years later, that once-failing company has turned into a successful wholesaler that expanded to include Bestseller Inc.
The homegrown company is now exclusive distributor to several publishers and operates at four separate locations across Guam and Saipan.
“Ninety-five percent of our products are books and magazines,” Calvo-Anderson said. However, other items in their inventory include everything from Hallmark cards and local postcards to related products like bookmarks, reading glasses, coffee mugs, and magnifying glasses just to name a few.
The woman-owned company is 100% local.
“A lot of people think that we’re a franchise from the states, but we’re locally grown. Bestseller started because we saw a need for a bookstore on Guam, and it just made sense to expand to retail since we were already in the book and magazine business, so I’m happy we’re still around,” Calvo-Anderson said.
After two decades in the industry, she has successfully managed to navigate the changing business landscape. One obvious threat to the book and magazine industry has been the growth in technology and its transformation of the way consumers buy and read: from on-island to online.
“They can download [books and magazines] on their computers, on their cell phones, on their iPads,” she explained.
However, despite growing competition from e-commerce and digital platforms, Calvo-Anderson believes bookstores will continue as long as there are customers. “Every business has its life cycle, and there are not many brick-and-mortar bookstores still around, but as long as there is still a need and we can continue to be profitable, then we will exist. However if there comes a time when everybody decides to buy online and not shop locally, it is inevitable that brick-and-mortar bookstores may become obsolete and a thing of the past,” she said.
For Calvo-Anderson, the magazine industry in particular has been hit hard by the digital revolution.
“So, like printed books, customers still want to hold and turn the pages, you can’t do that when you download, but with the offering of the internet at a lower cost, people are downloading and reading online, and so, unfortunately, the magazine business seems to be a dying business,” she admitted.
In her experience, both book and magazine companies appear to be merging in order to survive.
“In the retail business, it’s hard to survive just on one product alone,” Calvo-Anderson observed, adding that Bestseller uses tie-in and related products to complement store offerings and achieve sales goals.
Meanwhile, one twist to the industry change is the fact that some strictly online retailers, like Amazon, have actually started opening physical bookstores in malls across the United States. Calvo-Anderson theorized the move might be an effort to not only offer book product but also other products that customers can test and touch. Another shift she’s noticed over the years is a rise in local publications.
“There are a lot more local publications available to us now, which I’m happy about because there’s been a lack of local products available to us in the past,” she said. These include everything from local children’s books to cards and magazines.
“From what I understand, Hawaii’s biggest publication sales are in its local publications. I see Guam trending the same way, and this as a growing market,” she said, adding Bestseller is happy to carry these lines and support local authors and entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, some other challenges affecting her businesses include the shift in the island’s tourism markets, greater competition through retailers on island that carry books and magazines, and the military exchanges where many locals also shop.
A not-so-well-known fact about the book-savvy businesswoman is that the decision to enter the book retail business was not based on a love of reading, but rather her passion for business. And while she wouldn’t consider herself a bookworm, she does enjoy the occasional read on topics ranging from business and finance to real estate and management.
Ultimately, Calvo-Anderson said the best part about owning a bookstore is being able to provide products that people love, and also, “contributing to the economy by paying local taxes, employing people, and knowing that they are able to support themselves and their families.”
For aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to find their foothold in the business, her advice is to do your homework. “Run the numbers, and decide whether to take the risk.” A risk, she said, has been worthwhile.
“Every business has its life cycle, and there are not many brick-and-mortar bookstores still around, but as long as there is still a need and we can continue to be profitable, then we will exist.”