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National Bookstore (NBS), the country's largest chain of books and school supplies store, is opening one of its store concepts for franchising. This is the first time the 76-year-old company is considering expanding the business with potential partners outside of the founders' family.

NBS Managing Director Xandra Ramos-Padilla made the announcement as she discussed the family's thriving retail business at the Franchise Asia Conference 2018 on Wednesday, July 18. Ramos-Padilla is the granddaughter of NBS founder Socorro "Nanay Coring" Ramos.

"This year, we're starting a new chapter. We're opening doors and opportunities for potential business partners. We're opening NBS Express for franchise," Ramos-Padilla said in her speech. 

Unlike the full-store formats of National Bookstore branches, NBS Express stores mostly offer school and office supplies with books only accounting for 10 percent of the inventory. The Express stores are also smaller in size, usually at 200 square meters unlike the full-store formats of NBS branches found in leading malls that can go for 400 square meters. Ramos-Padilla said the store format is meant to carry NBS'  best-selling items.

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"The NBS express stores are mostly the ones seen in community malls and town plazas," she said. "We've found that it's been very successful especially when it's in a good location, near schools, churches."

The company's expansion plan through franchising is in tune with its goal to roll out 500 stores by 2020. As of July 2018, the company has built 237 stores nationwide, 11 of which are NBS Express stores.

Since this is the first time the company is opening its business for franchising, Ramos-Padilla is keen on having partners that have had experience in entrepreneurship. 

"We're looking for active entrepreneurs, those who can look into the business like it's their own," she said. "We can grow the business organically but if we can find partners that can really look after the business then we can reach more customers." 

The franchise packages for NBS Express would require a minimum investment of Php6.4 million, which already includes the store's construction and equipment. The franchise agreement is good for 10 years.

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The company is still keeping its estimated number of potential partners at a conservative number though as Ramos-Padilla said they are just aiming to sign three to four franchisees before the year ends. The school supplies chain is looking into expanding in rural areas in Luzon first before further exploring locations in Visayas and Mindanao. 

National Book Store is the country’s 373rd biggest corporation by revenue, according to BusinessWorld’s Top 1000 Corporations in the Philippines 2016. It grossed Php5.7 billion in 2015 and reported a net income of Php989 million that year.

This story originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Elyssa Christine Lopez for Entrepreneur.com.ph
Elyssa Christine Lopez is a staff writer for Entrepreneur Philippines.
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