Approximately 75 years ago Sangster's Book Stores Limited began as a one-man operation, Ferdie Sangster pedaling his way through the streets of Kingston on a bicycle. Today, it is no longer Sangster, assisted by his wife Mabel, who seeks to satisfy the needs of the reading public. It is an organization which is backed by a loyal core of employees.
Ferdie Sangster went into the world of bookselling in 1939, his stock being mainly Readers Digest and Ring boxing magazines. When the business outgrew his home base, he went to share a little store with a tailor on King Street.
Sangster's Book Stores' 20th Century Impact
In 1941, Sangster's Book Stores was well on its way. That corner on King Street became too small, so, Sangster secured premises at 95 Harbour Street (upstairs) for the princely sum of £4 a month. Later, downstairs was brought into the operation at £8 a month. Mr. Sangster was now on his way to establishing himself as one of the island's premier book sellers. In another 18 months, 95 Harbour was to prove too small, so larger premises were acquired at 99 Harbour Street. By 1956, the company had once again outgrown the premises and had to relocate to 91 Harbour Street.
In 1968 Sangster's Book Stores finally settled down at 97 Harbour Street after acquisition of own premises. The store had over 5,400 square feet and stocked a wide range of books in the Caribbean and South America. This was one of the first fully air-conditioned stores in Jamaica.
Sangster's was one of the first business who seriously considered taking their service uptown, so in 1951, premises was acquired at 114 Old Hope Road where Sangster's opened its doors to serve the growing suburban population of Liguanea .
In October 1953, Ferdie Sangster was instrumental in launching the Booksellers Association of Jamaica and became the first President. His aim in setting up the Association was that of having a unified price for books and to encourage local patronage by being able to compete in prices and selection with overseas bookshops. One year later the Association held its first booksellers' exhibition.
In 1962, Sangster's opened a branch on the Mona Campus to serve the undergraduates of the University College of the West Indies. This bookshop has since been taken over by the University of the West Indies.
In 1970 Sangster's opened a shop on Kingston's busiest shopping street at the King Street Arcade, and then in 1972 Mr. FL Sangster's receives the award of the National Honour of officer of the order of distinction for his contribution in the fields of publishing and book selling.
A year later in 1973, two more stores were added to the Sangster's family of bookshops – Westgate in Montego Bay, the first rural outlet, and the Mall on Constant Spring Road. Later a shop was opened at the shopping complex at the National Gallery of Jamaica and Devon House on Hope Road; these would eventually close as the business was rationalized.
1984 saw Sangster's Book Stores changing ownership to become part of the Gleaner Group of companies. The company would remain part of the Gleaner Group until 2010 when it was acquired by Jabulani Holdings Limited, thus becoming sister company to Carlong Publishers (Caribbean) Limited.
In 1985 our Montego Bay branch was relocated to a more convenient location.
Our branch at Ligunea was relocated to a more convenient location in the Sovereign Centre, in 1992.
In 1997 we acquired the Book Shop Limited compromising of a total of 4,274 sq. ft., which is located in the Springs Plaza and in 1999 our Sovereign branch was expanded to 2,325 sq. ft. of air conditioned space with wider aisles for browsing.
Sangster's Book Stores in the 21st Century
2001 – The Book Shop brand officially went out of use in 2001, bringing all stores under the Sangster's umbrella. In that same year Sangster's opened at the Portmore Town Centre, to serve the residents of the Sunshine City of Portmore.
In 2002 two new branches were added to the Sangster's network, at 9 Kings Street Montego Bay and 137 Mountain View Avenue on the premises of the Excelsior Community College, making Sangster's with eleven branches the largest bookstore chain in the Caribbean.
2009 – Downtown Kingston sees the opening of a third branch at 93 ½ King Street, bringing the
total number of stores to twelve.
2012 – Portmore Pines Plaza, the second branch located in The Sunshine City of Portmore
opens its doors.
Currently, the bookstore family embraces some 13 branches run by a staff of over 150.