Until Tema opened 13 years ago, buying an international publication in Portugal – with the exception of Time, Newsweek and Paris Match – was no easy task. You needed to use your imagination: make use of a London-bound friend, for instance, or get an American pal to subscribe on your behalf.
It was in 1994 that Belmiro Queirós Ribeiro, then a young employee at Electrolíber – a Portuguese magazine and newspaper distribution outlet – decided to start a project of his own. Together with a partner, he moved into an existing newsagent’s shop on Avenida da Liberdade, one of Lisbon’s hippest and most bustling arteries. They immediately set about dusting off the shelves and spring-cleaning the stock.
While initially targeting the dedicated fans of comics and sci-fi books, he was soon approached by customers requesting more esoteric and imported titles. “That was when I established the strategic principle I still use today. When a customer asks for a specific title, I order five or six copies. If those sell, I put the magazine on the ‘regulars’ list.”
Today, Tema’s shelves groan under the weight of 3,000 titles that are perused by a faithful base of politicians, writers, the fashion and media crowd, and passing trade. Ribeiro, meanwhile, is always on the lookout for innovative titles: “I read every new magazine and then order a few copies. Customers rely on me for that.”
Tema, Avenida da Liberdade 9, loja 1, Lisbon; +351 21 342 0140
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