Date
29 March 2017
Bookstores in China have begun to turn themselves into vendors of various products, as well as become hubs for cultural events, in a bid to survive the onslaught from e-rivals. Photo: HKTDC
Bookstores in China have begun to turn themselves into vendors of various products, as well as become hubs for cultural events, in a bid to survive the onslaught from e-rivals. Photo: HKTDC

How some China bookshops are trying to fend off e-rivals

With e-commerce firms making further inroads into the business, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that brick-and-mortar bookstores in China have seen their number halve over the past 10 years.

The government has provided some tax breaks to help the physical stores, but operators know that such sops won’t be enough to ensure their survival.

What is needed is a change in strategy and a new mindset with regard to the products and services on offer.

Realizing this, a number of bookstores in Guangzhou have tried out different approaches and sought to become something more than just bookstores.

1200bookshop, for instance, offers specialist coffees and a range of side products to customers, including mobile phone cases and small potted plants, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council noted in a recent report.

Operating around the clock, provision of free accommodation for up to three days is also its unique selling point, which students, budget business travelers and backpackers have found very handy.

Drinks now make up a major portion of the income of 1200bookshoop, its owner Liu Erxi revealed. Side products are also becoming an important revenue source.

Fang Suo Commune is another example. The company banks on events related to movies, literature, arts and architecture to distinguish itself from the rest.

By hosting discussion forums with renowned writers, film directors and photographers, it is giving customers a strong reason to visit the store.

Fang Suo also sees good potential in selling beverages and consumer goods. It stocks more than 2,000 items of household products including tableware, handmade gadgets, stationery and gifts. Its customers, meanwhile, can also enjoy coffee from all over the world in the shop.

Guangzhou Book-selling Center Company is another entity that is going down the same path.

After an extensive renovation last year, the book shop reopened in February with a fresh layout and a new business model. It now aims to transform itself from a traditional book store into a one-stop complex offering creative products and cultural experiences.

The new approach has seen some initial success, with visitor numbers showing double-digit growth shortly after the relaunch.

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RC

EJ Insight writer

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