Page One, a bookstore chain originated from Singapore that has stayed in Hong Kong for 19 years, closed its remaining two stores on 17 Nov 2016. On the other hand, Taiwanese bookstore chain Eslite is extending its business. It opened 3 physical stores in shortly 4 years which are all located in the premium locations in Hong Kong. Why makes the difference?
Page One established its first store in Hong Kong in 1997 by Mark Tan, mainly selling English books, designer books and international magazines. At its heyday, 10 stores were present in Hong Kong, taking all the premium locations including Causeway Bay, Kowloon Tong, Central, Tsim Sha Tsui, Airport etc.
However, sales started to decline in recent years and the store in Causeway Bay ceased to operate in Feb 2015. Some critics pointed out that Page One only stresses on selling books instead of selecting high-quality books and cultivating reading habits. In the age where digital platforms thrive, many award-winning designs are usually accessible online, reducing the need to purchase in a physical store. While designer books are the point of differentiation for Page One, sales starts to drop.
Eslite Bookstore established its first branch with 4 levels in Causeway Bay in 2012. Eslite in Taiwan is famous for providing a lot a free seats for people to read in the store. In Hong Kong, there are less seats; however, a forum area is reserved where speakers or authors are being invited from time to time for sharing opinion on certain books or trends.
Apart from selling books, Eslite is more like selling an attitude. It opened Eslite Spectrum in Cityplaza which sells all sort of things apart from books including stationery, tea leaves, leather bags, coffee and even organic vegetables! While the Cha For Tea, a bubble tea shop, is so famous that it becomes an icon for Eslite. By renting out spaces for artistic products, not only could Eslite receive money from rent, but more importantly to establish an image of ‘hipster’ which helps Eslite to become a successful brand a lot.
Numerous of events were held by Eslite. For instance, in Nov 2016, Eslite held a stationery fair in Cityplaza which attracted huge amount of traffic to visit. It gives Eslite an artistic image, while attracting the right audience to come.
Conclusion – Rule to survive: Consumer buy a brand instead of a book
With the rise digital platforms, reading has been gradually shifting from offline to online. This leads to deterioration in publishing business and every company in the supply chain. The Sun newspaper was shut down after 17 years of business as well in 2016, as online new is becoming more widely accepted and sales of newspaper dropped significantly.
Similarly, with the rise of Kindle and electronic method of books for which people could use Crtl F to find information that they need, who bothers to buy a book in a physical bookstore if one looks for information and speed.
Therefore, branding is crucial for success for bookstore, which acts as a reason for readers to buy books.