Traditional bookstores fight online competition

During this year’s National Day holiday, Sun Wenxiao did not spend her holiday visiting crowded tourist destinations, watching box-office hit movies, or shopping. Instead, she went to an “experiential” bookstore in her city of Jinan.

Unlike traditional bookstores, Pinju provides visitors with diverse activities such as gourmet tasting, photo exhibitions and themed lectures, Sun said. These cultural events make the bookstore a “must-go” for young people, she added.

According to a report by the Publishers’ Association of China, the online book sales grew 30 percent year on year in 2016, while brick-and-mortar book shops saw sales dropping by 2.33 percent.

To change the landscape of the industry that looked to be in decline, more and more of these bookstores have popped up in recent years in China, featuring various cultural events, book launches and public readings.

Fangsuo, a bookstore chain founded in 2011, opened its first store in Guangzhou.

While bookshelves cover the walls from floor to ceiling, the 1,800-square-meter store has a coffee bar, a boutique and a handicrafts shop, welcoming more than 2 million visitors every year, with an average annual sales volume of 70 million yuan (US$10.6 million).

The mix space often hosts art exhibitions, lectures and book launches about art, culture and lifestyle, turning it into a center for the city’s book lovers.

According to a report released by Everbright Securities on China’s retail industry, more than 60 experiential bookstores like Fangsuo have been set up nationwide in the first half of 2017.

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