Brick-and-mor­tar Book­store 3.0

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Shang­guan Yun

Af­ter brick-and-mor­tar book­stores were dec­i­mated by the im­pact of on­line re­tail­ers, some grace­ful and qual­ity phys­i­cal book­stores have re­cently emerged in China. Go­ing to the book­store is back in fash­ion. I t would be fair to say that book­stores have en­dured con­sid­er­able ups and downs through­out the ages. A few years ago, when read­ing habits be­gan chang­ing and on­line re­tail­ers be­gan sell­ing books, brick-and-mor­tar book­store be­gan dis­ap­pear­ing.

How­ever, in re­cent years, the sit­u­a­tion looks good for a resur­gence of phys­i­cal book­stores in China. Ac­cord­ing to in­com­plete sta­tis­tics, in 2017, about 80 new book­stores opened. Thanks to pref­er­en­tial poli­cies and re­forms, brick-and­mor­tar book­stores have en­dured a cold win­ter and are wel­com­ing spring.

A re­port re­leased by the book mar­ket mon­i­tor­ing and anal­y­sis firm Open­book showed that in 2017, the count of Chi­nese phys­i­cal book­stores shifted from a drop to a rise by 2.33 per­cent com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year.

Tra­di­tional book­shops pri­mar­ily con­sist of books and shelves, but emerg­ing new book­stores have taken on a new look in terms of both ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign and book dis­plays, grad­u­ally es­tab­lish­ing their own brands. Ac­cord­ing to Jiang Xil­iang, pres­i­dent of Open­book, book­store 1.0 sold only books, book­store 2.0 in­te­grated other busi­nesses and book­store 3.0 is just be­gin­ning.

De­sign Power

In Jiang’s opin­ion, fu­ture book­stores need to at­tract reg­u­lar cus­tomer flow and earn money by pro­mot­ing cul­tural con­sump­tion. “The ap­pear­ance of a book­store needs to catch cus­tomers’ eyes first,” he ex­plains. “In re­cent years, some book­stores have been ac­claimed as ex­cep­tion­ally beau­ti­ful and be­come ‘in­ter­net book­store celebri­ties.’ Such re­tail­ers are clearly out­stand­ing in terms of de­sign and style.”

Dan Jie, pres­i­dent and CEO of Shang­hai Yan­jiyou Brand Man­age­ment Co., Ltd., agrees. He be­lieves the ap­pear­ance of a

book­store rep­re­sents part of the “de­sign power.” “In gen­eral terms, ‘de­sign power’ is the dec­o­ra­tion,” he says. “But ac­tu­ally it is the abil­ity to choose qual­ity prod­ucts and dis­play books well as well as in­te­grate books with cul­tural cre­ative prod­ucts. ‘De­sign power’ pen­e­trates ev­ery fac­tor at­tract­ing read­ers.”

Bei­jing’s most pop­u­lar book­stores like Ows­pace, SISPHE and Yan­jiyou all have dis­tinct styles in terms of de­sign and book dis­play. SISPHE, for ex­am­ple, fea­tures dark green set off by red and black, greet­ing cus­tomers with its strong vis­ual im­pact. With soft light­ing and great va­ri­eties of books, the book­store cre­ates a read­ing-friendly at­mos­phere.

“I like the de­sign of Yan­jiyou,” re­marks a reader in the book­store. “I can eas­ily find the best­sellers on a par­tic­u­lar shelf. The space color is bright. It feels pleas­ant to se­lect and read books here.”

Fo­cus on Books

Cer­tainly, a book­store can­not solely rely on its look and needs “sub­stan­tial con­tent,” which is rep­re­sented by the se­lec­tion of books. Jiang Xil­iang thinks that book­stores will be­come an en­trance to ur­ban cul­tural con­sump­tion, in which books and read­ing are the fo­cus and core logic.

“Book­stores can­not be­come shop­ping malls or places sell­ing cul­tural prod­ucts,” says Yang Li­uqing, deputy di­rec­tor of the Re­tail Chain Depart­ment at Xin­hua Win­share Pub­lish­ing and Me­dia Co., Ltd. She ad­mits that a book­store could main­tain sev­eral rev­enue streams to en­sure books are not the main source

of profit, but books are still the heart of the es­tab­lish­ment and a key fac­tor in draw­ing cus­tomers. The fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of book­stores will still not change this point. “The in­dus­try is dis­tinct from oth­ers,” Yang stresses.

A rich cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­en­ti­ates brick-and-mor­tar book­stores from on­line re­tail­ers. At present, many book­stores hold lec­tures and sa­lons. Jiang won­ders whether a book­store can com­bine its own char­ac­ter­is­tics with cul­tural events like a mu­si­cal fes­ti­val by hold­ing ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to mu­sic. “Maybe a po­etry read­ing sa­lon,” he says. “They just need to es­tab­lish more con­nec­tions and in­ter­ac­tions with read­ers. This kind of ex­pe­ri­ence can serve as a ‘pro­tec­tive screen’ against the im­pact of e-com­merce.”

Tar­geted Read­ers

Ac­cord­ing to Yang Li­uqing, while sell­ing books and or­ga­niz­ing cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, a book­store should seg­ment their read­ers. “Rather than try­ing to sell books for ev­ery­one, newer book­stores tend to tar­get spe­cific cus­tomers,” she says.

“We have branch book­stores es­pe­cially for kids and oth­ers for fans of tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture,” Yang elab­o­rates. “Cus­tomer seg­men­ta­tion is the trend. For in­stance, Fang Suo Com­mune, an in­no­va­tive book­store, fo­cuses on art. This kind of book­store needs to pay more at­ten­tion to the ‘ex­pe­ri­ence.’ There, read­ers can find spe­cific books while com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple shar­ing sim­i­lar in­ter­ests. This en­hances the read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.”

“Read­ers have good in­stincts to find the most sat­is­fy­ing con­tent and at­mos­phere,” adds Dan Jie. “They nat­u­rally choose the book­stores clos­est to their in­ter­ests. Es­sen­tially, birds of a feather flock to­gether. If a book­store de­fines it­self ac­cu­rately and grad­u­ally es­tab­lishes a brand, it can en­joy a big and sta­ble mar­ket af­ter at­tract­ing reg­u­lar cus­tomers.” Dan is op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of brick-and-mor­tar book­stores. “But of course, they still have a long way to go.”

Dubbed the “most beau­ti­ful book­store” in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang Prov­ince, Zhong­shuge Book­store in Xing­guang In­ter­na­tional Plaza fo­cuses on hu­man­i­ties and science as well as kids’ books. VCG


Bei­jing’s 8th SISPHE book­store opened at Xizhi­men Cap­i­ta­land Mall in Fe­bru­ary 2017. Built with red bricks set off with black metal lines and wood ra­di­at­ing nat­u­ral gen­tle color, the de­sign en­ables read­ers to re­lax in its cul­tural am­biance.

by Yu Zhiqiang

PAGEONE Book­store in Bei­jing’s Xicheng District is sit­u­ated in a prime lo­ca­tion, fac­ing the an­cient Zhengyang Gate. Read­ers can feel the com­bi­na­tion of an­cient and mod­ern Bei­jing.


Chil­dren en­joy books in a fairy­land-like book­store.

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