I’m guessing this might be the beginning of the end. It would be a real shame if we lose yet more bookstores. Though I suppose this is inevitable. Without the right people, ideas and plans, we might just end up with 1 bookstore chain in the near future – yes, that popular one which parents drag kids to and stock up on assessment books. 😀
After Times’ exit from Tampines One, this bookstore chain will be left with 6 outlets in Singapore: Centrepoint, Cold Storage Jelita, Marina Square, Paragon, Plaza Singapura and Waterway Point.
About two weeks ago, I met two female employees of MPH in Malaysia (who have marcomms roles) and gave them an idea that just came to me while I was looking at the titles they had at their booth. Without bothering to delve further and ask more questions and see how this idea could work for them (not me), they provided immediate objections such as “can’t be done”, “no budget”, “management won’t agree”, etc. But if they had given me 5 more seconds, or shown more enthusiasm, I could have shared with them ideas for how it could be executed with little to no budget (and might even make them money in the process), what steps to take, how to generate a ton of publicity and even how to convince that boss and other people to get on board. The reason I even bothered to speak with them was ‘cos they were attending workshop after workshop to find new ways to revive the book-selling industry. (I think I forgot to ask if MPH had sent them or if they had voluntarily come by. Haha!)
But too bad, too sad. I’m guessing they’ll look for other jobs eventually. Those positions at MPH Malaysia are mere stepping stones for them, it seems. But wouldn’t it be awesome if they could play a part in rejuvenating this (dying) business, make a name for themselves, then move on to another company?
In Singapore, there are a few main reasons why I don’t buy books at bookstores anymore. (It has nothing to do with authors sending me their books for reviews, ok? :P) And I’ll share with you what would make me return…
#1: The lack of people who are PASSIONATE about the business
Seriously. Just walk into any bookstore (Times, Popular, etc) and ask the staff for a book recommendation. You might just give them a heart attack. Some don’t read books, have not heard about best-selling titles (not obscure ones), and always have to rely on “Let me check the system” no matter what question you ask.
Don’t ask me for a book recommendation. I’ll just go on forever, invite you to my home, and make you leave with a handful of books you should read. 😀 It’s true. There was another lady at the same book table in Malaysia who had picked up a copy of a book that I was about to buy as well, we started chatting, and I eventually bought her another book PLUS gave her a copy of my book ‘Blogging For A Living’. And at that point, I didn’t even know her name. Good grief!
#2: Seriously lame marketing efforts
Are we really going to make a beeline for Times just ‘cos they’re dangling a “20% discount” offer? *yawn* Do you not know that you can get books on bookdepository.com at a much lower price, PLUS they deliver worldwide for FREE, with no minimum spending? They even give you a free bookmark with every order, for crying out loud!
The only book sales that can get me out of the house are the Books Box Sale ($50 for an entire carton of books you can handpick yourself, but which, sadly, isn’t happening this year) and the Epigram Books sale ($20 for 10 books you get to choose).
With 20% discount, I’m just going to stay put and watch more episodes of the 2018 Meteor Garden remake ok? 😛
#3: No value-add at all
What’s the difference between buying a book online and buying one from the Times bookstore near my home?
Does the one in the store come with the author’s signature? Does it have a special “limited edition” freebie? Is there an accompanying workshop? Do I get to MEET the author? Do the staff read stories to the kids who visit the store? Are there staff recommendations of books I should get, or which mothers should get, or which children aged 5 to 7 should read?
No. What I’ll get is a grumpy guy (or lady) who asks me if I’m a member, then scans the barcode off my Times app, collects payment and sends me on my way.
Sure. Bookstores can bank on assessment books and kids’ titles to be their cash cows for a little longer. But how sustainable this will be in the long run, I’m not sure.