Versatile spaces the key to survival

Source: China Daily Author:  2020-04-17 11:35 

To survive in the modern era, brick-and-mortar bookstores have to reinvent themselves and become "cultural spaces", according to the founder of a Beijing store.

Fan Yingzhi, 24, runs the October Time Bookstore in Haidian district, which is also recognized as one of the top cafes in the area.

"Merely selling books is a dead end, which I have thought since the beginning when I started in the bookstore business," he said. "First, you have to make sure your bookstore survives, then you try to make money."

Fan said after he graduated from university with a business management degree, he thought a lot about the changing role of bookstores before he stepped into the industry. He has many fresh ideas on how to generate income that don't involve selling books.

For example, although October Time is temporarily closed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, it has already started delivering coffees and other drinks prepared in its cafe to customers.

Fan also believes the growth in online book sales is inevitable, which will force brick-and-mortar bookstores to change their thinking in order to survive.

"Some big players use physical bookstores as a branding tool, such as CITIC Books," he said. "Some people try to build a content cluster and use the physical bookstores to attract followers and spread ideas."

However, few bookstore managers have invested enough time and money in building a "cultural space" for customers, Fan said.

"To attract people you need to provide a space with varied cultural content, such as books, video games, cultural innovations, as well as food and drinks," he said.

"This is definitely a way to make a good profit. The main thing is to build a space that is attractive enough for your customers."

He said his bookstore was well placed to survive any cash shortage caused by the forced closure.

"Due to our cooperation with the Beijing Publishing Group, we don't face overstocking issues or lack the capital to pay the rent," Fan said.

"Our labor costs are low because most of our clerks are interns from nearby colleges."