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Bookstores bouncing back amid online onslaught

By Chen Qingyun | China Daily | Updated: 2019-02-18 07:16

Many other bookstores are linking online and offline sales channels to boost their business.

FanDeng Bookstore owes its success to the huge number of members of its online reading community the Spiritual Wealth Club-founded in 2015 by former TV anchor Fan Deng and which now has now more than 13 million users. FanDeng Bookstore, founded in 2016, has more than 200 branches in 94 cities nationwide, and it plans to open 300 to 500 this year.

Wu Ning, the chain's founder, said most of its premises are in communities occupying about 200 sq m, enabling residents to browse and read books close to their homes.

FanDeng also holds various types of cultural events, inviting well-known authors and online fans to share their thoughts face-to-face on certain books, and to interact with each other.

"Online, our consumers can read on the Spiritual Wealth Club ... Offline, they can read and socialize with one another in our bookstores," Wu said. "The 'click-and-mortar' model benefits our business on both fronts."

Of FanDeng's 80 million yuan in revenue last year, only 10 percent came from selling books; 30 percent was from sales of creative products; and 60 percent from various cultural activities.

Ji said bookstores are on the right track to developing their operations, but most of them have yet to find effective and mature business models.

"Relying on government subsidiaries, low rents at shopping malls, or investors' capital is unsustainable, so innovative and disruptive changes are still needed to enable the healthy development of the bookstore industry," he said.

He also suggested that bookstores may find opportunities in niche markets. For example, a store that focuses on providing books and creative cultural products solely for children could have great potential.

Wang Ziwei contributed to this story.

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