Promoting price legislation, taking a specific book route, highlighting public service attributes

  , and "saving" brick-and-mortar bookstores in crisis

  The last day of 2021 is the day when the lease of Beijing Zanqi Bookstore expires.

On December 27, the second day after the bookstore officially closed, the owner, Hu Jie, packed the last 3,000 books in the store and sent them home.

"There are colleagues who want to help receive the inventory. I gave some copies, and the rest are kept. There are more than 80 boxes, so they should be kept private." Hu Jie said.

  The closure of staggered bookstores is also a microcosm of the plight of the brick-and-mortar bookstore industry.

Well-known brick-and-mortar bookstores such as Wuhan Baicaoyuan Bookstore, Beijing Shengshiqing Bookstore, and Shanghai Fudan Used Bookstore will all close in 2021.

The chain bookstore "Yanjiyou" was exposed to a series of problems such as closing the store, arrears of wages, and becoming an enforcer, making the crisis of the brick-and-mortar bookstore further known.

  "At the end of 2019, we made a "Bookstore Calendar 2020". If we look it over this year, almost one-third of the 366 bookstores selected in that year are no longer there." Founder of bookstore industry consulting service agency "Shumeng" Sun Qian said.

  Why are brick-and-mortar bookstores facing crisis one after another?

With the increasing availability of books, what opportunities are there for brick-and-mortar bookstores?

Under the market scouring, the entrepreneurs of brick-and-mortar bookstores are exploring new ways of survival.

"Inversion of wholesale and retail": a "price war" with no chance of winning

  Book sales are the main business of brick-and-mortar bookstores.

  According to the results of the 18th National National Reading Survey, in 2020, the per capita reading volume of paper books by Chinese adults will be 4.7, and 11.6% of adult nationals will read 10 or more paper books per year.

  Yang Yue, a girl born in the 1990s, is one of the 11.6%. "It's not a problem to read more than a dozen books in a year. I only recognize paper books.

Due to price factors, all the new paper books that Yang Yue has added in recent years are purchased from e-commerce platforms.

  The "2021 Book Retail Market Report" shows that within the sampling range of more than 18,000 online and offline bookstores, the scale of my country's book retail market in 2021 will be 98.68 billion yuan, including platform online stores, short video platforms, and large self-operated online stores. The scale of online channels such as Mayang accounts for nearly 80%.

  Large discounts on books are the main advantage of online channels.

The report data shows that in 2021, the discounts of online store channels will be further increased, and the difference between online and offline discounts will be obvious, with a difference of 31 percentage points.

  The difference in book prices online and offline makes brick-and-mortar bookstore practitioners feel "great pressure".

  Hong Xia, the manager of the Humanities and Archaeology Bookstore, was quite touched by this, "After all, a brick-and-mortar bookstore is a small business. It has to pay rent and hire labor, so it's impossible to compete with online prices. And even some publishing houses have opened their own online stores. For direct sales, the discounted price of books is lower than the price of our books, and bookstores are really hit."

  Hu Jie made a more intuitive comparison, "Brick-and-mortar bookstores buy books at a 50% or even 30% discount, and then sell them at a 10% discount. The same book in other channels can be 45% off, so why should readers pay more? How much money can I buy from a brick-and-mortar bookstore?"

  The phenomenon that the wholesale price of books in brick-and-mortar bookstores is higher than the retail price of online single book purchases by readers is known as "inversion of wholesale and retail" in the publishing industry.

In the face of price differences, buying books directly from online channels has become a pragmatic choice for some brick-and-mortar bookstore practitioners.

"Because of the small volume of books, after establishing contact with the publishers and publishers of publishing companies, they also suggested that I might as well go directly to the online store to buy books." Hu Jie said.

  However, even if books are imported from online channels, brick-and-mortar bookstores are only relatively reducing losses, still unable to offer more competitive retail prices, and may face the risk of overstocking.

  It is worth noting that the price difference of books in different channels has already attracted the attention of government agencies.

The National Press and Publication Administration recently issued the "14th Five-Year Plan for the Development of the Publishing Industry", which clearly proposes to "strengthen the supervision and management of publication prices, promote the legislation of book prices, effectively stop the vicious 'price war' of online and offline publications, and create A healthy and orderly market environment”.

  Can pushing book price legislation 'save' brick-and-mortar bookstores in crisis?

"Self-rescue" in brick-and-mortar stores: back to the book itself

  Faced with the "overwhelming" price advantage of online channels, brick-and-mortar bookstores are also "saving themselves".

  The humanities and archaeology bookstore, which has been in business for 10 years and is profitable just by selling books, has explored a path in the direction of cultivating professional books.

  Walking into the humanities and archaeology bookstore located on Sanhuqiao South Road, Haidian District, Beijing, the bookshelves reaching the ceiling are densely packed with professional books on archaeology and cultural museums.

There are also many cardboard boxes stacked on the floor of the bookstore, including new books purchased from various publishing houses but not yet on the shelves, as well as books that are about to be sent to the archaeology departments, museums, and research institutions of domestic and foreign universities.

  "When the bookstore first opened, in order to attract readers, we thought of a 'stupid trick': when we saw that the invoice was from an archaeological institution, we put a book list written by the bookstore in the cardboard box. After receiving the book list, I will directly tick the book I want to buy, and then take a picture and send it to us. In this way, I will gradually accumulate many old customers. The bookstore now has an annual revenue of nearly 5 million yuan, and various archaeological institutions order books. It accounted for about 3 million yuan." Hong Xia said.

  According to Hong Xia, in addition to institutional book subscription fees, the bookstore also has nearly 2 million yuan in revenue from online and brick-and-mortar retail.

After deducting the cost of importing books, rent and labor expenses, the bookstore can make a profit of 200,000 yuan a year, and most of the profits will be used to purchase books.

  The audience for archaeology and cultural and blog books is relatively fixed. In order to retain customers when the price of books is not competitive, Hong Xia and her colleagues have also come up with two strategies to deal with the impact of online channels.

  "One is 'grab the new', when a new book is released in the industry, we will try to get the new book as soon as we know it and rush to sell it before the online store; the other is 'buy the good book as soon as possible', professional books have a small circulation and few reprints , Many books will be out of print after a few years, and it is difficult to buy online. Therefore, when encountering a book with good sales and reputation, bookstores should stock up more, and the price of the book will not be too high, and increase some inventory costs on the basis of the original price. That's it." Hong Xia said.

  A physical bookstore that focuses on a certain field like the Humanities and Archaeology Bookstore can often attract long-term attention and continuous purchase of readers in this field with its complete and in-depth book reserves.

  Going back to the book itself, selling specific books that are difficult to bid on online channels is also a strategy for many brick-and-mortar bookstores to "save themselves".

Recently, such as Yonghe Bookstore and Codeziren Bookstore have launched author's signed books, and Commoner Ancient Bookstore has made some progress in focusing on ancient books.

  However, bookstores that choose this path should also be prepared for hardships.

  Hu Jie once tried to sell used books, but "it didn't go as expected in practice", "Finding valuable used books is a very labor-intensive thing. Going to the warehouses of publishing houses and mid-tier suppliers, you can only find a few after going through thousands of books. Valuable books. Recycling second-hand books from readers is also very unstable, the books are heavy, and the cost of recycling is expensive. Whether I pay or readers pay, it is a huge expense, even accounting for half of the profit.”

  "Taking a specific book route is a test of the bookstore manager's vision for product selection and resource integration. The source of books is not stable enough, and we still need to operate cautiously." Sun Qian said.

"Internal Strength" to Retain Customers: Building Emotional Connections

  After visiting a lot of "Internet celebrity bookstores", Yang Yue has become accustomed to "taking a photo and leaving", "Apart from taking a photo and punching in, I really don't know what else to do in a physical bookstore. , I don’t know what I can buy if I want to spend money, if it’s just for a cup of coffee, there are too many places to choose from.”

  Integrating a variety of consumer formats such as cultural creativity and catering, emphasizing the sense of design and spatial experience, this is the brick-and-mortar bookstore industry, under the background of the closing of traditional bookstores such as the Third Pole Bookstore, Fengjinsong Bookstore, and Photosynthesis Study, in order to attract traffic. The transformation and upgrading path explored, but whether the rising attention and passenger flow can retain customers depends on the "internal strength" of each bookstore.

  In Sun Qian's view, the "Internet celebrity bookstore" has reached a turning point, "a new form of light design and close to nature such as the 'underwater bookstore' has begun to appear, which shows that the 'net celebrity style' is also changing, and the physical bookstore even in A lot of investment in decoration design may not be able to gain long-term attention. Opening a bookstore still has to establish an emotional connection with consumers in order to run steadily.”

  When the MPK vinyl bookstore was established in Huilongguan, Beijing in 2020, the manager Jin Xianghong planned to build a "music study room at the doorstep", "I have lived in the 'Huitian' area for more than ten years, and I also want to do something for the community, so that Neighbors have a place to read books, study and listen to music freely.”

  The positioning of the bookstore was clarified, and in terms of decoration and space layout, Jin Xianghong chose a concise route.

  "Most of the funds are spent on necessities such as books, bookshelves, tables and chairs. The design and decoration of the study room, record area, and coffee bar are also practical. For example, all records in the record area can be auditioned on the vinyl record player. The reading area has also purchased child seats, I hope everyone can really enjoy this space, not just treat it as a landscape, just look at it and go." Jin Xianghong said.

  MPK vinyl bookstore adopts a membership system. Members can borrow books and records, use the study room for free, participate in reading and music activities held by the bookstore, and enjoy discounts on consumption in coffee bars.

Every month, Jin Xianghong will count the books everyone wants to read in the member group, and buy them regularly.

  "Members basically live nearby, and they will come to the bookstore when they are free, and take one or two books or a few records with them when they leave. We don't expect the bookstore to cover many people, as long as it can serve the residents of the surrounding communities well. , that's fine, although the bookstore is not yet profitable, I believe this model can continue." Jin Xianghong said.

Pavilion-Store Unite: Highlighting Public Service Attributes

  The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Press and Publication recently announced the shortlist for the 2021 Beijing Physical Bookstore Support Project. A total of 272 physical bookstores have received project funding support.

Humanities and Archaeology Bookstore and MPK Vinyl Bookstore were all selected.

  "With such a sum of money, I feel very at ease, and I have the confidence to tell the publisher that I want 30 more sets of the book that sells well, even if the book is priced at one or two thousand or even tens of thousands of yuan, I feel in my heart. There is also a bottom." Hong Xia said.

  With the "confidence", Hong Xia plans to expand the bookstore and increase the space for reading books. "Books can only reflect their value when they are constantly being read. The good books that we 'hidden' in the warehouse should also be seen by others."

  In a sense, the Humanities and Archaeology Bookstore has also experienced a process of being "seen by others".

In early December 2021, an article titled "It's been 10 years, why does this "unpopular" archaeological bookstore survive?" made the alley where the bookstore is located, and the bookstore will also open its business hours from 6 days a week. Change to full week.

  Changes in data are more intuitive.

According to Hong Xia, in December last year, the turnover of the physical store reached nearly 90,000 yuan, "which is equivalent to the income of the physical store in the usual half a year, and even the number of public accounts has increased by nearly 10,000 people."

  In the era of increasingly online book sales, why can brick-and-mortar bookstores still affect the hearts of the public?

  Publicity is an important reason.

Compared with other business forms, brick-and-mortar bookstores can lead reading and dissemination of culture, and have strong public cultural service attributes.

  As early as 2016, the "Guiding Opinions on Supporting the Development of Physical Bookstores" jointly issued by 11 departments clearly stated: "Encourage physical bookstores to actively participate in public cultural services", "Incorporate the construction of physical bookstores into national economic and social development plans", and "build new buildings in cities and towns." In community business and comprehensive service facilities, reserve business premises for brick-and-mortar bookstores.”

  Since then, support policies have been introduced in various places, and detailed regulations have been made for physical bookstores to play the public service attributes.

  With the support of policies, seeking innovation and change with the help of social service functions has become the way for many brick-and-mortar bookstores to transform.

For example, Shanghai Dayin Bookstore undertook the operation of 6 libraries in Shanghai, and set up a late-night study room on the first floor of Fu Lei Library. Physical bookstores such as Qingyuan Bookstore and Gengshushu Club are also exploring the “library-store alliance” with the library. mode.

  The story of brick-and-mortar bookstores continues.

  Li Xuan, a trainee reporter from China Youth Daily and China Youth Daily Source: China Youth Daily