Chris Reed
Sep 24, 2013

Will the new Singapore Borders store turn back time?

Popular Books are bizarrely opening a new Borders store in Singapore only 2 years after the store crashed and burned and had to close all their stores not just locally but globally. Are Popular simply trying to resurrect that dead? Or will this brave attempt to engage Singaporeans with an off line book store actually check the momentum globally of high street book stores closing?

Will the new Singapore Borders store turn back time?

Fundamentally if enough Singaporeans were going to off line book stores and reading rather than browsing there would be more than one chain and more than a handful of bookstores left not just in Singapore but the world. This is not just a local trend this is global.

No bookstore in the world makes a decent profit or remains a stand-alone profitable business without being supported by a parent group/friendly investors. Why do Popular think they are different? Why do they think Borders is different when the evidence would suggest the contrary?

There is a reason why social media reaction to this announcement has been overwhelming negative…Borders was often called the library. Somewhere that people would go, pick up some books, enjoy the free air conditioning, buy a coffee, read a couple of books, browse and then leave without actually buying a book……!

 If it’s down to the marketing they can close the store now……Their marketing leaves something to be desired when it comes to succinct and focused advertising and PR to say the least.

It also looks like Popular are stuck in the dark ages.  They say in their PR “We represent a community of book lovers who are raised to own and love physical books”. This is like admitting you preferred phones with cables…..! Are they even Singaporean? Who are these mysterious people and where do they live? Not in the real world…..

Hello!!! This is Singapore, one of the world’s most advanced and digitally aware communities in the world and more to the point in case they hadn’t noticed everyone has a tablet or/and a kindle or/and smartphone and normally one of each….there’s no one who is reading a physical book on the MRT/bus/in the lift/walking to work…..!! They’re all reading their small screen!

The copy continues “Borders is an internationally loved brand name for book lovers”…so loved that not enough people shopped there and it had to close down…. The advert continues somewhat trying to turn back the technological revolution as if Kindles and ipads had never been invented let alone missing the point that every Singaporean uses them by saying “we are certain that the return of Borders will reignite the love affair Singaporeans have for printed works”. This makes out that Singaporeans loved them before or that the new Shakespeare is coming out….but only in Sanskrit!!!

The new Borders store will open in Jurong later in the year which is an interesting choice. Away from the international target audience of areas like Holland Village, East Coast or Orchard Road which the company in their press release claim to be appealing to and into the Singapore heartlands….Lots of browsing, people window shopping and a lack of people actually buying books looks like their future, similar to their history!

Interestingly at the same time as opening one bookstore which they hope will "reignite Singaporeans love of reading physical books” they are closing their flagship Prologue store in Ion due to the precise reason that not enough people are actually doing this to justify the store being kept open!!! Voodoo economics!

The timing is also strange. Why now? Why when book shops globally are closing down due to on line being cheaper and hassle free do Popular think that Borders will rise from the ashes and soar off into the sky? Why two years after the firm went bust locally and globally? Why not at that time?

The reaction on social media in Singapore is not “popular” with many people deriding both Popular book stores in general saying they are cheap in layout if not in books. Many people have commented that their takeover of a more established international brand is an attempt to gain some brand kudos from a more established and premium brand.

It doesn’t say much for Popular if they are looking for a broken and bust international  brand to gain some positive association from…. give it a year until the closing down sale….in the meantime enjoy the new library opening at Jurong soon…..

Campaign Asia

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