Popular Bookstore Closes 16 Outlets In Hong Kong Due To High Rent & Labour Costs

Older locals may have spent their childhood finding latest reads from local bookstores but the industry is rapidly changing.

On Friday (20 Mar), the Singapore-based Popular Holdings company is closing 16 bookstores in Hong Kong.

According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), the company is restructuring because of the decline in the book retail industry.


Let’s take a look at how the company is handling the situation.

Popular bookstore closes outlets in Hong Kong

Singapore-based Popular Holdings’ closures are a wake-up call for traditional book retail outlets, reports SCMP.

A company spokesman was quoted as saying,

The retail book industry has been facing structural challenges in Hong Kong over the past decade.

The spokesman added that Hong Kong’s downturn in the past year severely impacted their revenue. The company also had to bear the brunt of high rent and labour costs.


According to Hong Kong Standard, the bookstore chain was also sued over HK$470,000 (S$87,000) rent for its Whampoa Garden branch.

Will continue operations in Hong Kong

The company will still continue its operations in Hong Kong with a focus on promoting education. However, the chain will redirect its focus towards e-learning, educational publishing, and educational services.


Some affected employees will move to internal agencies while others will be compensated based on the country’s labour laws.

Closures are a wake-up call

As customers shift to eBooks and online learning, cultural critic Perry Lam criticised local bookstores in Hong Kong for failing to adjust to the market.

Hence, booksellers should be responsive to social changes so they can accommodate their customers.


He said,

The closure of Popular bookstore serves as a wake-up call for other major chains to revamp their business.

Mr Lam suggests that stores should identify books that locals love and incite interest by hosting discussions with authors and talks to boost cultural awareness.

Furthermore, he claims that the rising social movement in Hong Kong would’ve been a good opportunity for bookstores to boost the locals’ political knowledge. Unfortunately, these companies failed to think outside the box.

Leading bookstores decline in Hong Kong

Jimmy Pang Chi-ming – Hong Kong SME Publications Association’s vice-chairman – claims that nationwide protests have affected leading bookstore chains that had a 70% market share in the industry.


3 Chinese-backed bookstore chains – Joint Publishing, Commercial Press, and Chung Hwa Book Company – were boycotted by democracy supporters.

He added,

At the same time, affected by the turmoil, many Hongkongers are in no mood to read books or hang out in bookshops.

Mr Pang claims that the publishing and book retail industry experienced a plummet by up to 80%. The coronavirus outbreak has greatly contributed to the worsening situation.

Sign of changing times

Popular bookstore’s closures in Hong Kong are a sign of changing times for the book retail sector.

Even in Singapore, MPH bookstore made its exit in our sunny island by closing its last 2 outlets in Raffles City and Parkway Parade. Times had closed its Centrepoint outlet in Sep 2019.

Physical book outlets may incite feelings of nostalgia, but companies must also accept the shift to ebooks and online learning platforms.

We hope they’ll be able to explore new options that’ll capture the interest of the younger generation. And eventually, boost their chances of sustainability.

Also read:

Times Bookstore At Centrepoint Closes On 23 Sep, Offers Up To 50% Off For Long-Time Fans

MPH Bookstore Closes Last 2 Outlets In S’pore At Raffles City & Parkway Parade

Featured image from Yoho Mall HK.