Bookseller aims at younger crowd

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2012, 12:00am

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A century-old bookstore chain known for its academic and history books is taking aim at the teenage market by opening a comic store.

Chung Hwa Book Company will officially open the new shop in Mong Kok next week, offering a collection of 7,000 local, Western and Japanese comics and animated movies.

It is a radical departure for the chain, founded on the mainland in 1912 and in Hong Kong in 1927, and comes as it faces growing competition from rivals.

'People used to have the impression that only old people would walk into a Chung Hwa store. We would like to revitalise our retail and publication arms by exploring the teenage market,' assistant general manager Cherry Chen Chou-ying said.

The 1,400 sq ft store near the Pioneer Centre in Nathan Road, known as 'Manga Store', is being set up in co-operation with Animate, the largest retailer of comics, animated films and games in Japan.

It is the Japanese chain's first venture into Hong Kong, although it has a big store in Taiwan.

Taiwanese heavyweight Eslite will establish a foothold in Hong Kong in mid-August, opening a flagship store in Causeway Bay, while local rival Commercial Press will open its renovated store on Yee Wo Street, down the road from Eslite, next week.

Two-thirds of the floor space in Chung Hwa's new store will be devoted to comic books, and the remainder to comic-related souvenirs and films, which will be stocked on an upper floor.

Two-thirds of the comics will be Japanese manga. Other offerings will include Western products and those by local artists.

Chen said the store - which began a trial run on July 16 - offered a bigger manga collection than shops in Sino Centre, the comic stronghold farther along Nathan Road, and had room to organise book-signing activities.

'Animate will make sure no parallel imports are sold in the store,' Chen said.

'All goods will be imported via proper distribution channels.'

In keeping with the parent chain's character, local educational comics will also be available.

In contrast to its Sino Centre counterparts, the store will not sell explicit comics. 'We want parents to know not all comics are bad for their children,' Chen said.

She said the line between teenage and adult comics was sometimes hard to draw.

'For continuing series with one or two volumes classified as adult-only, we will check the content and decide if it is OK for teenagers,' she explained, noting that local authorities had set high bars against violence and obscenity.

Best-sellers such as Dragon Ball and One Piece all have some volumes in the adult category.

Chen said comic-selling was a tough business, with profit margins of only about 5 per cent - less than for books. 'We just want to give it a go. If it's a success, we could pave the way for the publication of more local comics.'