New chapter at bookstore in the face of competition
Commercial Press, the city's biggest bookstore chain, is speeding up improvements ahead of competition from Taiwan.
The chain is renovating stores and is also upgrading staff with the introduction of an internal exam.
The moves come as Eslite, one of the biggest Taiwanese chains, prepares to open its first Hong Kong branch later this month.
Renovations of Commercial's four-storey book centre in Causeway Bay, which has operated in Yee Wo Street for 28 years, have been completed. The revamped store was soft-launched yesterday and will officially reopen tomorrow.
Each floor is assigned a category, with English books in the basement, best-sellers and new books on the first floor, humanities on the second floor and children's books on the top floor.
The number of Chinese titles has increased by a third, to 80,000, while the number of English titles has doubled to 25,000.
More staff have been taken on and will specialise in specific categories, making suggestions on which books to buy and helping to organise themed showcases on each floor.
Dr Steven Luk, Commercial's director, general manager and chief editor, said senior staff members were being tested for their knowledge of books and management skills.
Questions include: 'When was Charles Dickens born?' and 'If a bookstore can put only three works by William Shakespeare on shelves due to space limitations, which should be chosen?'
The company said training was stepped up because of a lack of cultural knowledge among staff.
'Someone told me frankly that she used to work for ParknShop. She shifted to our store due to our more regular working hours,' Luk said.
Apart from nurturing more expertise among its employees, the chain established a team a year ago to co-ordinate sales of stationery.
'They will go to stationery trade fairs in Japan ... and seek direct imports into Hong Kong,' he said.
During the first month of the Causeway Bay store's reopening, a discount of 10 per cent would be offered, Luk added
Commercial's Tsim Sha Tsui flagship store is also featuring sharing sessions with such figures as Tung Yuan-fang, the widow of scientist-writer Chen Chih-fan, as well as the chief curator of the Museum of History, Susanna Siu Lai-kuen, and fashion designer William Tang Tat-chi.
Due to space limitations, sharing sessions for more than 70 people have to be held in the Tsim Sha Tsui branch instead of the Causeway Bay shop. But book signing and reading activities can take place in the Yee Wo Street shop.
Commercial Press opened an outlet across the street from the Yee Wo Street store at the start of the year solely for the sales of educational books - mainly textbooks and reference books.
Luk said: 'The diversification has allowed us to add more adult books to Yee Wo Street. The corridors can become more spacious too.'
The number of stores operated in Hong Kong by Commercial Press, making it the city's largest bookstore chain