Bookseller Dymocks to close flagship IFC Mall store and Hong Kong office

Closure of flagship IFC store and local office amid rising rents and online competition signals end of bookseller's 15-year presence

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 January, 2015, 3:14am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 January, 2015, 7:32pm

Hong Kong's largest English- language bookseller, Dymocks, is to end its 15-year local presence in an industry battered by high rents and shifting reading habits.

The Australian firm will pull out of the IFC Mall in Central this month and shut its local office after the shopping centre operator decided not to renew the lease.

An email from Dymocks to its suppliers gave the closure date of the retail outlet as January 25.

"With the closure of Dymocks IFC Mall, which has generated the majority of the group sales, it is no longer viable for Dymocks to maintain an office here, and the office will close at the end of February," the email said.

That will bring the number of Dymocks stores down to five in Hong Kong, which has hosted the franchise originating from Sydney since 1999. The SCMP Group, publisher of the South China Morning Post and Sunday Morning Post, is a minority shareholder in its China operations.

The remaining stores will then operate independently using the Dymocks name before being rebranded individually.

The company told the Post it would issue a statement this week, while IFC Mall called the non-renewal of the lease a "commercial decision".

Members of the Dymocks Booklover's Rewards programme can earn points until March 2, the company's website says. They must redeem all points by the end of June.

High rents, competition from online bookstores and the advent of e-readers have put pressure on brick-and-mortar booksellers, according to analysts.

Three Dymocks stores closed in 2012 when their rental contracts expired. But in April, the company expressed optimism about expanding in the city.

Joanne Lee, Colliers International manager for research and advisory, said rents in shopping centres were expected to rise this year, while street-level retail rents would fall 6 per cent.

"Shopping malls will experience steady growth because they have a healthy tenant mix compared to street shops," Lee said. "First-tier streets are all [about] luxury items."

Taiwanese bookstore Eslite, which opened in Hysan Place, Causeway Bay, in August 2012, has again reduced its opening hours, effective from last Friday.

The store welcomed about 1.2 million customers in its first two months, but soon scrapped its 24-hour model.

Eslite and Dymocks regular Eddie Chau, 40, an information technology professional, said he visited bookstores twice a month, spending HK$300 to HK$500.

Chau enjoyed browsing rather than buying online. " You can't read the books first online," he said. "In a store, there are a number of books that fall under your radar so you can preview."