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Local company Popular Holdings Ltd caused a ripple of excitement on the brick-and-mortar book stores scene in Singapore when news of the company acquiring the Borders brand name broke in August 2013. The Borders chain of books stores is well-known globally. However, faced with stiff competition not only from other book retailers with physical stores but also the advent of e-reading and the arrival of internet retailing, Borders bowed out of the book stores scene in 2011. In Singapore, similar store closures have been witnessed apart from Borders, with book stores like PageOne and Popular Holdings’ Harris and Prologue stores all closing down over the past three years.

Will Popular Holdings succeed in rejuvenating Borders in Singapore?

It will be an uphill challenge but not impossible. Popular Holdings has tried and failed to establish itself as a proper book retailer. The company runs the successful Popular chain of stores which is well-known locally as the go-to source for school textbooks and assessment books. The first Borders outlet is slated to open in Singapore in the fourth quarter of 2013 and will be located in the suburbs. E-books and e-readers are very much here to stay. Likewise, internet retailing – in 2013, even US retailer amazon.com has picked Singapore as one of two countries outside of the US to enjoy free shipping.

Borders will need to carve a niche to win itself a place in Singaporeans’ hearts. It will need to offer “extras” that virtual retailers are not able to. With rising concerns on mother tongue education in Singapore, book retailers can consider hosting reading sessions in mother tongue languages. For example, staff can read a chapter of a Chinese storybook to children during the read aloud sessions upon the purchase of that book. Brick-and-mortar book stores can also offer complimentary worksheets and assessment materials for students so as to entice parents to bring their children to physical bookstores. To add on, physical bookstores should avoid selling CDs and DVDs as there are already sufficient specialist stores to cater to this demand.

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