Bookstores buckling under economic impact of Covid-19 pandemic
Many outlets embrace e-commerce to stay afloat but it's not enough to cover in-store losses
Her vision of a bookstore for readers to browse and share recommendations over a cup of coffee was short-lived.
Ms Sarah Naeem, owner of The Moon, a bookstore and cafe in Chinatown, said she turned to webstores to keep the business going as revenue fell by more than 90 per cent during the circuit breaker.
Ms Naeem, 30, told The New Paper: "The Moon isn't even two years old and we were still a few months shy of breaking even. This was a really bad time for us to suffer this way."
The Moon is one of many bookstores buckling under the economic impact of the pandemic, with many businesses turning to e-commerce and other means to generate revenue as stores continue to be closed in Phase One of the post-circuit breaker reopening.
Ms Naeem's team rushed to start an e-commerce platform to try and ride out the storm, selling around 15 per cent of the usual number of books sold before Covid-19.
Besides the bookstore, she said the second-storey cafe and event space were also hit hard and she considered letting go of part of her premises to cut costs.
To sustain the business, Ms Naeem said her full-time employees had to take a 30 per cent pay cut.
Books Actually owner Kenny Leck, 42, said close to 1,800 of the 9,000 books in its store at Yong Siak Street have been ported online.
He said: "It's been a good exercise. We have been online for years and should have been uploading books for sale regularly, but there was no impetus."
Although sales have fallen by more than 50 per cent, he said he has not laid off any workers and has around two months' worth of reserves to tap if needed.
While there could be a rise in the demand for textbooks as schools reopen, Mr Leck was not optimistic. He said: "Our target demographic are very comfortable buying online to begin with. Those who used to buy from the bookstore have switched to buying online this circuit breaker."
A spokesman for Popular said they do not foresee a surge in demand for books or textbooks as school bookshops will be open.
Popular launched the Popular Official Store on LazMall on May 14, focusing on work-from-home needs and products for the new school term, said the spokesman.
Mr William Phuan, executive director of Singapore Book Council, said many bookstores have adapted and boosted e-commerce activity quickly, but online sales are not able to make up for the loss of in-store sales.
He added: "It's a new normal now. It will have to be an effective mix of (online and offline) approaches, and bookstores will have to find the sweet spot so that their customers will want to keep returning."