Times closes PS, Waterway Point branches, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Times closes PS, Waterway Point branches

Times Bookstores has shuttered its Plaza Singapura and Waterway Point branches, as the chain’s presence here and in the region continues to dwindle in the face of weak sales and low foot traffic.

The English-book retailer, which has been in Singapore for more than 40 years, has held moving-out clearance sales at both outlets, leaving a sole remaining store in Cold Storage Jelita in Holland Road.

The closures were confirmed by the owners of Plaza Singapura and Waterway Point, CapitaLand and Frasers Property.

Times declined to comment on its future plans in Singapore, and whether it had attempted a new bid to stay on in either locations.

The development marks the latest in a slew of Times closures over the past five years, as rumours abound over the chain’s future plans.

Times, owned by regional consumer group Fraser and Neave, recently also shut multiple branches in Malaysia.

In Singapore, its three-floor Centrepoint store wound up in 2019, before the bookstore chain ceased operations in Marina Square and Paragon in 2021, its woes compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its Jewel store, Times Junior Jewel, also closed at the end of 2023. The space it had occupied now houses Japanese entertainment store Sanrio.

A Plaza Singapura spokesman thanked Times for the “strong partnership over the years” and said The Travel Store will take over Times’ fourth-floor space by the end of March.

Frasers Property did not reveal who its new tenant will be.

Singapore bookstores have been adversely affected by poorer sales, rising rent, and higher goods and services tax and printing costs, which have pushed up book prices.

Many stores have come up with new ways to attract buyers by offering more than the conventional bookstore experience.

Kinokuniya Singapore, for instance, sells merchandise such as Sonny Angels, a line of tiny cherub dolls popular among Gen Z, and in 2023 launched a Studio Ghibli pop-up.

Popular has evolved to focus more on stationery and textbooks, while indie spaces such as Book Bar organise book launches and reading club activities with food and drinks.

The Singapore Books Publishers Association, in a statement to The Straits Times, said it was saddened by the news, “given the small book landscape in Singapore and the loss of other prominent bookstores in recent years”, such as Borders and MPH.

“Every sales channel is increasingly precious,” it said. “This will adversely affect the accessibility of Singapore literature to our local community and the ability of our publishers to find readers.”

Mr William Phuan, executive director of Singapore Book Council, said rising rentals and declining book sales are squeezing the bookselling business, though there are “bright spots” such as indie bookstores City Book Room doing more to build a community of readers through writer events and activities.

“We certainly hope Kinokuniya and Popular, two of the remaining chains, will continue to serve as anchor bookstores, while indie bookstores and pop-up spaces will be able to reach out to new and existing readers,” he said.