Love story in the bookstore

Love story in the bookstore

Stack up 400,000 books in nine days.

With about 100 employees to do it, each employee at Books Kinokuniya had to handle about 4,000 items in time for its re-opening today.

Many of them have been with the company for more than 10 years and their team spirit saw them through this challenging period.

Since 1999, Kinokuniya has been on the third storey of Ngee Ann City in Orchard Road.

But when the landlord, Toshin Development, surprisingly asked it to move one level up, the bookstore reluctantly agreed.

Its last day on the third storey was on Oct 22 and, since then, its staff have been busy preparing for their re-opening on the fourth storey.

DOWNSIZED

The new store occupies a space of 33,000 sq ft - a downsize by 10,000 sq ft.

Kinokuniya had to trim about 100,000 books from its collection, with its Chinese and Japanese sections downsized by around 40 per cent. Foreign books also had to be reduced.

Kinokuniya director Kenny Chan said: "We were already thinking of ways to stay relevant before we knew we had to move, so I think the necessities that came with moving was a good opportunity to do so."

It's been a challenging past few years, with big bookstores here either downsizing or closing.

Kinokuniya is aware of the current landscape but prides itself on having dedicated employees. Some of them even found love at work.

Like division manager of merchandising, Ms Catherine Neo.

She was a fresh polytechnic graduate when she joined the bookstore in 1999 as a retail executive.

Eight years later, in 2006, she married Mr George Wong, a retail executive who had joined the team in 2000.

They naturally had their wedding photos shot in the bookstore.

Ms Neo said: "We love books and we met here, so Kinokuniya is a special and meaningful place for us."

Mr Wong has since left the company.

Assistant store manager Eileen Lai believes that the employees' passion extends to their customers.

She said: "Our stores have some very loyal supporters, some of them even dropping in almost every day.

"We recognise them while taking public transport and we would say 'hi' to them."

Student Joshua Kwok, 19, was glad the store was not closing for good as he frequents it for its wide range of books.

He said: "I'm glad it's staying open because I don't know of any other place in Singapore that has a book collection that can compare to Kinokuniya's."

Ms Lai said that although the move has been emotionally draining, she has been looking forward to the re-opening as she cannot wait to see the customers again.

"We are excited about the future and our re-opening because our customers are waiting for us. It's like a reunion."


This article was first published on Nov 1, 2014.
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