Friday, October 29, 2010

Shopping at Border Wheellock Place Magazines Department and my Thoughts

Hmm, nothing to do again so began touring various bookstores in Singapore checking out whats in store, any new freebies or magazines worth buying etc as well as just plainly wasting my time....LOTSA Time..hehe.
Borders is situated at WheelLock Place beside ION Orchard...widely considered the Bookstore at the other end of Orchard....(Borders,Prologue,Kinokuniya,Times,Harris,Times at Plaza Sg on the other end).
I haven't gone there for a long time, despite me always around Orchard cos I always have trouble finding what I want or when I found it, the condition wasn't that good at Borders. Only recently that I found out that they had a mini revamp that I decided to go there to have a look.
Borders also had a strong marketing campaign to promote its store and I recently saw a Bus in Bugis painted with the colors of Borders.
The place looks much neater compared to the last time I went. They have more information counters with computers to let customers search for the Books that they want to.(Probably to make up for the lack of knowledgeable staff). The magazines shelves were much neater now, maybe due to their NO Browsing Policy recently.(Although I heard it was taken away now and they allowed browsing again) .....HINT...Browse at Borders then buy at Kinokuniya when you made up your mind?? hehehe Just Kidding...!

Okay, back to the topic of magazines...Borders currently carries a huge selection of English(Foreign & Local) + Chinese (Local + Overseas) Magazines some of which is imported direct by Borders themshelves. The selection and range of the English Overseas title is one of the best around Orchard which competing Bookstores struggles to match. Majority of their foreign titles are imported via direct store transfers which accounts for the more expensive prices and slower speed that it reaches the Singapore Store. They usually are niche titles although some major titles are brought in using this method as well. The good thing is that sometimes, they comes with the freebies (UK titles - Benefit Mascara, Cliqnic LipGloss) that are unavailable to the Singapore Market. Borders also complements the difference in the timing by getting some titles from the local sources in order to stay competitive in the market.
The range of the local english titles is about the same as every other bookstores in Singapore although Borders BookStore seldom have promotions or freebies giveaways that are usually available at BookStores such as Kinokuniya.
Borders seldom stock in local chinese titles for the books but magazines is a different case altogether now. Initially stocking only local chinese titles such as Nuyou and Icon, they have began stocking some HongKong Versions of Elle and Marie Claire. I think they also used to carry Taiwanese Magazines such as FHM and VIVI although I did not saw them recently(probably sold out). They also have the Taiwan Agnes B Mook which is recently sold in Singapore. Borders also have a very nice poster letting customers know that they are selling this Mook...(Popular,Prologue,Page One are the other bookstores having the poster)
For Non Members, Borders is offering a straight 10% off their retail price of $40.66 and 20% off for their Borders Card Member (I saw the price drop to $13 per year for the card??)...Seems like a good bargain to me...and it just confirm my hunch that Borders Singapore is slowly aiming the lucrative Chinese Magazine Market and attacking the weakness of the many bookstores in Singapore in a bid to boost up their market share. There are also unconfirm rumours that they are aiming to bring in Chinese titles from Taiwan and HongKong direct (If I am Borders, I probably get from WH Smith in HK)...which I am sure they have the means to...(If other bookstores do not wake up and take notice, God Bless them!)
Overall, I can see the range of Borders increasing, in particular the overseas Chinese Magazines...which made me wonder, a traditionally English Titles only Bookstore (No offence, it used to be caucasian style, which I have no problems with) slowly breaking their mould and blending in to the local market taste in an attempt to gain a bigger foothold in the market and continued to fight for their survival in an already saturated book selling industry...should other Bookstore follow suit and get out of their comfort zone and start to do something instead of maintaining the "I am still the industry No 1 Mindset"?

Hmmm I do not shop at Borders enough to do a more detailed write up(In fact I think this is one of my more sloppy Postings) but I guess that sums up the message that I am trying to put across and let my blog readers see how magazines selling is rapidly changing around Singapore.....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Misc Posting on Great River Co, a BookStore mainly selling Books & Magazines from China (Many Freebies)

Great River Book Co is a independent importer / distributor / retailer of mainly Chinese Books and Magazines in Singapore. They distribute Books mainly to the shops in Chinatown(Yes u all guessed it right). As for magazines, they distribute to many major bookstores which carries China Magazines. I have mentioned before that no Major Bookstore in Singapore self-import their China Magazines and Great River is what I could say the only company that is doing that. Eg of the magazines I bought are shown below.
Great River has 2 locations, one in Upp Bt Timah Road which is their main office and North Bridge Road which acts mainly as their store cum retail outlet. (Behind Bugis)

The books that they sell ranges from chinese history books,biographies of famous people to romance & kungfu novels. I have not bought any books from their shop before and upon entering their North Bridge Road Outlet, found it to be very packed. The front portion of the store are stacked with magazines as well as the shelves to my left. The cashier counter is just next to the door but piled up with books and magazines as well. In terms of competition, it is not expected to make a dent in the industry other than the fact that those looking for cheap China Books can go and buy from them. But given the close proximity to Bras Brasah Complex and Chinatown, people will rather not buy from them Cos it is really hard to find the books that you want to buy in the overcrowded and packed shop. The Boss(whom I think is from China) is quite friendly although the old aunty isn't so. Chances are if you ask them for something, you probably aint gonna get any answers or help.

Magazines-wise is a completely different matter. They have the largest selection of China Publications ranging from Men's Interest,Ladies Fashion,Current Affairs,Sports,General Interest,Health,Crafts and many other titles which many other BookStores do not carry.Although whether they sell well or not is another matter. The top selling titles are normally Women's Fashion Titles such as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, GQ China(Men), & some China Current Affairs & Watch Magazines. China Magazines generally comes in quite well made freebies for the Bags(maybe factory in China). I have bought a few copies of Magazines with Lanvin, Viviene Tam, Vera Wong & Coach Free Bags in the past given with their fashion magazines. Their watch magazines gave out parts of the watch that lets you assemble the whole watch by yourself.. A point to note that despite many magazines giving out good premium freebies, I think the Boss is still not very aware of the trend which is a bad thing. I mean for the 5th Anniversary of Vogue China which gave out Vera Wang/Vivivene Tam Bag, they are like only bringing in maybe less than 30 copies for distribution in Singapore.... I am like WTF!....If Kinokuniya or Page One is to bring it in directly, I am sure it would pretty much outsell most local magazines such as Style SG or Female SG given that the prices are almost the same.

I feel sad that this shop is not really fulfilling its potential. If I were to run this place, I would probably concentrate on bringing in magazines with extremely popular freebies and probably concentrate on the fashion titles. I would also separate the books distribution services to another place and concentrate on the magazines retailing at the North Bridge Road Outlet. Then proceed to cut off supplies to MAJOR Bookstores(which have no capability to order so many magazines titles from China anyway) and only supply selected newstands only(the chinatown aunties and uncles need to eat). Then proceed to built up a reputation for the China Magazines in Singapore through proper title selection. In that way, competition is eliminated by the lack of supplies, magazines readership will improve(many read chinese) due to the attractive freebies given and sales will dramatically increase also. Too bad it is my idea only and the Boss of this company have no lack of money nor motivation to be competitive hehe.

For buyers of China Magazines, you can probably get your favourite titles from there. Advice is to do your homework 1st and check which titles are giving out the free gift and always order from them months in advance cos no matter if magazine giving LV or Giordano...the Boss brings in the same quantity. I also notice that sometimes the magazines does skipped issues in Chinatown probably due to short supplies(which is the norm I guess) so I suspect that some walk in customers tend to HIJACK the stocks meaning wait for the shipment days then buy direct from Great River.(my own deduction and thinking and not actual facts)I mean who can pass up the chance for a fast sale? rather than supply to shops and wait to see if it sells Haha...(Hint!)So if really die die must get then can go try lor...I guess it will work most of the time anyway....just that I pity the Bookstores that will not get the stocks...due to this reason....(my own deduction and thinking and may not be actual facts)

Hmm enough of the intro on this Bookstore...Hope its helpful in your magazines buying...just like Mine....

Monday, October 18, 2010

A random walk around Chinatown looking at small Magazines NewsStands & Independent Chinese Bookstore

On a one man trip around Chinatown again today looking at some independent bookstores + magazines stores.(They are particular about people taking pics so I just took from far and some I did not take pictures at all)...
Many magazine stands manned by aunties and uncles have began to catch on to the trend of selling magazines together with the freebies. I notice at least 2 places that sell 女人我最大 latest issue that comes with the GWP Freebie Pouch which is Slightly MORE EXPENSIVE. I asked the aunty this issue got freebie ah? she replied "got freebie sell better lor? You want to buy meh?". I just smiled and walk away
Also notice that they carried some international Chinese Versions of ViVi and also HongKong Weeklies such as New Monday and EE ZouKan, Milk and East Touch. Looks like even small stores have began to increase their range of chinese magazines to stay competitive in the business. Some small bookstores also carries versions of Chinese Magazines from China such as Vogue & "Rui Li" with freebies. Looks like currently even small and independent bookstores knows..."freebies sells magazines". One reason I always go to Chinatown is because they do sell the TAIWAN Version of FHM.(Pics seen below). Relax Blog Readers...I aint a pervert or wad but some of the articles on the latest gadgets and gears make pretty interesting readings. I am glad that most of the Bookstores in Singapore carry this title maybe except Kinokuniya NAC & BJ(The Liang Court Branch does carry). Popular Bookstores also does not carry this title maybe due to the young family oriented crowd. It is readily available at most petrol stations, Page One and many other bookstores that sells Chinese Magazine.
Books-Wise, the few stores inside some shopping centers in Chinatown sells mainly books from China(kungfu novels;history;biographies and health titles etc), and of cos a few best sellers but the range is now-where as many as the Big Bookstores although price is considerably cheaper especially the COMICS and romantic novels. They do sell cheap stationeries also...and newspapers..and are usually manned by strong chinese accent speaking person.
Also passed by a dress making supplies shop in Chinatown that sells very cheap pattern making books and instructional Kinokuniya and Page One a run for its money especially for its Japanese Language Titles. One point to note is that some titles are really very old issues and that is why it is so cheap.
Last place I passed by is a shop that sells many Sanrio Items such as Hello Kitty etc...also got my all time favourite Bad Badz Maru?...

I am glad not to see a single IPAD device at Chinatown today, just people browsing and buying books...(have been seeing to many in Kinokuniya nowadays). The way business is being done in terms of Books/Magazines selling have changed too and those old aunties and uncles doing their small businesses have slowly started to adapt and understand that to survive...change is needed. This always serves as a constant reminder to not be too comfortable with what we have and the position we are in(maintaining is not enough,expansion is necessary) difficult times...people who can adapt to changes and move along with the strongest survival instincts are the one that last the longest.
That's all for this post...I also have the opportunity to cover Page One(VivoCity) + BlueSpot(Honglim) today. More of it to come later.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Random Shopping around Town and thoughts of the current Magazine Industry(Local Magazines should give out Branded Freebies!)

Sorta hang around town the whole day cos nothing new in Kinokuniya...Visited a few big and small bookstores around town, in the neighbourhoods, near the sea...etc...etc..saw many magazines on display....saw all the promotions big and small, the freebies, GWPs given out in small news stands. With the emergence of electronic devices such as the E-Reader, IPAD and all, its still amazing to see magazines selling so well or being prominently displayed everywhere. Local Magazines dominated the news-stands in most places other than in shopping centres and Holland Village where most expats hang out. Foreign magazines tend to be sold in Major Bookstores such as Kinokuniya, Borders, Times and Page One.

Before one question what I am writing about and where did I come from to write this piece on the industry....
13 years ago, a young man waiting for his 0 level results started his love for magazines when working in a Offset Printer Company started by his uncle..was involved in the marketing of the company services early on and had a chance to work with the now "defunct" Microsoft Magazine...which ended up in a chance meeting with Mr Bill Gates when he came to Singapore...His love for magazines continued even after he left the company to pursue his studies. Foreign Magazines tend to interest him rather than the local ones although once in a while...he buys "M3","Lime" and occasionally "Teenage & Teens" cos his friends sometimes appear on the cover. Foreign Titles such as "Cosmopolitan"(before the ban lifted in SG), Vogue, Ralph and other titles too liberal to list here often take up the floor space below his bed or hidden in his cabinet. A guy who understood that advertisements rather than content driven magazines will never go far in his early days. Alas how times have the current magazine industry is facing a new challenge..the age of digital and how Freebie driven Magazines are slowly replacing Advertisement driven titles who in turn are slowly morphing themselves to be Content Driven....Big Joke Right??

Summary of the magazines selling in Singapore
Only 2 Categories - Foreign and Local; with the local titles in English,Malay,Chinese & Indian. Foreign Titles selling here includes Spanish,Italian,French,German,English,Chinese & Japanese.

Local Magazines - Locally produced magazines...the so called "Made in SG". Big local female fashion Titles include Her World, Female, Simply Her for the English, NuYou for Chinese, Glam, Manja for Malay...Men's Titles include FHM, Men's Health & New Man etc..Some titles are original for example Her World and most of the Malay magazines. The rest are just "RIP Offs" or licensed titles from Foreign Magazines.
Attractive selling points include Cheap Prices, Huge Circulations, and sometimes they are bundled up with "Cheap Freebies" available in most new stands. To their credit they have shown some creativity in packaging their titles and branding by having exclusive promotions with Book Stores such as Kinokuniya which further exposes their Magazine Brand with the "UP Market" crowd.

Foreign Magazines - Magazines imported from overseas. Main selling point for the UK & US ones are their quality content although the prices are a bit steep. Popular titles include the various versions of Vogue, Elle & FHM. Business & Technology titles are also popular here such as "Stuff" which as a SG rip off version...BBC Top Gear & FHM... + many other sports & entertainment magazines which are sorely lacking in the local scene. Freebies wise....UK magazines have more freebies especially their sports and music magazines often comes pre-packaged with CDs Dvds, instructional videos etc. Fashion magazines sometimes comes pre-packaged with cosmetic freebies although most of the "imported versions" are sorely LACKING in THEM....! (In SG only PAGE One has imported versions with the freebies such as the Glamour Benefit Mascara!!!)
Chinese Titles(Foreign) comes mainly from 3 countries..Taiwan, China and HongKong. Most of them are available either as weeklies(mainly HK tabloids) or monthlies...Selling points are the attractive freebies that comes with it although the prices are sometimes quite steep. Most titles are licensed versions of fashion magazines such as Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Marie's Claire..(I mean those selling in SG). Niche titles such as sports or men's interest also are sold here although the market is not big...For Taiwan titles, only 2 bookstores import their titles from overseas which is differentiated by the freebies that is given out with the freebies...the rest by local distributors has the freebies taken out due to licensing issues..(NO FREEBIES). Freebies that appear in Taiwanese Magazines include Agnes B Cosmetic Pouches etc
HongKong Magazines is only imported in directly from HongKong(meaning with freebies) by 2 independent stores in Singapore..only. NO Major Bookstore in Singapore import their own HongKong Magazines(Maybe Page One). The majority selling in Singapore are without the freebies distributed by local distributors. That is why you see sometimes the prices for the imported versions(with freebies often varies from store to store) and sometimes the difference in the price is very great such as for the HongKong Tabloids....ELITE SG only distributes the back versions to Popular and some news vendors...which the 2 independent small bookstores that self import gets the latest issue albeit at a more expensive price...and with attractive freebies for the monthly magazines.(One shop actually do distribution so if you follow my earlier postings you will know who) Freebies that appear frequently includes Japanese Brands such as Beams and Tsumori Chisato...
China Magazines is mainly sold in SG via one BookStore & Independent Distributor in SG. Again no Major Bookstore currently imports their own but then again no local distributors so mainly the magazines that are sold here comes with the freebies....but in limited copies...(Those who follow my postings know which shop I am talking about) Mainly the titles that are sold here are finance magazines, men's interests such as watch magazines and female fashion magazines such as cosmo, elle and vogue which comes with very attractive freebies like Vivienne Tam Bags and all.
Japanese Magazines - Need not mentioned much cos Majority are brought in by Kinokuniya SG which dominated the industry ever since its opening....some minor copies are brought in by Page One via sea which is slower and many opportunist blogshop owners are also jumping in the bandwagon by selling the items online. The attractiveness of the magazines are the freebies or "FUROKU" that comes with the magazines. Popular titles such as In Red, Can Can Vivi JJ, Sweet, Steady, Mini & others have attracted a cult following in Singapore. Throw in a couple of "Branded" Freebies...and there you go...a top-selling product...Top Japanese Brand such as Beams,Headporter,HBG,Tsumori Chisato have all appeared in the form of Tote Bags or Pouches that are banded together with the magazines. International Brand such as Agnes B, Fred Perry, AntePrima, Paul & Joe and Jill Stuart have also provided free bags and all as supplements to be banded together with the magazines... A totally no brainer here.....they are sure to become top sellers in any magazines industry despite a heavy price tag(close to SGD 20 per copy)...Free Branded Bags...who cares if I know Japanese or not?!

Woah....Very Tired after writing so long.....Conclusion....even though I believe a good magazine will sell itself without any freebies....I think that the gifts actually opens up the audience to a new title especially if it is foreign and there is a language barrier. For example... I aint read Japanese, but that has not stop me from reading the Japanese titles such as SMART which focuses on Men's Fashion..(free gift is Armani Exchange Bag this month and HeadPorter Bag next Issue) for its photo shoots and styling/grooming tips. Many Japanese Fashion magazines are very universally understood, you only need to see the pictures of the clothes and the makeup....aint need to read the article sometimes...although some knowledge of Jap is good....
I am a pro-content magazines reader and believe that a good content will drive a magazine a long way...but this freebie thingy certainly does not look to end maybe its a short term solution to drive up the circulation or sales...but many short term = long term...especially if it benefits the magazines, the publishers and the consumers and not to mention the branding that is featured on the magazine in the form of the freebies....I certainly hope that the local magazines publishers will follow suit and include all this freebies....instead of comparing how much the foreign titles cost...COME if HER World increase price from $6 to $10 but include a Agnes B large TOTE BAG...see if the sales will go up or not???

Enough for today non structured rantings and all....I will follow up shortly with a profile on a few bookstores selling magazines in SG.(when I am free or when I feel bored)The titles they carry, their strengths, their weakness, and the areas I feel they could improve...and best of all if anyone is starting a new may find good info here..also will include the best places to buy the Chinese Magazines with the freebies....

Haha a few pictures here to close this post....items are all available as of today at the various magazines distribution shops in town...except Ming Magazine which was fully booked and the distributor cannot let me see what is the freebie given...