Dymocks Sai Kung owner Ursula Huber tells Hannah Grogan why books are here to stay.
Dymocks Sai Kung opened in October 2010. I saw an ad looking for people who liked books, so I wrote to them and said I would be interested in running a bookshop but only in Sai Kung. I thought there was a market here. We had to invest quite a lot of money but in the end it worked out.
We are not affected by the closure of Dymocks in IFC Mall. We are a franchise, with separate accounts and order directly from the publishers. We order about 400 new titles every two months from a list arranged by the head office but now we need to create that list ourselves.
Dymocks wants to pull out of Hong Kong, so there will be an end to the Dymocks name here eventually. We will keep the brand name until our contract runs out. We hope to stay where we are, but will get a different name.
Rents in Sai Kung are ridiculous. That’s why so many properties are empty. The amount landlords want… nobody can operate on that. Either they find somebody who closes down almost immediately or the property stays empty. The whole city is empty. I hope our landlord is reasonable. Who wants to work just to pay the landlord? I won’t do it.
We are affected by ebooks, but not that much. The bookshop is not just books, but magazines, cards and other items. Children’s books do very well. Also cookbooks – no one wants to read a cookbook as an ebook. Fiction is most affected, but that’s only a very small part of the business.
It’s a misconception to think people are not interested in books anymore. They are, they still are. Everybody says bookshops are going down because they’re not interesting, that’s wrong.
People love to go to a bookshop. The problem is the rent. You cannot sell enough books to pay that amount of rent. That’s why Dymocks IFC is closing. It was doing fine, but there are other brands that can make more money. How can bookshops continue with rents like Louis Vuitton’s? We can’t, we simply can’t.
We have a different business concept to online shops. We are different to Amazon, we want people to come into the shop. We are focusing on book signings and events. We’re holding a Harry Potter Night on February 7 – we’re really excited. It’s for children aged seven and up, and they can dress up and play games. The whole team is getting involved. It will be really, really fun.
Address: 7 Man Nin Street, Sai Kung
Contact: 2791 9110