December 2, 2015
Dangdang.com to open 1,000 bookstores in China
by Chad Felix
E-retailers the world over are finally realizing the importance and joys of brick-and-mortar bookstores—or something like that.
Yes, it would seem that physical bookstores are on the rise: there are tech-bros in London putting their tablets away in favor of bookshelves and DJ booths, there’s Jeff Bezos, a man who once told an Amazon exec to “proceed as if your goal is to put everyone selling physical books out of a job,” back-pedaling himself right into a physical life-size model of a bookstore in Seattle, Washington.
Next to hop on the trend is Dangdang.com, who, as China Retail News reports, will open 1,000 physical bookstores across the People’s Republic of China by 2018. The B2C e-retailer’s first shop—located in Changsha City, Hunan—is due to open this month.
Dangdang executive Zhang Wei explains:
Our bookstores in the first- and second-tier cities will be as large as one to two square kilometers, and they will become a cultural complex with sales of books and other related products with higher profit … Meanwhile, we will team up with renowned shopping malls in an attempt to substantially cut bookstores management costs.
To put the scope of this project into perspective, Barnes & Noble—American’s only standing national bookstore chain—has just 647 locations as of August 2015, and B&N has been around since 1917. To call Dangdang’s effort to build, staff, and operate 1,000 stores in three years ambitious is a gross understatement—it’s very difficult to imagine Dangdang’s “renowned shopping mall” locations helping the company offset costs all that much.
As an e-retailer, Dangdang’s primary competitor is—no surprise—Amazon China, and like Amazon Books in Seattle, Dangdang bookshops will offer their online prices in-store, a fact that, given the sheer number of locations, may prove to be a serious threat to other bookstores throughout the country.
And, unless they can afford to lose money every year like Amazon, to themselves.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.