Potter mania strikes again

Promotional materials and merchandise on Harry Potter on display at Popular's Bras Basah Complex outlet; and a staff member donning a wizard hat (above).
Promotional materials and merchandise on Harry Potter on display at Popular's Bras Basah Complex outlet; and a staff member donning a wizard hat (above).ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Promotional materials and merchandise on Harry Potter on display (above) at Popular's Bras Basah Complex outlet; and a staff member donning a wizard hat.
Promotional materials and merchandise on Harry Potter on display (above) at Popular's Bras Basah Complex outlet; and a staff member donning a wizard hat.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Many booksellers anticipate a demand for script book Harry Potter And The Cursed Child Parts I and II

The Boy Who Lived lives again, bringing with him a new wave of Pottermania, nine years after the release of the seventh - and supposedly final - Harry Potter book.

J.K. Rowling's saga, which started with an orphaned boy wizard, continues on July 31 with Harry Potter And The Cursed Child Parts I and II, a script book of an upcoming, sold-out London play based on a story by Rowling, playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany.

Its Singapore distributor, Pansing, anticipates a demand of about 100,000 copies for the eighth story in Rowling's Harry Potter series - more than the demand for all three books in the Hunger Games series combined.

Booksellers here are already gearing up for the arrival of the new book with special promotions and planned launch parties. Some are seeing sales of previous books in the series pick up.

A Pansing spokesman says the response to the new book, which it expects to be the biggest title of the year, has been "very enthusiastic". Orders have been rolling in from booksellers since May.

"We're excited about it... We hope new readers will pick up the series and be fascinated by the world of Harry Potter and fans will continue to be enthralled by it," he says.

The fever seems to be growing by the day.

MS JANE LOW, Books Kinokuniya's children's book buyer. The bookstore has seen sales of previous Harry Potter instalments spike since Harry Potter And The Cursed Child was announced

The story picks up 19 years after Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows and features a grown-up Potter - now a Ministry of Magic employee - and his middle child Albus Severus, who struggles to come to terms with his family's legacy.

When the hotly anticipated seventh book Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows was released in 2007, Penguin Books Singapore brought in about 300,000 copies - half for sale here and the other half in Malaysia - according to newspaper reports then.

It was the series' biggest launch.

Popular, which has 28 bookstores here, is already in the throes of Potter fever, with staff donning wizard hats.

Customers can also snap a photo of themselves with life-sized standees for the book, which are out in some of its stores, and stand a chance to win prizes.

A Popular spokesman says pre- orders, which started pouring in from mid-April, have been "overwhelming".

They are now in the thousands, about five times that of other "well-acclaimed book titles".

Those who pre-order a copy of the latest book from now until July 31 will enjoy a 10 per cent discount.

Home-grown brand Times, which has seven bookstores here, has been encouraged by the response it received since preorders opened on May 26.

Meanwhile, Books Kinokuniya started getting inquiries about the new book as early as February, when news about it broke.

It has been taking reservations for the book since early April, says its children's books buyer Jane Low. Customers who have pre-ordered the book stand a chance to win a Harry Potter chess set.

Bookstores declined to reveal the number of copies they have ordered, but Kinokuniya has asked for a quantity "comparable" with its previous orders for the rest of the series, while Popular will have "sufficient stocks to meet the demands of customers".

Both have seen sales of previous Harry Potter instalments spike since the eighth book was announced, with Popular selling five times the usual number.

For Kinokuniya, "the fever seems to be growing by the day", says Ms Low.

And when July 31 rolls around, some bookstores - including Kinokuniya's Ngee Ann City main store and Jem outlet, and 15 Popular branches - will open at 7.01am to coincide with the international release of the book.

Fans can expect a little bit of magic then, with booksellers here going all out to celebrate the launch.

Kinokuniya will throw its HP8 Magical Party at all four stores, with plans that include a cosplay contest and prize giveaways.

A selection of limited quality, "highly coveted Harry Potter premium merchandise, which we have specially sourced from overseas" will be up for sale too. Kinokuniya is also working with patisserie Paul Singapore to come up with a Harry Potter-inspired treat for early-bird customers on the day of the launch.

Fans looking for a party can also head to Popular's flagship store at Bras Basah Complex. Those who pre-register for the bash will receive goodie bags, while those queuing at other stores will get special gifts.

More details of the party and gifts will be released on the Popular website and its Facebook page. Times and MPH Bookstores will announce their launch plans and promotions at a later date.

But for MPH, Potter fever looks to be muted so far. Its merchandising manager Matthias Low says MPH, which has three stores here, has yet to see serious inquiries about the new book that have resulted in a confirmed preorder.

"We are taking a cautious approach of our initial stock commitment with the distributor," he says. "After all, this is just a script book of a West End stage play."

MPH has sold massive numbers of Rowling's books, with her seven Harry Potter books selling an average of 10,000 copies each over the years. The final Harry Potter book enjoyed "huge sales", but that, notes Mr Low, was in 2007 - "almost a generation ago".

Sales have since flatlined and, since the release of the last Harry Potter film in 2011, MPH has "hardly sold any copies of Harry Potter".

•Harry Potter And The Cursed Child Parts I And II will retail at $39.90 at major bookstores. Pre-order prices and promotions differ by store.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2016, with the headline 'Potter mania strikes again'. Print Edition | Subscribe