SINGAPORE - Bookstore chain Books Kinokuniya will be shuttering its Jurong store in May. The last day for the Jem mall outlet will be May 9.
Its closure leaves Kinokuniya with just two outlets in Singapore: Its Ngee Ann City flagship store and its Bugis Junction branch.
Kinokuniya's Asia-Pacific group managing director Yukihiro Kawakami told The Straits Times that rent was the main issue. "While government subsidies helped keep rent affordable in the last two years, the progress to a new normal brought on impending increased rental charges."
He added that the store had been facing reduced footfall even before the Covid-19 outbreak, "even though we most definitely put up a good fight during this pandemic".
"These challenges, together with prolonged sluggish sales, adversely impacted our return on investment."
The store's staff, who number fewer than 10, will be redeployed to other outlets.
The 7,800 sq ft store opened on June 11, 2013. It had a rocky start amid a series of problems that plagued the rest of Jem, including a lack of necessary fire permits that delayed the mall's opening, two fires and a ceiling collapse due to a burst water pipe.
The last Singapore outlet that Kinokuniya closed was its 36-year-old Liang Court store in 2019. The landmark branch, the chain's first in an Asian country outside Japan, shut ahead of the mall's redevelopment.
The past year has been a tumultuous time for the local book scene, in no small part due to the pandemic.
Though new bookstores such as Sea Breeze Books in Katong opened and veterans like Wardah Books in Kampong Glam underwent revamps, indies such as The Moon had to close their bricks-and-mortar stores and go online.
Mr Kawakami said that prior to the decision to close the Jurong outlet, plans were in place to celebrate World Book Day - which falls on April 23 - with a members' promotion across Kinokuniya's three stores. This will continue as scheduled.
"Other than that, we'll play it by ear as we're trying to minimise stock return to local suppliers for overall damage control," he said. "We seek book lovers' support for all of us in the book industry through these rough times."