SINGAPORE - Times Bookstores is closing its Centrepoint branch on Sept 23 as part of an "ongoing renewal of store locations from time to time", said a spokesman for the chain on Friday (Aug 2).
It is the latest in a slew of closures in Singapore's book scene that has included Books Kinokuniya's Liang Court outlet in April, Popular's Thomson Plaza outlet in June and MPH's last two local outlets. MPH's Raffles City store closed on Sunday (July 28) and its Parkway Parade branch will close on Sept 1.
Times Centrepoint opened in 1983 and was at the time one of the biggest bookstores in Singapore at 8,000 sq ft. It expanded across three floors in 2002 in an ambitious overhaul that included a Magnolia Snack Bar, but later downsized again.
Photographer Gareth Phua fondly recalled watching his father, veteran book distributor Rudolf Phua, set up the Centrepoint store. An only child, he would hang out at the store after school.
"I watched it grow from an empty shell to having its shelves fully stocked with books," says the 47-year-old. He would tag along as his father went to the old Upper Thomson Road to chop up logs from fallen trees to be repurposed as stools in the children's books section in the store.
"It is a worrying trend that there are so many bookshops closing these few months," he added. "Even though there is Amazon and Book Depository, I still prefer to go to bookstores so I can see the books, feel them and read through them before buying them."
Bookseller Ismail Osman, 67, learnt the ropes at Times Centrepoint from 1983 to 1988, where he handled fiction titles. He remembered how people would crowd outside the store's 70m-long glass window to peer in. "It was like being in an aquarium."
Mr Ismail, who has spent 30 years in the book trade at Times and MPH and is now between jobs, added that he was deeply saddened at the recent closures. "For the staff, the bookstore is like your second home. We were like family."
Times has six remaining outlets in Singapore. It closed its Tampines One branch in August last year but opened its first standalone multi-category concept store for children, Times Junior, in Jewel Changi Airport in April.
It also has outlets at Paragon, Plaza Singapura, Jelita, Marina Square and Waterway Point and sells online at GoGuru.com.sg.
The Centrepoint outlet is having a moving out sale with 50 per cent discount for members and 30 per cent discount for non-members until Sept 23.