Popular marks 95th year with fair without books

Popular's outlet in The Clementi Mall. The bookstore chain's inaugural Popular Show, which opens tomorrow at Marina Bay Sands, will feature IT and lifestyle products as well as stationery items.
Popular's outlet in The Clementi Mall. The bookstore chain's inaugural Popular Show, which opens tomorrow at Marina Bay Sands, will feature IT and lifestyle products as well as stationery items.ST FILE PHOTO

Known among generations of Singaporeans as the go-to place for assessment and school books, home-grown bookstore chain Popular is celebrating its 95th anniversary with a 10-day fair that has, well, no books.

Instead, the inaugural Popular Show, opening tomorrow at Marina Bay Sands, will feature IT and lifestyle products as well as stationery items that Singaporeans "can't get enough of", said the company yesterday.

Visitors can expect a raft of events, including a meet-and-greet with Thai boy band SBFive and a Titbits Carnival, featuring a range of snacks such as salted egg fish skin and mala-coated peanuts.

"It's the first time we are putting up a large-scale no-book event because, in time to come, the bookstore business will probably be relying on 20 per cent books and 80 per cent non-book products," said Mr Chou Cheng Ngok, 82, group chief executive of Popular Holdings.

In 1924, Mr Chou's late father first established Cheng Hing Company in Singapore, distributing Chinese story books. This later evolved into the Popular Book Company. Popular now has more than 30 outlets islandwide.

Mr Chou said the show is based on "insights on what appeals to Singaporean families" gained over the company's long history and more than a decade of organising BookFest@Singapore, slated to be held later this year.

Over the years, the decline in revenue from books has seen Popular stock gadgets such as drones on its shelves.

 

Mr Chou told The Straits Times last year that rental and labour costs have impacted the business.

"The future of books is not that the print media is dying and multimedia is coming up. The future of books is that (bookstores) can't afford rental," he said.

Popular closed its Thomson Plaza outlet on Sunday, after 31 years in business.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2019, with the headline 'Popular marks 95th year with fair without books'. Print Edition | Subscribe