In a bid to help coronavirus-hit bookstores, the Beijing municipal government has closed a deal with on-demand delivery platform Meituan Dianping to have 72 bookstores in the city sell their books and other products on the app, Beijing Youth Daily reported on Friday.
The first batch of bookstores that willprovide books on Meituan includes Beijing Books Building, Xinhua Bookstore, Page One, and Sanlian Taofen Bookstore. The food-delivery giant will waive admission fees and reduce service fees to lessen the burden for bookshops.
“It‘s a good experiment,” said Chen Peng, manager at Page One, a bookstore chain with three outlets in Beijing, during an interview with the Youth Daily. “The impact brought by the epidemic on offline sales will linger for a while. Selling books on Meituan can ease the pressure on physical bookstores to some extent,” he said.
He thinks with the help of Meituan’s delivery and logistics, bookstores can expand their services to reach more people. To compete against online marketplaces like JD.com, he plans to differentiate his bookstore by offering more foreign-language literature.
The physical bookselling market is suffering as the coronavirus outbreak keeps people homebound. Over 92% of bookstores had almost no revenues in February, according to an online survey conducted by Shumeng, an association of small and mid-sized bookstores. China has more than 70,000 brick-and-mortar bookstores, compared to 14,000 in the US, South China Morning Post wrote, citing official data.
The industry lost ground to e-commerce competitors and has been undergoing a recovery since 2013, when the central government started incentivizing bookstores by reducing tax and subsidizing rents. New style bookshops began opening in commercial districts and malls in urban cities, providing spaces for recreation, social, cultural event organization, and even dining.
On Feb 24, Owspace, a popular bookstore chain, posted a plea to on Weibo asking customers to join a fundraiser to help their business survive. “Our sales plummeted by 80% year-over-year in February,” said the company.