Kinokuniya races to beat Amazon.com in Southeast Asian online markets

August 07, 2013

By YASUKAZU AKADA/ Staff Writer

Major Japanese bookstore chain Kinokuniya Co. plans to start an online business in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and other Asian countries in 2014, where it has brick-and-mortar outlets, to stay one step ahead of Internet giant Amazon.com Inc.

“Utilizing our many years of experiences in those countries (as a conventional bookstore), we will make a move (ahead of Amazon.com)," Kinokuniya President Masashi Takai said in a news conference on Aug. 6. "If we lose in this business, there will be no future not only for Kinokuniya, but also for Japan.”

Kinokuniya, headquartered in Tokyo, plans to sell traditional books and e-books written in English, Japanese, Chinese and local languages, stationery items and popular character goods through its new online company. It is aiming to gain a strong foothold in those burgeoning markets ahead of an expected foray by U.S.-based rival Amazon.com.

Kinokuniya and the Innovation Network Corp. of Japan (INCJ), an investment fund jointly operated by the public and private sectors, will invest a total of up to 2 billion yen (about $20.6 million) in the new venture.

Kinokuniya opened a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Singapore in 1983, and now holds the largest share in the country’s market. It is currently operating 18 bookstores in seven countries and regions in Asia and Oceania. Sales of those bookstores total about 13.5 billion yen a year.

Amazon.com has made inroads into 11 countries in earnest. In Asia, however, it is operating only in Japan, China and India.

In Japan, Kinokuniya began to sell traditional books through the Internet as early as 1996. As it required customers to first pay an annual membership fee of 5,000 yen, it lost out to Amazon.com, which later started an online business in Japan without requiring an upfront fee.

“We have learned lessons from the failure. We will utilize those lessons (in the new business in Asia),” Takai emphasized.

The remark showed the determination and ambitions of the long-established bookstore, which was founded in Japan in 1927.

By YASUKAZU AKADA/ Staff Writer
  • 1
submit to reddit
A bookstore operated in Singapore by Kinokuniya Co. (Provided by Kinokuniya Co.)

A bookstore operated in Singapore by Kinokuniya Co. (Provided by Kinokuniya Co.)

Toggle
  • A bookstore operated in Singapore by Kinokuniya Co. (Provided by Kinokuniya Co.)

More AJW