Not by the Book

Sydney’s newest mega bookstore has defied conventions to create a unique shopping environment for its customers. Stuart Finlayson spoke to Books Kinokuniya’s Lisa Parker to find out what’s in store for Sydney’s booklovers.

Retail is constantly changing, driven by more demanding customer expectations. This trend is particularly evident with booksellers. The industry that once comprised a hotchpotch of small bookshops, packed to the rafters with dusty tomes, is now dominated by huge megastores which are bright and airy and stock every type of book imaginable.

The latest mega bookstores to throw its doors open to the public is Books Kinokuniya. On July 4, the company opened a massive 2,780 square metre store in The Galeries Victoria, situated above Town Hall station in George Street, Sydney.

Kinokuniya, which is currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, was established in Japan, opening its first store in Shinjuku, Tokyo, in 1927.

The company made its first foray into Australia in 1997, when it opened a shop in Sydney’s Neutral Bay. That store upheld the company’s tradition of handling artistic and literary works and other ideological and philosophical publications seldom found elsewhere, and this continues in its impressive new location, which is at present its only Australian store.

In keeping with the demands of the modern shopper, Kinokuniya offers its customers a lot more than books.

It has regular in store appearances of authors and live musicians, as well as an art gallery, mostly featuring works that can be purchased by the public. The store also has its own cafŽ, so that customers who want a break from browsing or want to enjoy the first couple of chapters of their new book can do so with a cup of tea and a muffin, without leaving the confines of the store.

Corporate affairs manager Lisa Parker explained why Kinokuniya feels such additional extras are important in a modern bookstore.

“I think it’s all about lifestyle. Nowadays, when somebody buys a book, they often want to sit down with a coffee and have a read through it. We also stock items such as antiquarian books, fossils and world globes to enhance our customers’ visit.”

A vital aspect of making the customer’s visit pleasurable is the appearance and user-friendliness of the store, and area that Parker says has been given great consideration.

“I think one of the things that is special about our store is the way that it looks – the colours, the architecture, the way it is set out all on one floor with one aisle that goes all the way through the store that makes it very easy to shop.”

The impressive layout was designed by Tan Kay Ngee of KNTA Architects. He has had a long association with the company, having designed many of the company’s overseas stores.

“We have the same architect design our stores, and with each store he does he tries to improve on what he has done before,” Lisa said. “In terms of the look and feel, with the timber and the colour scheme, that is something that is a theme of his.

“There are slight differences in each store, but all the stores are easy to shop in, with wide aisles and are very comfortable and attractive.”

Another aspect of the store – unique to Kinokuniya – that makes the customer’s shopping experience easier is the Kino Navi system. Lisa explained how the system works.

“The Kino Navi system allows the customer to type in the book or author they are looking for. It then prints out a little map which shows the customer where they are located in the store and where the item of their choice is located, including the shelf code and price of the book.

“This system makes it a lot easier for people to shop, and with our store being located right in the heart of the city, a lot of people pop in on their lunchbreak and don’t have as much time to browse as they might like, so they need to find what they are looking for quickly. This system helps them to do that.

“In addition to the computerised navigation system, our staff are always available to assist. They are very knowledgeable, love what they do, and they love books.”

So customers have the necessary tools to find books within the store, but when they get there what will they find? Probably the most extensive and diverse collection of books, magazines and comics of any bookstore in Australia.