irememberBookstores: Junior Press Conference in Campus @ NCHS
part of Singapore Memory Project’s irememberBookstores
organised by Chou Sing Chu Foundation
Nan Chiau High School Library
20 Aug 2014 (Wed)

“Displaying eloquence and professionalism in the art of hosting,
Danny Yeo had led the Junior Press Conference@Nan Chiau High School with absolute finesse.
He simply livened the crowd with his amiable and good-humoured nature and got the audience laughing from his witty remarks. Interchanging between English and Mandarin with great ease,
Danny flaunted his impressive bilingual fluency and even proved his dialect Cantonese to be equally flawless.
Danny was also able to seamlessly juggle the interaction between the guest speakers
and the participants to create a well-balanced and meaningful dialogue.
The event was a tremendous success and Danny was certainly the star himself, thanks to his exceptional flair for hosting.”

Lim Chieng Oon, Project Manager, Chou Sing Chu Foundation

As part of the Singapore Memory Project (SMP) irememberBookstores initiative, Chou Sing Chu Foundation organised a Junior Press Conference in Campus at Nan Chiau High School for secondary two and three students from the Higher Chinese classes. Participating students acted as journalists and interviewed three prominent figures in the local bookstore industry. Danny Yeo was the moderator and facilitator for the forum cum press conference.

SMP is a national initiative to collect, preserve and provide access to memories and stories related to Singapore. The Junior Press Conference held at Nan Chiau High School was one of the many projects planned under the SMP’s irememberBookstores campaign, facilitated by CSCF and National Library Board (NLB), to collect past and new memories of bookstores in Singapore.

As an official partner, Chou Sing Chu Foundation is running irememberBookstores, a key project of SMP. It will allow us to record the histories of past and current bookstores in Singapore, and archive the historical value of bookstores in Singapore. 
These bookstore recollections will be consolidated and presented in a series of publications and islandwide exhibitions. Detailed accounts of the bookstores’ history, photographs and other forms of memories will be featured. CSCF hopes that the efforts will not only become a priceless archive of past bookstores, but also lend a voice to existing ones navigating the changing needs and habits of society and facing a tough road ahead. These valuable memories collected will enable future generations of Singaporeans to understand the book trade and many facets of Singapore’s book scene.

If you have visited Times the Bookshop, he started it. If you are a Harry Potter fan, he brought in each set of the wizard series.
Mr Rudolf Phua is a veteran of the English books industry. He has tried his hand at almost all aspects of the book trade: advertising, circulation, publishing, production, book retail and book distribution. 
He started out with the advertising department in Straits Times before moving on to Federal Publications.

Mr Phua initiated the development of Times’ book retail sector—Times Bookshops. Times Bookstores was one of the first major bookstore chains in Singapore. The first Times Bookshop opened its doors in 1978. At that time it was the first bookstore in Orchard Road. Under Mr Phua’s leadership, the flagship Times Bookshop at Centrepoint was opened in 1983. Times Bookshops also had a successful run in Changi Airport. Throughout the 1980s to the 1990s, Times gradually expanded and by the mid-1990s, there were over 20 outlets. The rise of Times broke the monopoly of MPH for decades in English books market.

After 22 years with the Times Group, Mr Phua put together all his knowledge in the book trade and set up Pansing, a book distribution company which enjoyed a strong reputation among international publishers. Pansing brought with it a significant diversification into the supply of English books in Singapore and Malaysia market. 
One of Pansing’s most successful title series was Harry Potter. Besides Penguin, Pansing was the only distributor world-wide for this series—a proud achievement for Mr Phua and Pansing! 
Mr Phua and every entity he built up shaped the English books landscape in Singapore and Malaysia, which led to the abundant supply of English books today. 
With changes in the book scene, the number of Times Bookstore outlets slowly dwindled in the 2000s. Today, Times has outlets throughout Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

When you walk into Books Kinokuniya, you will be overwhelmed by the array of books on display: English books of all genres, Chinese books, a wide range of comic books and children’s books. You may even have gotten up close and personal with your favourite author at one of the author events. Books Kinokuniya is paradise for books, and book lovers. The man behind all these is Mr Kenny Chan.

Mr Kenny Chan is the current Store Director and Merchandising Director of Books Kinokuniya. His portfolio in the book trade is most impressive. Mr Chan has held positions with Popular Book Company as its Group Merchandising Manager, with Harris Bookstore in Hong Kong as its General Manager, and with SNP Publications as its Group General Manager. He has also done a stint with MPH. He is satisfied as long as he is surrounded with books.

In 1927, Books Kinokuniya was originally established in Tokyo, Japan. It ventured into the Asia Pacific market in 1983, where the first Kinokuniya outlet in Singapore was opened at Liang Court, stocking mainly Japanese titles. In 1999, Books Kinokuniya made a bold strategic move to close a few of its smaller outlets and unveiled its 40,000 square feet main store in Ngee Ann City. This remained the largest bookstore in South East Asia for the next ten years.

Kinokuniya’s Main Store provided an extensive collection of over 500,000 quality titles from all over the world including English, Japanese, Chinese, French and German publications. The store also hosted many activities such as book launches by authors and artists, cooking and comic art demonstrations. Another Kinokuniya outlet was opened in Bugis Junction in 2002 to cater to a younger demographic with young adult fiction, comics and graphic novels. With a family-oriented concept in mind, Books Kinokuniya opened a new outlet in JEM in 2013. This is its first outlet that is not located in the city area, giving easy access to booklovers in the heartlands.

Mr Chou is the current CEO of Popular Group. He took over the company from his father who was the founder of POPULAR. Mr Chou graduated in 1964 from the US with a Masters Degree in Political Science. A keen businessman who possesses an uncanny ability to recognize the potential in books retail, Mr Chou pushed Popular to grow successfully after taking over the reins of management in the early 1980s. He has been instrumental in building Popular into an established brand with operations in Singapore, Malaysia, China and Canada. POPULAR is still the only book and education group that went for public listing in Southeast Asia.

Popular had its beginnings as the Cheng Hing Company in 1924 to distribute Chinese books. Later the company established World Book Company to publish and distribute Chinese books. World Book Company was once one of the largest publishers and book distributors in Southeast Asia for more than 50 years. 
The first Popular bookstore which retailed Chinese books was established in 1936 and Popular continued to expand throughout the region to Malaysia and Hong Kong. 
In 1975, Popular went bilingual. Soon after, it launched its flagship store at the Bras Basah Complex. Apart from books, it also started to retail stationeries. Popular has more than 160 outlets located throughout Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. It is also a bustling hub providing offers on books, stationeries and multimedia products.The press conference is filled with fun and laughter as the guests share their own experiences and passion about bookstores and book-selling in Singapore.

One of the most interesting exchanges was when a student grilled Mr Chou about succession plans for Popular as well as his idea of “carrying on the legacy”.