Junkudo: please sit down

Junkudo is a Japanese bookstore chain based in Kobe that was founded in 1963 with the original name Daido-shoten. Today, it has 32 branches located all over Japan and is one of the larger bookstore chains in the country. In particular, Junkudo is famous for its wide variety of books from technical books to comic books and for whopping great stores.

As more people shift their book purchases to the web, however, Junkudo is doing two things. First, it is itself increasing its online sales, and second, adding small spaces to sit within its stores. The large volume of technical books on sale, Junkudo argues, means that people need more time to study the books before buying, so they provide a small number often no more than 3-4 chairs on each floor, and always hard, wooden chairs, although, just occasionally, they do come with a table. At the main store in central Kobe, the windows overlook the central shopping street and have a wide window ledge that customers also use to sit on and read the books.

At other Japanese stores, reading the books before buying is usually verbotten – and some stores are more than happy to ask people to leave it they seem to be standing still for too long! One popular children’s TV show even parodies an imaginary book-store sign language that shop assistants use to track down and expel illicit readers.

Of course, some Western chains such as Borders and Barnes and Noble in the USA and Waterstones in the UK have long understood that the longer people stay in their stores, the more likely they are to buy something. Many stores not only provide seats, even to the extent of pretty comfy sofas, but also attract in-store coffee shops, all designed to help customers to stay.

Junkudo Sales 2000 to 2008Not so in Japan. Junkudo’s main method of keeping customers in their stores would appear to be the archaic looking racks of books, aligned in strict grids just like library book stacks that make navigating within the store – and finding your way out – that much more difficult.

The chain’s results, however, speak for themselves. Despite being someway behind the bigger players such as Kinokuniya and Maruzen, and coming up against new competition from online sellers, Junkudo is holding its own and actually growing. The company says that providing seating in its stores is a key factor to this success – there may not be much of it and it might not be very comfortable, but in the Japanese bookstore market, at least its fairly unique.

Article by YH

About this entry