Readers reminisce as two MPH bookstores in Klang Valley close on June 6, others may follow suit

R. Loheswar
General view of an MPH bookstore in Subang Parade June 2, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 — Renowned local bookstore chain MPH is set to close two of its Klang Valley outlets this week with more likely to come, as businesses across the country continue in the economic uncertainty following a partial lockdown from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following several social media posts alleging the closure of nine MPH stores nationwide including four in the Klang Valley, Malay Mail’s checks with staff members confirmed that the MyTown and Subang Parade outlets will close this Saturday, June 6.

Another outlet on the purported list in Sunway Geo Avenue have already closed during Malay Mail’s visit, while employees and visitors predict that the one in the Shah Alam Convention Centre will also shutter some time this month.

During Malay Mail’s visit, the MyTown outlet was having a 90 per cent sale on all books and items. Both that outlet and the one in Subang Parade were quiet, with few customers.

“Our last business day will be on Saturday which is why at the back end all the shelves have been empty for some time now,” said a staff member of the MyTown outlet, who wished to remain anonymous.

“We don’t know if we’ll reopen in the future but the lease here ends on June 6, that’s why the boss said last day is then.”

Empty shelves and stacks of boxes loaded with books and stationary are pictured as the MPH MyTown bookstore prepares to close this Saturday, June 6, 2020. — Picture by R. Loheswar

The employee said sales have been steadily declining, and while window shoppers continue to visit and browse for materials, this has been exacerbated by the movement control order (MCO) due to the pandemic.

“Once the lockdown happened, business became worse and in my opinion, people found other ways to read books. That’s why maybe we are out of business,” she added.

On social media, readers have also lamented the closure or steps towards shutting down stores in JB City Square and Taman Universiti (Johor), Kinta City and Amanjaya (Perak), and Mydin MITC (Melaka).

Malay Mail has contacted the stores’ operator MPH Group Malaysia Sdn Bhd for official confirmation and further comments but have yet to receive any reply. The company has not made any official statement on its website or social media accounts.

Its website currently lists 26 outlets nationwide and one in Singapore.

The chain previously had three outlets in Singapore until last year, when the Raffles City and Parkway Parade outlets were closed on July 28 and September 1 respectively. The current outlet in SingPostCentre is also said to be closing down this month.

In Malaysia, the first MPH bookstore to close down was the one at the 1Utama Shopping Centre. It closed in August 2018 after 15 years in operation, possibly due to the rising popularity of digital books and the convenience of online bookstores.

Marliya Meor Abd Ghani speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at Subang Parade June 2, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Met at the Subang Parade outlet, Marliya Meor Abd Ghani said she has had her MPH membership card for years and is an avid reader — she loves frequenting book stores and comes to this outlet at least twice a month.

“Though this is the internet era, I still like to collect books to add to my library at home.

“I understand that these days it’s very hard to own a bookstore. My friend told me the one in Mid Valley can maintain but these one’s here usually struggles,” said Marliya of the Subang Parade outlet.

“I also heard the one in Shah Alam is closing too. I spent around 30 minutes to an hour looking for these books and it was a good pastime for us. Now that these outlets in Subang are closing I am quite upset about it.

Student Ariffa Sharifuddin speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at Subang Parade June 2, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

The same goes for sisters Ada and Ariffa Sharifuddin, the former an English teacher at an international school in Klang Valley while the latter is now studying teaching English as a second language.

Both love fantasy books like the Harry Potter series as well as thrillers and adventure novels like those penned by Dan Brown, and said they would buy one book per month.

“I’m quite sad as this outlet is following the 1Utama outlet and is closing down. I think it’s inevitable and we have to move forward with the company’s business models,” Ada told Malay Mail.

“People are online more now and the bookstores can save money on rent. So for me this transition is ok and we should get used to it. After all, the shops are not going anywhere. We can still get our books online.”

Besides MPH, in the Times bookshop in Citta Mall in Ara Damansara also closed its doors in 2018.

The following year in December, Borders, another formerly international bookstore chain operated by Berjaya Corporation Bhd’s subsidiary Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd, closed its only store in Penang after 13 years in operation, citing rising costs and other challenges.

The MCO, which was first announced on March 16 and is still ongoing, in its sixth phase until June 9, has seen many businesses fold after incurring severe losses in revenue.

Brick and mortar bookstores that rely on customers at the malls have lost out badly due to the MCO which restricted people’s movement and forced the closure of malls nationwide.

 “Reading books is my only vice. I like the feel and weight of a book in my hands but nowadays either the prices are higher, due to low sales, or you may not find the book you want and will need to order it.

“When that happens, people unlike me would think, why not just get the online book, isn’t it? Then you won’t want to leave your house,” another reader called Stella, seen taking a selfie outside the Subang Parade store, chimed.

“So in the long run, if parents aren’t using books to read to their kids, but are doing with an electronic gadget, then it’ll be the end of these bookstores.

“Which is sad as these bookstores are like an escape for some people,” added the retired public servant.


 

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