• Dictionaries are displayed in a bookstore in Beijing.

Dictionaries are displayed in a bookstore in Beijing. (Photo : Getty Images)

Bookstores across China are slowly reinventing themselves to cope up with the growing culture of consumer spending in the country, Xinhua reported.

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Instead of labeling themselves as just bookstores, more establishments are going for the image of a “cultural hub” or a “knowledge center.” This image includes hosting more cultural events such as themed lectures and photo exhibitions aside from the usual book-signing and meet-and-greet gigs.

“Bookstores today are not just stores but public spaces where people can relax,” 20-year-old Gao Hengrui told Xinhua.

One of the bookstores that have reinvented themselves is CITIC Books. A book chain owned by CITIC Group, CITIC Books has set itself apart from the competition by providing additional services.

For example, corporate executives can come in to any CITIC Books outlet to avail of customized services. Employees will take into consideration their personal interests, age and other characteristics to curate a selection of books fitting for the individual. This attention makes it convenient for customers who don’t want to spend too much time browsing the aisles for interesting titles.

“Bookstores are not just selling products now. In fact, they are selling lifestyle,” said Fang Xi, the general manager of CITIC Books.

CITIC Press, CITIC Books’s parent company, managed to earn a net profit of 128 million yuan in 2016. Company executives believe appealing to a niche market will help the company maximize its growth potential in 2017, with 60 more stores slated to open this year.

“Not that long ago, big companies in China had all the power to determine what products would be made available to the market,” Chang Zhenming, CITIC Group chairman, stated in the CITIC annual report. “That era is long gone, and consumption models have changed to reflect the primacy of customer desire.”

Fang added, “The change in bookstore culture exactly reflects what’s going on in the economy."