• Dangdang.com is one of the leading e-commerce sites in China.

Dangdang.com is one of the leading e-commerce sites in China. (Photo : Wikipedia)

Dangdang, a Chinese online retail giant, is eyeing to open 1,000 real-world bookstores within three years.

The ambitious plan is contrary with the recent trend in which everything moves to go online. With the advent of online bookshops, several traditional ones have either cut back their activities or declared bankruptcy.

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Yi Yali, a traditional bookstore owner, shared that "the bookstore business has been in a decline since 2010 due to rising costs. This includes expensive human resources and rents."

It was between 1997 and 2010 when "real bookstore business reached its peak with its rapid growth," Yi said, adding that a number of "featured bookstores have emerged at that time."

However, for Ying Changlong, General Manager of Shenzhen Publication and Distribution Group, the conventional bookstore business has not yet entered the so-called "sunset" industries.

"It is the failure of business strategies rather than the fall of brick-and-mortar bookstore industry itself," Ying said. "The biggest challenge for traditional bookstore lies in its single form, which makes it hard to build strong ties with customer. As such, bookstore operators need to be more creative."

One of the most successful business models is the one utilized by the Taiwan-based Eslite and Beijing-based SDX Joint Publishing Company. The two team up with other retailers like art galleries and coffee shops to create a "one-stop cultural shop."

Dangdang.com assistant executive Zhang Wei remarked that the firm wants to follow this scheme.

"Our bookstores in the first- and second-tier cities will be as large as one to two square kilometers, and they will become a cultural complex with sales of books and other related products with higher profit," Zhang said. "Meanwhile, we will team up with renowned shopping malls in an attempt to substantially cut bookstores management costs."

Simultaneously, the bookstore will also combine its online and offline businesses with its customer services.

The first offline bookstore, occupying 1,200 square meters, is set to be launched in Changsha City next month.