Monday, November 14, 2022

Market Deployment #3 : Will banks conquer the book retailing business?


As I run my 28th batch of ERM class tomorrow, I decided to take a short break to visit the latest BookXcess outlet at Wisma Atria that seems like more like a partnership with OCBC bank. This was such an amusing experience that it deserves a blog article on its own.

I've always been a fan and customer of BookXcess and look forward to visiting the branches whenever I was in KL and sometimes in JB. It's not a bookstore like Kinokuniya that stocks the latest an greatest books that support my ambition towards thought leadership. BookXcess has an innovative way of procuring books at rock bottom prices that they get to sell at prices way below e-book prices on Kindle, but you can't be too fussy with titles. You have to take whatever's available on discount.

That being said, I was able to find a few good finance titles and the newage FIRE bible Quit Like a Millionaire can be found there.  It's also selling cookbooks and comics for the cheap.

What I really like is how innovative the arrangement was made with OCBC. If you come for the banking services, the seating is arranged as part of the bookstore, so you can browse while waiting to be served. 

The most amusing part of this bookstore is that banking staff will there to serve you and even help guide you to the books that you want. I've been buying books since I was 7 years old, and I've never seen such an overeager sales team trying so hard to serve me when I'm browsing for books. Of course, along the way, they would remind me that paying for with an OCBC card entitles me to a further 10% discount on books. 

But you know how defensive I get when I meet financial salespeople, so I pointedly asked them whether they sell banking services or books. When they told me that are bankers, I said I'm not interested in banking with them, but I complimented them on the performance of their OCBC stock, and thanked them for the 4+% which beats endowment plans and some structured notes.  

So if you think about OCBC has done something truly brilliant and innovative for readers in Singapore. 

As much as I liked BookXcess, I never believed that they can survive the rents in Singapore. Their KL branches is easily staffed by the stupidest people I know. One counter staff in the Cyber Jaya outlet shoved all the hardbound books I bought into one flimsy plastic bag and pretended not to notice after the bag broke (lucky I brought a haversack). 

With this collaboration, all these problems are solved because the bookstore will be supported by highly motivated finance professionals. Rents can even be shared. Even if you don't like books, this sophisticated "man-trap" has a fairly good hipster cafe and some kind of craft gallery. 

At the moment, I have my doubts about whether this arrangement is sustainable. Here's how I think things can be better:

a) The discounted titles of Bookxcess are not the best partners for a bank. I prefer a more tactical selection of the latest business and self-improvement books to "trap" folks who can be more easily convertible to bank customers. Book title selections should be determined by data scientists.
b) Where money meets books, talks by finance and self-improvement professionals will create more traffic. This is where trainers, speakers and bloggers can work with OCBC to liven up the area.
c) I heard good things about the cafe, but it's located right next to Toastbox where the kopi is probably half the price. 

Within the grander scheme of things, I'm delighted that in a high rental area like Orchard road, we can actually accommodate one Kinokuniya, a Zall bookstore and and a BookXcess store. This is only possible because a banker thought it might be a way to drive more sales of banking services. 

The alternative is having no bookstore on Wisma Atria. 

I guess you can just ignore the bankers when you are browsing books.

The latest inflation numbers are good because they came in lower than expected. The following day, I liquidated 25% of my DBS holdings and placed them into high-yielding US office REITs and business trusts. I still like DBS a lot, but it also went up after going XD, so it's time to spread out my investments quite a bit. 

The next Fed decision to raise inflation rates will occur only after another inflation report in December, so a lot of investors are confirming a real rally on after that event. I think a calculated gamble that inflation will head lower is a good idea as we should only be seeing the lagged effects of the first 75bps raise dome months ago. 

That being said, shifting to high yielding REITs and business trusts is not a really ballsy move.

I leave the ballsy moves to the younger bros. 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting, will have to check it out. Been a long time since there was anything worth seeing in Orchard.

    If theres some nice young pretty OCBC salesgirl, I may even get a credit card!