Building bridges with books | The Star


As far as scions of notable households go, each Joseph Yeoh and Mercy Wu epitomise what the progeny of distinguished households do whereas finishing up the imaginative and prescient of their forefathers. These two poster youngsters for generational household companies are each stamping their very own mark with their accomplishments, on this case with a partnership which has manifested with the opening of the Eslite Spectrum Store – the primary one in South-East Asia – on the newly refurbished Starhill in Kuala Lumpur.

When it was first introduced again in 2020 that The Starhill would signal on Eslite Spectrum as its anchor tenant, there was a flurry of pleasure, not simply amongst bibliophiles however hipsters and development setters too, as a result of for these within the know, Eslite Spectrum isn’t just a bookstore however a artistic and cultural life-style hub with books occupying solely 35% of its 70,000-plus sq ft (6,503-plus sq m) area. The relaxation will likely be taken up by eating places, cafes, trend, arts and crafts, stationery and reward objects.

“I first saw Eslite when I was in Hong Kong about 10 years ago,” Yeoh, including that he was taken in by how stunning and full it was. “It encapsulated three to four floors and even though I was quite young then, I thought the concept was stunning.” What impressed younger Joseph was the truth that not solely did the Eslite Hong Kong promote books but additionally a way of life aspect similar to a restaurant serving bubble tea, arts and crafts, handicrafts and journey paraphernalia.

“I remember thinking to myself then what a dream this would be if such a store could come to Malaysia.” And by Yeoh’s aspiration, Malaysians will get to get pleasure from all that Eslite has to supply when the Eslite Spectrum Kuala Lumpur opens to the general public on Dec 17. Hailed by Time Magazine as “Asia’s Best Bookstore” whereas CNN named their Songyan retailer in Taipei among the many “14 Coolest Department Stores in the World”. Eslite has develop into a cultural icon of their house turf in Taiwan the place one among its shops is open 24 hours.

And who else higher to clarify the phenomenon of Eslite Spectrum aside from its chairperson and daughter of the founder, Mercy Wu. “My father founded Eslite as an inclusive place where everyone could visit and was equal. He believed books was one way to reach out and touch people,” Wu says throughout a brief journey to KL. And an astute businesswoman, she’s the primary to let you know that promoting books isn’t probably the most worthwhile enterprise to be in. “When Eslite first started, it made a loss for 15 years,” she confesses, including that was exactly the explanation Eslite expanded to different areas of retail, what Wu calls “creative retail” similar to F&B, trend, crafts and items, to leverage the visitors within the bookstore and make the bookstore sustainable.

Mercy Wu and Joseph Yeoh. Photo: Saufi Nadzri (via Starhill)Mercy Wu and Joseph Yeoh. Photo: Saufi Nadzri (through Starhill)

However, her endearing honesty belies a steely willpower to make what her father began initially as a pet challenge into an omni-channel enterprise which at the moment encompasses each brick and mortar shops in addition to a web based presence. With 47 shops and counting each in Taiwan and abroad, (the Eslite Spectrum retailer at The Starhill would be the forty eighth retailer) Eslite operates a slick and well-oiled enterprise mannequin regardless of its folksy and unpretentious picture. And Wu’s down-to-earth and unassuming persona simply reinforces Eslite’s well-crafted profile.

But does Wu assume on-line shops will ultimately overtake bodily ones? “We started to face this challenge and competition from online stores back in 2017, so we changed our strategy and that was how was born. We describe our business model as one of human touch with digital links,” she says, alluding to the concept each brick and mortar shops may co-exist with ecommerce as every fulfils a distinct perform.

Luckily for Eslite and its legion of followers, Wu’s father, Robert Wu made a fortune in actual property in Taiwan and he was in a position to maintain Eslite throughout its loss-making years. “Today only one-third of our turnover come from books,” she discloses a lot to the shock of all people. “You have to sell a lot of books to make a decent profit. Because we are diversified, there’s no pressure to make books the primary source of our income and we welcome everyone to just browse and enjoy the atmosphere in our store.”

And the environment at Eslite Spectrum Kuala Lumpur will likely be dynamic and ever-evolving with cultural actions similar to e-book and poetry readings, workshops for kids, music performances and humanities lectures deliberate all year long. Over 30 arts and cultural actions are deliberate throughout December alone, a mere drop within the ocean contemplating roughly 5,000 lectures, themed exhibitions and musical performances happen yearly of their shops in Taiwan and abroad.

Back to Yeoh – the vice chairman of YTL Land & Development overseeing the retail division – who views securing Eslite Spectrum as an anchor tenant as main coup in addition to a golden goose in his retail portfolio. “We started the refurbishment of Starhill in the last quarter of 2019,” he says, including as an adjunct the plain incontrovertible fact that the pandemic stalled a lot of their reopening plans and tenancy take-up. “The Starhill isn’t large compared to other malls in the city but it’s designed to give people a unique experience when they visit.”

And that distinctive expertise Yeoh talks about is summed up succinctly in The Starhill’s new slogan “Home of the Tastemakers” the place not simply luxurious manufacturers similar to Louis Vuitton, Rolex and Audemars Piguet might be discovered but additionally shops devoted to males’s well being, ladies’s wellness, sports activities and health, magnificence and grooming. “It’s not your typical shopping mall and with Eslite Spectrum opening up, they will fill in most of the blanks.”

Wu however believes Eslite Spectrum will likely be a bridge to attach completely different cultures, apt contemplating Malaysia’s multiculturalism. “Our goal is to make people feel the warmth and a sense of belonging when they visit Eslite. We want it to be a sociable place that welcomes everybody and fosters a sense of humanity through reading.” And evidently, she feels studying is of paramount significance. “Reading settles your mind as you need to digest the words. This teaches you to be more reflective and that you don’t have to react immediately.”

As the second son and the center baby of enterprise tycoon Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, Yeoh wears the mantle with a practical slant, taking up his function within the behemoth which is the YTL Group in his stride. “I admit I am in a privileged position but there’s also pressure,” he says pragmatically. “My family can help me but not everything is handed to me. There’s expectations of course and to meet them it takes self-drive and determination…you can always do better and go the extra mile especially for those who rely on you.”

But for now, it’s his rapid household – spouse Jennifer Friis and his 5 youngsters – whom he depends on. “I’ve known my wife since we were four years old and she’s an inspiration to me. She had a promising political career which she gave up and now devotes her time to a refugee school she set-up from scratch. When I come home telling her about a hitch in a business deal and she in turn tells me about the problems these marginalised children are facing, it puts everything into perspective.”

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