Closing page reached by textbook retailer

Local | Cindy Wan 9 Nov 2018

One of Hong Kong' oldest textbook retailers, Ling Kee Book Store, is closing at the end of this year after being in business for 75 years.

It will continue operating until December 31 with all remaining items now selling at hefty discounts.

Ling Kee is a friendly name for many Hongkongers, who have found textbooks and stationery there at reasonable prices.

Businessman Au Bak-ling established Ling Kee Publishing Group in 1943, and the book retailer is located in Central with a branch in San Po Kong.

Besides textbooks and stationery it has offered storybooks for children.

It has also provided a textbook-ordering service for over 50 primary and secondary schools.

A staff member of Ling Kee Publishing said the closures will not affect the parent company's business. So Ling Kee textbooks will still be available through other retailers.

He was unaware of the reason for the shutdown but remarked that the company can earn more by renting out its Central premises than running a bookstore.

Patrick Sinn Kwok-chung, managing director of Jing Kung Educational Press, said he heard of the closure two weeks ago as dozens of schools began looking for a retailer to replace Ling Kee, which he said was in a hard business.

Profit margins in selling textbooks are less than 5 percent in Hong Kong, he said, but overheads can be high. Almost all textbook retailers who ran businesses through rented shops have closed down in the past 20 years, Sinn added, while those who own a shop would rather rent it out than run a bookstore. And he does not know of any textbook retailer opening in the 20 years.

Ling Kee's store in Central was selling books and stationery at a 90-percent discount yesterday and was full of customers.

Shopkeeper Chan, who has been working there for over 15 years, said the size of the shop shrank by half since it moved to an upper floor from the ground floor in June.

She said the closure is heartbreaking, and she will retire after it is gone.

One customer yesterday was 40-year-old Yuen, who remarked that Ling Kee is older than him and he has been buying books from the retailer since he was a child.

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