Eslite waiting for nod from landlord to keep 24-hour bookstore open

05/28/2022 01:49 PM
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A section of the Eslite bookstore in the Eslite Spectrum
A section of the Eslite bookstore in the Eslite Spectrum's Xinyi store. CNA file photo

Taipei, May 28 (CNA) Eslite Spectrum Corp., which runs the popular Eslite bookstore chain in Taiwan, is still waiting for approval from its landlord to extend the lease for its popular 24-hour store in Taipei's upscale Xinyi District.

In an annual general meeting held Friday, Eslite Chairwoman Mercy Wu (吳旻潔) told shareholders that the bookstore chain has been at a stalemate with conglomerate Uni-President Group, the largest landlord of the Xinyi store, to extend the leasing contract, which will expire at the end of 2023.

Wu's comments surprised the public as fears have been raised that if Eslite fails to secure an extension of the Xinyi store lease, the only 24-hour bookstore in Taiwan will disappear.

The Xinyi store started 24-hour services in mid-2020 soon after the Eslite Dunnan was closed due to the expiration of its lease at the end of May. The Dunnan store, also in downtown Taipei, had remained open 24 hours a day in 1999 after opening in 1989.

Wu said Eslite has twice sweetened the terms in the lease contract since two years ago in a bid to extend the presence of Xinyi Eslite. So far, only the Uni-President Group has not responded, while the other six landlords have voiced their support for the lease extension, Wu added.

Wu said Eslite has agreed to raise rent and allow the landlords to share more of its sales generated by the Xinyi store to secure the contract renewal.

According to Wu, Eslite has paid a total of NT$8 billion (US$273 million) in rent to the Xinyi store's landlord over the last 18 years.

Eslite Chairwoman Mercy Wu speaks at a shareholders
Eslite Chairwoman Mercy Wu speaks at a shareholders' meeting in Taipei Friday. CNA photo May 27, 2022

Market sources said the Uni-President Group, which owns Taiwan's largest food brand Uni-President Enterprises Corp. and runs the 7-Eleven Convenience Store Chain in the country, owns an approximately 40 percent stake in the property, where Eslite Xinyi is located. The other six landlords include Prince Building & Development Corp., Tainan Spinning Co., Universal Real Estate Development Co. and Kung Ching International Development Co.

Wu said Eslite will try its best to win approval from the Uni-President Group to extend the lease for the Xinyi outlet, which has been opened for 18 years and has enjoyed healthy operations.

She said many shareholders have expressed concerns about whether the lease will be extended, adding that Eslite has been very sincere to the landlord about continuing its wishes to continue the presence of the Xinyi store, which attracts 12 million visitors a year.

Sources said the Uni-President Group is mulling a plan to transform Eslite Xinyi into a department store to extend the reach of an existing Uni-Ustyle Department Store, which is just adjacent to the Eslite outlet.

In response, the Uni-President Group said there is some time before the current lease contract expires, so the group and other landlords still have time to study the terms of the new contract.

Wu said she hoped the Uni-President Group will give a reply as soon as possible so that Eslite can make its next move, emphasizing her company does not want a 24-hour store to disappear.

Eslite Chairwoman Mercy Wu. CNA photo May 27, 2022
Eslite Chairwoman Mercy Wu. CNA photo May 27, 2022

While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected private consumption, Wu said Eslite will continue to open new stores such as Xindian and Taichung stores, which are scheduled to open in March 2023 and in the second half of next year, respectively.

As for the upcoming Xindian store in New Taipei, which will be located in a large shopping center developed by the automaker conglomerate Yulon Group, Wu said the new store will have a floor area of 19,000 pings (one ping equals to 3.3 square meters) and in addition to the bookstore, the new outlet will accommodate 22 restaurants, 10 coffee shops and many other food vendors and cultural creative stores.

Like Xindian store, Eslite has transformed many of its outlets, including the 14,000-ping Xinyi store, into a multi-purpose venue instead of simply a bookstore.

Wu said the Xindian store, which has launched a campaign to seek tenants, is expected to generate NT$4 billion to NT$5 billion in sales a year with food and beverage shops likely to account for 35-40 percent of the total revenue.

In addition to the Xindian and Taichung outlets, Wu said Eslite is planning to open a new store in Tainan in 2024 to become the largest bookstore in the southern city, with a floor area of 6,500 pings.

(By Jiang Ming-yan and Frances Huang)


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