Taiwanese bookstore Eslite is to open its first store in Malaysia at the refurbished The Starhill in Kuala Lumpur, its first foray into Southeast Asia.
The Starhill’s operator YTL Land & Development and Eslite Group signed a tenancy agreement this week to become the mall’s anchor tenant.
Taking up the entire Level 1 of the centre, the flagship store will mark the world’s biggest Eslite space, featuring a hub for contemporary Taiwanese culture and creativity. It is scheduled to open in 2022.
The 70,191sqft store will be divided into different areas – a bookstore, an art venue and a cafe. Eslite Kuala Lumpur will house a wide selection of books in Chinese, English, Japanese and Malay, together with products from various lifestyle brands.
“This is a deeply meaningful partnership between two family businesses with a rich heritage and passion for education and knowledge as drivers of change,” said Joseph Yeoh, VP of YTL Land & Development.
“I believe this partnership can potentially be a catalyst for a deeper cultural exchange between Malaysia and Taiwan through retail experiences and a community-oriented store that reach a wider audience across all ages and demographics.”
The Eslite flagship will also include a street-fronting F&B outlet on the Ground Level right next to The Starhill Piazza, a dedicated area for creative events and programs.
“Through this Kuala Lumpur store, we hope to promote exchanges and interaction involving Asian publications and the cultural and creative content of the region,” said Mercy Wu, chairperson of Eslite Group.
“Malaysia is an exciting country, with its own characteristic design aesthetics and cultural creativity, and we look forward to integrating the multi-ethnic and cross-cultural characteristics of Southeast Asia, and inspiring exciting diversified creativity in our store.”
Despite the announcement of its Southeast Asia location, Eslite has been struggling in its home territory. The brand has closed nine outlets in Taiwan this year, including its first 24-hour bookshop. At the signing event, Mercy Wu said Eslite was initially hesitant to open a new store in Malaysia given the unexpected Covid-19 situation.
However, Yeoh said that brick-and-mortar stores will continue to thrive as people seek a more experiential form of retail. Moreover, there will be a considerable amount of time between now and the opening day.
Eslite has yet to confirm whether or not the Kuala Lumpur flagship will trade 24/7.
Founded in 1989, Eslite operates 43 stores across Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Japan. The bookstore was named “Asia’s Best Bookstore” and “World’s Coolest Bookstore” by Time Magazine and CNN, respctively.