Back when I was still working at my old office in PJ, I used to drop by at Pop@ Jaya One for some retail therapy over my lunch break, or sometimes after work. The artsy space, which was created to help local entrepreneurs showcase their products, was a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind items, from bargain clothing to handmade trinkets and souvenirs.
Since working from home, I haven’t had the chance to go to Jaya One – but when I heard that Pop was relaunching with a brand new shopping concept, I popped in for a visit!
Now known as Pop The Arcade, the retail store has been reimagined as a shopping arcade, making it one of the first urban arcade retrofits in a shopping mall in Malaysia. Spanning 5,800 square feet, the concept draws inspiration from shopping arcades in the UK, Europe and Japan and has been designed for convenience, with specific zones within that make it easy for visitors to find what they need easily.
True to its mission to champion homegrown entrepreneurs, creative spirits, and unique businesses created out of passion, you’ll find over 40 vendors here – mostly local– covering everything from fashion, fine jewelry, beauty and accessories, to functional and lifestyle items, hobby and pet products, independent food retailers, plants, home appliances.
For the adventurous, Pop The Arcade has a Greenroom 136 store. The homegrown brand from Kajang is popular for its high quality and stylish urban bags, which includes their signature Metro Drifter series. Let it not be said that homegrown brands are inferior to international ones – the quality and designs on these are superb.
Of course, not forgetting my favourite section: food. Pop The Arcade has a good selection of goods and products from small entrepreneurs, so you can get homemade sauces, healthy nut butters, keropok, condiments, nut mixes and more – all at very reasonable prices. You’ll also be doing a part in supporting homegrown brands and small business owners, especially in this current economy.
While Pop was previously only available as a physical space, shoppers can now experience it online and shop for unique items without ever having to leave their homes, though the popshop.my online store. To celebrate its opening, shoppers can also enjoy RM 5 off with a minimum spending of RM 30 on the site, while stocks last.
For local brands looking to expand its business, Pop is open for discussion and collaboration. Interested SMEs can enquire at email@example.com.
As a child, my parents encouraged me to read a lot, even though they aren’t readers themselves. We weren’t rich, but they’d buy books for me whenever they had money to spare, so I had no shortage of Peter & Jane books and Enid Blyton novels. For that I am truly grateful. Because without books and the magic of imagination and wonder, I would not be who I am today.
A friend’s daughter had her birthday recently, and since she likes reading (a rare thing among kids these days, I think!), I thought of sending her a book. A Neil Gaiman title if I could find it. But since my friend lives in the Philippines, I had to look for a store/retailer that could deliver there.
I first went to Amazon, but apparently it has a policy whereby books, music, video and DVD products can’t be shipped internationally (coz of copyright issues). Same thing with sites like Kobo and Kindle (even the e-version! If you’re in a different country, it only allows you to read it in that country wtf).
After what felt like hours (and getting annoyed that we’re in 2020 and it isn’t even convenient to buy a fahking book to gift to someone overseas) I ended up at the website of Fully Booked, a books and stationery retailer in the Philippines. Their flagship store in Bonifacio Global City, Manila, is known for its cool lifestyle-oriented aesthetic; similar to how BookXCess is like here in Malaysia. They also have an online arm, and they ship within the Philippines. Perfect!
The site is easy to navigate and offers a seamless online shopping experience. Books are sorted by category (children’s books, fiction, non-fiction, lifestyle, art & design, etc.), and they also have a tab for special collections and bestsellers. If you know the title/author you’re looking for, there’s a search bar you can use to navigate the site. Aside from books, Fully Booked also carries stationery, totes, clothing and novelties, as well as toys and games.
After selecting your order and adding them to cart, simply key in your details and check out. Payment can be done via (for those in the Philippines) Dragonpay through options like Over-the-Counter Bank Deposits and Over-the-Counter Non-bank payments, and credit card. Since I’m based in Malaysia, I chose Paypal as my mode of payment, and it automatically converted the currency from RM when deducting the amount (this is based on standard international conversion). You can also choose to pay via Cash on delivery, provided you have a minimum order of PHP799. Free shipping is also available for orders above that amount.
Once I made the order, I received an email confirming my purchase, along with a tracking number. It takes about three to five working days to process, after which they’ll send another email informing you that the shipment is on its way.
All in all, I think it took about five days in total for the book to arrive, which is quite efficient!
I originally wanted to get Coraline, but it wasn’t available, so I chose a lesser known Gaiman title which I thought she would enjoy.
Cinnamon is a picture book set in a make-believe place in India. It talks about a talking tiger, who is the only one who may be able to get a mute princess to speak. Illustrated by Divya Srinivisan, the book is full of colourful illustrations that both adults and children can enjoy.
I was glad to hear that she enjoyed reading it – and that it piqued her curiosity about Indian culture. That’s another great thing about reading : it encourages us to broaden our minds, and with that, our understanding of the world.
So that was my review of using Fully Booked for the first time. Even if you don’t live in the Philippines, I think it’s fairly convenient to buy something from Fully Booked as a gift for someone there. The only downside is that you can’t give it as a ‘surprise’, since you’ll need to key in their contact details.
If you enjoyed reading this, please consider supporting my website. Contrary to popular belief, I do not make big moolah from writing – and this will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content for your reading pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!
As a self-professed bibliophile, bookstores are among my favourite haunts. They’re portals to magical places where the possibilities are endless – and thanks to brands like Book XCess and Kinokuniya, and indie stores like Tintabudi and LitBooks, they’ve become cool lifestyle hubs as well.
Now, book lovers can rejoice as they’ll have another place to get lost in literature. Renowned Taiwanese bookstore eslite – known for creating the world’s first 24-hour bookstore – is set to open their first ever branch in Southeast Asia in 2022, right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Dubbed eslite spectrum, the venue will be more than just a bookstore: it aims to become a creative cultural venue offering a rich selection of books in various languages, music, design and hand-made goods , performing arts, themed restaurants and coffee shops, lifestyle brands and diverse cultural and creative brands from both countries.
Founded in 1989, eslite is extremely popular in its native Taiwan, with over 38 stores across the island nation – and their cultural icon status has made it a must-visit for many book-loving tourists. Time Magazine and CNN christened the brand as “Asia’s Best Bookstore” and “World’s Coolest Bookstore”, with the eslite spectrum Songyan store in Taipei named among the 14 Coolest Department Stores in the World by CNN.
Such impressive credentials can only be equaled by an impressive venue – which is why Kuala Lumpur’s eslite spectrum will be located at The Starhill in Bukit Bintang. The partnership, which was cemented virtually between YTL Land & Development Bhd vice president Joseph Yeoh and eslite Group chairperson Mercy Wu, will see the 70,191-square-foot store becoming The Starhill’s anchor tenant, and will also include a street-fronting F&B outlet on the ground level right next to The Starhill Piazza, where creative events and programmes will be staged all year round. The flagship store will also feature a sweeping café terrace on Level 1 overlooking The Starhill Piazza fronting the bustling Jalan Bukit Bintang – perfect for patrons to gather, connect and people watch. An exclusive escalator is also strategically placed to bring shoppers directly from The Starhill’s new entrance atrium to eslite spectrum upstairs.
Speaking during the signing of the tenancy agreement, Yeoh said that the partnership is a match made in heaven, as it is also in line with The Starhill’s plan to create KL’s ultimate premium social destination for all to celebrate literature,the arts, fashion, design, music, food and creative events.
“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,” he said.
Meanwhile, Wu said that as one of Southeast Asia’s top tourist destinations for Taiwan, Kuala Lumpur is well poised to promote exchange and interaction involving Asian publications and the cultural and creative content of the region. “We also wish to create more opportunities for cross-regional dialogue between Taiwanese and Malaysian writers and their works, and present readers with novel reading perspectives. 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,” she adds.
The retail and tourism sector might be experiencing a slowdown right now due to the pandemic, but this too, shall pass – and hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy the eslite spectrum when it opens in 2022.
Because I certainly won’t say no to more books!
Help a Girl Out !
If you enjoyed reading this, please consider supporting my website. Contrary to popular belief, I do not make big moolah from writing – and this will go towards hosting fees and ensuring that I can continue to deliver authentic content foryour reading pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!
Since 2009, Malaysian bibliophiles and book hoarders have made their annual pilgrimage to the Big Bad Wolf Sale, which is held every year around Feb/Mac or Nov/Dec and is touted as the largest book sale in the region. The last time I went in 2018, they had over 3 million titles!
Due to the pandemic, many events have had to be cancelled – so the BBW won’t be held physically this year. They are, however, having an online sale, so you can still shop for books from the comforts of your own home. The sale went live at midnight on Nov 4, and will run until Nov 11 (which is shorter than the usual BBW which usually runs for 2 weeks).
Now, although BBW and BookXCess (BBW’s parent company) has been around for some time, they’ve always been more of a brick-and-mortar business – as evidenced by their bookstores, which are all beautifully designed as ‘lifestyle hubs’ where you can sip on a coffee, work, study, etc. There is of course nothing wrong with this; I personally prefer physical bookstores and the joy of finding an awesome book hidden in a corner shelf , getting to inhale the smell of paper, touch the sleek edges of the page. Hmm.
But we are living in uncertain times, and many businesses have had to accelerate their digital processes and shift to a more online-centric model to cater to shifting consumer needs/demands. BBW’s first online sale will be a test as to how well it’ll be able to cope. So far, there seem to be a lot of teething problems.
Since going live at midnight, many users have complained that the website is inaccessible – probably due to the sheer amount of web traffic which is overloading their servers. When they do get in, some have problems creating an account, while others can’t browse because titles are not showing up on the pages. Still others have said their cart turns up empty after they’ve selected the items they want to purchase, and some users haven’t been able to checkout at all.
I’m part of a local book group on FB, and these are just some of the frustrated comments:
Curious, I went to the website myself at around 11AM today. It loaded fine at first…
But upon trying to register for an account:
Tried again at 12.40PM and managed to get a form to fill up, but after filling it up and pressing ‘create account’, it cleared my data and requested for me to fill up my details again.
Now I’m not trying to be mean here or say that they’re doing a shit job – I’m sure their IT department is working round-the-clock to resolve these issues, and despite how some people have commented that “Oh you should have been prepared knowing that there will be many people surfing your website”, I know Murphy’s Law applies – you can prepare for every possibility in the world, but things that will go wrong will go wrong.
But I also understand the frustration on the consumer’s side – one comment said it took them an hour to register an account, an hour to browse and select their books, and another hour to checkout because they had to keep refreshing the page – a total of four hours. In a digital-savvy world of instant gratification and convenient online shopping, four hours just doesn’t cut it.
That being said, there are also customers like these – which is when you know you’ve done something right with your brand:
If you do manage to get in, BBW 2020 does have great discounts, up to 90% off on 40,000 titles and with over two million books on sale. They also provide free shipping on orders above RM180. If you’re buying above RM300, you’re entitled to a further 10% discount with the code BBW10% off.
Anyway, I hope they manage to sort things out soon because I do think that they are doing a good thing – which is bringing books to customers. There are also many pros to going online, namely avoiding the crowd of shoppers and the massive traffic jams that are a signature of BBW sales every year.
PS: I initially wanted to browse some of the titles, but perhaps this is for the best seeing as I have a TBR pile from AS FAR BACK AS 2013 LMFAO I HATE MYSELF WHY AM I LIKE THIS LOL.
Have you ordered books from the Big Bad Wolf Sale 2020? How was your experience?
While the company has yet to make an official announcement, local bookstore chain MPH seems set to shutter multiple outlets this weekend (June 6, 2020). Netizens have posted photos of clearing out sales and empty shelves in several locations, including MyTOWN Cheras, JB City Square, Kinta City and MYdin MITC Melaka. More are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.
MPH (an acronym for Methodist Publishing House – but this was later changed to ‘Malaysian’ Publishing House) has roots in Singapore, but became a wholly Malaysian-owned company in 2002. At its peak, it had over 29 stores in Malaysia and Singapore.
The current global pandemic is a difficult time for many businesses, including publishing – and we can expect the impacts to stretch into the near future. With less foot traffic and the convenience of online shopping, mome companies are going digital to stay relevant – and this seems to be what MPH is doing. In a statement provided to local news portal SAYS, the MPH group says it is upscaling to a more digital-centric model; hence the closure of non-performing retail outlets and the consolidation of resources. The pandemic may simply have accelerated this change.
For some time now, MPH, as well as some bookstore chains such as Times and Borders, have been struggling to keep afloat. In 2018, MPH closed down their OneUtama outlet, while Borders and Times shuttered their Penang and Citta Mall outlets, respectively. But you know what the surprising thing is? Malaysians are actually quite an avid book-buying bunch (according to this reportby Picodi). Why then, is business bad? Is it really because more people are buying e-books, and physical stores are no longer relevant?
This is my perspective as a consumer.
I spent a lot of time at MPH as a teenager – my mom would ‘drop’ me off for a few hours so I could read books while she went shopping, and I’ve always enjoyed their offerings. But over the years, I find myself frequenting their stores less and less – because I did not find it appealing anymore.
There are several bookstore chains in Malaysia, including MPH and the aforementioned Times and Borders. Borders did pretty well in the early to mid-2000s and expanded quickly, but it too suffered a gradual decline and is now left with only a few stores. But even so, you can’t say that there isn’t a market for books, because brands like Popular, Kinokuniya and Book XCess, are still doing pretty well. Why?
While Popular isn’t my favourite bookstore, I can see the appeal: they offer a vast selection of everything from academic books to fiction and non-fiction in all of Malaysia’s major languages (Malay, English and Chinese). Prices are fairly reasonable, and they have a presence in many malls, making Popular the go-to for the everyday Malaysian. Kinokuniya, a Japanese brand, is on the slightly higher end of the spectrum. This is where you go to if you want to look for more obscure or rarer titles and expensive volumes, or books imported from overseas.
Finally, Book XCess (above) retails new books that were printed in excess by their publishers – which is why they’re able to offer them at a much cheaper price. While most of the titles aren’t new, an average book sold at BookXCess costs 1/3 or 1/2 cheaper than regular bookstores. Store experience is another tenet that sets Book XCess apart – they are often cool places to hang out at, making them a lifestyle destination. (blog post about their branch at Cyberjaya here) And then, of course, you have the independent bookstores which cater to a very niche audience, like Tintabudi, Fixi, Silverfish and LitBooks.
(Photo) Tintabudi at the Zhongshan Building, Kuala Lumpur.
When you talk about MPH, Borders and Times, however (and this is my personal opinion so I understand that some might not agree), I cannot name anything particularly special. They’re not cheaper, nor do they offer a better variety, nor do they have a particularly outstanding store or customer experience. Perhaps in the early days of the 2000s, they were popular (see what I did there lol), but since then, other brands have taken over (at least in terms of the brick and mortar space) – because MPH has not thought of a way to differentiate themselves from the crowd, and still relies on an old business model that is difficult to sustain(if you’re interested to read more about how the publishing industry works in Malaysia, here’s an insightful article from Eskenstrika).
I won’t comment too much on the digital side of things, as I rarely buy books online, and unlike with physical stores (where you can see through things like closure/ foot traffic if a business is doing well), I don’t have a gauge as to how well their online book-selling is (although they do claim to be ‘Malaysia’s No.1 online bookstore’). But then again, all of MPH’s competitors are also online, the same brands it finds hard to compete with in the brick and mortar space (Popular, BookXCess, Kino, etc.). So unless their branding and service (delivery, ease of use, customer service) are outstanding, I think the same issues will remain. Of course, if they are going full force into the digital space with innovative solutions and offerings, perhaps they will be able to establish themselves as a leader in that niche (like Bookurve, BookDepository, Amazon).
While E-commerce and digital disruption has certainly forced many businesses to adapt their models to cater to ever-changing consumer demand, this article by CNBC suggests that people are still very much into printed books, and that demand for e-books has tapered off in recent times (due to a complex list of reasons). At the end of the day, I believe physical bookstores will still be here to stay, and that they can still be profitable. Taiwanese book chain Eslite is planning a massive store in Malaysia sometime in 2021, and what company in their right mind would open in a foreign country if the market did not have potential?
I’ve been to a fair number of airports, but none yet have come close to matching Singapore’s Changi. It’s clean, it’s efficient, and it’s a destination in its own right, especially since the 1.3 billion Jewel lifestyle hub opened. Definitely deserving of the World’s Best Airport title, which it has held for seven years straight.
It seems like I’m always pressed for time whenever I’m in Singapore (the last 3 trips were all for work). This trip was no exception, but my designer F and I managed to beat traffic from the city centre to the airport; leaving us with three hours to explore the place. We made a beeline for Jewel Changi, near Terminal 1.
Changi has four terminals, three of which are connected via pedestrian bridges. Our terminal (4) was, unfortunately the only one that warranted a 10-minute bus ride. Free shuttle buses run on a regular schedule so one shouldn’t be too worried unless you somehow get stuck in rush hour traffic.
The main highlight of Jewel Changi is the Rain Vortex, comprising the world’s largest/tallest indoor waterfall at 40 metres high. Officially, they call it a ‘toroid’-shaped roof, but a media colleague once compared it to a part of the human anatomy and now I can’t think of it as anything else (thanks, Roopini! -_-). That aside, the structure is super impressive, featuring 9,000 pieces of glass.
Surrounding the Vortex is the Shiseido Forest Valley, which spans five stories and has over 3,000 trees and 60,000 shrubs. The air can be a little moist and humid when you’re standing around the vortex, and you get the feeling like you’re in a giant indoor tropical rainforest. SkyTrains connecting the different terminals run on elevated tracks right next to the vortex – it looks like a scene from a futuristic dystopian novel, imo.
F and I went to check out the Pokemon Centre on Level 4 (the first outside of Japan!). It was filled with the most adorable plushies and Pokemon paraphernalia ever. I haven’t been following new gen Pokemon after Johto League, but it was nice to see familiar classics like Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Jigglypuff and the like.
Take a selfie with the Pikachu riding a Lapras at the store entrance!
Not sure what these are; apparently they’re quite popular (?) coz each customer could only buy 2.
Detective Pikachu furry keychains
There are a total of 151 Pokemon plush toys to collect; 143 of which are available at the store. The rest are Japan-exclusive.
PS:My favourite Pokemon of all time is Raichu! I think it often gets overshadowed by pre-evolution bro Pikachu. Among later gen Pokemon, I always chose Skitty as my main when playing Pokemon Emerald (because cats). I also like Wigglytuff, Ditto and Staryu.
Singapore-exclusive merchandise : Pikachu dressed in pilot / air stewardess clothing!
The Canopy Park on the top floor required an entry fee, so we skipped it. You can walk around on the Canopy Bridge, and even bounce around on a giant suspended net.
As evening approached, the lights came on at the Vortex, illuminating the waters in a pink glow.
We originally thought of having Shake Shack for dinner, but it was non halal so we ended up at A&W instead lol.
Hopped on to the free shuttle bus to Terminal 4, which is where Air Asia operates from.
I really like how they’ve made Changi into a lifestyle destination. There’s so much to see and do, from art pieces and interesting displays to numerous retail and F&B outlets. You can stay occupied until the very minute you board the plane, rather than fiddling around on your phone and trying not to fall asleep (KLIA 2 cough cough).
A row of shop with ‘fronts’ that had innovative digital displays on the top ‘floors’. The windows would open to reveal screens with characters enacting a story. Didn’t stay to watch the whole show, but the display was really life-like. This is how you get tourists to stay and spend, and I think Malaysian airports can learn from this.
We often think of airports as boring transit points – places we rush through to get to our actual destination – but Changi is well deserving of its World’s Best Airport title and proves that you can turn airports into thriving lifestyle hubs. Check out of your hotel earlier and go explore the airport the next time you’re in Singapore! 😉
When British cosmetics retailer Lush opened its first outlet in Malaysia at Pavilion KL back in 2018, fans of the brand rejoiced – bye bye, exorbitant shipping fees, hello lovely soaps and bath bombs ! You can read about my first visit here.
Now, just in time for the New Year, Lush has opened its second outlet at Sunway Pyramid – so good news for all the folks living this side of the Klang Valley! You won’t have to get stuck in the jam to Pavilion; just the jam at Sunway instead. 😛
Innovation and inspiration has been at the heart of Lush since it was started 24 years ago, and this is reflected in everything from its products and philosophy to the very design of its outlets. The Sunway Pyramid store is no exception. Spread across 741 square feet, the new shop is larger than the one at Pavilion KL, which means more space to showcase its products and features.
One of these is the Fresh Face Mask counter – a deli-inspired display for Lush’s iconic fresh face masks. Slate consultations are offered to customers where products are strung together to make a cohesive and personalised skincare regimen- including benefits on the products, demonstrations and pampering sessions.
Looks good enough to eat (please don’t)
Expect to find the brand’s iconic bath bombs, soaps, shower jellies, and much, much more.
Embracing the environmental movement, the shop is outfitted to eliminate wastage and recycle materials where possible. Many of the products are ‘naked’ (ie no packaging), and if you do need to buy them as gifts, there are beautiful fabric wraps (reusable, and so pretty!) that you can purchase. That aside, the shop uses an LED lighting scheme to save on energy, while all paint and internal materials have been carefully selected to have a minimal environmental impact. No products used have ingredients tested on animals.
Attractive, colourful displays.
Creams and skincare products
Curious about a particular product? Try them out! The friendly staff are always on hand to assist.
LUSH (SUNWAY PYRAMID)
G1.53, Ground Floor, Sunway Pyramid, Bandar Sunway, Selangor
**Photos courtesy of Lush PR.
FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Thanks for reading! I’m trying to grow my social media, so any likes and follows will be appreciated! You’ll also be updated on what I’m up to on a daily basis. 🙂
With Kuala Lumpur peppered with malls left, right and centre, do we really need another boxy, air-conditioned space with the same cookie-cutter brands?
The newly opened The Linc KL, however, offers a different experience. Tucked along Jalan Tun Razak, the artsy retail and creative space features a unique design, promising to connect visitors to ‘nature, community and human interaction’. N and I were in town recently, so we dropped by to check the place out.
The mall’s design is certainly not traditional. Aside from colourful murals and art installations, the space’s centre court features a giant Ficus Benjamina, or Ficus Tree, which can grow up to 30 metres high. The Linc’s specimen is massive, its large, twisting branches spreading to form a dense canopy three-storeys high.
Large and airy, the mall incorporates plenty of green (both real and aesthetic) into its design. Murals featuring flowers and foliage run the length of the walls, with artsy poetry to go along. There are also lots of spots with seats where people can just chill and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Retail-wise, there are plenty of independent and artisanal brands and cool eateries. Frangipani Bulk, a zero-waste store, is located on the ground floor, just across from Ben’s Independent Grocer. Other stores include Bendang Artisan, which carries handmade tableware and crockery, coffee place Bean Brothers, and Homes by Rahim x Nik, which sells locally-designed rattan furniture.
What most youngsters will enjoy is probably the Instagram-worthy art installations and murals scattered across the mall,
The Owl by Amarul Abdullah. All of the murals in the mall are done by local artists.
The piece-de-resistance – “Doves”, comprising 41,600 folded paper doves in 40 colours, hung from the ceiling to form a mesmerising curtain of shades.
Since the mall is pretty new, there isn’t yet much to do – but we’re looking forward to exploring more of the space once more tenants move in.