Basheer Graphic Books needs community support to keep going, says owner

Reena Devi
Lifestyle Reporter
Abdul Nasser Basheer Ahmad, the owner of Basheer Graphic Books at Bras Basah Complex. (PHOTO: Reena Devi / Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

Due to the drastic shift in buyers’ habits over the last decade, the owner of the Basheer Graphic Books had thoughts of quitting the bookselling business.

Abdul Nasser Basheer Ahmad, 53, has been running Basheer Graphic Books – a specialist shop for books and magazines related to architecture, art, fashion and design – at Bras Basah Complex since 1992.

Speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, Nasser said, “Honestly I want to exit, but I don’t know how to exit. My whole life I’m working as a bookseller, I would love to keep going on but I ask myself is it worthwhile to keep going on.

“(Also) if I exit, what am I going to do?”

Basheer Graphic Books once had seven outlets around the region. Most of the shops have since closed down with the branch in Kuala Lumpur moving out of its premises at the end of this month to a new location that has yet to be confirmed.

The Singapore outlet remains open and is located at Bras Basah Complex, right across from Popular bookstore.

Speaking at his bookshop, Nasser pointed out that book sales have decreased over the last decade all over the region and continue to fall each month for his Singapore outlet.

“Our population doubled but sales are less than half when it should have increased. In town when there was Page One and Borders, my sales were much better. Now (there are) no competitors but the customers are gone – either people are reading less or going online,” Nasser said.

He said the primary reason is that more people are buying books online.

“Whichever (few) titles (people) don’t find online, the sales are good. Any local, self-published art or design titles are still selling because they are not available online. A the end of the day it shows customers go online and if (they cannot find) the book, they come here,” Nasser said.

“We got a lot of customers from countries where online companies cannot enter – the Philippines, Indonesia – so it shows the demand is still there,” he added.

Still, sales have been declining in spite of new trends among customers, Nasser noted.

“Every day we get unique customers in our shop. Basically in the whole town there are lot of book-lovers (who are) looking for something new.

“For example, (in Singapore) we are one of the few bookstores that have indie magazines, we bring in a lot of indie magazines from across the globe,” he said.

However, Nasser does not think his bookshop can compete with online companies that provide discounts and low costs to readers. Customers who used to come to the shop once a month or once a week no longer do so. If sales keep going down, they will have no choice but to close the Singapore shop.

“When we closed our shop in HK, they said Singapore is lucky to have a Basheer. When we closed in Jakarta, they said Singapore is lucky to have a design bookshop to visit and browse. (The shop closing) would be a loss to the community,” he said.

Nasser said the community needs to support the bookshop more, especially given its heritage value.

“The community – including the public, the institutions who are also teaching these subjects – need to give some kind of support to keep shop going ,” He said.

“Singapore is the first branch for Basheer Graphic Books. I would like to say we are part of history – one bookshop in the same place for 25 years.

“We started with nothing and it’s been challenging to keep it going but I don’t have regrets,” Nasser added.

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