International book chain Page One is reportedly in financial trouble as multiple publishers are seeking overdue payments from the company. The beleaguered book chain reportedly owes over HK$700,000 to its publishers.

Since opening its first Hong Kong outlet in 1997, Page One had up to 10 stores in the city at the peak of its business. However, the chain closed its store in Times Square, Causeway Bay in 2015 and shut six more stores at the Hong Kong International Airport this year. The remaining two Hong Kong branches are located at Harbour City and Festival Walk.

Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.

“[Page One] has been delaying its payment since the beginning of this year. The owed amount is close to HK$1 million,” said the general manager, surnamed Lo, at Hong Kong-based publisher Foreign Press. The publisher claims the bookstore owes them HK$700,000, according to Apple Daily.

Foreign Press stopped supplying books to Page One in June. The company said it would not rule out the option of legal action if the troubled book chain continues to delay its payment.

Jimmy Pang Chi-ming, president of the publisher Subculture Ltd., said Page One’s financial predicament has been circulating for some time, but news about its overdue payments only surfaced in the past two years.

Pang said the market is shrinking for the high-priced books which Page One sells, namely English books and art books.

File photo: Wikicommons.

The manager at the publishing house Cite Bookshop, surnamed Ng, said that his company filed a legal letter to Page One without disclosing how much money it owed. Ng added that since Page One has a record of paying through regular instalments in the past, Cite Bookshop has yet to consider bringing the case to court.

Lam Dat-cheong, manager at Red Publish, said he recently visited Page One and did not see his firm’s books in the store. He added that Red Publish distributes books through a separate company and that the distribution company may not have delivered the books to Page One.

Page One branch in Harbour City. Photo: Wikicommons.

Upon inspecting Page One’s branches in Harbour City and Festival Walk, Apple Daily found that some bookshelves were lacking in books, especially the children’s section. The newspaper also found that the bookstore was selling magazines published in 2014. Asked about the latest editions of books and magazines, the staff said they were sold out and the store would not restock.

“Page One is in the process of adapting to meet current consumer’s demand… however retail business have a high fixed cost,” said Page One in a public statement on August 12.

The book chain added that it requires funding to strengthen its capital structure and said it has started discussions with a potential investor.

Gene Lin

Gene Lin is a Journalism and Computer Science student at The University of Hong Kong. He worked as a reporter for the 'LIVE: Verified Updates' during the Occupy Central protests. He is also an editor at HKU's first English-language student paper, The Lion Post.