Bookstores continue to flourish in Changi Airport

Apr 2023

By Kris Mok


Back to Changi Journeys



With the world’s longest non-stop flight now lasting over 18 hours, it’s important to have plenty of entertainment options available. Other than in-flight entertainment systems, the next best thing to have in one’s arsenal would be an exciting page-turner to dive into, to keep oneself occupied throughout a flight.  

Choose the right book and it can also help to set the stage for a memorable vacation.  

At Changi Airport, passengers looking to pick up a good read have continued to patronise WHSmith, which has grown to operate seven outlets across all terminals since opening the doors of its first store in Terminal 4 in 2017. 


Demand for physical books remains strong 

At a time when the publishing industry is feeling the pressure from digital technologies like e-book readers, which have risen steadily in popularity, it is no mean feat for a bookstore to not just thrive but flourish in Changi Airport.   

A spokesperson from WHSmith points out that despite the popularity of e-book readers, the company has continued to see its physical books outselling its range of e-books to generate strong sales globally. “It seems that there is still something very special about being able to buy a physical book for your holiday, opening that first page and taking in the smell of the new pages, as you start your holiday escape.” 

Book lovers will also contend that it is somehow more satisfying to flip the pages of a physical book, rather than scroll down an e-book reader.  

It also helps that Changi’s terminals feature many calm and serene spots where passengers can settle down and lose themselves in a good read while waiting for their flight. From Koi ponds to the many free resting areas tucked away in the transit areas of the terminals, a good book or magazine remains a quintessential travel companion.  

That said, book sales are just one part of the multi-pronged approach that WHSmith takes in securing its viability as a business in the long run. 

The koi pond at Terminal 3 is one of the many nice quiet spots available in Changi Airport for passengers to curl up with a good book


Diversify, diversify, diversify

WHSmith first started as a newsagent operating on the streets of London back in 1792 and has through the years transformed itself into a retail giant, especially in the books publishing space. Having operated for more than 225 years in the retail industry, the bookstore has made it a priority to innovate, with the need to evolve into distinct parts of its DNA.  

In fact, the company’s international expansion into the travel retail market — which has seen exponential growth in the last few years — is one such example of their DNA in motion.  

Changing their product mix periodically to better cater to travellers’ needs is part and parcel of WHSmith’s aim to be a one-stop-shop catering to the world’s travelling customer. Besides books and magazines, WHSmith’s airport stores also offers a range of food, drinks, souvenirs and travel and digital accessories.

Having said that, WHSmith notes that every market has their unique demands. Compared to other airport stores in the UK or Australia, more non-fiction titles are sold at Changi. In particular, books on Singapore, mainly Lee Kuan Yew titles such as Singapore Story and Hard Truth continue to retail well. WHSmith also observed that in recent years, strong Asian authors have emerged in the market. Appealing to a rapidly growing market segment of Asian travellers, authors like Hiro Arikawa of Travelling Cat chronicles and Kevin Kwan of Crazy Rich Asians, are just some of writers which WHSmith has stocked up on in its Changi stores.

With its sights set on building a unique network of stores in Asia to maximise synergies, Asian travellers would soon be seeing more WHSmith stores as they travel in the region. So stay tuned for more as the WHSmith story in Changi Airport will definitely be a page turner!


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