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A Yanjiyou bookstore opened in October in Xi"an, capital of Shaanxi province. The chain now has 59 stores nationwide, and plans to open 30 to 40 new outlets this year. [Photo/VCG]

China"s brick-and-mortar bookstores have recovered from a wave of closures and are mounting a comeback.

Customers, many of whom had switched to e-reading devices and online stores, are again flocking to traditional bookstores which are offering a wider range of new products.

Liu Jiani, 22, a student at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China in Zhejiang province, said that in recent years every time she visited a city, bookstores have been on her must-see list.

"There are many beautiful stores emerging across the country that have a nice selection of books, beautiful interior designs and creative cultural products. Even if you visit them many times, you will still find something new," she said.

The Bookdao New Publishing Institute, a consultancy to the country"s publishing and book selling industry, surveyed 62 chains and found that some 65 percent plan to open more than five new stores this year, and 18 percent of them will open over 100.

There were 225,000 bookstores and sales outlets in the country by the end of last year, up by 4.3 percent over 2017. Total sales of publications in the domestic retail sector reached 158 billion yuan ($23.4 billion), a year-on-year growth of 11.3 percent, the report said.

Cheng Sanguo, director of the institute, said, "Chinese bookstores, especially private ones, are opening new branches more frequently and have made eye-catching achievements in recent years."

Privately owned chains FanDeng Bookstore and Sisyphe Bookstore both said that they will open more than 100 branches this year.

The State-owned Xinhua Bookstore has also accelerated expansion. Its subsidiary, Shangshufang, which was founded in 2015, has set up 198 stores in Henan province, while another subsidiary, Xiaojudeng, which focuses on picture books, now has 150 stores in Hebei province.

Companies operating online have also been turning to brick-and-mortar bookstores, with major digital media platforms Yitiao and Read at Ten both opening offline outlets.

Ji Gang, a partner in Shanghai at global consultancy Roland Berger, said that only a few years ago brick-and-mortar bookstores were hit by the emergence of online outlets, e-reading devices and increased rent and labor costs.

From 2000 to 2012, about half of the country"s privately owned bookstores closed, while those that were State-owned were struggling. This situation continued until 2017, when bookstore sales increased by 2.33 percent year-on-year, a Roland Berger report said.

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