For July’s International Bookshop of the Month, we interviewed the historic publisher and bookshop Kelly & Walsh, located in one of Hong Kong’s premier lifestyle hubs, Pacific Place. First founded in 1876 after the merger of two Shanghai-based English language booksellers (Kelly and Co. and F. & C. Walsh), this impressive bookshop relocated to Hong Kong in the 1950s and has been family owned and operated since. We spoke to the current manager to find out more about this long-established bookstore.
1. Could you give us a brief ‘about us’ history of Kelly & Walsh?
Kelly & Walsh is synonymous with quality books. Beyond carrying a diverse selection of special interest books ranging from art and design to business to travel, our stores also offer popular best-sellers as well as fun children’s sections. Kelly & Walsh Ltd. was first established as a publishing house and retailer in Shanghai. Its history dates back to the 1870s with branches emerging in Shanghai, Yokohama and Singapore. The Hong Kong branch was first established in 1885 and, by early 1950s, was the only retail store that remained. This shop is now conveniently located in Pacific Place – one of Hong Kong’s most prestigious shopping, dining and entertainment malls.
The Kelly & Walsh Hong Kong shop is stocked with a complete and comprehensive range of titles and subjects and served by a team of experienced and dedicated staff, who create many enticing programs to support the love of reading. Through its many years in business, Kelly & Walsh has concentrated on nurturing and enhancing the cultural and intellectual pursuits of our customers by providing the best selection of books in Hong Kong. It has also been at the forefront in supporting author visits to Hong Kong and hosted a number of heads of states, such as the 42nd President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton; Hong Kong’s last Governor, Lord Chris Patten; and many, many wonderful authors.
Our team of professionals includes a bookseller who has worked at Kelly and Walsh for over 40 years, who customers enjoy spending time with and learning about art books on Chinese and Western artists. They custom order special art books that he recommends, and we have younger colleagues who love books and working in the bookstore environment who assist customers with their requests!
2. Given the restrictions we’re all experiencing during this pandemic, how has the bookshop fared or what have you done differently?
The bookshop is just one part of the business, and so, whilst there have been challenges with shopper numbers and our book sales direct to customer, business and institutions have remained strong. Within the shop, we continue to provide premium service and a curated range for our customers.
3. Have you seen an increase in subscription services/ or other services you offer?
With the challenges that overseas online booksellers have had with international delivery, we have found more customers coming back to the bookshop to order books, knowing that they can rely on our personalized service.
4. What is the best selling area in the shop? How has this changed over the years?
Books on “smart thinking” – broadly encompassing how to better understand how the wider world functions in politics, finance and business, whilst also improving one’s own skills – continue to be strong sellers. At the same time, there has been a rise in books for children and teens, with parents eager to encourage more physical reading, and less screen-time.
5. Do you have a favourite book from Yale University Press?
We love the Little History series!