Economic Growth

This bookstore in Malaysia is open 24/7

People browse books at a book stall in Petaling Jaya, outside Kuala Lumpur October 16, 2013. REUTERS/Samsul Said (MALAYSIA - Tags: SOCIETY BUSINESS MEDIA TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - GM1E9AG16J601

People browse books at a book stall in Petaling Jaya, outside Kuala Lumpur Image: REUTERS/Samsul Said

Johnny Wood
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Arts and Culture

This article is part of: World Economic Forum on ASEAN

The plight of bookstores in the West - as well as the changing shopping and reading habits of consumers - is much discussed, with many independent retailers already forced out of business.

Meanwhile in Malaysia, one company has just opened the country’s biggest-ever bookstore that will stay open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

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BookXcess stocks half a million titles in its 3,437m² complex, as well as offering a stage, a cafe and private reading spaces to encourage customers to spend more time and money inside its cavernous depths.

It is also characteristic of the new wave of businesses that are cashing in on Malaysia’s new-found wealth. Alongside other new high-end enterprises, businesses like this are emerging to meet the changing needs of Malaysia’s citizens.

The rise of the middle class

As is the case with some of its Asian neighbors, the spending patterns of Malaysia’s middle class are transforming the local economy, boosting domestic demand so the country is less reliant on exports.

Research by the Brookings Institute shows the country’s experience reflects a wider trend across Asia, where the middle classes are on the move and increasing at a dramatically faster rate than in any other continent.

Image: Statista

Brookings has predicted an increase in the total number of people classified as middle class for each continent between 2005 and 2030. As populations increase the percentage of the population classified as middle class is predicted to diminish in most continents, except in Asia Pacific where it is expected to surge.

In the Asia Pacific region the middle class demographic is forecast to jump from 46% of the continent’s population in 2005, to 65% by 2030.

The Malaysian experience

Image: OECD

A more diverse economy

According to an OECD report, Malaysia’s burgeoning middle class is the result of structural reforms that diversified the economy away from reliance on non-renewable resources like oil and gas.

Opening the economy to trade and investment helped create jobs, raise incomes and move the nation away from its agriculture and commodity-based economy. Malaysia’s trade liberalization policies saw the country become a service provider and manufacturer of electronic goods, with foreign investment driving export-led growth.

The next steps for Malaysia's economy will be on the agenda as Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad joins other leaders from the region for the World Economic Forum on ASEAN, starting September 11.

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In 2015, the services sector accounted for the highest proportion of Malaysia’s output with farming and commodities accounting for just 20% of exports.

Rising prosperity has brought with it higher demand for quality education, better healthcare and improved living standards.

Despite rising housing prices and higher living costs, middle class Malaysians have more disposable income to spend on leisure activities.

And that means there are plenty of gaps in the market for keen-eyed entrepreneurs offering opportunities for people to part with their new-found wealth.

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