The Big Bad Wolf: From Bargained Titles to Book Expo Domination

The Big Bad Wolf Books first exploded into scene in 2009, launched by husband-and-wife team Andrew Yap and Jacqueline Ng as an extension of their remainder book business, BookXcess that sells bargain, overprinted and unsold books.

It was started with a novel goal in mind, to make books available at extremely affordable prices.

Big Bad Wolf fair in Melaka. Photo:

The very first Big Bad Wolf Books event was held near one of its outlets in Petaling Jaya, Selangor and lasted five days. Some 120,000 books were put on sale, covering various genres including fiction, non-fiction, children’s literature, business, biographies, self-improvements and so on. Most titles are imported books.

Both founders really took a great risk and leap of faith in launching the Big Bad Wolf Books, as nobody thought the sale model would work out. In its inception, it took a whole year for the team to just buy and keep all the book stocks. And to top it off, they also had to find gigantic warehouse to store the large inventory of books.

As they hardly had enough money to launch the event, everything from the preparation, marketing, and event management for this first event was done by Andrew and his team since they could not afford expensive contractors. But the event surpassed all expectations, with people flocking into the selections and bringing home books in droves.

From thereon, they decided that the Big Bad Wolf Books is to be an annual event.

Within a few short years, the Big Bad Wolf grew into a major attraction and became one of the most awaited book events by Malaysian readers. From a mere 120,000 books, now millions of selections are made available. Queues are always long. Some even advise against bringing children into the sale.

With over half a million visitors thronging the events, it is fast becoming one of the country’s largest book fairs around.

The Big Bad Wolf’s discount offering is difficult to match. What normally sells for RM60 in retail book outlets now can cost a buyer a mere RM8. Prices of books go down as low as 90 percent. Customers spending RM500 for books are a rare find in normal book outlets but not in the Big Bad Wolf.

Today, with revenues surpassing RM100 million, the Big Bad Wolf has grown so massive that it requires a permanent warehouse just to store all the books. Currently, the books are stocked in a huge 200,000 square feet warehouse. And with big warehouse? Come big overheads. To keep things going, in between the big events, book sales of smaller scales are carried out.

“more and more good stuff”

As new events unfold, the Big Bad Wolf keeps conjuring up with creative promotional strategies that leave other publishing players both in awe and envious. These are done to keep their customers continually surprised.

For example, to add comfort, thousands of trolleys had been provided (there were no trolleys in the earlier days) to get customers conveniently surfing and skimming the huge selection of items. Trolleys also work extremely well for the company as the carts create that unconscious physiological influence within the shoppers to grab more stuff.

In another eye-opening move, it was decided that the event will open for 24 hours, allowing customers to do the shopping while the rest of the world (well, that part of the world that shares the night) sleeps.

The Big Bad Wolf has also introduced what it called the “box sales,” in which instead of selling per-item inventory, they sold items by boxes. And shoppers went crazy.

To keep its fans engaged, the team runs a very active Facebook page, taking cues of the social media bubbling.

“going regional”

Big Bad Wolf in Indonesia, May 2016. Photo: ICE Indonesia

In 2016, Andrew and Jacqueline began executing their next phase of growth: going regional. They began with Jakarta event in May, followed by Bangkok soon after. In the process, they also learned a few things.

Despite huge population, Jakarta (Jakarta 2016 population is about 10 million, equivalent to the entire population of Portugal) is not really an English-reading market. Similar case goes to Bangkok. Still, the Big Bad Wolf determines to continue its presence and explored further territories. Their next plan include Vietnam and China.

True to its logo, the Big Bad Wolf Books has certainly grown into a very fierce business creature, one which is difficult to stare down against, let alone fight. But even then, the company is not resting on its laurel.

While RM100 million sounds good enough for some, Andrew and team is putting a motion to drive the event into becoming a billion-dollar-ringgit trade. They even have the lofty ambition to go beyond the Southeast Asia region and break into the South American market.

And people will continue watching the big howling Wolf breaks records, one after another.

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