Step into the new, revamped Harris bookstore at Aeon Mall Tebrau City in Johor Baru and the first thing you’ll notice is how bright and spacious it is.

Clear fluorescent lighting illuminates row after row of sturdy shelves, packed with everything from schoolbooks and stationery to snacks, all arranged in a loose square formation around the store.

As you go deeper inside, though, the lighting turns more delightful. In the middle of the store stands a huge wooden pillar reminiscent of the trunk of a great tree. You wood certainly not be-leaf it at first sight! Around it, suspended from the ceiling, are a dozen or so incandescent lightbulbs – they look like fireflies in flight.

This is the “Tree of Knowledge”, a spot in the store where families and readers can gather to immerse themselves in a pleasant reading atmosphere. This is part of the store’s new “Under the Tree” concept, which aims to provide customers with an oasis of reading and learning.

“Trees and books are inseparable. They’re like friendship and love!

“For me, under a tree is a nice place to foster the joy of reading. That’s why we built one in the centre of the store,” says Siew Sheue-Liang, Popular Book Co (M) Sdn Bhd’s general manager of business development. Harris is an affiliate brand of Popular’s.

“We’d like to target families and kids. The objective is to get parents to come here with their kids and read under the tree.

“It’s a nice place to come together and encourage a reading habit,” he says in an interview at the store last week.

It feels like there are miles and miles of books...

It feels like there are miles and miles of books…

This new concept is part of the revamp of the Harris outlet at Aeon Mall Tebrau City; it took root there more than a decade ago on the mall’s ground floor – with the revamp, the store has moved to the first floor. All this renewing and refreshing is being done in conjunction with 2017 being the 20th anniversary of Popular’s continued presence in Johor, where it operates nine other stores in addition to this one.

The new space offers over 55,000 titles for sale. The store is divided into various sections by language – for English, Malay, and Chinese books – and other categories like Text and Assessment, and Gadgets and IT. There is also the One 2 Buy section that sells snacks and treats.

We have to say that the space is rather pleasantly decorated with products displayed in a striking yet sensible manner. True to its concept, the walls feature artwork of trees and dandelions together with quotes on reading from authors and icons such as Jane Austen, Stephen King, and Albert Einstein.

“It’s quite different from your so-called traditional Popular bookstore,” says Siew. “We put a lot of effort into enhancing the bookstore’s ambiance and make it feel more modern. It’s all to make customers more comfortable,” he adds.

The entrance to the bright and spacious new space on the first floor.

The entrance to the bright and spacious new space.

According to him, the revamped Harris also features brand new products not present in the original store. This includes Urban Writes, a stationery brand offering unique art paper, scrapbook accessories, stationery, greeting cards, gift sets, and trinkets from countries such as Britain, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

“We want to expand our product range to satisfy our customers and encourage them to visit. It is their feedback and encouragement that have inspired us to conceive this Harris concept outlet, just for them,” Siew says.

While the store is already open for customers to visit, Siew says Popular will have a grand opening ceremony tomorrow. There are several activities planned for the day, such as a One Minute Grab-All-You-Can Stationery Shopping Spree, which will offer customers the chance to win Popular vouchers.

There will also be “Under The Tree” deals up for grabs in tandem with the store’s re-launch, from tomorrow to Jan 15, 2017. Among the deals: Customers can enjoy a 20% rebate on selected items and also receive a free Popular limited edition heat-conserving lunchbox with a minimum purchase of RM180 in a single receipt on one day.

And with a minimum purchase of RM50, customers can take part in a lucky draw to win vouchers and stationery.

“I definitely encourage people to come by and read,” Siew says with a smile.

Bookworms, there’s a shady tree calling your name in JB….