Thursday, February 26, 2015

Waterstones' James Daunt: 'You Nurture Talent'

Shelf Awareness

"My long-term aim is that this should be a sustainable business that can stand on its own two feet and pay its bills," said Waterstones managing director James Daunt, who spoke with Management Today in a wide-ranging and extensive interview that touched on personal as well as professional topics. Here are a few highlights:

James Daunt
Recalling his eponymous indie chain, Daunt observed: "My bookshops were successful because I invested in people and always understood that is at the heart of what I do, you nurture talent."

When asked why he would leave Daunt Books to "take on a vast, broken business like Waterstones," he responded: "Because if I didn't, my world was going to change radically and with pretty severe implications for everyone in this industry including me. OK, so suddenly 300 Waterstones shops close, 4,000 booksellers lose their jobs, we are much busier but the publishing industry here goes through a really traumatic period and almost certainly publishes fewer books, and a lot of smaller publishers disappear altogether. 

And there'd never be bookshops back in places where there are currently bookshops--through historical accident we have Waterstones bookshops in prime locations; they would go to H&M or Next or whoever, and we'd never get back in.... Just a very small number of very small, independent bookshops in secondary locations, with the economics of retailing now very much against the small independent. The reality is you have all the libraries closing down and then all the bookshops as well."

Does he predict more disruptive tech surprises in the future? "Why don't you ring Mr Bee-Zos?... though he might not tell you. Maybe the blinking Google Glasses will shove it through your eyeballs." Management Today noted that Daunt "doesn't care, as he believes 'the pleasures of the physical book' will keep customers hooked."

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