Friday, May 27, 2011

Daunting Task: Make Every Bookshop Unique

CNBC News -Published: Thursday, 26 May 2011 

By: Peter Guest
Web Producer, CNBC

High street bookstores need to become richer experiences if they are going to succeed, according to the CEO-elect of Waterstone’s, the UK’s largest bookseller.

On May 20, HMV Group  Waterstone’s parent company, agreed to sell the chain to A&NN Capital Management, the investment vehicle of Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut.
The deal is pending shareholder approval and should be completed in June.

Struggling with falling high street sales of DVDs and music as customers turn to online retailers and supermarkets, HMV has posted a series of weak results, and has accumulated debt some four times its market capitalization.

The sale of Waterstone’s for 53 million pounds ($86 million), along with a plan to refocus the company’s retail outlets on selling consumer technology products are part of HMV’s plans to revive a group which has been a fixture of UK high streets for close to 30 years.

The man tasked with saving Waterstone’s from a similar fate is James Daunt, founder of Daunt Books, which runs six boutique bookstores in upmarket areas of London.
The group is small and intimate enough that Daunt spends much of his day on the shop floor, and his departure means "We’re going to be down one bookseller," he told
Waterstone’s has just shy of 300 stores in the UK and Ireland and Daunt said that the chain’s ubiquity and uniformity have become a barrier to its success.

“One isn’t trying to replicate [Daunt books],” he said. “What one can aspire to do is to produce the best possible bookshops for each location. I think that’s not something that we should feel is impossible.”
Impossible or not, this is a problem that booksellers and retailers around the world face.
However, some remain confident enough to bet on the sector.

Read the rest here. Booksellers, including Ian Draper the new CEO for the
"new" Whitcoulls, will find it especially interesting.

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