Blogs

Foyles' spur

At Foyles we have an opportunity that requires the input and engagement of our friends, partners and customers to make it successful. It is an opportunity which we also believe has the potential to make a real difference to the industry.

In 2014, Foyles will vacate its current premises on Charing Cross Road and move down a couple of doors to the former home of Central St Martin’s College of Art. It’s not a particularly long way to go, and not even our first move; William and Gilbert Foyle moved up and down the street multiple times before settling into our current space in 1929. So many moments in Foyles history have been those of drama, innovation and determination: Christina Foyle, aged 21, sent to Russia to collect debts for the business; the ludicrously grand literary luncheons that spanned decades; Christopher Foyle chasing thieves from the shop and apprehending them in Soho Square; right through to the complete renovation of Foyles in recent years which brought it into retail modernity and, ultimately, profit.

And now we change again. In an era rife with doom and gloom over the future of the physical book and the future of bookselling, maybe only the bookshop that sued the Pope for failure to pay his book club bill in the 1940s would be insane enough to build a brand new flagship store in the middle of London.

And I’d argue there’s a very good chance that this will be the last bookshop of its size built in the UK. But this presents us with a unique opportunity, a chance to re-imagine our bookshop for the 21st century. We can make these seemingly oil-and-water worlds of physical and digital not just coexist, but help each other to thrive.

As we know, discoverability in the digital world is an ongoing challenge. But discovery is what bookshops do best through merchandising, events, booksellers’ knowledge, enthusiasm—and sheer books on shelves.

So what we have is this truly singular moment, a chance to create a bookshop where the experiential and cultural strengths of bricks and mortar meet the growing opportunities of digital. This is where we need your help. This is our call for collaboration. We are in the process of building a 40,000 sq ft bookshop, and we’d like you to build it with us too.
In February, in conjunction with The Bookseller, we will host a workshop (see page 26), to which we will invite delegates to work with experts from publishing, culture, tech design and retail to develop a vision for the bookshop of the future. Delegates will get their own tour through the building site before returning to our Gallery to hear from our project team, our architects and others about the challenges and opportunities of the space, and the questions they present for modern-day book retail.

We’ll then ask you to apply your individual expertise to help shape our new flagship store. We’ll use these ideas as impetus for creative play and problem-solving—what does the bookshop of the future look like? How do digital and physical work with, not against, each other? How do you create a space that has maximum cultural and social appeal as well as retail viability? These are questions we are confident have ramifications not just for us, but for bookselling as a whole.

Why are we doing this? Would it not be better to do all of this behind closed doors, leaving the results unseen until we cut the ribbon on opening day? Here are the three main reasons for why we are opening out the process.

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Selfishness: this is a big shop, and we’re open to every idea possible to make our flagship as strong and enduring as we can.

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To develop grounded, tangible, practical solutions for bookselling over the coming decades. It is our sincere hope that this workshop will stimulate ideas and thinking about bookselling that will benefit the entire industry.

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And most importantly, for our customers reading is most certainly not on the decline, so we want to build a bookshop that allows us to do what we do best, connecting stories and readers, for many years to come.

If you are interested in working with us then the process at this stage is incredibly lo-fi: send an email to bookshopworkshop@foyles.co.uk and we will send you back an application form. There’s only one caveat, that places are limited.

Miriam Robinson is head of marketing at Foyles

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Love is blind. A bold, brash and almost certainly foolhardy venture, driven by the love of books. Blackwell's is opposite just a bit down the road. Right opposite Borders couldn't make it work, but maybe that was because of Foyles or because their other locations didn't work. Borders is now TKMax, more dresses, as if we don't have enough dress shops.

How long can Denmark Street hold on to being the Mecca for musical instruments? What was once the mighty Selmer's music store and then became Argents recording store in Charing Cross Road is now a coffee shop. On the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, where Charing Cross Road begins, a year or so ago was the massive Virgin Records, which also had a great music book department. The entire basement was a music store concession, absolutely massive and brilliant. It's now been converted at huge expense to a glitzy shining Primark and is full to the brim with stock and customers, despite another massive Primark at the other end of Oxford Street. These days I buy my musical bits and pieces online from Thomann in Germany.

Dress shops, coffee shops, fast food, betting shops, pound and 24/7 grocery stores are just about all that can exist today in the old Victorian and Edwardian high streets. Comet couldn't even make electricals work in the sheds with only one major competitor. I doubt Waterstones and WH Smith will see out the next decade in bricks and mortar, so turning Central into a brand new book store is a very bold move indeed.

Central is a big place so I'd advise having plenty of dresses and coffee on the ground floor then as it progressively goes tits up, the books can retreat ever further upstairs. Get real, the only reason Foyles existed in the first place was it was somewhere you could guarantee to find the book you were after. The shopping experience in Foyles was always akin to a cramped, organised jumble sale, nothing nice about it.

Regardless of whether you hate technology, if you love books somebody is going to buy you a Kindle or Nook for Christmas, cheapest versions £69 and £49 respectively. Everything about reading on these devices is better once you get into it, and buying is just a click away, at a fraction of the price. Amazon's KDP Select encourages authors to give books away to promote sales, so you don't even have to buy books.

I've done all my Christmas shopping now, ranging from drink through books to electronic gadgets and never went near a shop. I sat there clicking things into Amazon, calmly adding and deleting to get the mix and price points right, with no hassle and none of the chaos of the shops. I even checked out the opening chapters of the books I was buying. I also checked out the tech stuff online, read the reviews and altered my choices. I could also see the total I was spending, unlike running from shop to shop. I then just clicked the button. The emails started flowing, telling me everything was on its way and these days I have total confidence that it will arrive. That's reality. Reality doesn't help when it comes to dreaming. Of course a new Foyles is a nice dream. Dreaming however is fantasy and in my case it's safest confined to writing books. Good Luck Foyles, you'll need it.

http://www.darcyblaze.com/

Ah Darcy Blaze, you are a constant ray of sunshine.

Seriously though, isn't this exactly why Foyles are carrying out this consultation exercise?Precisely because the landscape has changed so much. There is room for a bookstore on CXR, and a succesful one at that. It just might not look like an old-fashioned bookshop as we remember it. If any bookshop will go "tits up" there, I think it will be Blackwell's sadly. The place is like a morgue. Foyles have to move with the times and have clearly recognised that.

Also, they're only moving two doors down the road. Hardly stepping into a brave new world, is it?

Bookselling and the way people consumer books has changed, no doubt, but it has not moved to 100% digital as you seem to infer. I have asked Mrs T for an actual book for Christmas. Not a Kindle. Not a Nook. A book. You know, a big papery thing tied up with string. I'm not being reactionary or stubborn, I just have no interest in owning a reading device. And I read a lot. There are others like me. I know many.

Fiction publishers are seeing a fair % of their revenue shift to digital sales, for sure, but this will plateau at some stage. Everyone under the sun seems to have some bold prediction about how much that digital % will be in 3, 5 or 10 years time. But nobody really knows. It's just soundbites.

I work in Non-Fiction publishing and the percentage of digital sales is very small - less than 10%. And we have a LOT of eBooks. I'm sure that percentage will grow steadily, but there seem to be an awful lot of people still buying our big papery things tied up with string.

Love is blind. A bold, brash and almost certainly foolhardy venture, driven by the love of books. Blackwell's is opposite just a bit down the road. Right opposite Borders couldn't make it work, but maybe that was because of Foyles or because their other locations didn't work. Borders is now TKMax, more dresses, as if we don't have enough dress shops.

How long can Denmark Street hold on to being the Mecca for musical instruments? What was once the mighty Selmer's music store and then became Argents recording store in Charing Cross Road is now a coffee shop. On the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, where Charing Cross Road begins, a year or so ago was the massive Virgin Records, which also had a great music book department. The entire basement was a music store concession, absolutely massive and brilliant. It's now been converted at huge expense to a glitzy shining Primark and is full to the brim with stock and customers, despite another massive Primark at the other end of Oxford Street. These days I buy my musical bits and pieces online from Thomann in Germany.

Dress shops, coffee shops, fast food, betting shops, pound and 24/7 grocery stores are just about all that can exist today in the old Victorian and Edwardian high streets. Comet couldn't even make electricals work in the sheds with only one major competitor. I doubt Waterstones and WH Smith will see out the next decade in bricks and mortar, so turning Central into a brand new book store is a very bold move indeed.

Central is a big place so I'd advise having plenty of dresses and coffee on the ground floor then as it progressively goes tits up, the books can retreat ever further upstairs. Get real, the only reason Foyles existed in the first place was it was somewhere you could guarantee to find the book you were after. The shopping experience in Foyles was always akin to a cramped, organised jumble sale, nothing nice about it.

Regardless of whether you hate technology, if you love books somebody is going to buy you a Kindle or Nook for Christmas, cheapest versions £69 and £49 respectively. Everything about reading on these devices is better once you get into it, and buying is just a click away, at a fraction of the price. Amazon's KDP Select encourages authors to give books away to promote sales, so you don't even have to buy books.

I've done all my Christmas shopping now, ranging from drink through books to electronic gadgets and never went near a shop. I sat there clicking things into Amazon, calmly adding and deleting to get the mix and price points right, with no hassle and none of the chaos of the shops. I even checked out the opening chapters of the books I was buying. I also checked out the tech stuff online, read the reviews and altered my choices. I could also see the total I was spending, unlike running from shop to shop. I then just clicked the button. The emails started flowing, telling me everything was on its way and these days I have total confidence that it will arrive. That's reality. Reality doesn't help when it comes to dreaming. Of course a new Foyles is a nice dream. Dreaming however is fantasy and in my case it's safest confined to writing books. Good Luck Foyles, you'll need it.

http://www.darcyblaze.com/

Ah Darcy Blaze, you are a constant ray of sunshine.

Seriously though, isn't this exactly why Foyles are carrying out this consultation exercise?Precisely because the landscape has changed so much. There is room for a bookstore on CXR, and a succesful one at that. It just might not look like an old-fashioned bookshop as we remember it. If any bookshop will go "tits up" there, I think it will be Blackwell's sadly. The place is like a morgue. Foyles have to move with the times and have clearly recognised that.

Also, they're only moving two doors down the road. Hardly stepping into a brave new world, is it?

Bookselling and the way people consumer books has changed, no doubt, but it has not moved to 100% digital as you seem to infer. I have asked Mrs T for an actual book for Christmas. Not a Kindle. Not a Nook. A book. You know, a big papery thing tied up with string. I'm not being reactionary or stubborn, I just have no interest in owning a reading device. And I read a lot. There are others like me. I know many.

Fiction publishers are seeing a fair % of their revenue shift to digital sales, for sure, but this will plateau at some stage. Everyone under the sun seems to have some bold prediction about how much that digital % will be in 3, 5 or 10 years time. But nobody really knows. It's just soundbites.

I work in Non-Fiction publishing and the percentage of digital sales is very small - less than 10%. And we have a LOT of eBooks. I'm sure that percentage will grow steadily, but there seem to be an awful lot of people still buying our big papery things tied up with string.