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Daunt planning more stores, plus 'click and collect'

Waterstones m.d. James Daunt is planning to grow the number of the chain's stores, according to an interview in the Sunday Telegraph, as well as refurbishing 100 shops before October.

In the profile piece in the Sunday Telegraph, Daunt also defended his decision to sell Amazon's Kindle e-readers, saying he would not have signed the deal if it was not to the benefit of the chain. He said: "I am a retailer, for goodness' sake, and a very customer-focused retailer."

He also said all the children's sections will be moved to the ground floor of shops, for ease of access, and stock rooms will be shrunk in order to accommodate the new in-store Cafe Ws. The stock room downsizing also reflects Waterstones' new policy of ordering lower numbers of books from publishers, in order to increase efficiency and drop the rate of returns. 

Daunt said: "It is much, much more time consuming getting a book out of a shop than getting it in." He added: "We have a distribution hub precisely so that we can order efficiently. So we will sell and re-order, and sell and re-order. We will do it the way that the supermarkets do it and Next, and retailers up and down the land do it. Why we thought we should operate differently is odd. It is highly inefficient clogging up shops with stock—which invariably are the books that customers don't want to buy."

Daunt also said: "If publishers who are grappling with a rapidly changing environment want to pin on me the blame for x or y brand name selling less, at the same time as their digital sales going through the roof, they just can't have it both ways. That process of adjustment is difficult."

Meanwhile, in the Mail on Sunday, Daunt said sales in April had been up "for the first time in living memory", and that he plans to introduce "click and collect" mechanisms which enable customers to order online and collect in store as part of the relaunch of the Waterstones internet business next year.

He added that the business was a "spluttering Lada" when Alexander Mamut bought it, and denied calling Amazon "the devil", as he has been quoted. He said: "We need to keep these shops in a relevant place for people that like to read books. I am simply asking what do my customers want and I don't want to exclude people from my shops just because they like to download books from the internet."

Daunt also said that the struggling stores are "still struggling", even while the good stores are doing better, with some managers greeting his leadership with more enthusiasm than others.