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Daunt reintroduces centralised buying at Waterstone's
21.07.11 | Graeme Neill and Lisa Campbell
Waterstone's is reintroducing central buying for both new books and replenishment but m.d. James Daunt insisted store staff would be able to order the books they want, when they want.
Managing director James Daunt made the announcement to staff in an email this afternoon, seen by The Bookseller. The announcement is understood to have been brought forward because of a story set to appear in the print version of this week's The Bookseller on Friday morning.
Daunt met a selection of shop managers in York on Tuesday to discuss the new buying system. In the company-wide email, Daunt said: "It is clear . . . that our talent and creativity is stifled by process; complicated buying procedures, duplication of tasks, a multitude of promotions, excessive returns, all done with more paperwork and data-capture than seems possible, let alone sensible. This all gets in the way of doing what we should be doing—curating our shops and selling the right books to our customers."
Daunt said Waterstone's will talk to publishers about how it buys books and ensure each store sells the widest range of books appropriate to each shop. "The current strait-jacket of a uniform offer, a centrally imposed campaign that treats Romford and Morpeth as identical book buying communities, is patently ridiculous."
It is unclear how the new buying system will work, or when it will be implemented. Daunt said he does not accept the inherent contradiction of central buying for a local offer and added: "We will make sure that we order the books you want, in the quantities you want in order to allow you to display and sell them in the way you want. Ask for 10 copies of Norwegian Wood and we will send you 10 copies, in one go, and let you put them wherever you want." He said this new system would cut the "massive duplication" involved in the current system.
The Bookseller understands Daunt has been in talks to install the same American system he uses at Daunt Books—WordStock—into Waterstone’s. Currently Wordstock is used mainly by independent booksellers, although larger chains such as Hudson Books in North America also use it. It is thought Waterstone’s would be one of the largest retailers to install the system, costing the business around $2,000 (£1,240) on average for an annual subscription per branch. Many have testified the systems at Waterstone’s are in need of replacement, with one source describing them as “antiquated” and “hopeless”, with the catalogue ordering system Phoenix referred to by another as a “living nightmare”.
In today's email, Daunt said the chain's success in using this new buying system will depend on publisher support, communication between each shop and head office buying team and how well the hub performs. He added: "Above all, how you, the booksellers, supported by your regional managers, grab your shops by the scruff of the neck and make them great, stimulating, irresistible bookshops for your book buying communities."