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Daunt urges staff to cover Kindle push

James Daunt has said Waterstones booksellers must work harder to meet customers’ needs between now and when temporary staff are hired for Christmas, as the chain adjusts to selling Kindle devices in the run-up to the busy festive period.

The Waterstones managing director told The Bookseller that it can take up to 20 minutes to help a customer with a Kindle purchase, but that the chain had hoped to “bridge this gap” without increasing staff levels before those hired specifically for Christmas arrive.

Waterstones said the new staff would be employed “soon in shops to relieve the pressure”. Some booksellers The Bookseller spoke to voiced concern at current staff levels and a policy whereby staff ratios are directly linked to sales. “My worry is this is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy,” one manager said. However, another Waterstones manager said: “Trading is tough at the moment so sometimes people aren’t being replaced where we can help it, but where we need someone, of course we will replace them.”

Daunt said he was aware of the grumbling, but said that this was mostly coming from underperforming shops. “Our sales per employee vary considerably in the business, and there is no good reason for it.” Daunt confirmed that it was his policy to rely less on temporary staff and more on “experienced and knowledgeable booksellers”. He said that overall staff levels had fallen as the estate had reduced in size, though stressed that the level of permanent staff had remained broadly the same.

Daunt said he was optimistic ahead of Christmas, once again praising the “terrific” publishing list, which he said was ideally suited to Waterstones, particularly in non-fiction. “The good shops are doing a lot better, and the refitted shops are doing dramatically better. As more of the estate undergoes refurbishment, the impact on the wider business will grow.”

In a wide-ranging interview with The Bookseller this week, Daunt said the chain was still undergoing a process of thinning out its stock after “years of overbuying”.

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It is hard to imagine those who have chosen to work in the book industry being that enthusiastic about selling Kindle. Book selling has something of a quaint ring about it and even the Waterstone's black and gold livery has an air of the Dickensian. To sell Kindles, the assistant needs a good knowledge of the Kindle's plus points and the negative points of its competitors. There are six Kindle models, the cheapest being £69, against WH Smith's six Kobo models starting at £49 for the mini. Then of course there is Apple's ipad, not to mention Sony and others. All of these can be with you in a day through Amazon, at a delivered price that is probably less than the petrol and parking. Therefore the only reason to go to a store is to touch and compare. Comet, whose business it is to sell electronics, are teetering on the brink, precisely because knowledgable sales staff are few and far between. The huge difference Apple has is it is the manufacturer and retailer and its high margins allow for a superb retail experience, with highly trained staff who take huge pride in their expertise.

Waterstones hiring late for Christmas says it all. The ship is in trouble and and at the next port of call any crew hanging around the docks will be signed up just to get through the storm. It's hardly likely any will have any interest in books or put any effort into understanding Kindle.

If I were MD of Waterstones, I'd be planning a managed exit from the high street as leases fall due. Without some spectacularly new model it's the only thing that makes any sense. The Borders idea of mixing a coffee shop seemed a good idea, but look what happened to borders. However maybe a coffee shop selling all brands of tablets, with knowledgable, enthusiastic staff helping new comers getting started, might be a way to go. I guess a few shelves of top selling paperback novels like you find at airports would make sense over the interim before paperbacks go the way of vinyl and CDs.

Think I'm wrong. Virgin Meagastore on the corner of Tottenham Court road and Oxford Street, was not only a Mecca for records it sold sheet music books, books on artists, T shirts and the entire basement was devoted to selling musical instruments on a vast scale. What is it now - Primark, and not the only one in Oxford Street.

Mark my words, Waterstones will soon be dress shops, pound stores or coffee houses.

Believe me it makes me sad, how many more dress shops do we need? However that's reality and my bet is WH Smith will probably go before them, stationary is perfectly sold online.

http://www.darcyblaze.com/

Darcey, Waterstones is not hiring late for Christmas, it is just not hiring early to cover the additional staff time necessary to manage Kindle sales. As is stated in the report, Daunt was hoping current staff could bridge this gap.

The floggings will continue until morale improves....

:)

It is hard to imagine those who have chosen to work in the book industry being that enthusiastic about selling Kindle. Book selling has something of a quaint ring about it and even the Waterstone's black and gold livery has an air of the Dickensian. To sell Kindles, the assistant needs a good knowledge of the Kindle's plus points and the negative points of its competitors. There are six Kindle models, the cheapest being £69, against WH Smith's six Kobo models starting at £49 for the mini. Then of course there is Apple's ipad, not to mention Sony and others. All of these can be with you in a day through Amazon, at a delivered price that is probably less than the petrol and parking. Therefore the only reason to go to a store is to touch and compare. Comet, whose business it is to sell electronics, are teetering on the brink, precisely because knowledgable sales staff are few and far between. The huge difference Apple has is it is the manufacturer and retailer and its high margins allow for a superb retail experience, with highly trained staff who take huge pride in their expertise.

Waterstones hiring late for Christmas says it all. The ship is in trouble and and at the next port of call any crew hanging around the docks will be signed up just to get through the storm. It's hardly likely any will have any interest in books or put any effort into understanding Kindle.

If I were MD of Waterstones, I'd be planning a managed exit from the high street as leases fall due. Without some spectacularly new model it's the only thing that makes any sense. The Borders idea of mixing a coffee shop seemed a good idea, but look what happened to borders. However maybe a coffee shop selling all brands of tablets, with knowledgable, enthusiastic staff helping new comers getting started, might be a way to go. I guess a few shelves of top selling paperback novels like you find at airports would make sense over the interim before paperbacks go the way of vinyl and CDs.

Think I'm wrong. Virgin Meagastore on the corner of Tottenham Court road and Oxford Street, was not only a Mecca for records it sold sheet music books, books on artists, T shirts and the entire basement was devoted to selling musical instruments on a vast scale. What is it now - Primark, and not the only one in Oxford Street.

Mark my words, Waterstones will soon be dress shops, pound stores or coffee houses.

Believe me it makes me sad, how many more dress shops do we need? However that's reality and my bet is WH Smith will probably go before them, stationary is perfectly sold online.

http://www.darcyblaze.com/

Darcey, Waterstones is not hiring late for Christmas, it is just not hiring early to cover the additional staff time necessary to manage Kindle sales. As is stated in the report, Daunt was hoping current staff could bridge this gap.

:)

The floggings will continue until morale improves....