Dominic Myers steps up to the top job at Waterstone's at a difficult time for the book chain. In a surprise announcement made today (14th January) by parent HMV Group, Myers took over from managing director Gerry Johnson with immediate effect.
But Myers is not an unknown, having joined Blackwell in 2002, before leaving in 2005. He joined Waterstone's in April 2006 to oversee the integration of Ottakar's. Dubbed a 'Mr Fixit' in a 2006 profile in The Bookseller, his 'to do' list will be a daunting one. Top of it will be addressing its recent sales performance.
As HMV announced this morning, for the five weeks to 2nd January, total sales were down 8.6%, with a like-for-like sales decline of 8.5%. For the 10 weeks to the same date, like-for-like sales were down 8.9% and total sales down by 9%, though this was broadly in line with Nielsen Bookscan's high street measure the GRM, which was down 9.5% in the five weeks, and 8.6% over 10. Nevertheless, HMV's c.e.o. Simon Fox described the performance as "unsatisfactory".
Next on the list will be the hub, with Myers likely to be charged with continuing to drive efficiencies at the supply centre, which despite its delays and the well-documented teething issues last year, publishers say performed well over Christmas. One managing director previously critical of the hub described supply as "fine" this week. The implementation of the hub, and its initial failures, are likely to be what characterises Johnson's four and a half years at Waterstone's, despite publishers being generally supportive of Johnson and what he set out to achieve at the chain.
Myers arrived at Blackwell after spells with Hasbro, Somerfield and M&S. At Blackwell, he oversaw the introduction of buying and core stock systems, following the Waterstone's model. He left in July 2005 when Toby Blackwell swept out its management team. In The Bookseller's profile, written when he joined Waterstone's, he was described as "a man of contradictions, with the physique of a nightclub bouncer and a crushing handshake. But his appearance is at odds with his gentle manner and soft, Oxford-educated voice."
Myers clearly impressed HMV management, who moved him to be its group development director since 2007. In his appointment statement, Fox credits Myers as playing an "important role" in transforming HMV during the past three years.
Publishers spoken to by The Bookseller today were generally favourable of the new man at the top, even though the integration of Ottakar's caused some initial disruption with stock replenishment, point of sale and returns as the chain rebranded as Waterstone's.
Johnson and Myers were unavailable for comment as this piece was written.