Foyles has partnered with The Bookseller to invite customers and industry experts to help design a new flagship Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road for the 21st century. An open call for applications to take part in a workshop with architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands was made at the FutureBook conference today, Monday 3rd December.
Participants will be asked to engage with issues such as declining physical book sales; the place of e-books; the cultural importance of bookshops and author events; the specialist knowledge of booksellers; and how bookshops can provide customers with a place to buy books, however they decide to read them. The results of this session will be made public, and those whose ideas are used in the new store will be notified.
Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, said it was a unique collaboration that came at the right moment for the trade: "As editor of The Bookseller, I do not believe the bookshop is dead, economically or in any other way. But we do not have to rehash The Booksellers Association's membership numbers to know that high street shops are under severe stress: some of this may be down to the recession, and some of it because of the shift to digital. Either way it needs to be addressed."
"While words are our stock-in business, we also need practical solutions to real-world problems: and this is what we'll achieve, in what is essentially a trade-wide initiative to re-invent and re-invigorate the high street bookshop, using this iconic London shop as the template."
Housed in 113-119 Charing Cross Road since 1929, in spring 2014, Foyles will move next door to a custom-fitted building at 107-109 Charing Cross Road, former home of Central St Martins College of Art and Design. This presents a unique opportunity for Foyles and architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands to design 'the bookshop of the future' with the help of the people who care most about books and reading.
By February 2013 the building's foundations and departments will be fixed, with 40,000 square feet of retail space over three floors. At this stage a workshop will be held, in partnership with The Bookseller, to draw on the knowledge and creativity of industry experts and customers alike. Thirty places will be available by application to any who wish to engage in the exercise. The results of this workshop will be made public, and those whose ideas are used in the new store will be notified.
Miriam Robinson, Foyles head of marketing, added: "Discoverability in the digital world is a leading and ongoing challenge, and yet discovery is what bookshops do best, via merchandising, events, bookseller knowledge and enthusiasm. What we are offering with this workshop is a truly unique opportunity, an open platform for creative but constructive play, a chance to create a bookshop where the experiential, cultural strengths of bricks and mortar meets the growing opportunities of digital."
Alex Lifschutz, director, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, said: "Foyles is more than just a bookshop, it is a much-loved British institution and we have sought to embody this character in our design for the new flagship store. Working with Foyles has given us the opportunity to look at the nature of bookselling. In contrast to web-based sales, we want to celebrate books in a joyful, adaptable and real environment which can host events on any given subject, from filmmaking to finance. I am looking forward to discussing our designs with members of the retail and publishing industry at the workshop next year and exploring how we can collectively improve the book buying experience."
Those who wish to suggest ideas for Foyles' new flagship store can do so by emailing email@example.com. They can also register their interest in the half-day workshop to take place in February 2013 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
More details of Foyles' plan and the workshop will be published in The Bookseller this week.
See also editor's blog: The Future Bookshop.