Booksellers, publishers and educators came together yesterday (11th February) in the first Future Foyles workshop aimed at generating ideas for the bookshop of tomorrow.
World Book Night c.e.o. Julia Kingsford, Curtis Brown agent Anna Davis, Faber's consumer marketing director Matt Haslum and Watkins Publishing m.d. James Spackman were among dozens from across the trade who gathered at the Charing Cross Road store yesterday (11th February) to debate ways to create a bookshop fit for the 21st century. The veteran store is preparing to move to a new premises in the former Central St Martins campus.
Foyles c.e.o. Sam Husain said the workshop, held in partnership with The Bookseller, was “a unique project” that would help Foyles respond to changing times in the book trade and retail sector. He said: “It would be wrong to work in isolation or silence. The desire is to get as many creative ideas about the future bookshop and what it can represent in a world that is changing.”
Responding to HarperCollins c.e.o. Victoria Barnsley’s recent comment on BBC Radio 4 about the potential for hard-pressed bookshops for charge customers to browse, he said: “It is a fairly challenging thought to take on board, but really, it is ideas like that we want to think about and have to brainstorm. It’s a new bookshop—the timing is perfect.”
After a presentation from the architects designing the new building, participants debated ideas focusing on three areas: discovery and choice, bookshops as cultural destinations and diversification of products and services.
Alex Foyle, son of company chairman Christopher Foyle, took part in the workshop throughout the day. He said: “It’s a wonderful idea. Getting so many people involved helps people to feel a sense of attachment, like they all have a stake in the future of the business. Usually corporate workshops can be very uninspiring, but all of these people have volunteered to be here, and have come from all over the world to take part. The enthusiasm and imagination is amazing—each group has produced at least two ideas that you could see happening.”
Matt Finch, a freelance community outreach consultant, was interested in how the future Foyles could appeal to people as a cultural space. He said: “It’s been a brilliant day, and it's interesting to see how many of the same themes are coming up again and again in each group—there’s a feeling like the answers are out there. It will be really interesting to see how all these ideas are realised and become concrete.”
A second workshop will take place on Friday (15th). Findings from both events will be published in The Bookseller.