Husain urges publishers: 'act now to keep bookshops'

The c.e.o. of Foyles has called for publishers and suppliers to support bookshops with better terms and consignment stock before it becomes "too late" as in the case of HMV.

In an open letter to The Bookseller, Sam Husain has said the bookselling model is broken and needs "a complete re-think" in the current climate before more retailers are lost.

Husain called for better terms from publishers and suppliers, aiming at an average of 60% discount instead of the average of 40% currently experienced—and "a level playing field" with supermarkets and online retailers, which he said can benefit by discount anything up to 15% higher than that given to booksellers, based on their volume of sales. Bookshops, however, are not compensated from the extra value they add as a showroom and advice centre for published works, he argued.

Husain told The Bookseller: "Let's not leave it until its too late, as is the case with HMV. Bookshops are being used as showrooms for people to browse and have a look at what is out there and then they are going to the internet. We have found that generally publishers and suppliers tend to offer supermarkets and internet retailers better terms because it is
volume-related, they sell more new releases and therefore they are getting more margin and selling books for less money than we can compete with."

He said consignment stock ­ where booksellers only pay for the stock they sell ­ would be an "ideal" situation. Currently booksellers pay for stock and return that which they haven't sold after a year. Only then they do they get their money back.

Husain added: "Bricks and mortar bookshops face a unique challenge in that exactly the same product is often available at a much cheaper price through other sales channels. We try our best to add value by making browsing and discovering books as enjoyable as possible and providing helpful and knowledgeable staff. Many of us go further by making bookshops a cultural venue with events and looking after the essential needs of customers by providing food and beverages. If we are to do more, and even have  ambitions to expand, then we need to finance this through improved terms from all our
partners."

The Foyles chief argued: "We need more of a level playing field. In the last five years, 1,000 independent bookshops have closed, we have to act now."