News

Myers wants end to supply chain "madness"

Waterstone's m.d. Dominic Myers has called for a streamlining of the supply chain, claiming the current system is slashing £150m off margins and is "madness".

Speaking during the "Question Time with the Retailers" panel at last week's Independent Publishers Guild conference, Myers said the industry needed to make changes to its "static" distribution model. He said: "There's an excess of supply chain infrastructure. Given the physical book market will only go in one direction, that situation hasn't got any better. In fact, it's gone completely static."

He continued: "My calculation is that there is 3.7 million square feet of book distribution space [in the UK]. We have 150,000 of that in our hub. If we need that for one-quarter of the book market, why do we need 3.7 million square feet of space in total? You take an average cost per square foot of £50 for that space, it's actually gone up to £150m that the book industry is now subsidising in one way or another, and that feeds through in terms of the margins that you generate and we generate."

Myers made the comments during the panel discussion on discounts in the industry, and said: "Why are we talking about discounts when there are large costs in our industry about which we are doing precisely zip? Look at this panel. We have a shed, as do Smiths and Amazon. It's madness. As an industry we need to do something about it and quick."

Also on the panel was Blackwell's c.e.o. Andrew Hutchings, W H Smith senior trading controller Toby Keir, Amazon books category director John Gahagan, Foyles c.e.o. Sam Husain and Patrick Neale, co-owner of independent Jaffé & Neale.

Questioned about the ideal returns rate, Myers said: "Returns should be much, much lower than what we have currently," adding: "Our desire is to have returns significantly lower. Last week it was 12% but it should be in single digits. We're recycling around 20% of returns through the hub." Explaining the reasons why returns can be large, Myers said: "The reason why stock is coming back is because it's the wrong stock that has been ordered, or in the wrong ­volume. Some of those titles are no longer justified space." Keir largely supported Myers' viewpoint on returns, and said: "Returns are getting better but from quite a high starting point. How we solve that conflict is a big issue for us."

However, Blackwell's Hutchings disagreed with Myers' single-digit stance, saying a decent rate of returns would be 10% to 15%. He said: "If we have to get to a point where the returns rate is so low then it means we are not taking enough risks, or getting behind new titles we début."

Amazon's Gahagan said the internet retailer's returns rate was "at a lower level naturally",­ but it wanted to improve on this as well as focusing on increasing availability.

Reacting to the panel's comments, Osprey Publishing m.d. Rebecca Smart said talks lately with Waterstone's on returns had been about balancing cost and display, and said: "We are finding them [Waterstone's] really, really supportive at the moment, more so than ever."

Myriad Editions m.d. Candida Lacey said it was "so hard to cope with returns". She said: "I just feel they should be more realistic [with orders] . . . [Myers] said he was aiming for single figures and that's about right, I would much prefer to see it lower."

However, Steve Connolly, New Holland m.d., said "very cautious frontlist ordering has been more of a problem than returns".

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Dominic Myers comments above, and earlier statements re range, are very much at odds with recent findings.

Last Saturday my in-store business sold 2 comparatively recently published illustrated titles - one of which according to Waterstone's on line is not stocked (vide Marketplace redirection) despite at that time Berts had approx 200 copies, and Gardners approx 100 copies ; the other was only available in 2 branches and offers 2-3 weeks delivery despite availability both from publishers and wholesalers.

These two books resulted in approx £75 sale for which my business was very welcome : I could list dozens of similar instances and fear for Waterstone's vulnerability in these straightened times.

"We have 150,000 of that in our hub. If we need that for one-quarter of the book market, why do we need 3.7 million square feet of space in total?"
Because your 150,000 does not hold stock, you nit-wit. It carries a very limited amount of stock on a tiny range of titles - no more than 1,000 - and otherwise simply repacks books received from stock holding distributors.
These distributors, by-the-by, have invested enormously over the last five years to deliver almost without exception an exceptional service. Unfortuneately, they assumed they would deliver to individual shops nationwide, not to a central hub which merely duplicates their work at great additional cost (how much? £10m p.a., £15m p.a.? more!?!)and minimal saving to themselves.
Whose bright idea was that?

Shut the Hub and that would be a start to culling the glut of excess warehousing D Myers is complaining is costing the industry millions.

I echo comments above by Anonymous.

Hilarious comments from Myers, claiming the UK has too much warehouse space just after opening a massive, ineffective, costly warehouse!

The main problem with Waterstones is their empty shops. My local has bays and bays of face out stock, no range and empty bays at front of store.

Plenty of cards, soft toys, cups, note books - but books? Nah...

The best thing Myers can do is make Waterstones a bookshop again..

Waterstone's is in trouble?
They seem to be able to spend huge amounts of money on garish purple shirts for staff and horrible bright pink shelving for their bestselling books, not to mention window decoration, posters, etc.
For a company that seems to be clinging to life by the fingertips, the people in charge sure know how to spend money.
Wait, don't tell me, you have to spend money to make money.
That's true, but why not spend the money on, oh, I don't know... books!?
I've been into waterstone's recently and asked for a book.
They didn't have it (it was, fact fans, one of the 'Sharpe' series by Bernard Cornwell) and offered to order it for me.
How long would it take?
They said three-to-four working days... after a brief discussion, the poor staff member looked genuinley guilty for not being able to supply the book quicker and did, infact, suggest Wasterstones website might be quicker!

Hit the Hub.Shut the Hub. It's the biggest waste of space in the industry. What a cheek DM coming away with this nonsense when the hub has been so disastrous! And if you want to cut returns then stop returning books - duh! Have a few sales shops that sell returns/seconds/etc.etc. they need a couple of people on the till and can be short-term leases in secondary locations - what doesn't go at 25% off rrp can go at cost price and the very small amount that's left can get further discounted. That will add to profits & immediately get rid of all the handling costs of returns, admin costs of returns, all the freight charges of the individual parcels. why does this chain so resolutely keep its head in the sand instead of making money?

Please remember, the shopfloor staff feel the same way as you... you can laugh at this catastrophe from afar. They have to live it, day after day, and it's becoming a joke I'm sure.

Hub = FAIL

Mr Myers comments seem superfluous, given that it's likely that Waterstone's will soon be under new management.

Next week, HMV will have their crucial meeting with the banks and Simon Fox will repeat the tune he's been playing for years about developing new channels for the digital age, but will the banks listen?

Hopefully, Waterstone's will find a new owner - not an asset-stripper, but one who will help the business play to its strengths rather than fight a losing war against the internet sellers and supermarkets. There will have to be some tough decisions and more stores will have to close, but hopefully we'll be left with a viable business. If that happens, it's vital that the publishing industry gets behind the chain.

The worst thing that can happen is for Waterstone's to remain part of HMV. HMV is sinking - everyone can see that - and they will drag Waterstone's down with them unless something is done.

Crystal Balls, I agree!

Why, Mr Myers, you're right up there with Charlie Sheen in regards to your nonsensical ramblings.
Have you been on the Tiger Blood?

For Waterstones to lecture anyone on supply chain madness would be hilarious were it not so tragic. As a small publisher selling a successful range of local books, a few years ago (after years of selling and supplying directly to local Waterstones shops) we were forced under the Waterstones centralisation policy, to supply via wholesalers. Now when a store needs books from us we send them to the wholesalers who send them to the hub who send them to the shop 10 miles down the road from us .... efficient or what? The net result has been that our business with Waterstones has decreased by some 60-70% while doubling with everyone else ... and they wonder why they're in trouble!

Poor Mr Myers, he's taken on an impossible job and an impossible situation. Please Mr M get Waterstones bought out of HMV's clutches, close all non or marginally profitable shops, train staff and give them a satisfying and diverse career structure, treat you publishers with respect, order reasonable quantities and return same; otherwise Waterstones is going nowhere.

Gerry Johnson's brainchild of the HUB is an enormous mistake. Myers is saddled with it and can't admit this, but has the audacity to talk about "supply chain madness," without realising the irony of his remarks.

Get rid of the hub as as soon as its practicle to do so. Filling the shop with non-book tat, only diminishes the brand and deters genuine book buyers from shopping there, because they believe it erodes the range. If suppliers are temporarily halting supplies to Waterstones it can only be a blow for availability and thus sales at the company; and thus prompt customers to go elsewhere.

HMV should sell Waterstones!

Re Hub abd His Lordship
Just an opinion from an ex manager, and firstly let me say not a bitter one. I just decided it was time to move on to pastures new.
There seems to be a continual reference to decline in range and and perceptions of customers towards the brand because of this. In my time we continually tried to pump range into the store ( pre hub ans post ) using the skills and tools availible , but to be honest in areas like Sport , Cookery , History etc , all this did was add lots of good backlist titles ( that would have been in the top 5000 etc ) , but you could not convince customers to pay full price for these , hence these titles often had a shelf life of six months, did not sell and were sent back .
As I think everyone knows backlist and it prices have been dramtically dented by outside factors. As an example my local Sainsburys were selling backlist Ian Rankin for 2.99 the other week . Hence why attmepts at selling differing product have been tried to increase margin and regain lost sales.
Perhaps Indies have a better chance , in offering better service to match the more expensive prices, perhaps in some locations they have a core audience willing or able to spend the money full price range titles.
What the future holds I do not know for the W, I hope it surives as we would be poorer without a national specialised bookseller. But the mantra of " Fill a store with range , they will buy it " will not solve the inherent problems the big W faces.
Like I said just my thoughts and opinions from the outside.

Alas the chain is a much more attractive chain to a potential buyer without the unprofitable shops and the hub and the easiest way to achieve this is through administration, maybe using one of these dubious pre-packs which rob the creditors and other potential buyers simultaneously? Any potential buyer will only pay a derisory distressed price now as they have to factor in the costs of ongoing losses with the u/p shops and however long the hub is locked in for - so that's unlikely to result in a sale. And if HMV goes into administration it will go for a song too but without all the drains on future income. One only has to look at British Bookshops to see how it could go - at least at the end of the process there will hopefully be a decent core business that can then rebuild - but the damage all round that will happen to get there will be massive. That said nobody wishes to see any of this happen - we still hope for a white knight or a magic bullet that will turn things around, but in this sort of situation for the md to have the time to go to conferences and preach to the rest of us - it's not just ironic - it looks like denial.

What a surreal statement from Myers. A large part of the UK publisher warehouse space is for distribution of books to the rest of the world (i.e. not for the UK trade) with another massive chunk being the bulk stock which feeds the notionally just-in-time forward stock held at the Hub. The Hub is a creature from a nightmare dragging down Waterstone's profitability while at the same time exposing it to ridicule. Here we are, in a narrow, heavily populated country with good communications and yet every unfortunate copy of Ian McEwan's new paperback has to go on a weird journey in and out of the Hub, shedding fuel, wasted cardboard, exhausted and baffled lorry-drivers and profitability at every turn!

What is missing from this article are Mr Myers far more contentious remarks to the BA academic conference about Waterstones and academic books: now that he's returned most academic stock to its publishers the threat is that outside of semester time they'll only remain in stock ON CONSIGNMENT - because he needs his money for more profitable books! That'll be the £2.99 Ian Rankins then. I look forward to seeing Gower Street reduced to a sort of upmarket WHS.

Poor Dominic Myers seems to be getting it unjustly in the back!

A lot of your writers show very little knowledge of the supply chain. Of course it makes sense in every possible way to have a hub - that's how all efficient complex networks work, including all major parcels carriers. My books from Bertrams and Gardners arrive via hubs. The point is the hub has to work properly that's all. Where's the sense in many different publishers delivering separately to a load of shops all over the country? Why are they complaining when they now only have to deliver to one point, where goods from the huge number of sources are amalgamated for the onward journey to store.

As I say this is the only sensible way to run a modern distribution system, and I speak as someone who once managed the largest hub in the country.

I presume that Waterstones have faith in their shop staff or they wouldn't have set them on in the first place....so why not stop insulting their intelligence and allow them to order for their branches? Better bought stock that reflects local need means less returns to the dreaded HUB.

And why do we have the HUB? As has been said more than once, it doesn't work so stop flogging a dead horse and let's get back to branches ordering from the publisher. Publishers/reps that is that do their job properly and don't overload shops with the latest supposed best selling title that is still their gathering dust while the rep has disappeared.

Oh for the days of proper publishers/reps and bookshops!

Dominic Myers comments above, and earlier statements re range, are very much at odds with recent findings.

Last Saturday my in-store business sold 2 comparatively recently published illustrated titles - one of which according to Waterstone's on line is not stocked (vide Marketplace redirection) despite at that time Berts had approx 200 copies, and Gardners approx 100 copies ; the other was only available in 2 branches and offers 2-3 weeks delivery despite availability both from publishers and wholesalers.

These two books resulted in approx £75 sale for which my business was very welcome : I could list dozens of similar instances and fear for Waterstone's vulnerability in these straightened times.

"We have 150,000 of that in our hub. If we need that for one-quarter of the book market, why do we need 3.7 million square feet of space in total?"
Because your 150,000 does not hold stock, you nit-wit. It carries a very limited amount of stock on a tiny range of titles - no more than 1,000 - and otherwise simply repacks books received from stock holding distributors.
These distributors, by-the-by, have invested enormously over the last five years to deliver almost without exception an exceptional service. Unfortuneately, they assumed they would deliver to individual shops nationwide, not to a central hub which merely duplicates their work at great additional cost (how much? £10m p.a., £15m p.a.? more!?!)and minimal saving to themselves.
Whose bright idea was that?

Shut the Hub and that would be a start to culling the glut of excess warehousing D Myers is complaining is costing the industry millions.

I echo comments above by Anonymous.

Hilarious comments from Myers, claiming the UK has too much warehouse space just after opening a massive, ineffective, costly warehouse!

The main problem with Waterstones is their empty shops. My local has bays and bays of face out stock, no range and empty bays at front of store.

Plenty of cards, soft toys, cups, note books - but books? Nah...

The best thing Myers can do is make Waterstones a bookshop again..

Here here to that. Easter eggs and chocolate at the tills? And now the lies - "We can get you any book in 48 hours"? We just can't - the stock at the hub is woefully inadequate and although Bertrams is way better, it's still not going to be guaranteed to be here in 48 hours. This will cause more customers feeling let down and messed around, and they'll take their business to Amazon not Waterstones.com after receiving such poor service.

I've actually had more sales on Amazon than I have online via Waterstones. And guess what - the very same books sell very well INSTORE at Waterstones! My company generated almost £300 in gross sales in 4 hours at a recent store signing.
Bring the books back instore, bring back the store staff who actually love books (increasing numbers do not...) and formally give the go ahead for publishers to supply direct to local stores that are within spitting distance for goodness sake. It's common sense.
Yes there is a place for a central hub but not when a store is a few miles down the road... All those couriers carting books all over the country just for them to come back 90% of the way they came; think of the carbon footprint!

Waterstone's is in trouble?
They seem to be able to spend huge amounts of money on garish purple shirts for staff and horrible bright pink shelving for their bestselling books, not to mention window decoration, posters, etc.
For a company that seems to be clinging to life by the fingertips, the people in charge sure know how to spend money.
Wait, don't tell me, you have to spend money to make money.
That's true, but why not spend the money on, oh, I don't know... books!?
I've been into waterstone's recently and asked for a book.
They didn't have it (it was, fact fans, one of the 'Sharpe' series by Bernard Cornwell) and offered to order it for me.
How long would it take?
They said three-to-four working days... after a brief discussion, the poor staff member looked genuinley guilty for not being able to supply the book quicker and did, infact, suggest Wasterstones website might be quicker!

Hit the Hub.Shut the Hub. It's the biggest waste of space in the industry. What a cheek DM coming away with this nonsense when the hub has been so disastrous! And if you want to cut returns then stop returning books - duh! Have a few sales shops that sell returns/seconds/etc.etc. they need a couple of people on the till and can be short-term leases in secondary locations - what doesn't go at 25% off rrp can go at cost price and the very small amount that's left can get further discounted. That will add to profits & immediately get rid of all the handling costs of returns, admin costs of returns, all the freight charges of the individual parcels. why does this chain so resolutely keep its head in the sand instead of making money?

Please remember, the shopfloor staff feel the same way as you... you can laugh at this catastrophe from afar. They have to live it, day after day, and it's becoming a joke I'm sure.

Hub = FAIL

Mr Myers comments seem superfluous, given that it's likely that Waterstone's will soon be under new management.

Next week, HMV will have their crucial meeting with the banks and Simon Fox will repeat the tune he's been playing for years about developing new channels for the digital age, but will the banks listen?

Hopefully, Waterstone's will find a new owner - not an asset-stripper, but one who will help the business play to its strengths rather than fight a losing war against the internet sellers and supermarkets. There will have to be some tough decisions and more stores will have to close, but hopefully we'll be left with a viable business. If that happens, it's vital that the publishing industry gets behind the chain.

The worst thing that can happen is for Waterstone's to remain part of HMV. HMV is sinking - everyone can see that - and they will drag Waterstone's down with them unless something is done.

Crystal Balls, I agree!

Why, Mr Myers, you're right up there with Charlie Sheen in regards to your nonsensical ramblings.
Have you been on the Tiger Blood?

For Waterstones to lecture anyone on supply chain madness would be hilarious were it not so tragic. As a small publisher selling a successful range of local books, a few years ago (after years of selling and supplying directly to local Waterstones shops) we were forced under the Waterstones centralisation policy, to supply via wholesalers. Now when a store needs books from us we send them to the wholesalers who send them to the hub who send them to the shop 10 miles down the road from us .... efficient or what? The net result has been that our business with Waterstones has decreased by some 60-70% while doubling with everyone else ... and they wonder why they're in trouble!

Well said Small Publisher! I have had EXACTLY the same experience.

Poor Mr Myers, he's taken on an impossible job and an impossible situation. Please Mr M get Waterstones bought out of HMV's clutches, close all non or marginally profitable shops, train staff and give them a satisfying and diverse career structure, treat you publishers with respect, order reasonable quantities and return same; otherwise Waterstones is going nowhere.

Gerry Johnson's brainchild of the HUB is an enormous mistake. Myers is saddled with it and can't admit this, but has the audacity to talk about "supply chain madness," without realising the irony of his remarks.

Get rid of the hub as as soon as its practicle to do so. Filling the shop with non-book tat, only diminishes the brand and deters genuine book buyers from shopping there, because they believe it erodes the range. If suppliers are temporarily halting supplies to Waterstones it can only be a blow for availability and thus sales at the company; and thus prompt customers to go elsewhere.

HMV should sell Waterstones!

Re Hub abd His Lordship
Just an opinion from an ex manager, and firstly let me say not a bitter one. I just decided it was time to move on to pastures new.
There seems to be a continual reference to decline in range and and perceptions of customers towards the brand because of this. In my time we continually tried to pump range into the store ( pre hub ans post ) using the skills and tools availible , but to be honest in areas like Sport , Cookery , History etc , all this did was add lots of good backlist titles ( that would have been in the top 5000 etc ) , but you could not convince customers to pay full price for these , hence these titles often had a shelf life of six months, did not sell and were sent back .
As I think everyone knows backlist and it prices have been dramtically dented by outside factors. As an example my local Sainsburys were selling backlist Ian Rankin for 2.99 the other week . Hence why attmepts at selling differing product have been tried to increase margin and regain lost sales.
Perhaps Indies have a better chance , in offering better service to match the more expensive prices, perhaps in some locations they have a core audience willing or able to spend the money full price range titles.
What the future holds I do not know for the W, I hope it surives as we would be poorer without a national specialised bookseller. But the mantra of " Fill a store with range , they will buy it " will not solve the inherent problems the big W faces.
Like I said just my thoughts and opinions from the outside.

Re: BWTY and 'Indies are expensive'
I just wanted to point out that many indies (us included) operate loyalty schemes, so even though to the casual browser we might be selling 'expensive' backlist, for the 'core audience' referred to in your post, they actually receive a de facto discount of between 7-12% (before any offers or promotions we do anyway). We will also work very hard to provide additional and significant discounts for bulk purchases, library orders, etc. Whilst we often can't match Amazon, we can get sufficiently close that other aspects of our service become very good value.
It's a moot point about whether buying 3-for-2, and getting a book you really don't like and probably wouldn't buy, versus getting one book (recommended for you by book experts, and one you'll love) is better or worse value. I'm biased, but of course would say the former.
BTW, next-day delivery for us is becoming one of our key USPs in the cut-throat retail space. I am surprised that Waterstones can't do next-day on at least some customer orders. That can't be right, surely?

Alas the chain is a much more attractive chain to a potential buyer without the unprofitable shops and the hub and the easiest way to achieve this is through administration, maybe using one of these dubious pre-packs which rob the creditors and other potential buyers simultaneously? Any potential buyer will only pay a derisory distressed price now as they have to factor in the costs of ongoing losses with the u/p shops and however long the hub is locked in for - so that's unlikely to result in a sale. And if HMV goes into administration it will go for a song too but without all the drains on future income. One only has to look at British Bookshops to see how it could go - at least at the end of the process there will hopefully be a decent core business that can then rebuild - but the damage all round that will happen to get there will be massive. That said nobody wishes to see any of this happen - we still hope for a white knight or a magic bullet that will turn things around, but in this sort of situation for the md to have the time to go to conferences and preach to the rest of us - it's not just ironic - it looks like denial.

What a surreal statement from Myers. A large part of the UK publisher warehouse space is for distribution of books to the rest of the world (i.e. not for the UK trade) with another massive chunk being the bulk stock which feeds the notionally just-in-time forward stock held at the Hub. The Hub is a creature from a nightmare dragging down Waterstone's profitability while at the same time exposing it to ridicule. Here we are, in a narrow, heavily populated country with good communications and yet every unfortunate copy of Ian McEwan's new paperback has to go on a weird journey in and out of the Hub, shedding fuel, wasted cardboard, exhausted and baffled lorry-drivers and profitability at every turn!

What is missing from this article are Mr Myers far more contentious remarks to the BA academic conference about Waterstones and academic books: now that he's returned most academic stock to its publishers the threat is that outside of semester time they'll only remain in stock ON CONSIGNMENT - because he needs his money for more profitable books! That'll be the £2.99 Ian Rankins then. I look forward to seeing Gower Street reduced to a sort of upmarket WHS.

Poor Dominic Myers seems to be getting it unjustly in the back!

A lot of your writers show very little knowledge of the supply chain. Of course it makes sense in every possible way to have a hub - that's how all efficient complex networks work, including all major parcels carriers. My books from Bertrams and Gardners arrive via hubs. The point is the hub has to work properly that's all. Where's the sense in many different publishers delivering separately to a load of shops all over the country? Why are they complaining when they now only have to deliver to one point, where goods from the huge number of sources are amalgamated for the onward journey to store.

As I say this is the only sensible way to run a modern distribution system, and I speak as someone who once managed the largest hub in the country.

I presume that Waterstones have faith in their shop staff or they wouldn't have set them on in the first place....so why not stop insulting their intelligence and allow them to order for their branches? Better bought stock that reflects local need means less returns to the dreaded HUB.

And why do we have the HUB? As has been said more than once, it doesn't work so stop flogging a dead horse and let's get back to branches ordering from the publisher. Publishers/reps that is that do their job properly and don't overload shops with the latest supposed best selling title that is still their gathering dust while the rep has disappeared.

Oh for the days of proper publishers/reps and bookshops!

Oh Dominic, we had such hopes for you, we thought you would save us from the madness we endured under Gerry, you filled us with hope about range and taking academic seriously about giving power back to the booksellers. But what have we got? A top 100 paperback chart, a Barbie pink front of store (that had to go to be totally rearranged in 48 hours with little warning), numerous display bays containing single books backed by black boxes, a Hub that can only deliver in 48 hours the kind of titles we should have in stock anyway and takes 2 or 3 weeks to deliver something as basic as the DSA's Theory Test book for stock (that used to take a maximum of a week when we could order direct), section management that is just another excuse to make us fillout reports so we spend longer monitoring and reporting what we are doing than we spend actually doing it, staff working for long periods alone on floors with no-one checking if you're even alive and now lets add very dodgy T-shirts with the legend across female staffs breasts of "can't find it? Just ask"oh I can hear the comments now and as for academic,lets just kill it off, who wants to sell a £50 textbook when we only get 30% when we could sell a £1.79 card and get 80%.I love books, I love my job and God help me I still love (well maybe just care about) this company but I implore you Dominic, listen to the people on the front line. We need stock quicker if we're not going to have it in already and there is no way that adding a middleman of the Hub to the supply chain can EVER make it quicker.

Myers is in denial alright, along the genius behind this latest 'Big Idea' (see barbie pink front of store above). They seem to think that with bright enough colours they can somehow derren brown style delude customers that the age old 3 for 2 is suddenly 'amazing value-don't miss out!'. Similarly, saying 'we can get any book in 48 hrs' in bright purple does not make it true! So sad, as I shared the optimism of the fellow anonymous in above post when Myers took over. This latest move has put the final nail in the original vision of a localised offer, less prescriptive front of store we were fed a year ago and and is a complete regression to the dark days of Gerry that Myers himself was so scathing about. The comment about Waterstones looking like an upmarket WHSmith are wishful thinking-on this evidence it's far far worse. All in the name of 'driving footfall'. (sigh) If it even comes close to working I will eat my stinky socks.

Well said Kevin Smith, a hub is the most sensible way to run a modern distribution system. The problem isnt that Waterstones have a hub, the problem is that it is not being operated well.

I have done development/process improvement work in a few hubs, some in the book industry, and run properly it is the most efficient/cost effective balance that can be acheived.

Personally, I would love to have a look at Waterstones hub as I am sure I could havwe lots of fun playing around with their processes. Maybe I will drop dominic a line????

Let me tell you about my local branch. Nice pink signage at the front of the store. Nice displays of books. Carpet coming up. Brown tape on the carpet. The toilet not working. Lots of gapson shelves. I coulkd go on.
It's an ex-ottakars so is it being run down or are we just waiting for investment into the shop, something that hasn't happened since it was taken over four years ago. Funny I notiuced other ex-Ottakars branches in a similar state. James Heneage where are you now?

I am terrified by the 48 hour promise. Please God let the hub get it right, because if it doesn't, then it's going to be horrible.

the hub, the hub, the hub. still letting down customers, giving refunds for books that don't arrive after ten days. and yes, that customer won't be coming back. have i EVER said i can get a book for a customer in 48 hours? NO

HMV folding, thats good news if it means the W can break free from its clutches and stupid ideas - but the W may well get crushed in the process. interesting times

any buyers?

The ignorance of the majority of these comments is laughable. Yet more whining from unhappy staff members who yet again seem to have escaped redundancy and will continue to work on in abject misery without having the backbone to leave, or to send an email to Dominic Myers (which he actively invites and replies to), or without picking up the phone and speaking to him (which he has no issue with). Yet more useless commentary from buffoons and charlatans who seem to think they know best. How any logical mind can argue against a Hub or multiple-hub feature for a national logistics operation is beyond me. Name one national network that doesn't have Hubs! Train, road and rail systems have them. Postal and freight systems have them. Supply chain systems have them. Even the nervous and circulatory systems in your miserable bodies have one. Those of you that have brains and hearts, at least. Do you think suppliers want to send books all over the country in small parcels? Do you think that is effective distribution, to have hundreds of SAN accounts for hundreds of shops for hundreds of suppliers? Give me a break. Do you think that Waterstones is damaged by selling non-book items? Because the sales of that category in their trading report says otherwise. What seems to be one man's 'tat' in Waterstones is lauded on this same jaundiced website as 'additional and complimentary lines' in independents. Whoever is posting such nonsense while going into work for Waterstones every day should really just go get another job, because it can't be healthy for you. And use your names when you post, otherwise you are just ridiculous.

You sound just like Dominic when he replied to my email - which he had invited and got in polite and constructive terms. His reply was a justification of what - surprise, surprise - Jerry Johnson had started. And that was the man we all hoped would see that the hub was a total mistake. Out of a space the size of an average W'stone bookshop they wanted to supply each and every store as fast as Gardners. Even a child knows you can't cook a meal for ten people in a milk saucepan. He also justified many, many things which were proven to fail and had to be redone. The hub of course can't cope. We receive books which are damaged because Hub staff are so pressured that they simply throw a lot of stuff into the 'totes' which then rattle around in transport. If I was Gardners I'd put my prices up. As for tat - the current RP displays look like something out of a cheap toy/sweet/card shop. Hurray, it's Xmas and trebles all round because 80%more cards get sold if you stock 80% more cards - duh! Never mind all the books you can't sell because the £2 cards now take the space where 1000 books used to be. HMV's incredible Mr Fox said it:- we have to sell other items, or words to that effect. See Woolworth, Borders, British Bookshop etc. for how to go down the slippery slope, lose your integrity and land in the s.... Apparently Mr Myers was reading 'Too Big To Fail' at one point. That made a lot of people laugh. It's really nothing to do with wimps not daring to leave Waterstones, it's about people who really care. As for names, it is a well known fact that with Wstones no dialogue up the chain of command is ever welcome, however much they publically 'invite comment'. So good luck, Martin Curran. You're obviously one who only looks at the trading reports and £££ whatever they come from. If you are a market trader and you can't sell your oranges, switch to indian scarves, trainers, sweets or ... chocolate??? Bookshops are about knowledge, education, entertainment and many other things, all to do with the written word. It's not just any product that you can make a fast buck on, otherwise why not open Waterstones Poundland!

When you say, "Yet more useless commentary from buffoons and charlatans who seem to think they know best." it brought a smile to my face to think you didn't see yourself falling head first into that category.

The whole point of Hubs is that they WORK and whilst the train, road and rail hubs you mention might work, poor old Dom's doesn't!

Perhaps if you had the experience of suffering at the hands of poor Waterstones management and their non working Hub you might look less like a buffoon and charlatan Mr Curran.

'Perhaps if you had the experience of suffering at the hands of poor Waterstones management and their non working (sic) Hub you might look less like a buffoon and a charlatan Mr Curran.'
Can you explain that comment, Mr. Bradley? Because it would appear to be lacking in common sense. If Mr. Curran were to have more experience suffering, he might look different, less like a buffoon? Whatever does he look like now? How much experience does one need to comment sensibly on here? You, sir, are clearly one of the trolls that stalk this website when you would be better off serving what few customers you may have left in your little Waterstones shop, my friend. Or else, maybe, just shut up?

A fantastic read, Martin Curran, I agree with all of your comments. So nice to read something on here not littered with poor grammar as well.

Some of the moaning is just funny. Myers would love to do range but THERE IS NO MONEY ! How do you want him to pay for it? He's just reacting to the reality.....As to the HUB...I don't think any staff members have any problem with a HUB in principle, what we do object to is half measures and bad implementation. They didn't put enough manpower and resources into it in the beginning, contracted to the lowest bidder logistics company , who in turn subcontracted their staff, resources and logistics to the cheapest bidder, who in turn run it as cheaply as possible, problems are band aid fixed ad hoc and so nothing ever truly works as it should and all the band aid fixes are just one horrible mess that slowly keep us clunking along but not really working. This in turn led to poor performance and less money, which in turn lead to more manpower and resources cut from the HUB which in turn made the process worse. Add into that the ever worsening retail situation means that the HUB like the stores, like every business in the UK has got trapped in a downward spiral which means that HUB has never operated properly and is just sucking money in inffectually. If they couldn't commit to doing the job properly in the first place they shouldn't have done it and stuck to direct deliveries, because the way it runs at the moment is the worst of both worlds. W likes to say that sometimes you need to spend money to make money (i.e. constant signage etc) well if they had spent the right amount of time and money in the first place with the HUB, maybe the HUB would be efficient right now. All the clunky fixes and workarounds that they say work (but don't) must have cost more in the long run.

Isn't the whole point of the Hub to be as cheap as possible though? I get that it should be cheap *and work* but the idea of not subcontracting to the lowest bidder was never an option. It's like in a hospital: people complain about how the (subcontracted) cleaners don't do a good job, and there are pools of blood underneath the beds, but if you pay someone minimum wage, what do you expect?

The Hub will eventually do the company in if it's not made to work and work soon. The difference in availability between the Northern Ireland shops and the shops in the Republic should be evident of that (despite recent closures of two shops in Dublin: remember, rents played a huge part in these shops closing).

Dominic has good thoughts which are sound...but I think he's got a more immediate problem on his own door step, and worrying about the State of the industry, as his part of it continues to struggle surprises me. The old chestnut of returns has been around for decades...and no one publisher is willing to actually say...right 'you get a fixed % of you sales' as the music industry used to do when I was a lad in W H Smug.

Oh dear....so little time and so much to do, with no money to do it with. Hubs...love or loathe them are the most cost efficient way to run a successful large business as has been pointed out. I agree! Not often I do that! BUT.....poor old Waterstones are saddled with a Gerry Johnson Mess, a parent company whose boat has lost it's rudder, all power and is looking for a tug boat to pull it to shore....and all the passengers are looking for other boats to get on. The UK and most developed countries need specialist mass retail book businesses, but the UK I think will be lucky to survive with just a reduced size Waterstones. The business will be sold...if the price is low enough, as it could make some tidy profits in the medium term....IF a buyer has deep enough pockets or a bank who is willing to take a long term view, which in this day and age is a big IF!

In the short term the hub is there...so get it to work...and the cost of business will be reduced. But if it continues to not perform well and customers cannot get books in a Waterstones shop, some MAY go elsewhere...many however will go to Primark and buy a cheap t-shirt....yadda yadda yadda.

Good luck Dominic...your ideas should have been applied several years ago, funnily that's when your predecessors adopted a style that as we now know, landed you with this mess to try and clean up. Sadly you were not given the job at the right time. Remind me who did hire Gerry and the chap before him...and the one before him....was it not certain HMV directors?

I used to be a whinging member of staff. It wasn't because I was some self-pitying waster without the get up and go to find another job. I complained because I joined a well-managed company that was a pleasure to work for and was appalled to see it gradually ruined by a group of people who didn't understand the business. I didn't leave because I hoped that things would get better - I don't normally give up just because a situation's hit a sticky patch.

Dominic wasn't around then. I might have taken him up on his offer, if I could have felt confident that some of the less approachable people in senior management wouldn't have held it against me.

As far as the range and books vs non-book issue goes, the problem lies in the fact that there are too many shops in towns that can't sustain a serious range bookseller, so the non-book stuff is a last-ditch attempt to keep the till ringing. But it sends out a terrible message to the only people who can save Waterstone's - the heavy book buyers.

I think at least half of the shops have to go - just keep the ones that can remain profitable for at least five years (with negative LFL sales factored in). That will still leave plenty of shops. Nobody wants to see booksellers loose their jobs, but it would be better than seeing the whole chain collapse, with disastrous effects on the book trade.

As far as the Hub goes, the idea is good, it's the execution that is so disastrous. Penalising booksellers for sourcing customer orders from wholesalers - because they wanted to 'get selling' and give good customer service - is absolutely crazy. Any management team that obsessively pursues margin at the expense of sales should be sacked.

My impression, as nothing more than a customer, is that Waterstones staff are trying so hard, but are sometimes let down by supply. Two examples:

- a couple of weeks ago I was in our local branch with my son, looking for a particular book that he had heard of and wanted. The assistant in the childrens' department overheard us (he recognised the book - we weren't sure of the author's name) and came over to explain the position: they had it on order but it was hard to get, but they could order it for us and get it (customer orders could be met quickly while the branch's order for their own stock apparently couldn't) so I ordered a copy. However we then found it on the shelf in another shop nearby so (with regret) I bought it there and cancelled the order - I didn't know when I'd next be in the shop.

- today, I was in the same branch and I saw a poster in the shop for a new book by an author I had read before. I didn't know had another out. I asked where I could find it and chatted to the assistant who knew all about the author's previous book. Apparently it wasn't on the shelves because it was not yet unpacked, but he went off and fetched one, then told me the author would be in signing, so I bought a copy and have left it to be signed.

Both times staff went out of their way to be helpful, were very knowledgeable and anticipated correctly what I would want, but the sales they made were then totally subject to there being books on the shelves to sell. It seems to me that's the real advantage a physical bookshop has - you can take the book away, now, right when you want it. All the knowledge and enthusiasm of the staff can't make up for not having the stuff to sell, and unless you live next door there isn't much point ordering from the shop, compared with having the book delivered by you-know-who.

Cut to the chase. Dominic Myers has never EVER managed a successful business.

What a hoot. Waterstones telling the book trade how to run its business when NONE of the Waterstones models have ever really worked.

The original Waterstone's model was good, but it was let down by poor financial controls. Shops were overstocked and returns were patchy, to say the least. No wonder the reps loved them.

The old Tim Waterstone model is now being applied successfully in Foyles and Daunts, but it's one that can only work in a small number of areas, where the customers don't care about price and just want range.

In today's tough conditions it's range and price that dictate success. Waterstones can't compete with Amazon on price but it could on range - which it's lacking, and choice with range which alas is more down to the publisher than the bookseller. Waterstones is not a niche seller and what it does is done cheaper and more efficiently online to the point you can even browse a book onscreen before ordering. W has to offer at least a comparable service with it's biggest rival to survive. Myers moaning about costs of storage and distribution is missing the point, like the Titanic's captain complaining that someone has spilt soup over his best jacket. I dont have anything against Myers - he's inherited a mess - but he needs to get less distracted and concentrate on what's wrong with Waterstones, not problems with the industry itself.

David Harris's snapshot is a very apt summary of what's going on. Staff care passionately, but system inefficiencies undermine our efforts. Some capital investment (if ony!) in the hub and, equally importantly, in our computer system would work wonders.

(And Crystal Balls please note - we have no assets to strip!)

You know what Waterstone's really needs?
Staff in purple T-shirts, bright pink displays and posters everywhere, lots of non-related book items such as chocolate and mugs, a reduction in actual books held in store (if people want something, they can order it... they do that online, right?) and staff too busy implementing changes and orders from up-on-high so they don't get the time to actually deal with customers.
Oh.

Wait.

Nevermind

Dear Depressed, I await with interest the next instalment of me politely refusing to wear the purple tshirt proffered yesterday. I was told that this would have to go further, and no doubt it will but I have no intention of being forced into something as hideous, frivolous and insulting as that - ever. A uniform I understand, and I remain happy to continue wearing my black polo shirt but I find it astonishing that in a time when morale is at such an all-time low and the future looks bleak with the remainding 8 stores for the chop yet to be announced, HO chose to implement this. It just totally underlines how out of touch Myers and his co-horts really are and also ultimately - and very regrettably - how little they think of us, the people at the coal face. There's a surprise, then.

I concur with the other publishers commenting here. It makes no sense for a store within a few miles of me to order a number of books for me to send them 200 miles to the distributor, just for them to come all the way back again...
Frankly the only ones making money out of this are the central distributor, and with a discount of 60% I'm finding that it's well nigh impossible for indies like myself to build a viable business. Unless we can afford to print thousands of copies, which few of us can... The only way I can generate any sort of decent revenue to build up my company is by supplying my local stores direct at the moment. I suspect the stores make more money that way too.
My bottom line argument is: As a businesswoman, why should I pay £20 for a courier to deliver 15 books, 200 miles away just for them to come all the way back to my area, when I can spend £1.90 on the bus supplying them to the store myself! Pass me the trolley case...