News

Publishers "celebrating" after Waterstone's takeover

The takeover of Waterstone's by Alexander Mamut is cause for celebration among the publishing industry, Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page has said.

In one of several weekend press reports about Friday's purchase of the chain, Page told the Sunday Telegraph if Waterstone's was to close, writers of lesser known novels would lose essential exposure. "Waterstone's is our core market and it is the only specialist bookseller with a presence in most UK cities. We are celebrating . . . Physical stores allow you to browse, meander and discover new writers. People are more impulsive online, in the way iTunes is more impulsive as a record store."

Penguin UK c.e.o. Tom Weldon added: "Bricks and mortar retailers are clearly the shop window. All publishers have an interest in the financial security of Waterstone's. And publishers need to help Waterstone's in any way they can. This may be through author events, while booksellers need to focus on better embracing their local communities."

Daunt himself outlined his bookselling philosophy to the Independent. He said: "First of all you need good books, the right ones and enough of them. You need to establish a good ambiance and finally you need really good staff."

Enders Analysis analyst Benedict Evans said of Daunt: "He is a great bookseller and Waterstone's has not been a great bookshop in many years." However, he warned against Daunt trying to replicate his independent model across the Waterstone's chain. "You can't turn all 296 [shops] into a Daunt-style store," he said.

He repeated the widely held belief that one of his first tasks will be to reduce the number of stores but suggested the chain should concentrate on being a bookstore and not focus on non-book product. He said: "One of the mis-steps Waterstone's made was that it tried to shore up its revenues with ancillary products that ended up diluting its attractiveness as a bookstore. The plan will be to strip it back, although the execution will be hard."

The Sun said the Waterstone's sale "was akin to [HMV Group] selling off the family silver" but the cash would pay off debts. The Daily Mail's City editor Alex Brummer thought running two franchises under threat from digital rivals was a "car crash" for HMV Group. He said the task awaiting James Daunt has been underlined by changes to the book market in the US, where Amazon announced on Thursday e-book sales have outstripped those of physical books and Barnes & Noble received a £633m rescue bid.

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Well Mr Weldon if bricks and mortar retailers are "clearly the shop window" why don't you do something to reflect the fact that our premises are being used to promote your product. We can buy your books cheaper from Amazon than we can from you!

Well said, Stuart. I find it ridiculous that I would make more money if I purchased my stock from Amazon or indeed the local supermarkets.I am essentially subsidising the chains so they can get huge discounts from the publishers. When is the Bookseller Association going to fight our corner?

Less focus on non-book product. It's the only thing performing UP in the company. Ok some of the stuff of recent is abit why on earth are we stocking it. But what it started as Book Related products are great. Removing it from stores without Compition for this stuff is just stupied.

Look as W.H.Smith they work both together WELL and they are going strong. There really is no growth for a just bookselling chain. Im Not Saying we have to go fully Smiths style but there not closing stores there opening them.

People may hate it but RP works. 7% of my stores sales come from Stationary. and growing.

I take issue with Mr Page's ill-pondered stock statement that "Physical stores allow you to browse, meander and discover new writers."

Regrettably, most bookshops in London do not radiate the kind of atmosphere conducive to an hours' concentrated browsing.

Here's how more and more readers - for better or worse - reclaim the browse, meander, and discover-part of enjoying literature: hear or read about new writers on the internet, buy a Kindle, visit Amazon, send a free sample of writer A's exciting new novel X to Kindle, read the first few chapters in the comfort of your favourite reading chair accompanied by a cup of superior coffee and a cigarette - without even spending money on a tube fare...

I'd gladly relinquish coffee and cigarette for a pleasant arrangement of armchairs at my nearest bookshop but chain bookshops don't offer anything anywhere near that level of sophistication.

Please don't let it become the norm. It's so sad, but you know it makes sense.

The BA will not fight our corner as they represent some of the culprits as well, so they clearly have a conflict of interest. In reality if it wasn't for Book Tokens the majority of independent booksellers would leave the BA and perhaps form their own association to properly represent independent booksellers and to negotiate discounts whether on books, insurance, Yodel etc. When Book Tokens become widely available online then that will perhaps be "the straw that breaks the camel's back" and many independent booksellers will say bye bye BA.

Stupid, not stupied.
They're, not there.
Stationery, not stationary.

Yes, yes, I know the spelling/grammar police are annoying, but come on!

Agree, some of the RP is stupid and maybe we do tend to over order on some lines (that only trickle out) but some focussed RP is a good idea and does sell.

We do not want to go down the WHSmith line though. They have just been voted worst retailer for 2 years running by Which? Customers always complain how they are not sure what it is for...lots of stock but nothing they need, chocoalte bars rammed in the till and at the customers at the till (at least our linksaves are actual books).

WHSmith only survive by renting out space to mobile phone stands, tat and the Post Office. Profits come from this - not product (which is why they have none). If the post office pulled out of WHSmith tomorrow, they'd be bust by the weekend.

And why would the public want TWO WHSmiths when they don't even like one?

Survival for it's own sake is not a long term business solution.

Well, I don't know what stores you go to but we have sofas and armchairs and don't pressure people into buying what they are browsing (we have many people who come in for a browse and then leave an hour or three later... we don't mind because these browsers do become customers).

....and these are the people staffing our only specialist bookseller chain?! He or she might be not be out of place in WHS (praised so roundly) but please not in Waterstone's of beloved memory.

Yes, RPFAN's command of the English language is shockingly poor. James Daunt won't be able to improve Waterstone's unless the staff on the shop floor are literate.

I expect lots of these kind of statistics to be thrown around over the next few weeks in an attempt to justify the RP strategy of Myers and co. Fact is, in our store actual stockholding of books has pretty much halved over the last couple of years. In that time RP stock has probably trebled. So of course book sales are declining and RP increasing.
The reason why OVERALL sales are suffering so badly is because the previous board adopted this short-sighted strategy of selling high margin 'product' at the expense of catering to our core customers,who have fled by their droves. Footfall is down 20-30% over last 2 years- is this really just because of internet competition/recession/ebooks? I think many of those customers could return if Daunt comes good on his promise of an 'undiluted focus' on books, together with a bit of cash to regenerate the frankly shabby stores.

Are we REALLY going to be talking about the level of literacy in Waterstone's staff?
REALLY?
God forbid they hire someone who has difficulty or suffers from dyslexia... as we know, these people have no interest in books...

What a horrible bunch you are.
Look past spelling, you sad little people, and focus on the comments themselves.
Oh, and grow up.

Oh, I'm sure publishers are delighted - they were looking over the precipice of an abyss into which all of them were just about to tumble.
They can now carry on as they were, suitably greasing the rickety wheels of the carriage that almost came off the rails. The trouble is, I'm afraid, is that this is just a delay of execution.
The first thing that Waterstones will do is come to the publishers for extra "support". So, in addition to the bungs given for front of house display, 3 for 2's etc etc, the publishers will be expected to hand over more discount, accept quicker returns and generally provide the safety net of positive flow credit terms i.e. the books will come back BEFORE payment becomes due on a 90 day credit.

With Sainsbury's now the favoured bookseller I think the independents now fully realise where we stand - under the poop deck.

With all of this in mind I have now inaugurated a system of buying which entails the checking of discount offered by Amazon on pre-orders. We have discovered this weekend on just a handful of titles that we can get better discount from Amazon - and in some cases, noticeably better - so Amazon have received those orders.

should it not be MrChips rather than mrchips? Blah blah blah

Be nice if we had a bit more say in the RP ordering. As odd as it seems, there are certain board games that do rather well, that only really come in around Christmas, or once in a blue moon. Tie in games to the literature, like Pratchett's THUD game, or the Dungeons & Dragons starter seem to sell quite well, mainly because so few places in our town sells them. As long as the quality is good, or the RP is from a sane mind, I think the added sales are always a bonus, but of course the range, and the core of our book stock, need strengthening. Tough times, and tougher decisions ahead to be sure, but if the new boys play their cards right, maybe, just maybe we will see a model closer to the kind of book shop the more indie purists like, and less and less the McBook chain that people are constantly banging on about on this website.

Well said!! lol

They NEED something to whine about.

I think we have a place for cards, notepads, and kids plushesbut we couldleave the board games and sweets to Smiths.

We could do with a couple of exclusive lines - Gruffalo Back packs at Christmas perhaps.

It's all talk at the moment, let's get summer over with and see what happens from there!

Sorry Tom, it does matter. Many people come to bookshops specifically because they enjoy talking to intelligent, educated staff. It's a value-added thing you just don't get from Amazon. And how can it not affect sales if booksellers are peering at their databases and solemnly informing customers that we don't seem to have anything by Camoo or Gerter?

In their defence. No no, I think 7% of the sales are indeed non moving, hopefully Mamut wont spot that in the accounts until he's taken over.

In their defence. No no, I think 7% of the sales are indeed non moving, hopefully Mamut wont spot that in the accounts until he's taken over.

Stephen Page says "Waterstone's is our core market and it is the only specialist bookseller with a presence in most UK cities. We are celebrating . . . Physical stores allow you to browse, meander and discover new writers. People are more impulsive online."

Several points here. 1. If Waterstones represents Faber's core market i.e more than 50% of your UK turnover you are in a very vulnerable position indeed. A one customer business is in a very dangerous position. 2. Waterstones is the only specialiast bookseller in most towns and cities. Yes, maybe, but they got there by closing down the previous core market - yes, independent booksellers - by dint of demanding more and more support over the years to the detriment of what was a very safe, safe by its fragmented nature, core market. 3. It is perfectly possible to browse online in the comfort of one's own home with a coffee that didn't cost three quid from CostaStar. 4. People ARE more impulsive online. Clicking the "buy" button dosen't seem like spending money. Standing in a bookshop and handing over cash or credit card does. People spend more online because it is so easy.

Unfortunately I'm so old I remember things as they were, BW (before Waterstones) and I have watched publishers over the years concede and concede to the point now where Tom Wheldon (I remember him as a young turk at Macmillan) is telling us "publishers need to help Waterstone's in any way they can". And that will be publishers continuing to grant financial concessions and unlimited returns.

Well Mr Weldon if bricks and mortar retailers are "clearly the shop window" why don't you do something to reflect the fact that our premises are being used to promote your product. We can buy your books cheaper from Amazon than we can from you!

Well said, Stuart. I find it ridiculous that I would make more money if I purchased my stock from Amazon or indeed the local supermarkets.I am essentially subsidising the chains so they can get huge discounts from the publishers. When is the Bookseller Association going to fight our corner?

The BA will not fight our corner as they represent some of the culprits as well, so they clearly have a conflict of interest. In reality if it wasn't for Book Tokens the majority of independent booksellers would leave the BA and perhaps form their own association to properly represent independent booksellers and to negotiate discounts whether on books, insurance, Yodel etc. When Book Tokens become widely available online then that will perhaps be "the straw that breaks the camel's back" and many independent booksellers will say bye bye BA.

Less focus on non-book product. It's the only thing performing UP in the company. Ok some of the stuff of recent is abit why on earth are we stocking it. But what it started as Book Related products are great. Removing it from stores without Compition for this stuff is just stupied.

Look as W.H.Smith they work both together WELL and they are going strong. There really is no growth for a just bookselling chain. Im Not Saying we have to go fully Smiths style but there not closing stores there opening them.

People may hate it but RP works. 7% of my stores sales come from Stationary. and growing.

Stupid, not stupied.
They're, not there.
Stationery, not stationary.

Yes, yes, I know the spelling/grammar police are annoying, but come on!

....and these are the people staffing our only specialist bookseller chain?! He or she might be not be out of place in WHS (praised so roundly) but please not in Waterstone's of beloved memory.

Yes, RPFAN's command of the English language is shockingly poor. James Daunt won't be able to improve Waterstone's unless the staff on the shop floor are literate.

I love it when the grammar police get their grammar wrong.

In their defence. No no, I think 7% of the sales are indeed non moving, hopefully Mamut wont spot that in the accounts until he's taken over.

In their defence. No no, I think 7% of the sales are indeed non moving, hopefully Mamut wont spot that in the accounts until he's taken over.

Agree, some of the RP is stupid and maybe we do tend to over order on some lines (that only trickle out) but some focussed RP is a good idea and does sell.

We do not want to go down the WHSmith line though. They have just been voted worst retailer for 2 years running by Which? Customers always complain how they are not sure what it is for...lots of stock but nothing they need, chocoalte bars rammed in the till and at the customers at the till (at least our linksaves are actual books).

WHSmith only survive by renting out space to mobile phone stands, tat and the Post Office. Profits come from this - not product (which is why they have none). If the post office pulled out of WHSmith tomorrow, they'd be bust by the weekend.

And why would the public want TWO WHSmiths when they don't even like one?

Survival for it's own sake is not a long term business solution.

I expect lots of these kind of statistics to be thrown around over the next few weeks in an attempt to justify the RP strategy of Myers and co. Fact is, in our store actual stockholding of books has pretty much halved over the last couple of years. In that time RP stock has probably trebled. So of course book sales are declining and RP increasing.
The reason why OVERALL sales are suffering so badly is because the previous board adopted this short-sighted strategy of selling high margin 'product' at the expense of catering to our core customers,who have fled by their droves. Footfall is down 20-30% over last 2 years- is this really just because of internet competition/recession/ebooks? I think many of those customers could return if Daunt comes good on his promise of an 'undiluted focus' on books, together with a bit of cash to regenerate the frankly shabby stores.

RP is the only section up, possibly due to the amount of range we've lost from the rest of the store?
I am currently operating with £40k less stock than I had last year, do you not think this could be a factor as to why RP is showing improvement and everything else isn't?
The fact that there is such a push on customer orders is an acknowledgement that our range is poor and that we are losing sales to our on-line competitors!
I am filling gaps in shelves with notebooks, toys, games... in the hope that this will compensate for what we are losing in book sales. I'd like to fill this space with titles that will continue to sell.
Horizon is great, but it is so frustrating that titles are being recalled just weeks after hitting the shelves, despite whether they have sold or not, how frustrating!
RP? Yes, let's follow WHSmiths successful business model... NOT!

I take issue with Mr Page's ill-pondered stock statement that "Physical stores allow you to browse, meander and discover new writers."

Regrettably, most bookshops in London do not radiate the kind of atmosphere conducive to an hours' concentrated browsing.

Here's how more and more readers - for better or worse - reclaim the browse, meander, and discover-part of enjoying literature: hear or read about new writers on the internet, buy a Kindle, visit Amazon, send a free sample of writer A's exciting new novel X to Kindle, read the first few chapters in the comfort of your favourite reading chair accompanied by a cup of superior coffee and a cigarette - without even spending money on a tube fare...

I'd gladly relinquish coffee and cigarette for a pleasant arrangement of armchairs at my nearest bookshop but chain bookshops don't offer anything anywhere near that level of sophistication.

Please don't let it become the norm. It's so sad, but you know it makes sense.

Well, I don't know what stores you go to but we have sofas and armchairs and don't pressure people into buying what they are browsing (we have many people who come in for a browse and then leave an hour or three later... we don't mind because these browsers do become customers).

Are we REALLY going to be talking about the level of literacy in Waterstone's staff?
REALLY?
God forbid they hire someone who has difficulty or suffers from dyslexia... as we know, these people have no interest in books...

What a horrible bunch you are.
Look past spelling, you sad little people, and focus on the comments themselves.
Oh, and grow up.

Well said!! lol

They NEED something to whine about.

I think we have a place for cards, notepads, and kids plushesbut we couldleave the board games and sweets to Smiths.

We could do with a couple of exclusive lines - Gruffalo Back packs at Christmas perhaps.

It's all talk at the moment, let's get summer over with and see what happens from there!

Sorry Tom, it does matter. Many people come to bookshops specifically because they enjoy talking to intelligent, educated staff. It's a value-added thing you just don't get from Amazon. And how can it not affect sales if booksellers are peering at their databases and solemnly informing customers that we don't seem to have anything by Camoo or Gerter?

Oh, I'm sure publishers are delighted - they were looking over the precipice of an abyss into which all of them were just about to tumble.
They can now carry on as they were, suitably greasing the rickety wheels of the carriage that almost came off the rails. The trouble is, I'm afraid, is that this is just a delay of execution.
The first thing that Waterstones will do is come to the publishers for extra "support". So, in addition to the bungs given for front of house display, 3 for 2's etc etc, the publishers will be expected to hand over more discount, accept quicker returns and generally provide the safety net of positive flow credit terms i.e. the books will come back BEFORE payment becomes due on a 90 day credit.

With Sainsbury's now the favoured bookseller I think the independents now fully realise where we stand - under the poop deck.

With all of this in mind I have now inaugurated a system of buying which entails the checking of discount offered by Amazon on pre-orders. We have discovered this weekend on just a handful of titles that we can get better discount from Amazon - and in some cases, noticeably better - so Amazon have received those orders.

What about your returns? Back at your cost within 30 days?

should it not be MrChips rather than mrchips? Blah blah blah

Be nice if we had a bit more say in the RP ordering. As odd as it seems, there are certain board games that do rather well, that only really come in around Christmas, or once in a blue moon. Tie in games to the literature, like Pratchett's THUD game, or the Dungeons & Dragons starter seem to sell quite well, mainly because so few places in our town sells them. As long as the quality is good, or the RP is from a sane mind, I think the added sales are always a bonus, but of course the range, and the core of our book stock, need strengthening. Tough times, and tougher decisions ahead to be sure, but if the new boys play their cards right, maybe, just maybe we will see a model closer to the kind of book shop the more indie purists like, and less and less the McBook chain that people are constantly banging on about on this website.

Stephen Page says "Waterstone's is our core market and it is the only specialist bookseller with a presence in most UK cities. We are celebrating . . . Physical stores allow you to browse, meander and discover new writers. People are more impulsive online."

Several points here. 1. If Waterstones represents Faber's core market i.e more than 50% of your UK turnover you are in a very vulnerable position indeed. A one customer business is in a very dangerous position. 2. Waterstones is the only specialiast bookseller in most towns and cities. Yes, maybe, but they got there by closing down the previous core market - yes, independent booksellers - by dint of demanding more and more support over the years to the detriment of what was a very safe, safe by its fragmented nature, core market. 3. It is perfectly possible to browse online in the comfort of one's own home with a coffee that didn't cost three quid from CostaStar. 4. People ARE more impulsive online. Clicking the "buy" button dosen't seem like spending money. Standing in a bookshop and handing over cash or credit card does. People spend more online because it is so easy.

Unfortunately I'm so old I remember things as they were, BW (before Waterstones) and I have watched publishers over the years concede and concede to the point now where Tom Wheldon (I remember him as a young turk at Macmillan) is telling us "publishers need to help Waterstone's in any way they can". And that will be publishers continuing to grant financial concessions and unlimited returns.

Sorry as the spelling /grammar police are on duty I apologise for the typos above, it was a bit early in the morning....

It's my firm belief that if Waterstones wants to grow as a company, then this truly is their chance to diversify. There's truth in the fact that over the course of the past 2 years, in the eyes of the general public, the quality of the Waterstones name has steadily depreciated. Now with our newly appointed owner and DM, this is Waterstones chance at redemption. Rather than dismiss the notion of epublishing, why not embrace the opportunity to get in to the market. I've heard tell of a proposed Waterstones exclusive eReader. Why not include a 5.0 megapixel camera (bought in bulk build costs at £5.80 a unit), throw in a Wi-Fi chip allowing customers to link up to the stores Wi-Fi, provided it's offered in the branch, include a program similar to the barcode scanner which is standard on almost all smart phones and you present the customer with the opportunity to browse, scan and buy there and then at the shop. This isn't to say that we should take anything away from the eReaders paper counterparts. I believe the eReading experience should be used to compliment the regular reading experience, but it would be a naive person who truly believes that ePublishing isn't going to be a substantially large part of the book trade in the near future. In the 90s, the notion of an Automated Teller Machine seemed outlandish and was initially scoffed at... now I can't remember the last time I set foot in a bank. I'm just saying...

It reminds me of the TV show Black Books where one of the characters accidently walks into a major book chain shop and comes out with hundreds of pounds worth of books, a large cappuccino and blueberry muffin.

They then replicate it in their own book shop with coffee, comfy sofas that swallow children and an information point. They soon get sick of the over crowded shop full of customer

I had a very pleasant experience in Sainsbury's Book Department today, and I will certainly return for a further buying experience. Not a purple t-shirt in evidence either.

The Bat asks: Why sell Book Tokens if sales outnumber redemptions?
The Bat says: Anyone who posts before 6.30am is allowed to make typos without censure!

Ta !