News

Trade divided over Waterstone

Publishers and agents are divided over the performance of Waterstone’s distribution centre after The Bookseller reported serious concerns about supply last week.

A number of big publishers spoken to this week downplayed the problems—Ian Hudson, Random House deputy c.e.o., said: "While we did have some initial issues our problems now are relatively minor compared to the problems that can arise in opening or relocating warehouses." Tim Hely Hutchinson, chief executive of Hachette UK, said that "good progress has been made" (see full quote below).

But others, including smaller publishers and agents, again voiced concern over the “ongoing” issues. John Blake said it had recently had to deliver one of its titles direct to stores, with m.d. John Blake adding: “The hub has got teething problems and I would imagine that it’s severely affecting their sales.” Curtis Brown agent Jonny Geller urged Waterstone’s to be “more transparent”, adding “patently there is and has been” a problem with delivery of books into shops.
Last week the Independent Publishers Guild surveyed its members about the hub though results are not yet in. It plans to discuss the results directly with the chain.

Last week The Bookseller reported publisher concern over getting books to stores from the hub for events and author signings, how long books would spend in the hub and backlist stock replenishment. The chain is believed to have changed the internal procedures inside the hub to increase through-flow in the past three weeks.

A visit by The Bookseller to central London stores saw low quantities of some top titles. Meanwhile, staff were telling customers that orders could take as long as four weeks to fulfil.

Waterstone’s was not available for comment. It has blocked access to The Bookseller’s website from computers in its stores and offices, as a result of last week’s story, which has received a record number of comments.

What they are saying about the hub

Tim Hely Hutchinson
Chief executive of Hachette UK
"The launch of the hub is an enormous project and it is not surprising that there have been some teething troubles. Waterstone's is working flat out to ensure that whatever problems they have had are resolved very quickly and good progress has been made. Waterstone's is keeping us fully informed every step of the way and the team there knows we are in full support. We were very pleased that the great majority of major titles published on Super Thursday were on sale on time around the country, proving that the hub passed this major test."

Jonny Geller
Managing director of Curtis Brown
"For too long, our authors have been told by Waterstone's (via their publishers) that there is no problem with delivery of their books into stores, when patently there is and has been. I would urge Waterstone's to be more transparent and helpful in the coming weeks, as it erodes authors' belief in them. Many of our top literary authors have enjoyed long and good relationships with the chain, but the past two or three months have been very troubling."
 

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This is now being blown wide open about the HUB troubles....... It could be hidden for only so long and the blocking of the Bookseller site is only making the maters worse with the staff.... The hard working put upon front line deal with all the problems shop staff.... God help them as Christmas is on the way.....

Here we go again! I have a feeling there will be quite a few comments on this story...

With Borders on the verge of implosion as a serious high street bookseller, and rumoured total closure of Books Etc on next quarter day, Hachette and Random House are desperate that Waterstone's should survive and prosper. A little plain speaking and a little less political posturing would in my opinion be better for the long term prospects of *all* the terrestial booktrade, as a counter to the further encroachment of Amazon.

I am glad that the HUB troubles are now common knowledge. We (store workers) all wanted it to work, but we knew it would lead to trouble.
Since then we were told there would be no job cuts (there have been loads).
Staff training has become a joke which involves DVD's telling us that everything would be ok and to just think of rainbows and kittens. Those rainbows and kittens have indeed turned up... in the boxes that have been sent by the hub (The kittens have been skinned and abused and the rainbows broken).
I loved my job and it has taken a year and a few days for the Gods of Waterstones to convert me into a book troll.
I am unhappy on my trip to work in the mornings because I know all i am going to do is take ear abuse all day from unhappy customers. Be invited to look into a box (sent from the hub) that is full of mutalated kittens and crushed rainbows. And finally to top it off my boss will ask me if i want to watch another DVD full of Gerrys porn/ customer service tips.
I hope that the Grinch steals christmas this year as I am afraid our store... as hard as we try... will not be ready. Unless everyone this Christmas would like the Jamie Oliver cook book or the Ant and Dec book, the hub felt it necessary to sent us extra stock of those two beauties!
I don't mind the fact that the big W has banned this site from our in store internet... the news has spread like wildfire and its a good read for employees on their day off.
Have a lovely day everybody x

I am sure Waterstones are delighted to see THH of Hachette is onside. Strangely those other publishers who are concerned are not going public, I wonder why?.
Staff in the shops are now telling me they have been told NOT to concern themselves with books they have'nt got and get on and deal with whats in front of them. All very positive but of no use to a publishers rep who is concerned by non availability of new and recent titles. I wonder if THH knows just how many of his companies books are missing from the shops?

Waterstone's may be keeping the likes of Hatchette "informed" so that they toe the party line but what about keeping booksellers up to date? I'd rather go on the 200 plus comments on the previous thread where it has been stated that branches had to bypass the Hub in order to have sufficient stock of some Super Thursday titles. If head office had shown some transparency and honesty and admitted the Hub is having difficulties then the publishers if not exactly happy would at least be more understanding and there would not be such an angry backlash from frontline booksellers. And a total PR disaster could have been avoided.

The comments from Waterstones increasingly bear less and less relationship to reality. The evidence would seem to be that while large publishers - by dint of much pushing - can get their titles through in time, the results are that backlist, customer orders and regional titles are pushed to the back of the queue. The Hub seems to be targetted on quantities out and naturally it seeks the easiest options. We have seen from reports books stuck at the hubs for weeks. Indeed one of our own titles has now sold out in the trade while it has not left the Hub! The potential impact on smaller publishers is devastating and is only now beginning to be seen. As for the comments of larger publishers I would suspect privately their comments would be much less circumspect.

What seems incredible is that in the 1980s the trade complained quite rightly about three week turnaround times. It was sorted. And now Waterstone has returned to them and trumpets it as a brave new world!

"We were very pleased that the great majority of major titles published on Super Thursday were on sale on time around the country, proving that the hub passed this major test" Good to see that some of the publishers are still stuck in the spin cycle. Having 4-5 major titles directly delivered is not in my opinion a sign that the hub is passing any major tests. Is nice though to see a follow up article. Be interesting to see this time though if more publishers or major players would chip in some views. Silence is often far more telling than that of the spoken word.

Tim Hely H is a very nice chap and is sensible not to alienate Waterstone's top brass. WS remains his biggest single customer. However - he would offer himself for comment on the opening of a paper bag ("the bag openers have been keeping us well informed of progress...") and his comment is meaningless.

Jonny Geller, of course, is in a totally different position and can afford to make this sort of criticism.

Meanwhile, WS in banning the site, are making fools of themselves. "LALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOUUUUU...." Very silly.

I wonder how academic publishers and the shops are feeling.....Not very well i would imagine!

From what I can see of this debacle, why are the major shareholders not calling for a Vote of No Confidence in the management team and also Gerry Johnson. It is all very well giving such a high esteem job to an individual to manage a company's output successfully (product and people) but the proof of that individual's worth, especially in difficult economic times, is to see an upward change in attitude and profit as a result of their management skills. None of this has happened since Mr Johnson was put into place. I'll say it frankly - he and his management team should be facing redundancy, not the workers. He and his team are, effectively, the largest leak in critical profits from the company. They don't seem to be proving their worth to the shareholders, the company employees or the customers. Someone above Mr Johnson ought to be having some very stern discussions with him about his exit, and instead be lining up someone who can lead the company from the store floors, not the ivory tower that they are at the moment. I'd love to see Mr Johnson's management skills come into play when he has to tell a rather frustrated and angry customer that their order wont be in for two weeks. Oh, yes, that's right - I was such a customer!

Why is all the focus on saving the hub and not the customers (and perhaps the staff while you are at it)? Publishers, who are just the suppliers in the great scheme of things, should be much less complacent. Especially as how their own books perform this Christmas will in turn affect jobs under their stewardship.

Actually Tim gives us comments quite rarely, and only when he has something to say. Think the Amazon dispute, and more recently Sunnyside. So I think you are wrong about that.

It's affected us so badly that we are just trying to keep our head above water. Perhaps more publishers aren't speaking out because they are too busy trying to save their businesses from the chaos that has ensued from titles not being ordered, promotions being missed, backlist orders disappearing and general disarray. Given the state of the book trade in general the hub 'changeover' (or 'disaster' as we like to put it) couldn't have been worse timing.

Mmmm. Not quite sure what you mean about Sunnyside etc - he did go on the Today programme after all. I'm not meaning it as a criticism or abuse, just an observation that he often seems to be quoted. Took me one try to find this, for instance (not a paper bag moment, admittedly)

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/68203-suppliers-tighten-bertrams-terms...

Many publishers are talked about but only one offers a quote.

I'm quite curious about the money side of things, behind the angry front lines. What with the logistics firm and hub staff to pay, as well as the running costs, I can't see how this is working out better value compared to the 650 odd staff who got canned to make way for this. I know in the long run it was hoped that by shifting weight from publishers, Waterstones could get better deals and discount rates for themselves and then in turn the customers, but surely that's miles away. The extra hours and what not being put in to fix seemingly endless hub issues, and the loss of customers through said issues, the firm must be going negative. I know the big publisher A titles often do get through (if a little slower than they should), but I really feel for the smaller publishers and those out side the big 10 list. Range is what keeps a good book shop thriving in hearts and minds, not the super market best buys. I do hope that those 200+ comments and this post finally gets some faces slapped hard, as this company is so much better than this.

As it's covering Waterstones so very well, is The Bookseller going to have anything on Books Etc finally being run into the ground?

So if the suppliers are now unhappy with W's/GJ, added to the already unhappy staff & seemingly disenchanted customers, does anyone expect any change? Who else is left to force them into positive change? Angry shareholders? I dont want to go into the whole dictatorship talk again but is there anyone above GJ who can force him to be honest & take positive action or is he beyond reproach?

So now the news about the ban hits the papers. Surely the fact that there are worries about Christmas trade will mean the share price will be affected?

This is now being blown wide open about the HUB troubles....... It could be hidden for only so long and the blocking of the Bookseller site is only making the maters worse with the staff.... The hard working put upon front line deal with all the problems shop staff.... God help them as Christmas is on the way.....

Here we go again! I have a feeling there will be quite a few comments on this story...

With Borders on the verge of implosion as a serious high street bookseller, and rumoured total closure of Books Etc on next quarter day, Hachette and Random House are desperate that Waterstone's should survive and prosper. A little plain speaking and a little less political posturing would in my opinion be better for the long term prospects of *all* the terrestial booktrade, as a counter to the further encroachment of Amazon.

I am glad that the HUB troubles are now common knowledge. We (store workers) all wanted it to work, but we knew it would lead to trouble.
Since then we were told there would be no job cuts (there have been loads).
Staff training has become a joke which involves DVD's telling us that everything would be ok and to just think of rainbows and kittens. Those rainbows and kittens have indeed turned up... in the boxes that have been sent by the hub (The kittens have been skinned and abused and the rainbows broken).
I loved my job and it has taken a year and a few days for the Gods of Waterstones to convert me into a book troll.
I am unhappy on my trip to work in the mornings because I know all i am going to do is take ear abuse all day from unhappy customers. Be invited to look into a box (sent from the hub) that is full of mutalated kittens and crushed rainbows. And finally to top it off my boss will ask me if i want to watch another DVD full of Gerrys porn/ customer service tips.
I hope that the Grinch steals christmas this year as I am afraid our store... as hard as we try... will not be ready. Unless everyone this Christmas would like the Jamie Oliver cook book or the Ant and Dec book, the hub felt it necessary to sent us extra stock of those two beauties!
I don't mind the fact that the big W has banned this site from our in store internet... the news has spread like wildfire and its a good read for employees on their day off.
Have a lovely day everybody x

I am sure Waterstones are delighted to see THH of Hachette is onside. Strangely those other publishers who are concerned are not going public, I wonder why?.
Staff in the shops are now telling me they have been told NOT to concern themselves with books they have'nt got and get on and deal with whats in front of them. All very positive but of no use to a publishers rep who is concerned by non availability of new and recent titles. I wonder if THH knows just how many of his companies books are missing from the shops?

"We were very pleased that the great majority of major titles published on Super Thursday were on sale on time around the country, proving that the hub passed this major test" Good to see that some of the publishers are still stuck in the spin cycle. Having 4-5 major titles directly delivered is not in my opinion a sign that the hub is passing any major tests. Is nice though to see a follow up article. Be interesting to see this time though if more publishers or major players would chip in some views. Silence is often far more telling than that of the spoken word.

The comments from Waterstones increasingly bear less and less relationship to reality. The evidence would seem to be that while large publishers - by dint of much pushing - can get their titles through in time, the results are that backlist, customer orders and regional titles are pushed to the back of the queue. The Hub seems to be targetted on quantities out and naturally it seeks the easiest options. We have seen from reports books stuck at the hubs for weeks. Indeed one of our own titles has now sold out in the trade while it has not left the Hub! The potential impact on smaller publishers is devastating and is only now beginning to be seen. As for the comments of larger publishers I would suspect privately their comments would be much less circumspect.

What seems incredible is that in the 1980s the trade complained quite rightly about three week turnaround times. It was sorted. And now Waterstone has returned to them and trumpets it as a brave new world!

Waterstone's may be keeping the likes of Hatchette "informed" so that they toe the party line but what about keeping booksellers up to date? I'd rather go on the 200 plus comments on the previous thread where it has been stated that branches had to bypass the Hub in order to have sufficient stock of some Super Thursday titles. If head office had shown some transparency and honesty and admitted the Hub is having difficulties then the publishers if not exactly happy would at least be more understanding and there would not be such an angry backlash from frontline booksellers. And a total PR disaster could have been avoided.

Why is all the focus on saving the hub and not the customers (and perhaps the staff while you are at it)? Publishers, who are just the suppliers in the great scheme of things, should be much less complacent. Especially as how their own books perform this Christmas will in turn affect jobs under their stewardship.

From what I can see of this debacle, why are the major shareholders not calling for a Vote of No Confidence in the management team and also Gerry Johnson. It is all very well giving such a high esteem job to an individual to manage a company's output successfully (product and people) but the proof of that individual's worth, especially in difficult economic times, is to see an upward change in attitude and profit as a result of their management skills. None of this has happened since Mr Johnson was put into place. I'll say it frankly - he and his management team should be facing redundancy, not the workers. He and his team are, effectively, the largest leak in critical profits from the company. They don't seem to be proving their worth to the shareholders, the company employees or the customers. Someone above Mr Johnson ought to be having some very stern discussions with him about his exit, and instead be lining up someone who can lead the company from the store floors, not the ivory tower that they are at the moment. I'd love to see Mr Johnson's management skills come into play when he has to tell a rather frustrated and angry customer that their order wont be in for two weeks. Oh, yes, that's right - I was such a customer!

I wonder how academic publishers and the shops are feeling.....Not very well i would imagine!

Tim Hely H is a very nice chap and is sensible not to alienate Waterstone's top brass. WS remains his biggest single customer. However - he would offer himself for comment on the opening of a paper bag ("the bag openers have been keeping us well informed of progress...") and his comment is meaningless.

Jonny Geller, of course, is in a totally different position and can afford to make this sort of criticism.

Meanwhile, WS in banning the site, are making fools of themselves. "LALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOUUUUU...." Very silly.

Actually Tim gives us comments quite rarely, and only when he has something to say. Think the Amazon dispute, and more recently Sunnyside. So I think you are wrong about that.

It's affected us so badly that we are just trying to keep our head above water. Perhaps more publishers aren't speaking out because they are too busy trying to save their businesses from the chaos that has ensued from titles not being ordered, promotions being missed, backlist orders disappearing and general disarray. Given the state of the book trade in general the hub 'changeover' (or 'disaster' as we like to put it) couldn't have been worse timing.

Mmmm. Not quite sure what you mean about Sunnyside etc - he did go on the Today programme after all. I'm not meaning it as a criticism or abuse, just an observation that he often seems to be quoted. Took me one try to find this, for instance (not a paper bag moment, admittedly)

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/68203-suppliers-tighten-bertrams-terms...

Many publishers are talked about but only one offers a quote.

I'm quite curious about the money side of things, behind the angry front lines. What with the logistics firm and hub staff to pay, as well as the running costs, I can't see how this is working out better value compared to the 650 odd staff who got canned to make way for this. I know in the long run it was hoped that by shifting weight from publishers, Waterstones could get better deals and discount rates for themselves and then in turn the customers, but surely that's miles away. The extra hours and what not being put in to fix seemingly endless hub issues, and the loss of customers through said issues, the firm must be going negative. I know the big publisher A titles often do get through (if a little slower than they should), but I really feel for the smaller publishers and those out side the big 10 list. Range is what keeps a good book shop thriving in hearts and minds, not the super market best buys. I do hope that those 200+ comments and this post finally gets some faces slapped hard, as this company is so much better than this.

As it's covering Waterstones so very well, is The Bookseller going to have anything on Books Etc finally being run into the ground?

So if the suppliers are now unhappy with W's/GJ, added to the already unhappy staff & seemingly disenchanted customers, does anyone expect any change? Who else is left to force them into positive change? Angry shareholders? I dont want to go into the whole dictatorship talk again but is there anyone above GJ who can force him to be honest & take positive action or is he beyond reproach?

So now the news about the ban hits the papers. Surely the fact that there are worries about Christmas trade will mean the share price will be affected?

Today, we had a delivery of over 50 totes (no boxes, no no, we have blue 'totes' the colour of a suffocating smurf), and yet the paperwork with them said the delivery consisted of only eight totes. We tried to recieve them, and found out that the system had gone down, and were told from head office (thank you, intranet, for all your worthless information) that we should "...put the books on the shelves and recieve the stock later when the system is working again". Well done, Gerry, on your great Hub idea. Bravo. That noise you hear? It's the customers going elsewhere, followed shortly after by the staff. We'd go on strike, but know you'd just replace us with students who haven't read anything they weren't told to do on their college courses and who have no idea what the difference is between 'fiction' and 'non-fiction'.

Apologies if it's slightly off-topic, but we didn't get our print copy of The Bookseller today. It may be that our postie was just a bit crap, but did anyone else miss out? Has Gerry cancelled the entire company subscription?

We didn't get ours either...

We have an event this weekend... the stock has been on order for ten days... it hasn't arrived yet. I left the store at 5:30 and it wasn't there and I very much doubt our author will be signing anythign tomorrow (unless I go to Tesco or Sainsbury's and buy some cheap copies!)

There's a postal strike guys.. and magazine subscriptions are paid months ahead. So no need for paranoia

And if we want to survive Christmas, and claim to like our jobs (pre the last few weeks) then it might help if people pulled together a bit and stopped moaning. So you got books without paperwork - hardly unusual from even big distributors and we all coped with that.

Its got a lot lot better in the last few weeks so lets try and be positive that the worst is over.

Lets keep the pressure up now everyone. Your comments matter and maybe just maybe they at the top will start to take notice.

Great news that this story has been picked up by The Guardian and the pressure should maintained as its appalling how demeaningly head office treat its staff - after 5 years service I was still being summoned to the manager's office to turn my pockets out! So "please stop" if you are happy with the status quo that's fine and dandy and there's no need to be posting on this site telling the majority who obviously are concerned about all the negativity surrounding the Hub to stop moaning as this is the only forum they have.

I've always found it strange that the right-wing, free market-supporting businesspeople who run today's companies take their inspiration from Stalin. Like the Soviet Union in the 1930s, they have purges, five year plans, productivity drives and a paranoia about any dissent. Give me James Heneage's old Tory noblesse oblige any day. On the subject of James Heneage, if I was Simon Fox, I'd be on my knees begging James Heneage to clear up the mess that is Waterstone's (and if I was James Heneage, I'd say "No!").

re: Please stop moaning and pull together

I think you'll find that most of the staff to pull together and act v.proffessionally at work. Just because people are complaining here doesn't mean they're not working hard or coming together as a team. In fact, i'd say that it is because they are working hard, helping each other and doing their best for the customers, is the reason why they are posting here.

Nobody likes giving it their all (and then some unpaid time on top) and being crapped on and being made the fall guys by the guys at the top!

What Gerry clearly doesn't understand is that we booksellers are passionate and do actually care about books. Banning the Bookseller web page will not stop me reading it and commenting where I think I should. The Hub is a disaster, one that may yet improve with time, but i can't see it happening this side of Christmas. Our booksellers are stressed, overworked, under appreciated (By head office, not within store) and frankly embarrassed by the state of the Hub. Every time i inform a customer it will take 10-12 days for the book to arrive in store they laugh and tell me they'll get it off Amazon in a few days. Who can blame them? How shameful! I work with passionate, brilliant people who are amazing booksellers and yet we're told to be more efficient, more proactive, How when we have to rely on a system that doesn't work? We disappoint are customers on a daily basis and embarrass ourselves with this nonsense. I truly think Waterstones is an incredible place to work, a great company, amazing people who actually love books, this is rare in any field. Its obvious that the top brass do not think this way at all. Someone once told me Alex Raynor (Who I've never met) toured a store and commented on the dusty selves. "You don't get this in Bodyshop". You don't get it cause the BodyShop doesn't sell books! and you took our staff away to pay for the Hub! go figure!

The Bookseller blocking is shameful after all we are also booksellers. To be honest i don't ave time to read the Bookseller at work so will continue to do so in my own time. Bad luck Gerry I Love Books!!

"Stop moaning and get on with it"?!?! I've been grafting nonstop trying to mitigate the hubs effects. I'm seriously knackered and seriously furious after this week. I hate letting customers down and i feel like jacking it all in. The hub can't supply the 20 or so university branches - how are they going to supply 300 branches at Xmas? Scott Coning hasn't been able to organise direct supply hotline from half the publishers. Not that you can ask him about it - our academic coordinator or whatever he is has taken some leave just as the universities start up. Brilliant. I'm sure Tim Hely Hutchinson's opinion is worth something, but I can assure him "teetthing troubles" is an understatement and in my experience Waterstone's do not keep anyone "fully informed".

If publishers are so concerned about their books not being in Waterstone's shops maybe they should hurry up and deliver them to the hub a bit more quickly

"If publishers are so concerned about their books not being in Waterstone's shops maybe they should hurry up and deliver them to the hub a bit more quickly"

On what grounds do you base that comment?

I received this very morning a customer order that the hub had received on the 28th of September from a supplier, a mere 3 days after the order was placed.

I do not believe it fair to try and place any blame on the publishers/suppliers.

In my store at present, so long as it is a title we will likely sell anyway, customer orders by myself go straight to Gardners if they have it.

To hell with profit margins, I'm damned if I'm gonna lose people to Amazon. I'm 19 years old and I've been with the company since I was 17. I've been part time and full time over that period, on and off, and even though it was a high street store I was so excited to get the job there rather than have to wind up at a checkout in Tesco.

My mother has worked in a library most of her life and I've been reading most of mine. I love books, and like it said on our long-discontinued black bags "A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking."

Amazon might be able to supply books, sure, but its not a book shop. Waterstone's might be just another high street chain but its still a book store and if we lose it from the high street I think it will be a sad thing.

Sadly, based on Gerry Johnson's background, I don't get the feeling he really cares at all about books, about their significance, their power, and he sure as hell knows nothing of the people he's driving into depression with his Hub.

Hello Count Duckula! The last time we didn' t get The Bookseller for a while was just before we were bought by Waterstones! ( Dooo do do do, do do do do ....Freaky "Tales of the Unexpected" music....). More likely the postal strike though.
I miss normal teleordering to publishers where you'd get things within or just over a week. I miss Hotline. I miss 48 hour customer orders. I miss having proper section control. I miss ordering properly for a local bookshop ( and I promise small publishers, I've been trying to order the titles that I remember doing well that came from you). I miss having a proper window display that actually displayed what we had in store, not just the one title with a big name that we have on offer. I miss having imaginative kids windows, in fact, ANY kids windows. I miss feeling like I could use my initiative, but no initiative here folks, we're Waterdrones. I miss Books Etc.

If a 'number of publishers downplay a problem' and 'good progress is being made' in my humble but long experience, that means too much doo doo is hitting too many fans all at once!!!!! Take it from me, that many realistic sales folk will be very worried cos' there is no high street chain to pick up that much slack.....looks like Christmas gifts this year will be focused more on DVD's than books...so hey look on the positive side...HMV stores should benefit! Thus Simon Fox & co loose on the swings but gain on the roundabouts. Great to know that if you want a 'Super Thursday' title you're good to go...but what about the ever diminishing range, that in theory a small amount customers still demand? How annoying of them! Let's here the chant...hub hub hub....rub a dub, given em' blue totes a good shove!

I did enjoy the 'Smurf reference......

David you

It's ironic that the "Get Selling" initiative was accompanied by actions that resulted in very poor customer service. I used to get nearly all of my customer orders from wholesalers and felt that a 90% fulfillment rate within one working day was worth the lower margin (43% - still good in my book). In one small shop where I worked, the restricted range meant that c/o's were 5-10% of the business, so we prided ourselves on getting it right. We couldn't match Amazon's prices, but at least we could provide speed and personal service. Two years ago, Waterstone's started producing league tables with KPI's for books sourced from wholesalers. A store manager who was famous for running a store that gave great service and was very popular in its town, now found herself being regularly chastised for being the "worst" shop in the region. Another Waterstone's initiative - not officially sanctioned, but encouraged by my RM - was to give customers Waterstone's vouchers unless they specifically asked for a book token. Many customers, particularly the elderly, were never aware that they had a choice. I would have ignored this cynical initiative, but there were KPI league tables for this too, with any shop that sold too many book tokens have to explain themselves. Good customer service comes from happy staff who are supported by proper training and resources that work properly. "Get Selling" is more about squeezing every last penny out of the customers.

Yes ex-M I well remember the days of the wholesalers KPI league table. I was always top of my region by the simple and bonkers expedient of keeping any single copy or reprint title off the shop floor in a box. At first such a tactic made me feel vaguely uncomfortable and then downright silly. But it reduced conversations with my rude loutish RM ( thus saving my sanity and reducing the risk of violence) and showed how simple it was to satisfy these numpties! I discussed it with my DM (also rude and loutish) and he agreed it was what he would do! What a crazy world they have created. No wonder we all use Amazon!

I left the W in July & I haven't been back since. I see my friends there regularly at leaving parties but I don't go into the shop. It makes me too sad. I didn't work there all that long about 18 months but in that time so much changed. Not for the better. I was in the kids section which took more money than a larger store, which had more range than others and saw it get squashed down. The manager didn't like us ordering so we had to do it sneakily. Now there's hardly a kids window at all and the section is awful.
The bad thing is, here we don't have any independent bookshops apart from second hand ones.
In the time I worked there, about 20-25 people left with only 5-10 people getting hired and then the ideal rota came in..! 3 people in the shop is not good, you can't actually do anything. I was left in kids by myself regularly and hardly got anything done and was stressed about all the stuff I had to do.
The hub, in my opinion sucks. But not only that, the whole ethos of the company now is to make money. But it's not a nice place to go into anymore. & customers are surely picking up on that. They're not stupid.
I just thought I'd add my thoughts

before anyone points it out, i'm sure all of us lowly till monkeys/stock mules in the book trade understand that the companies purpose - whether an indie or a chain - is to make money. i think the point is there's a right way to do it & that doesn't appear to be the way waterstones are doing it. Ignoring the staff AND the customers for the few extra % you can get in the short term surely will not work forever.

The Guardian may have picked up this story and The Bookseller has done a follow up but when it comes down to it, Waterstone's just doesn't matter that much to anyone outside the industry, even it the big W went bottom up, 4000+ jobs across the whole country doesn't amount to much, there won't be rallies to save our jobs as there would be for a car plant. Gerry won't allow the Hub to be a 'failure' (even if it is) and he really doesn't care a jot what anyone else at Waterstone's thinks (has anyones BM even mentioned in public all the comments on here? You'ld think none of it has happened as far as our management is concerned) If Gerry went it would be with a golden handshake and off to another company so it's win win for him, so why should he care?
Us booksellers are idiots as far as the higer ranks are concerned, look at how we're treated, how we're spoken to(JFDI) The customers are also idiots as far as they are concerned, think price increases on RRP, (they're too daft to notice) think floorwalking and get selling (don't worry about them once they are in the queue, we've 'got them' by then so they can just wait) (and, it doesn't matter if we don't have the book they actually want, flog em something else instead) think delayed customer orders (we've got their money, most will just put up with waiting)
We love books, we love our jobs, it's the company we no longer love. We would love to JFDI, but give us the books to sell and the staff to do the jobs and the respect that is supposedly one of our values

so with this article appearing in the Guardian, will GJ now be banning the Waterstones staff from looking at their website? A website that is helpful when you have someone after a book that was mentioned in the paper but they cant remember the name of it. And if he bans that then it may make the print version, or someone else may pick up on it & it'll get more interest & coverage. Will it get to the point where the stores will be banned from using the internet other than the bertrams & gardners sites?

I truly hope this is the start of addressing the huge problem that is the book hub. I am sick and tired of apologising for a dreadful system which has caused no end of problems. It seams very much like the Gerry will have to either work much harder or perhaps bite the bullet.

The HUB is a complete disaster, all the promises made re how it would make life so much easier for the bookstore staff were lies. Our workload is so much heavier that we are now all expected to work overtime on an almost daily basis just to try and keep our heads above water. Shame on you RM's, shame on you the DM's and all the other quislings who have allowed Gerry and co to put the business in such an intolerable position.

Get Selling, Linksaves, Mystery
Shoppers,Personal Shopping and Floorwalking bring a smile to all my colleagues now at work....................

As yet the public would have little idea of what is going on - nor a great deal of interest, but bit by bit, more and more customers will buy online and it won't be from Waterstone's own site. The hub would have made some sense in Brentford had they have been able to implement it properly...but it just seems like a catastrophic series of ongoing blunders that could have an effect on the entire future. ( Thanx though to the W's branches that ordered some of my stuff through Gardners last week ). xxxx much love due.

No publisher can be happy with the hub. W has demanded extra discount from them because it is supposedly cheaper for publishers to send everything to one address rather than send to every store separately. But this is clearly not happening: in order to get books to stores on time the hub is sometimes being avoided (super thursday titles) and some stores such as Gower St are not on the hub yet - which they would be if everything had gone according to plan, instead of descending into a complete shambles. So the understanding upon which W has demanded the extra discount is not being met. If publishers were happy with the hub, then I imagine they would have no compunction in publicly praising it. Their silence tells us they are not happy, but would rather be discrete and say nothing, this is especially true of the smaller publishers, whom W can more easily bully.

Being a small publisher brings such delights as taking the books straight to the desk...eg. Rough Trade...I used to post off books to Waterstone's branches direct...all over the country...I would then send off invoices to Solihull, that was in 2000...shortly after a letter arrived from Head Office in Brentford saying that everything would need to be processed through Bertrams - this was much easier for both parties. I never felt bullied by Waterstone's and remember the elation when I achieved a core stock status...( thanx Debbie Williams / Deansgate ). As time went on the company seemed to take more of a corporate route, just like the ad agency I worked for, just like everything else. Waterstone's swallowed up Ottakar's who had gobbled up Hammicks and things seemed to get a little more remote. But, without any doubt, Waterstone's were pretty good to me. I am seen as some kind of 'maverick head case from Essex'...possibly deserved and will be releasing a new title in 2010 which I hope will find it's way into some Waterstone's branches - via the hub, Gardners or Bertrams...who knows? If anyone in buying is reading this I would be prepared to supply Waterston'e with 500 copies of my next book at no charge...make them core stock, sell them and keep any money...better still, donate to a charity. x

Ok... Gerry, tell the nice people how you intend to have everything up and running smoothly for Christmas. I have a lot of ex colleagues that have no faith in you what so ever !Edited, PJ, 12.10.09

I don't think it's just the hub that is the problem - it is the entire change in ethos at Waterstones. Our local Ottakar's used to give staff a fair amount more autonomy - fantastic displays, supporting local authors, pushing books that they thought were good - all this has gone.

I recently went to buy the new James Lees-Milne biography and I was told, despite having had several enquiries that day, they had received no copies. I waited, returning the next week to be told 'yes lots of people have asked for it but we only received one copy'. It seems madness - I was then quoted up to 3 weeks to order it!

The change in ethos is even further evident in the fact that our local town, Bury St Edmunds, is running a Christmas Window Display competition - something the former Ottakar's store excelled at. The prize is

Hear hear. And the stupid thing is that the shift away from customer service can only lead to a decrease in profits in the long-term as customers take their business elsewhere. A happy staff = a happy shop = happy customers = increased profitability. This is the recipe for long-term success. Treat your staff with dignity and respect and they will work hard for you - something James Heneage knew very well. Do this lot actually HAVE any people skills?