Curation, technology and creating a cultural destination were three of the key themes that emerged from the first Foyles bookshop workshop held on Monday (11th February) in partnership with The Bookseller.
Representatives from across the industry came together at the Charing Cross Road store to discuss how to create the bookshop of the future, in anticipation of Foyles' move to a new location in the former Central St Martins campus.
Booksellers, publishers and agents from the UK and US attended the session, working in groups to address three topics: discovery and choice, bookshops as cultural destinations, and diversification of products and services. Nearly all agreed that the new building, and nearby Crossrail expansion, gave an opportunity for Foyles to becomes a destination in its own right.
Matt Haslum, consumer marketing director at Faber, said: "Charing Cross Road needs to reclaim its status with a modern revival of the literary quarter. Imagine flags along the road, paving slabs covered with book jackets. Inside, you could do gallery-style tours on the hour, introducing people to new books. You’d have a café and a restaurant where people would want to be."
Other groups built on the idea, envisioning a "multi-use space" hosting gallery exhibitions, live music, theatre and other events that broaden the definition of in-store events. London Book Fair inter-national key accounts manager Amy Webster said Foyles needed: "to move from events that are in a bookshop to events that just happen to be in a bookshop."
Many people advocated the idea of a club, with privileges for members ranging from specially selected books being sent to customers each month to exclusive events access.
Peter Jocham, group key accounts manager at HarperCollins, said: "It needs to be an organisation more than a shop, something that sits alongside brands like the National Trust. The club doesn’t have to be exclusive, but Foyles could be so proactive in engaging with them."
Amelia Douglas, project manager at Pan Macmillan, said: "Readers who come into shops now want to explore and find something new. If you want a specific title, you find it online and order it. But if the shop doesn’t need to hold all that backlist, it gives so many opportunities."
Technology was a recurring theme, with many suggesting an app. "The paradox is that every strong bricks and mortar bookshop offer will have to have digital elements," said James Spackman, m.d. of Watkins Publishing. His group explored ideas from a Yo Sushi-like conveyor belt of books, to a "tweet roll" of book jackets projected on the walls as they are sold, and an "interesting Argos", with touch-screen virtual shelves of books and the stock kept off the shop floor. However, he insisted that book buying remained an emotional edge: "Buying books is not a transaction - it's a ritual, a ceremony."
The second workshop takes place today (15th February).