News

Waterstone's branches roll out "bespoke offer"

Waterstone's branches have begun implementing a promotional strategy based on "local insight and curiosity" rather than central dictates in the wake of the ending of the chain's decade-long three-for-two offer last week.

Last Thursday (6th October) booksellers in Waterstone's up and down the country began tearing three-for-two stickers off books and selecting new titles to place either percentage-off or money-off offers on.  

A spokesperson for Waterstone's said: "We still want to offer value to our customers and so will use a range of promotions, including money off and points offers."

The new autonomy for stores has led to a variety of creative displays in Waterstone's shop floors and windows. In the Sutton Coldfield branch (pictured) there is a display dedicated entirely to baking. Staff at the University of Birmingham branch are running a weekly Top 10 paperback chart of bestselling titles and booksellers' selections, all of which are discounted. The Nottingham branch last week announced its biggest paperbacks would be selling at 25% or 33% off r.r.p.

Paul Aspley, regional manager in the West Midlands, said: "Empowerment, autonomy and creativity are at the heart of what we are trying to do in the shops in my region. We understand people in Stratford-upon-Avon shop in a different way to people in Coventry, who are different again to those in Sutton Coldfield. Now, our booksellers have the freedom to use their understanding of their customers and communities to create a bespoke offer." Feedback had been "excellent" and sales "very encouraging", he added.

Emily Hamer, regional manager for West London, said: "Branches choosing their own promotions is a good idea because it re-focuses all of us back on the books and allows individual shops to show off our booksellers' skills and experience, and excite, challenge and engage our local customers. Each store is unique, and it makes Waterstone's relevant, dynamic and local once again."

Daunt has accepted ending the three-for-two offer will lead to a fall in sales at the chain, but recently told the Telegraph: "Sales will fall, but they are not going to go down for long . . . [Consumers] will come back more often and, ultimately, sales will go up."

The changes at Waterstone's got a thumbs-up from the US literary agent Andrew Wylie, who spoke to The Bookseller from the Frankfurter Hof. He said he expected Daunt to lead a revival of the chain. "Waterstone's is to undergo an energetic and creative rethink. Instead of seven interesting bookstores in England, you are going to have 307," he said.

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And it may also help to have staff who work as a team rather than criticise their store manager publicly on a national industry forum.
You wouldn't have got away with that on the intranet--especially when using your real name.

At least he had the cojones to do so rather than issue veiled threats under cover of anonymity, eh?

and by working as a team you mean shut up and do as your told rather than listen to the people who deal with the customers direct. Why does your location dictate a persons interests?

I couldn't find the science fiction, fantasy section in the Boston store. Maybe that genre doesn't sell well in my area.

So how does the publisher coordinate seperate offers with each individual store? This sounds like a short term pre-christmas measure rather than a long term stratagy, at least until more information is available.

Did you ask anyone where it was when you couldn't immediately find it?

As much as I don't know, I would hazard an educated guess at that being the point of the new Regional Commercial Managers...

Maybe it's not your manager. It's probably your RM straightjacketing your managers and not allowing them any input, so they can't give you any input.

I like the baking table illustrated here for officla purposes but in our region that would be a shootable offence. There's not enough HUGE piles of books (no less than 3 at it's lowest point), the Mary Berry doesn't have a grab pile. The hummingbird isn't new enough, the pink tablecloth isn't for sale so you can't use it and if you have one pink cloth on a table you must have the same cloth on every table. The baking sign? How much is that? I don't see it priced?

You're also presuming that IS his real name!

Oh, for God's sake !

A display dedicated entirely to baking? These are indeed revolutionary times for us all...

'The Nottingham branch last week announced its biggest paperbacks would be selling at 25% or 33% off r.r.p.'

We are all doing this!

'Staff at the University of Birmingham branch are running a weekly Top 10 paperback chart of bestselling titles and booksellers' selections, all of which are discounted.'

Again, hardly new or revolutionary. Plus, let's be clear, unless the booksellers' choice is on the list of paperback books that can be reduced, then it can't be, so the selection is limited.
This whole report is a bit strange. The baking table is actually pretty good I think, but there are loads more examples like that out there, far better than the Nottingham or Birmingham examples of change. In fact, I'd say a better story is that stores no longer have to have a chart at all if they don't want one!

What discount on the smallest paperbacks?

Quite amusing really. What will Waterstone's regional managers take the credit for next? Re-inventing the wheel?

It seems there are 2 Paul Carters work!ng for Waterstones.

The baking table is great but It's not an example of change as James
Daunt has said he wants us to go back to pyramid tables. He doesn't
Like VM as it doesn't allow people to pick up books I.e the British bake off book.
And gaps on tables = lost revenue.

At least that's what our RM told me. But this is the problem. Too many
People with too many conflicting ideas. And nobody on the floor, i.e managers
And staff allowed any input. Which is not what Daunt is saying.
Different managers and RMs making their regions confirm to
their ideas no matter what is coming from the top.
I know a region near ours whose RM has told their stores he
knows better than Daunt and to to massively over so we can pile
It high.

Okay, it's got so serious now that we need the Big Innovation Guns in to a) put some ideas that work on the table (pink tablecloth or not!), and b) sort out the troops by making them actually be more positive than glum like you lot above me.

That's right, it's time to call in Mary Portas!

I jest, but only a little because Jeez, on this site all I read is apathy and unnecessary criticism. Do you people do nothing but sit on your thumbs, procrastinate and wait for the asteroid of apathy to knock you into extinction?

Listen, as the old saying goes, if you're not part of the solution then you're part of the problem. And frankly the book-selling business doesn't need any more "problem makers" to pull itself down into the mire.

I can't put it anymore frankly than this: shut up moaning, and instead try thinking up some proactive ideas that will help all booksellers - chain and independent alike - to innovate their stores.

Take your point but, No, we don't sit on our thumbs and procrastinate. We are all out on the shop floor every day giving it our best, working Damn hard and trying to live Daunt's vision. The problem is, the same middle managers, those same bastions of chaos throw everything back in your face, even when you've only followed their instructions to the letter. Look at all the moaning for the last year, pretty much every complaint boils down to feeling bullied by managers, usually above store level, who
Yell at us for doing as we are told, black mark us for using initiative ( because you can't do anything unless it was their idea but will never like anything unless they did it themselves) and yet they take responsibility for nothing and aren't even consistent in what they want. how do you expect morale to be high , working like that? I'm sure its the same bad bosses we are complaining about now as under Gerry. we just have to learn to ignore them and not get so stressed we end up venting on here. It's understandable but not helpful.

By that I mean I work for Waterstones too. For the record, I quite like my shop windows!

I had hoped that the old school RMs would have been purged by now. I can only assume that Daunt is stuck with them, thanks to the finer points of employment law. It's a great pity.

And it may also help to have staff who work as a team rather than criticise their store manager publicly on a national industry forum.
You wouldn't have got away with that on the intranet--especially when using your real name.

At least he had the cojones to do so rather than issue veiled threats under cover of anonymity, eh?

You're also presuming that IS his real name!

It seems there are 2 Paul Carters work!ng for Waterstones.

By that I mean I work for Waterstones too. For the record, I quite like my shop windows!

Maybe it's not your manager. It's probably your RM straightjacketing your managers and not allowing them any input, so they can't give you any input.

I like the baking table illustrated here for officla purposes but in our region that would be a shootable offence. There's not enough HUGE piles of books (no less than 3 at it's lowest point), the Mary Berry doesn't have a grab pile. The hummingbird isn't new enough, the pink tablecloth isn't for sale so you can't use it and if you have one pink cloth on a table you must have the same cloth on every table. The baking sign? How much is that? I don't see it priced?

and by working as a team you mean shut up and do as your told rather than listen to the people who deal with the customers direct. Why does your location dictate a persons interests?

I couldn't find the science fiction, fantasy section in the Boston store. Maybe that genre doesn't sell well in my area.

Did you ask anyone where it was when you couldn't immediately find it?

So how does the publisher coordinate seperate offers with each individual store? This sounds like a short term pre-christmas measure rather than a long term stratagy, at least until more information is available.

As much as I don't know, I would hazard an educated guess at that being the point of the new Regional Commercial Managers...

Yes, I think so, it's one of his duties
reverse phone lookup

Oh, for God's sake !

A display dedicated entirely to baking? These are indeed revolutionary times for us all...

'The Nottingham branch last week announced its biggest paperbacks would be selling at 25% or 33% off r.r.p.'

We are all doing this!

'Staff at the University of Birmingham branch are running a weekly Top 10 paperback chart of bestselling titles and booksellers' selections, all of which are discounted.'

Again, hardly new or revolutionary. Plus, let's be clear, unless the booksellers' choice is on the list of paperback books that can be reduced, then it can't be, so the selection is limited.
This whole report is a bit strange. The baking table is actually pretty good I think, but there are loads more examples like that out there, far better than the Nottingham or Birmingham examples of change. In fact, I'd say a better story is that stores no longer have to have a chart at all if they don't want one!

The baking table is great but It's not an example of change as James
Daunt has said he wants us to go back to pyramid tables. He doesn't
Like VM as it doesn't allow people to pick up books I.e the British bake off book.
And gaps on tables = lost revenue.

At least that's what our RM told me. But this is the problem. Too many
People with too many conflicting ideas. And nobody on the floor, i.e managers
And staff allowed any input. Which is not what Daunt is saying.
Different managers and RMs making their regions confirm to
their ideas no matter what is coming from the top.
I know a region near ours whose RM has told their stores he
knows better than Daunt and to to massively over so we can pile
It high.

The stores where the management and staff continued as best they could to keep a sense of independence, and who continued to trust that they could read their market and choose the best books for their customers, despite the horror of the Gerry/Dom years are the stores that will do best in this new regime. We found ways around all of the supermarket strategies, and continued to squeeze in as many recommends and personally chosen themed displays as we could, and our management continued to trust us to order for our sections. I feel bad for the stores where the management gave up and kissed butt. They will have forgotten how to run a proper bookstore, and they will have lost their best staff, so will struggle now to succeed.

What discount on the smallest paperbacks?

Quite amusing really. What will Waterstone's regional managers take the credit for next? Re-inventing the wheel?

Okay, it's got so serious now that we need the Big Innovation Guns in to a) put some ideas that work on the table (pink tablecloth or not!), and b) sort out the troops by making them actually be more positive than glum like you lot above me.

That's right, it's time to call in Mary Portas!

I jest, but only a little because Jeez, on this site all I read is apathy and unnecessary criticism. Do you people do nothing but sit on your thumbs, procrastinate and wait for the asteroid of apathy to knock you into extinction?

Listen, as the old saying goes, if you're not part of the solution then you're part of the problem. And frankly the book-selling business doesn't need any more "problem makers" to pull itself down into the mire.

I can't put it anymore frankly than this: shut up moaning, and instead try thinking up some proactive ideas that will help all booksellers - chain and independent alike - to innovate their stores.

"The moaning is happening because people ARE being proactive and working hard and just getting shafted for it."

ok listen up whinging underlings. I am your boss, I am your bosses boss. Proactive ideas are not welcome ok. JFDI exactly as I tell you, under the understanding that if it goes wrong it is entirely your fault. In fact at that point I will have never had anything to do with it and will be sure to pass this on to MY Boss. Comprende? I don't know why you find this so hard? GET ON WITH IT (p.s I'll be along shortly to change my mind).

Mary Portas has visited Daunt already so maybe you lot at Waterstone's could learn from that episode? You can read about it here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8655412/Shop-Mary-Portas-at-Dau...

Final words are:

"But James, please can you invest in some happy staff? Your customers are spending enough to raise at least half a smile."

Oh dear...

Take your point but, No, we don't sit on our thumbs and procrastinate. We are all out on the shop floor every day giving it our best, working Damn hard and trying to live Daunt's vision. The problem is, the same middle managers, those same bastions of chaos throw everything back in your face, even when you've only followed their instructions to the letter. Look at all the moaning for the last year, pretty much every complaint boils down to feeling bullied by managers, usually above store level, who
Yell at us for doing as we are told, black mark us for using initiative ( because you can't do anything unless it was their idea but will never like anything unless they did it themselves) and yet they take responsibility for nothing and aren't even consistent in what they want. how do you expect morale to be high , working like that? I'm sure its the same bad bosses we are complaining about now as under Gerry. we just have to learn to ignore them and not get so stressed we end up venting on here. It's understandable but not helpful.

I had hoped that the old school RMs would have been purged by now. I can only assume that Daunt is stuck with them, thanks to the finer points of employment law. It's a great pity.

RMs are frightened because many feel essentially redundant in the new climate. Instead of accepting (and embracing) their new role- to help the stores implement their own ideas/promotions- many are still trying to keep strict control over increasingly frustrated managers, who really need to stand up to this unhelpful and counterproductive behaviour and just say no. Those days are gone. As will the jobs of any RMs stubbornly clinging to this pointless powertripping will be - if they don't change- I hope. About time, too.

In theory, this is a good - but not new - idea. It's been pitched as if it's groundbreaking, but this is how independents work. Waterstones wants its stores to feel like independents through schemes like this, which I'm all for, but these ideas get caught up in the politics of a chain bookstore - because at the bare bones of it that's what we are. Ideas from booksellers for original tables, recommends and so forth, have to go through so many avenues they'll never end up as originally imagined. The personal touch is working - customers to my Chippenham branch are really valuing a good conversation with us, a recommendation they hadn't heard of before, but the trouble is that they're surprised to get this: they think, as a chain, that we'll be - well, like W H Smiths. Uninspired staff, shoddy displays and bad customer service.

Actually, the main issue to Waterstones' troubles lies in the fact that the public majority don't really want bookshop prices anymore. Too many come in to browse titles; and then buy on Amazon. If Waterstones is to survive, it needs to give individual booksellers and branch managers much more freedom to speak directly to their customers, instead of making them feel like a walking wallet. Physical stores cannot compete with online prices, but if the status quo can be that Waterstones is a place for bibliophiles, and not just another Smiths, then it can secure its place on the high street for those who oppose the emptiness of buying books online, and want a genuine, impassioned experience, not a computer-generated recommendation.

So Andrew Wylie thinks there were only seven interesting Bookshops in the UK - no doubt if asked to draw a map of the UK he would simply circle the Holland Park postcodes. God save us from posh Tw*ts like him - there are hundreds of interesting Bookshops in England ( and yes even some in Scotland and Wales and Ireland). JD is going to add some more so well done to him - but let's not have the Bookseller using Andrew Wylie to suggest hat only JD has ever run an interesting bookstore.

Our store is already seeing the benefit to these changes with positive feedback from customers and increase in sales. Our manager has been really flexible by allowing us to choose the right books to discount and display for our sections. So far so good.

To me it makes sense. If my branch of Waterstone's can offer a range of books, discounted, that more closely reflects what its customers (me) want rather than a head office bestseller selection then I'm more likely to find the book I want at a discount.
You should take another look peeved, unless you are an 'unreperesentative' person...

Understandably annoying. We can price match tho with the other stores if you find a book you bought at full price is discounted elsewhere :)

lovely comments MIDDLE MA, couldnt have put it better. cant wait to be discounting all those celebrity memoirs

I noticed this in the Stirling branch on Saturday. I was extremely impressed with the history shelves, it looks like the bookshop and the University have started talking. Brilliant Scottish history section, with books by lecturers at the University!

But did you buy anything?

no i got the isbn's to get them from amazon

Ok, I may just be a mere reader/customer - but full marks to the excellent teams in my local stores. They displays look great, they are eye-catching, and the staff go the extra mile. (Yes, I'm talking about you, Edinburgh!)

As the UK best sport and local history publisher I am more than happy to help Waterstones create wonderful displays by recommending books suitable for your area. Simply drop me an email with what store you would like help and I'll forward you a complete list of sport and local history titles. I'm also happy to send jpegs of front covers so you can create an amazing display.

DB Publishing- always here to help.

Well good luck to Waterstones, the three for two had to go.

another customer

that is nonsense, this proposes that the offers will target the local audience, i.e what sells the most in the local region meaning if you have a different interst those items will not be discounted, but they might be in other stores. In fact i suspect you are not a customer at all but an employee of the company.
My local store in Reading often has to order items in for me because they are 'too specialist to keep in the store'. well i know somewhere i can order them for considerably less, guess what its called...

No I'm not an employee. Yes, as I understand it you're right, specialist books would have to be ordered, but these won't have been discounted before either - so there's no difference, you might as well order them from the cheapest or preferred source. But if you are just browsing then if that shop is able to push books that they think their local customers are more likely to want then I can't see how that's bad, especially if they're allowed to discount them too.
My local shop is Dorchester and I'd rather hope that we aren't in awe of Katie Price and James Corden and the staff can show me something different.

Why be so dismissive of young girls? Just because somebody is young or a girl, or even both, does not mean they are thick. Nobody has to ask the opinion of the staff - but they are there if you want them.

I too would like the books I want as cheap as I can get them - but I don't want a high street full of betting shops and payday loan places - I'll run the risk of paying extra - and hopefully get served by a pleasant young girl

I wasn't suggesting young girls are thick, but being young probably means you have little life experiences compared with myself (I'm in my early fifties) plus i would imagine we have vastly different reading tastes. The high street dying is the fault of the shops being gimmicky and having poor standards. Plus if i did ask your opinion you will run off and look on the intrnet which i can do in the comfort of my own home.

Again, understandable. I'm a 22 year old girl though, so I'm gonna chime in...myself, and all the other young girls in W, deal with hundreds of enquiries on a daily basis. Having been there for several years, you get to know what book goes with what, so to speak. So even though I don't have the same level of life experience I've spoken with plenty who do, and the books they buy or don't buy, or tell me they love or hated, all feed in to the recommendation I'd give to you if you came up and asked me :) its knowing my customers, job and store inside out, and that's something booksellers are really good at if you give us a chance.

I didn't make myself clear - I'm not actually a young girl myself (male 30s). I do however think they have something to offer as far as sales assistants. And I was speaking as a fellow customer.

But that's off topic. I am looking forward to visiting Waterstone's again. They can be a bit bland and clone-like - I'm hoping that will change. I too have to order a lot of what I want - and sometimes buy online. But I do like the shopping in the store and I hope what the new bespoke offers make the stores more interesting. Here's hoping!

Do you shop at a supermarket? Ever eaten in a chain resturant? They do different pricing too..AND they don't match the prices to match another branch. Do people complain - no and they have been doing it for YEARS.
I'm sorry to tell you the illusion of Bookshops being some form of charity is long gone - we are a business, we NEED to take money, it's about profit, it always has been, it always will be.
If you choose to shop else where, ok. that's your choice. You can have great staff, with intresting books, a warm enviroment where you can spend a few hours relaxing (having a coffee if you like) and perhaps talk to a human who has similar interests, join one of our many book clubs, or you can sit at home and click souless buttons, and look at the "other people also bought these" sections - I know where I would rather be!

intereting analogy, supermarkets and chain restaurants
guess what? I don't use either if i can help it
you people constantly contradict yourselves, 'its a business' come and chat with like minded people.
thats a rather large assumption, you assume there are like minded people within your stores and they have all the time in the world. this is what i was commenting on earlier, your staff chatting while im in the queue waiting to be served, usually with a pile of books in my hand. many times i've stood waiting for you chat to finish so i can get served and then you try and sell me some trash you have displayed at your tills
ofcourse you would rather spendtime browsing in a store, YOU WORK THERE!
rather click souless buttons and read reviews by people with similar interests than be in a shop that plays annoying music, if you are basing your business plans on supermarkets and chain restaurants you are doomed.

I was making a point. MOST large comapnies change their prices to suit the area they are in.
As for chatting - I was talking about chatting to customers - not each other. I apologise if customer service and dealing with (sometimes) complex enquiries annoys you. You must have never needed anyones help whilst shopping for presents, college courses etc.
We don't have "Trash" at the tills, we used to have new released titles that were at a 44% discount - this hasn't been there for a month...shops can now choose to have things on the tills, that reflect their market...local books, local writers etc.
I understand to some people price will always come first. That's fine, I also understand there is a certain level of snobbery among some about shopping with a "chain" bookstore - that's ok too, I'm sure the local indie bookshop would love your business.
Why don't you try your local libaray? books are free there..
as for the music - just ask us to turn it off...no one will take offence.

Bookish
are you denying selling sweets at the tills, trying to sell me chick-lit? I have never seen a local authors book at the till.They may not be there now but they were for the majority of this year.
I will try my library and local indie as your arrogance shows the customer just isnt right, thanks for helping me make up my mind, i look forward to not shopping at waterstones any longer and also informing my friends and family of your attitude

You have friends?

Have you ever read How to Win Friends and Influence People? Maybe Waterstone's in Reading should put a discounted copy by their till point and wait for your next visit. NB. look out for the 50 something angry man, or poss woman, with a pile of specialist interest books he can't find in the shop).

Local autonomy in action.

yes, I also find it most annoying having to listen to music that the store manager thinks makes for a relaxing browsing experience. haven't they heard that 'silence is golden'