'Ambitious' W H Smith aims to expand Bookshop portfolio

'Ambitious' W H Smith aims to expand Bookshop portfolio

W H Smith is “very ambitious” about its new dedicated Bookshop store and is keen to roll the format out to other travel locations, The Bookseller can reveal.

Alastair Campbell officially opened W H Smith’s standalone Bookshop at Euston Station on Wednesday (14th December), which has so far performed “ahead of expectations” since opening last month, according to Carl Cowling, m.d of W H Smith Travel.

Unlike general W H Smith stores, the 'Bookshop' is staffed by booksellers with specialist knowledge to provide recommendations to readers and has a greater emphasis on backlist titles with the aim of giving “the travelling public a wide and distinctive book offer”.

Alasatair Campbell cuts the ribbon to open the new Bookshop in Euston Station.

Cowling told The Bookseller that while churn of shops in travel locations such as airports and rail stations was generally slow, the company was keen to show off the new format to other landlords with a view to opening more dedicated bookshops in the UK.

“We are going to make sure that all landlords see this shop and that they have this in their sights when they’re thinking about new retail ranges,” Cowling said. “We are very ambitious about it.”

However, he added: “To do this you have got to have a lot of specialist knowledge to get it right. I think we would want to get it right here and then before we thought about opening any more.”

Euston Station was home to the very first W H Smith store in 1848, which was another reason the company was inspired to do “something special” in the station.

Campbell inside the new Bookshop at Euston Station.

Cowling said: “We wanted to do something different with this shop other than book charts, we wanted to focus on recommendations, we wanted to be more specialist. We have employed a completely different set of people. People who love books and really believe in what they are doing.

“The really exciting thing is that it has done really well for us. We are in retail to make money but we are also in retail to so something special and reinvent things and take things to a new level. So it has been a huge success and we will be talking to landlords about how we replicate this.”

The Euston outlet joins eight other standalone W H Smith Travel Bookshops across the country, at Heathrow Terminals 3, 4 and 5, Gatwick Airport, Glasgow Airport, Edinburgh Airport and Bristol Airport.

Author and former spin doctor Campbell, who bought a copy of Five on Brexit Island (Quercus) while he was there, said it felt like a “no brainer” for W H Smith and Travel landlords to open more dedicated bookshops.

 “I have a new moto – read books not newspapers,” he said. “I think the thing about book stores and what you guys do is important but ultimately it is how are you going to get them to people. I’m not saying Amazon is entirely evil, I’m not saying I don’t use it – I would like them to pay tax – but I am saying that there is still something very, very special about going into a bookstore particularly when you are travelling.

“You have W H Smith around the corner but it is not a bookstore, - this is a proper bookstore. I am very very happy to be here, it feels right it looks nice and I hope before long we are going to see these popping up all over the transport network, for me it feel like a no-brainer for both sides.”

Swedish bookshop chain Pocket Shop, owned by Bonnier, has also recently launched in Travel locations in the UK, opening its second branch in London’s Liverpool Street Station yesterday (15thy December).