Children's publishers have welcomed the acquisition of Waterstone's by Russian businessman Alexander Mamut. Francesca Dow, m.d. of Penguin Children's Books, said: "The Waterstone's takeover is good news for children's publishers. We need a strong bricks-and-mortar presence for consumers to pick up, read and properly experience books—particularly children's books."
"There's a sense that, at last, we can start moving forward," said Marlene Johnson, m.d. of Hachette Children's Books. While concerned about the "inevitable" store closures that will follow the purchase, Johnson believes the focus on range and local buying will help offset the losses. "Because James Daunt is coming in [as Waterstone's m.d.] the expectation is that there will be a return to quality of range appropriate to the target audience.
"Irrespective of what they said over the past 12 months about local purchasing, all children's stock was centrally purchased, and there was no tailoring to local audiences."
While the focus on range is generally welcomed, Gillian Laskier, group sales director for Egmont, warned that "for a lot of young children, their first way into reading is through characters, and people who are very literary in their book taste may not get that.
"Children quite often become book lovers through non-literary routes."
Publishers would also like to see Waterstone's invest more in its booksellers, said Dow. "They talked a year ago about putting their booksellers as experts at the heart of their business, investing in them, training them, having more of them on the shop floor. All this seems crucial. Being hand-sold a book by an expert is something you can't get online—and would bring customers back for more."
Dow added: "We hope that a newly revitalised Waterstone's will think about great author events, which we as publishers will help them with, and how they can work with their consumers, creating a go-to destination for families locally."
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