Daunt: Christmas sales 'slightly down' at Waterstones

Daunt: Christmas sales 'slightly down' at Waterstones

Waterstones’ sales during the Christmas trading period were slightly down year-on-year, the company has revealed.

Speaking to The Bookseller, Waterstones m.d James Daunt said like-for-like sales were ‘just a smudge off” where the company had wanted them to be overall and blamed the inclement weather in the two days before Christmas as having a crucial impact. However, “many shops (individually) were up” like-for-like on sales over the Christmas trading season, Daunt said.

“Christmas trade started off slowly and it was looking quite good up until the 23rd December, but then we had the last two dreadful days for weather before Christmas and it wasn’t quite what we wanted in the end, but that is life,” Daunt said. “Those are the biggest two days of the year and to have that dreadful weather was so disappointing. So in the end we were just a smudge off where we wanted to be, so we were very slightly down on last year. I thought we came into the last weekend we would have done a bit better.”

Daunt said that customers turning to internet sales this Christmas season had also impacted significantly on sales. “In general you can see that the high street footfall is really being affected, and we are not immune to that,” he said.

The Waterstones chief also revealed the company was in the process of “overhauling” the internet side of its business. “That doesn’t mean just having books available to buy on the site, it is also about offering services like click and collect, which has so far been very popular with our customers,” Daunt said. “The work has been going on, but we won’t see the affects of it until early summer.”

Asked about if the store saw many sales of the Kindle e-readers and tablets over Christmas, Daunt said: “No we didn’t. Much less so then the year before, which I think reflects the massive increase in the diversity of the tablet market. They are quite robust items and do not need replacing very often.”

In terms of successful books over the Christmas period, Daunt said Stoner by John Williams (Vintage), also the Waterstones Book of the Year, stood out. “Stoner was huge, along with Alex Ferguson, of course, but actually it was a year where there wasn’t one outstanding bestseller,” he said.

Despite the slight decrease in year-on-year sales, Daunt was bullish in his predictions for the 2014 year ahead, saying he felt “genuinely optimistic” about 2014.