Daunt: restructure 'not primarily about costs'

Daunt: restructure 'not primarily about costs'

Waterstones' managing director James Daunt has said the chain needs to "book sell its way out" of its market challenges, as it moves to restructure to ensure its long-term health.

Staff reacting to news of the consultation set to affect 560 management-level staff described the mood inside the company as "subdued".

The planned restructure aims to emphasise the importance of shop floor bookselling, with a new role of "bookshop manager" being created to replace existing branch manager, assistant manager, general manager and deputy manager roles.

Waterstones' last set of financial results, to end April 2012, charted sales plummeting 14% to £410.4m with a pre-tax loss of £37.3m, although Daunt at time of filing said Waterstones had become a "more profitable business" in subsequent months.

Of the restructure, Daunt told The Bookseller: "We have to book sell our way out of this and that really does mean changing our methods."

He said: "These changes are not primarily about saving costs, we have restructured the business and moved to a cluster system which no longer requires a mainly administrative management in our shops. To ensure our long-term health our emphasis must be on traditional shop floor bookselling with those in the newly defined role of bookshop manager being a part of, and leading, a team of skilled, motivated booksellers dedicated to delivering excellent customer service."

In his email to staff, Daunt said the chain was currently seeing "robust" sales and  recognised that a "substantial part of this improvement" was down to the individual and collective efforts of his staff.

Waterstones' employees spoken to by The Bookseller said the atmosphere in stores following the news was "subdued". One, who wished not to be named, was "shocked and saddened", saying: "It involves a lot of people at the company so it is going to be quite difficult. It affects all the managers and there is a lot of people concerned about their jobs."

Another said: "It is bad news and it is a blow to already fragile morale, but if it means ultimately that it gets us on an even better footing and saves more jobs in the long run then perhaps I can why see it is happening."

A further staff member said: "I am pleased that it has been pointed out that the company is doing well, although that won't be a great comfort to the people worrying about their jobs."