The refurbished Waterstones stores are seeing overall sales growth of between 5%–10%, m.d. James Daunt has said.
Nearly 70 of the chain’s 287 stores have now been refurbished with new, larger tables installed, wi-fi rolled out and new lighting to focus on the books on display. Daunt said that the revamp—making shops lighter, brighter and seem more spacious—is having a tangible effect on sales.
Daunt said: “Sales are between 5%–10% higher [in the refurbished shops]. The ‘stars’ from those that have annualised are Brighton, Glasgow Argyll St and St Albans. Aberdeen and Maidstone are running massively ahead [with 50% and 100% year on year sales increases respectively] because we have closed our second shop in those towns.”
Daunt added that the shops which have Waterstones’ own-brand cafés, Café W, are doing “exceptionally well”, with new cafés expected to be installed in Hampstead and Cardiff within the next week.
Within the catalogue of refurbishment design tweaks, Daunt pointed to the open units, with their narrower table legs, as particularly important in attracting rather than deflecting book browsers’ attention. To this end, a total of 5,495 tables are in the process of being delivered across the whole Waterstones estate—to all 287 stores. “By mid-November everyone will be complete,” Daunt said.
He also revealed that the company’s bottom line was seeing the effect of the changes imposed in the last year. The chain moved to a small EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation) profit for the year ending April 2013, Daunt said, which he described as “an important £10m-plus step forward”.
However, Waterstones will still report a “large, if smaller loss” when the results are filed at Companies House in a few months’ time. “This was expected and our plans for this year are to expect further progress towards a relatively healthy EBITDA number and close to break-even for the net number.”