Waterstones will switch to a new website platform this summer, to replace its current "pathetic" offering, managing director James Daunt revealed today (February 27th).
Speaking at the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) conference in Oxford, Daunt acknowledged the company needed to sort out its logistics, and that it was "unacceptable" for customers to have to wait two or three weeks to get books from Waterstones that were not in stock in stores.
Daunt was highly critical of the previous management, saying it had failed to invest "when the sun shone", and that what investment had been made was done in a "crass" way, leaving the business with a poor infrastructure.
Daunt took part in a question and answer session, and was quizzed on subjects including discoverability, whether Waterstones would still be relevant in five years and why customers were unable to get print on demand books in a timely fashion from the chain's stores.
Daunt said: "The move to print on demand is established and will only grow. We have, as part of many structural challenges within Waterstones, a distribution system which is passable at best."
He said that Waterstones needed to sort its logistics systems out, and that "you shouldn't be able to order online and get a book at a dramatically faster speed than walking into a store".
Daunt called Waterstones' current website "pathetic" and said that it needed to be made "engaging and intelligent".
"We will have a new platform from July which will give us something more adaptable," he said.
He said Waterstones still had a place on the high street focused on its "single channel", and that its relevance came "back to discoverability". He said Waterstones ought to be "as relevant to Amazon as it is to publishers", but warned that its stores needed to be "outstanding" to get away with charging the premium price for books it needed to charge to cover its rents.
But he said that in the future he expected Waterstones to be running more shops, but smaller ones. Shops in "inappropriate" locations or those whose customer bases overlapped would be shut as their leases came up for renewal. We are committed to the idea that book shops matter," he said.