Departures at Waterstones in buying 'evolution'

Departures at Waterstones in buying 'evolution'

Waterstones has confirmed that four of the chain's range buyers have left the business as the retailer looks to change its book buying strategy. Marketing director Ros Hines is also leaving the business.

The departing range buyers are cookery buyer John Lewis, military history specialist Alister Babb, along with Peter North, who specialised in local and regional titles, and Andrew Sinkfield, who covered fiction. Meanwhile Kit Clothier, who covered genre fiction, has moved into a different department.

Speaking to The Bookseller, Waterstones m.d. James Daunt said the losses represented an "evolution" of the store's buying policy. He said: "A few years ago it was all about restoring the range. We were doing a lot of work on the backlist, and I think that has worked its way through now. The backlist should be something that takes care of itself, so our energies are devoted to new books. That's what the head office buyers should deal with."

He added the changes gave more powers to individual stores to make decisions on titles: He said: "I think we've made enormous steps forward around the estate in terms of stock. The stores are much happier, and doing much better, having more control over what they do."

Asked whether more departments could be changed, Daunt said: "I think it is inevitable in an industry which is changing as fast as ours is that we are always trying to do things better. In some places it could mean expanding the business, with more people working on buying non-book products for example."

Tim Davies, m.d. of The History Press, commented: "In principle, as a niche publisher we would always want a specialist buyer because they retain that knowledge base. But we will have to wait and see what the new structure will be like before we can make a judgement. It has been increasingly difficult to influence stores, especially at branch level, in recent years, but we have a strong relationship with head office and I hope that will continue." Another genre publisher told The Bookseller: "A lot is not explained. One thing that would help us is if Waterstones were more transparent with what they were doing – it would help us to help them. Obviously we want them to succeed."

In a separate announcement to the range buyers, marketing director Ros Hines is also leaving the business. Hines began working at the Kensington High Street store in 1987 before moving to the head office as brand manager in 1988. The marketing department will now report to retail director Rik McShane.