Foyles is to expand into the West Midlands for the first time, by opening a store at the new Grand Central Birmingham station.
The company will open a 4,300 sq ft premises in the 500,000 sq ft train station, which sits above the redeveloped Birmingham New Street station and is owned by Birmingham City Council. The new store will be roughly the same size as Foyles’ London Waterloo, Westfield Stratford City and Royal Festival Hall branches, and aims to take advantage of the 50 million visitors who are expected to use the station annually. The shop will open at the same time as the new train station, in September.
It is the second time that Foyles has opened a store outside London, following its Bristol opening in 2011. The new addition to the estate brings Foyles’ number of shops to six in an ever-changing portfolio.
Last week the chain announced the closure of its Westfield White City branch due to redevelopment of the West London shopping mall; in June 2014 its St Pancras store closed because “acceptable” terms with the landlord could not be agreed; and back in October 2011 its One New Change store in London’s Cheapside shut because the “experiment” store was too small.
Conversely, Foyles opened its Bristol branch in 2011, an arm at Westfield Stratford in London in November 2011, and a premises at London’s Waterloo Station last year. The retailer also moved into its redesigned and relocated 37,000 sq ft flagship, on London’s Charing Cross Road, in June last year.
Sam Husain, c.e.o. of Foyles, told The Bookseller: “Our strategy remains the same: to focus our efforts on other stores so there is not so much reliance on the flagship store. One New Change was just too small, so that was an experiment. People knew us for our range but we couldn’t fit our range into that small space.
“We closed St Pancras simply because we just weren’t able to negotiate acceptable terms going forward. We were offered the Hatchards space but turned it down because we didn’t think it was right for a Foyles bookshop, and we closed in Westfield White City because the landlord wanted to redevelop that part of the shopping complex.”
Husain said Foyles’ top-performing stores were its flagship, followed by Waterloo [pictured] and Westfield Stratford, but he added that the Bristol outlet was currently “performing ahead of last year”.
When asked if the Foyles brand travels well outside of London, Husain said: “I think that is where we feel a bit more challenged. The Bristol shop is trading well ahead of last year but it takes a while for customers to work out what Foyles stands for and that we are a good range bookshop. Now Bristol is becoming more and more important to us. In Birmingham we are not as well known, but I would hope with 50 million passengers coming into the station every year there will be an opportunity to reach out and find new customers.”
Husain said he was still open to the idea of opening a Foyles store in Manchester, and was also interested in the possibility of a Glasgow shop.
The Birmingham opening will be the third Foyles bookshop—including the closed St Pancras store—to open in a railway station. When asked if Foyles was looking to encroach on W H Smith’s monopoly on rail terminal bookshops, Husain said: “We continue to look at opportunities wherever they are. We are trying to make sure we are not going head to head with another bookshop on the high street, such as Waterstones and Blackwell’s. W H Smith is more of a newsagent; it is based in Waterloo station, where we have a shop, so I do not really view them as a competitor.”
Husain said the company’s strategy of opening stores in retail complexes was working, and added that the Birmingham branch would be located besides John Lewis, which would be beneficial because “our customers are the same”.
Husain added: “Network Rail has always tried to develop its stations so they are also retail destinations. We have aligned ourselves with that way of thinking. It is good for us to be in retail parks. We are a bookshop that reaches out to the community as well. Opening in railway terminals seems to be a good plan as far as we are concerned, and at the moment the plan is to open in more of these places.”
Keith Stone, leasing director for the new £150m Grand Central Birmingham retail complex, said he was “delighted” that Foyles was joining “an exciting array of premium retailers, restaurants and cafés already signed up”. He added: “Foyles will be a major attraction for shoppers and commuters using the new world-class station and will broaden the retail offering of Grand Central beyond fashion and accessories.”
Foyles’ retail operations director, Sion Hamilton, will manage the shop.