The manager of Edinburgh retailer Golden Hare Books has hit out at Waterstones’ plans to open an unbranded store nearby.
The indie store – which narrowly missed out on being crowned Children’s Booksellers of the Year at last night’s British Book Awards - has accused Waterstones’ c.e.o. James Daunt of reneging on his word after the bookselling chief previously pledged not to open a branch of the chain near an independent bookshop.
Golden Hare Books in based on St Stephen Street in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge area, which has one main high street. Waterstones plans to open a branch in Raeburn Place “about five minutes away” under the name Stockbridge Books in spring 2019.
It will be the seventh such unbranded store named after its location Waterstones will have opened in four years.
After the company’s plans to open the branch were revealed yesterday, Golden Hare Books hit back at the move on Twitter.
“Despite James Daunt and @waterstones open promise that their copycat indies would only open in areas with no independent bookshops published in @guardian last year, this is exactly what is happening. And it's happening in our neighbourhood,” manger Julia Danskin tweeted from the Golden Hare Books account.
“We have built our independent business. We do it for the love of books and people. We love being part of our community, Stockbridge, and want to be there for many years to come. Only you can help us do this. If you do, Waterstones cannot hurt us. Please choose to shop indie.”
Speaking to The Bookseller, Danskin, a former Waterstones bookseller herself, said the firm’s move to “masquerade as an indie” bothered her more than the increased competition.
“There was a Stockbridge Books which closed down after the rise in e-book sales, and people loved that shop, they still talk about it, so I think it is insensitive really,” she said. "James Daunt talks a lot about an even playing field and working with independent brands, but this is essentially backtracking on his previous statements."
However, Danskin was adamant she didn’t fear for the indie’s future. “We have complete faith in what we are doing and that our customers will want to keep coming back and shopping with us. We recently launched a Golden Hare Friends membership scheme, which has 170 signed up, offering discounts and book recommendations on birthdays. We have complete faith that is won’t affect what we do.”
Waterstones is yet to comment.
Waterstones began opening unbranded stores named after the locations they are based in the summer of 2014, starting with The Southwold Bookshop. The stores were highlighted in the mainstream press last year, with the BBC reporting the chain was “under fire” for opening “secret shops”. However, Daunt said at the time that the media coverage had not "put him off" opening more unbranded stores, moreover that he had received several requests from members of the public to open branches in their local areas.
Daunt has previously said the chain did not intend to open branches in areas which already had thriving independent bookshops, but instead towns with no bookshop presence. "They are very small shops in towns that had independents and very much wish they still had independents but don’t,” he told the Guardian last year.
A majority stake in Waterstones was sold to Elliott Advisors last month, with former owner Alexander Mamut retaining a minority stake in the retailer. At the time, Daunt said the retailer’s new parent should mean the 283-store chain will grow a lot faster and continue to open fresh stores.