IPG: Publisher and retailer relationships must change

IPG: Publisher and retailer relationships must change

The relationship between publishers and retailers needs to change if physical bookshops are not to face a "bleak" future, the c.e.o. of Blackwell has warned.

Andrew Hutchings was speaking during the Retailers Question Time panel at the Independent Publishers Guild conference in Heythrop Park, Oxfordshire yesterday [10th March]. The panel also included senior staff from Amazon, Waterstone's, W H Smith, Foyles, as well as Patrick Neale, co-owner of the Jaffe and Neale independent bookshop in Chipping Norton.

When asked about the future of the physical bookshop amid digital and recessionary pressures, Hutchings said: "Unless you make substantial changes to how you fund books to be stocked on shelves, make changes to the supply chain, or work on initiatives to allow all of us to engage with readers, it's a bleak outlook. We have to work together."

Waterstone's m.d. Dominic Myers said range of products needs to diversify further within bookshops. He said Borders tried this in the UK but was stymied by high rents. He said: "Jamie Oliver was the biggest selling title in the market last year. He has a huge range of own-branded products but you couldn't buy them when you bought the books at Waterstone's." He said other book chains have done well with related product, referring to Chapters Indigo in Canada, which he said had a $1bn turnover, 30% of which was non-book.

"The bookshops that are successful show books are not enough. We need to have other services and products that promote more frequent visits."

Myers also referred to the UK launch of the anobii social networking service last week, which Waterstone's parent HMV Group has a 45% stake in. He said the service would make the link between people's interest in books and discussing them with friends to being able to buy them instore. He said: "Bookshops will have to change but we have to do so within the context of having a relevant and authoritative offer."

The panel also discussed returns, the impact of digital and reasons for optimism in the market. A full report of that panel, and the IPG conference, will feature in next week's Bookseller.