The Folio Society is going through its "biggest change in history", leading to the closure of its US office and staff redundancies including those of publisher Catherine Taylor and publishing director David Hayden.
The company, which specialises in the high quality production of physical books, has recently pivoted its business model to concentrate more on direct sales through its website and new retail partnerships with Waterstones, Hatchards, Harrods and Selfridges. It is a method the Folio Society's managing director Toby Hartwell [pictured] says is "working", fuelled by social media activity, with the company collecting new customers every day and the average selling price per book increasing.
However, Folio has made 13 redundancies in the course of changing its business model, with key casualties being publisher Catherine Taylor, who left on Friday (15th), and publishing director David Hayden, whose position was made redundant in September as the editorial and production teams were further integrated. Both teams now report directly to Hartwell.
The Folio Society has also closed its US office where it employed two full time and one part time positions which focused on direct marketing. Overall it employs over 80 people.
Despite the office closures and redundancies, Hartwell said the company's sponsorship of the Folio Prize and Oxford Literary festival was "an important part of these ambitious plans for the future” and would remain.
He told The Bookseller: "The company is probably going through the biggest change in its history. We are changing from an old-style book club model and opening up our distribution channels with bookshops. The way we used to work was by sending customers cold marketing. But that method is clearly out of tune with what people want now. We also want to sell our books more on their own merit.
"However, we are still very focused on our membership and they will receive benefits for their loyalty and commitment to us."
Hartwell added that the company was considering widening its retail reach and partnering with independent bookshops. However he, Hartwell vowed "we will never have Folio books in Tesco stores. We are not partnering with Amazon. It will be very specialised."
Folio has planned a major Christmas advertising campaign on tubes and in newspapers focusing on "Beautiful Books" and based around the theme of books being special Christmas gifts because you can inscribe a dedication inside them. The advertising campaign will be backed by social media, which will ask Twitter followers to share their favourite dedications in books.
Hartwell said: "This is all a 100% shift from where we were last year. And it is working. We are seeing people who are now finding Folio online and buying online. The average purchase price is incredibly high." He added that the company had developed "creative and robust plans" following the Christmas campaign.
Taylor, who has been publisher since 2008, and was part of the Folio Prize management committee, responsible for the setting up and running of the new Folio Prize, commented: "I am sorry to be leaving the Folio Society after 11 years and wish the company the best for the future. I look forward to taking up new challenges within the book industry and beyond".
The latest set of results filed on Companies House showed that The Folio Society's sales had dropped by 10.3% to £21.5m in the year to 31st August 2012, and it made a loss of £973.00, from a profit of £734,000 a year earlier.