"Waterstone's approach to buying must change" - Daunt

"Waterstone's approach to buying must change" - Daunt

Waterstone's managing director James Daunt has told staff "its approach to buying must change" and said he plans a "complete overhaul" of the chain's infrastructure.

In an email to staff, Daunt said it was essential an “entrepreneurial bookselling spirit” returned to Waterstone’s, which will see shops and books being presented with “real flair.”

Since Daunt was appointed m.d. two weeks ago following the chain's takeover by Alexander Mamut's A&NN Group, commercial director Michael Neil, operations director Roger Childs and head of books Toby Bourne have left the company. He said: “The approach to buying must change and I have taken direct responsibility for the commercial team. I will be working closely with them, and with the shops, to ensure that as we enter the crucial final quarter of the year, we do so with our shops stocked to the best possible effect."

A Waterstone's spokesperson refused to expand on the content of the email. Waterstone's former m.d. Dominic Myers handed greater buying power over to stores but Daunt did not explicitly say whether he planned a move away from this. His email said: "It is essential that our shops continue to deserve the respect and loyalty of their customers. We will achieve this by presenting our shops, and the books within them, with real flair. This will require much greater local initiative by those of you in the shops, and an emphasis on assistance and best practice rather than prescription by those of us working to support the shops."

Daunt said he also planned to introduce a stock control and Epos system at Waterstone’s next year. He said: “Our infrastructure, from the state of our shops to our systems, needs a complete review and overhaul. We have started on essential work on the shops most in need. It will take longer to change our systems, but we have a clear intention to improve these radically.”

As reported in The Bookseller on Friday, restrictions on ordering have been lifted at the chain. Daunt said: "This should result in a rapid improvement which we will contine to build on through the autumn."

Daunt also said he believed the chain has "been left behind" by Amazon's digital offer and the chain needed as strong a digital presence online as it had on the high street. He said: "This particular war has only just begun and our shops—from the expertise of our booksellers to the loyalty we should command of our customers—is a hugely powerful resource when allied to a vigorous digital strategy."

Daunt has also made new appointments in head office. Along with Steve Clark as operations director, Helen Baker, formerly head of e-commerce and digital is now IT and e-commerce director and Ros Hines, formerly retail design manager, is now head of marketing at the company.

The email also revealed Mamut made his first visit to Waterstone's since acquiring the business. The bookseller's new owner visited the Piccadilly branch on 8th July.