Waterstones: booksellers need to 'inspire customers' following Brexit

Waterstones: booksellers need to 'inspire customers' following Brexit

Waterstones’ commercial manager has urged staff to "be there" for readers, to “put service first” and “truly engage with customers” in response to the EU Referendum result last Friday (24th June) because what booksellers do "really, really matters". 

Following the vote, opposed by 78% of the book trade, Waterstones’ commercial manager Andy Rowe has emailed staff to urge them to make use of the publishing around the question of “what next” post-Brexit and “talk to people about that with a smile and a spring in your step while putting great books in people’s hands”.

Warnings from business leaders on the effect Brexit might have on the economy have been “pretty bleak,” Rowe wrote, but said he has always been honest with staff and he kept “coming back to the same thing ‘why do I do what I do’" and the answer is pretty much ‘to inspire our customers and each other with a shared love of reading’."

“So my update today is to not talk about stock, but the sentence I have heard many times but not in a commercial update setting, ‘great bookshops are made by great booksellers,’ he wrote. “I truly believe this, so I ask that today and over the coming weeks we really put service first, we truly engage with our customers.”

He added: “There is publishing that talks about ‘what next’ if we leave, talk to people about that with a smile and a spring in your step while putting great books in people's hands. I know this is what I will be doing…” Rowe continued: “What we do really, really matters. We need to be there for our customers and we need to genuinely continue to inspire them.”

Before the referendum Waterstones boss James Daunt had warned that if the retailer left Europe, he would be forced to axe jobs in the face of a likely "significant retail downturn” which would “reverse much of the hard-won gain of the last few years” for the company. However, following the news on Friday, Daunt said he would do “nothing in the short term”, while adding the company faced “deep uncertainty and will learn over the next months quite how challenging the retail environment may become”.

Simon Key, owner of independent the Big Green Bookshop in London’s Wood Green, has said it is too early to say if his trade would be hit following the news the UK is set to leave the EU, but added he was “sickened” and “still in shock” at the result.

“It was quiet on Friday, and quieter on Saturday,” he said. “But Sunday was a lovely, busy day. It’s too early to make any assumptions; ask the same question in two or three months time. Personally, I’m gutted, sickened and embarrassed for our country. The reality of what we’ve done probably hasn’t hit people yet.”

He added: “It hasn’t affected people financially yet, but it will. In future will have an effect. I’m still in shock; I don’t know what to do with myself. We won’t be affected straight away but that’s not the main worry. Our stupid country is self-imploding. I’m not thinking about myself, other people will have it harder.”

Meanwhile, Neil Morrison, group human resource director at Penguin Random House, has also expressed his anger at the situation in a personal blog, in which he chastises the baby boomer generation for voting to send the UK catapulting out of the European Union, branding them “the most entitled generation that ever existed”.

He wrote: “You should all be ashamed. You did not do enough”, before sounding a more positive note that the next generation will “make this right”.

“We will sort this out,” he wrote. “We will make this better. We will build a world and a society that will put you to shame…We will remember what you’ve done and always strive to be better than you. We will undo what you’ve done and we will build anew. And we will never, ever let this happen again.”