Waterstones has announced the opening of its fourth shop in two months, with a new store set for Southwold, Suffolk.
In a striking departure, the small 900 sq ft branch will not be called Waterstones but The Southwold Bookshop, to reflect that it will be “a quintessentially local bookshop,” according to managing director James Daunt.
While the company owns Hatchards in London and it set to open a new branch of that store in St Pancras in August, it is the first time Waterstones has opened a store bearing the name of a town, in the spirit of an independent bookshop. The move reveals the company is willing to experiment with different store formats and facias to diversify in a challenging climate.
Daunt said this store is different because it is the smallest in the Waterstones estate and: “you can’t pour all the normal Waterstones sections into a shop of this size but must, as most independents have to do, juggle and prioritise to make an interesting shop.”
However, he added that if the store was successful, the style would be replicated in other new openings.
“This approach can produce a very inspiring shop but it will be a far cry from a standard Waterstones,” Daunt told The Bookseller. “Given this, it seemed sensible to use a name that reflected the bookselling that will be going on in it.” He added: “As to whether this represents a trend, the answer is yes in as much as if this is a success we are bound to do more. However, we would expect most shops to be of a size where the fuller offer means the Waterstones name fits.”
The Southwold Bookshop will open on 18th July on the high street in the “attractive” former home of the Tourist Office. It will stock around 20,000 titles, have a “light and spacious” feel and employ six staff.
The town's Orwell Bookshop and Bookthrift closed in in 2011 and 2012 respectively and has not had a bookshop since.
“We are delighted to have found such a lovely shop and to be able to bring a true bookshop back to Southwold,” Daunt said. “We are calling it The Southwold Bookshop to reflect that it will be a quintessentially local bookshop.”
There was opposition from local residents concerned about the effect on Southwold's unique character when another high street brand, Costa Coffee, opened in the town in 2012.
It is the fourth new branch Waterstones has announced it will open in just two months, following Ringwood, St Pancras and Lewes, which follow on from a spate of other bookshop openings recently.
Daunt said there would be even more new shops in the Waterstones estate to come.
“We are getting there,” he told The Bookseller. “We think there are a lot of opportunities for us to open stores. There will be more in the pipeline.”