Waterstones owners Elliott Advisors have approved a company-wide 4% bonus, following a "pretty good" financial year "driven above all by better book sales", according to m.d. James Daunt.
Staff are expected to be paid the bonus - an additional 4% of their earnings during the last financial year - subject to the retailer's final audited results.
In a message to staff on the company intranet, Daunt said: "I am very pleased that this has been approved by our new owners, and with the generosity of the amount. It is wholly deserved and recognises the hard work and dedication that allows Waterstones to flourish. Thank you to all."
Staff are expected to be paid the bonus - an additional 4% of their earnings during the last financial year - subject to the retailer's final audited results. Daunt added: "We should be in a position to pay this in August and there will be the usual exceptions, as advised by HR."
Reflecting on the "pretty good" financial year, Daunt said: "This was helped by some strong publishing, notably of Becoming by Michelle Obama (Viking), but I believe was mainly because enough of our shops were simply a little bit better than a year earlier. It is this steady improvement, above all to our bookselling friendliness, upon which we depend to advance. Related products (R/P) was a disappointment but was balanced by the great strides forward made by W.com and Café W. All our functions, notably in the Hub and in Olton, improved and overall we kept a sensible control on costs. A steady, good year then, with the achievement also that we worked through the successful sale of the company."
Looking ahead, Daunt said staff should "all be feeling confident that we can improve our shops still further" with the beginning of the new financial year in "good shape". He added: "A lot of change is underway: initiatives with a strengthened retail structure; a new focus on training; much work on improving R/P, backed by a substantially new team; the sustained charge being made by W.com on the back of Plus; a lot of investment and change to the Hub and to our IT; an effort to sharpen book buying; the list goes on."
Waterstones owners Elliott Advisors, which bought the chain in 2018, had no comment to make, when contacted by The Bookseller. The New York hedge fund is currently awaiting shareholder approval after entering into a $683m (£537m) agreement to acquire Barnes & Noble on Friday 7th June.
The bonus comes three months after more than 9,000 Waterstones employees delivered a petition calling for the real living wage. At the time, Daunt said the chain could not afford to shell out for the real living wage, which stands at £10.55 an hour for the Greater London area and £9 an hour for the rest of the UK. The Bookseller understands that many of the booksellers who attended a two-hour meeting with Daunt to discuss the issue have since left the chain.
One bookseller, who wished to remain anonymous, said the bonus is a "token gesture" following months of campaigning for the real living wage. The bookseller said: "I honestly believe that the bonus is a token gesture, meant to shut everyone up and keep them quiet for raising the wage issue again."