Winner of the British Book Industry Awards’ Independent Bookshop of the Year, Wayne Winstone, has opened a third branch as he looks to establish a mini-chain in the south-west of England.
Earlier this week Winstone bought Hunting Raven Books, in Frome, Somerset, for an undisclosed sum from John and Caroline Birkett-Smith. The couple bought the shop in 2000, and are now retiring. The 11,000 sq ft site, which stocks 15,000 titles along with a range of gifts and stationery, will retain its staff and continue to trade under the same name for the time being.
After opening his first bookshop in Sherborne, Dorset, in 2012, and a second in the seaside resort of Sidmouth in 2014, Winstone—who has worked for several bookshop chains including Blackwell’s, Ottakar’s and Dillons—is positive about the future of high street bookselling. He has ambitions of growing his portfolio of shops to five, should the right propositions crop up.
Winstone said: “I wanted to grow the business to make it more competitive. I don’t have any ambitions to make it into a national chain, but I want to grow the business so we can protect the margins we get and also compete for publisher events with authors. Hunting Raven Books brings it to three shops, but we will be approaching five in a couple of years. The growth will be organic, if an opportunity presents itself and it makes good business sense, I will invest.”
Wayne Winstone (second from right) with staff from Hunting Raven Books
Winstone explained that a shop’s high street location and the locals’ support for print books were factored into decisions around new bookselling locations. “The business has no debt, so each new venture is supported by the profits of the business,” he said. “I do not go back to the bank each time we open a new shop. One of the things we look for is the proposition on the high street—a prime site is always one we hope for.
“I also want to be the only [bookshop] in town, we do not need a competitor to go up against. That is something I would avoid. It is also good if the high street has a range of independent traders, and [locals] support bookshops and what they are trying to do.”
The entrepreneur said he did not have the infrastructure to carry out market research but added that, from talking to people in the town, he developed a sense of whether they supported books and reading.
Winstone’s venture was the third bookshop opening to be announced this week. Jaffé & Neale Bookshop & Café’s owners unveiled a second site, in the Cotswolds town of Stow-on-the-Wold; and a children’s venture in Shrewsbury was opened by former BookTrust director Louise Chadwick. The openings follow official reports that footfall on UK high streets was up 1.1% in August, which should “bode well for the longer-term survival of the high street”, according to British Retail Consortium c.e.o. Helen Dickinson.