The Works’ buying director Andrea Bennett has criticised some publishers’ attitudes towards the retailer as old-fashioned, calling on more to do business with them.
The buying director, who heads up a team of 22 buyers at the 300-plus chain store, said that while the company enjoyed cooperative relationships with many publishers, others were not enthusiastic about doing trade, despite the retailer shifting some 25 million books last year.
“Attitudes have not changed as quickly as I would have imagined considering the current bookselling climate,” Bennett told The Bookseller. “Some publishers who have had a really good year have done so on the back of our sales. We have some really good relationships with some publishers but some trade publishers are stuck in the old days in terms of how they perceive the discount market. I do think we will get there, but it is taking its time and it is difficult. Some relationships are more difficult to manage than others.”
The Works is currently running a promotion offering three children’s books for £10 and up to 80% off r.r.p off ‘As Seen on TV’ books such as celebrity chef titles, amongst other high discount offers on the lead-up to Christmas. “We work really hard with lots of different people to come up with our offers,” Bennett said. “We believe it is important that books are accessible to everyone, no matter what their incomes.”
The buying director added: “The people who are judging us have never been in one of our stores. Twenty-five years ago we were just a remainder bookshop and that is the history of it, but we have moved past that now. We have worked with HarperCollins, Dorling Kindersley, Penguin, Random House—80% of the trade publishers we have amazing relationships with but others . . . they want to trade with completely different terms and that is not our business model and it will never work. I am trying to get them to accept that it is never going to work, but it doesn’t mean we can’t find a model that suits us both."
Bennett refused to name the publishers which were not inclined to work with The Works. But she said: "The relationships we have are very strong and there are a whole load of opportunities there to be explored. Attitudes are changing, its just not as quick as we would like.”
Bennett said the company stocked front list and backlist titles, although admitted the majority of stock was backlist. The retailer is often able to cut attractive deals with publishers by combining with other large retailers on print runs and buying on the basis of firm sale as opposed to sale or return, which is how most other booksellers operate. This model led to the retailer achieving a like-for-like sales increase of 3% year-on-year on books while overall profits were £5.6m in the year to April 2013. In most of the company’s 300-plus stores, 50% of the stock is dedicated to book titles and in its 40 outlet stores, 60% is dedicated to books.
Bennett said more publishers should come to The Works offices and see the “beautiful” books department and meet its “brilliant” team. She said in the office, the buying teams “talk about books more than anything else”. She added that the company, which has its offices in Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands, holds a regular Suppliers Open Day on one Friday every month, which has people “queuing outside the office” to attend. However, “there are very few book people who come, although we couldn’t be more receptive of them if they did".
The Works is also set to open a new store at the designer outlet in London’s Wembley in the coming weeks.
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