Monday, 3 February 2014

Congratulations?

The book trade journals and the press tell us 'Waterstone's Congratulates Itself As Sales Fell Another 3 Percent'. Really! Yes, Waterstones have done well to reduce their operating costs and so cut their losses to a mere £30 million or so last year from £40 million the previous year. This has been at the expense of store closures - there is now no bookshop in Watford, and Waterstones closed 6 stores out of 12 on university campuses, and numerous other High Street stores.  The ones that remain have seen savage staff redundancies. 

Fair enough, cuts were needed, and new coffee shops in some stores are said to be attracting customers, as funding from Russian billionaire Mamut (some £56 million) has bought the chain valuable time to try and right itself financially.  

But let's not forget, in all the self congratulation, that the cut in operating costs has been at the expense of stores...  and oh yes, the booksellers who have lost their jobs, some of whom worked for the company for many years. 

Meanwhile, book sales continue to fall... 


9 comments:

Gordon Brice said...

You have expertly covered all the points that Waterstones in their "wisdom", failed to publicise. I rarely see details of book signings these days. Occasions such as those would undoubtedly attract more customers AND sales. They certainly didn't help themselves when they stopped inviting popular writers such as yourself, to advertise their wares. With ebooks becoming increasingly popular, plus competition such as Amazon grabbing large chunks of the market, I fear the day of the bookshop, including Waterstones, is coming to a close.

Leigh Russell said...

That's kind of you to say so, Gordon. I think many of us fear for the future of bookshops.... and libraries... if this trend continues, I might have to learn how to write for television... or video games... shudder...

Peggy Farooqi said...

In the Metro newspaper today: Sale of printed books in Britain 2012-£1.51bn, 2011-£1.59bn, and annual worldwide sale of e-books fell for the first time since 2013 but is expected to outsell print books in 2014. Me, as a reader, I am sad for every bookshop that closes - I still love to go and browse the shelves, love the smell and love to sit in the cafe's where luckily they never seem to want to move you on (not me anyway!). I do buy e-books but tend to buy different kind of books on e-books (mostly new authors).True that Waterstones, they never have book signings / author talks any more - my local one in Bluewater - gosh I can't remember when the last one was.

Leigh Russell said...

I used to be invited to visit different branches of Waterstones every weekend, as one store would recommend me to another, and then they would all invite me back. It was a busy time in the bookstores for a number of years. A change in Head Office policy stopped these author events. (Authors in bookshops? What an idea!) The events were fun and we travelled the length and breadth of the country - literally - visiting bookshops. It's a shame it changed! but that's life.

Is this it..................... said...

the growth in technology and our desire to "have it now" is surely leading to the demise of the bookshop and it saddens me; however much as I adore browsing in Waterstones their prices are considerably higher than other places (and I know this is a whole new argument re pricing wars) but in the current climate then people can often not afford the high price tags on the books. I think that in order to maintain their place on the highstreet they need to rethink their strategy, marketing, products amd prices. Books should be promoted across our towns and cities - we need to encourage reading and creativity - look at ways of bringing folk through the doors, author events are fantastic - but get them out there and marketed - there is a huge untapped audience out there; reading/mental health initiatives - books on prescription - therapeutic reading; trade in prices for books; some form of kindle book sales for bookstores; memberships of bookstores with a small cost attached which allows a reduced price;take the books out into our communities, host events for nursery's and schools; consider the range of products sold..there are so many ideas out there but there needs to be a realism that in today's world people cannot often afford £20 for a book (that they may be able to buy elsewhere for half the price)
I do not know the mark up made by Waterstones and know that authors have no say in the pricing of products (and I completely agree that writing is a JOB for authors and none of us go do our job for free!) but to protect our bookshops and indeed our authors we need to do something to remedy this x

Guillaume said...

Sickening isn't it? One day there may not be any book to buy. And just to rub it in they congratulate themselves. Just when the nearest Waterstone's I have is looking more and more like a pretentious stationary shop.

On the plus side, I discovered recently that at least some bookshops seem to be doing well, somewhere in the world:

http://vraiefiction.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/rediscovering-independent-bookshops.html

Leigh Russell said...

You raise lots of important points, not least of which is getting out to schools and elsewhere to promote reading to young people - the future if books and reading lies with them.

Leigh Russell said...

Good to see there are still some bookshops about that are thriving, Guillaume.

Leigh Russell said...

Good to see there are still some bookshops about that are thriving, Guillaume.