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Waterstones raises the white flag

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More on the changing face of bookselling. According to this story, Waterstones has sacked its managing director and declared that it will return to its roots as a “local” bookshop.

It’s a tacit admission that it cannot compete with the supermarkets (and Smiths) and Amazon on the celebrity titles, and that in centralising everything it lost what made it unique – its local purchasing choices.

Until a few years ago, representatives from publishing houses would sell books directly to buyers in individual Waterstone’s stores, the idea being that it was the Waterstone’s employees who knew which titles would best suit their customers.

Whether it’s a case of shutting the stable door is a moot point. However, I can’t help feeling that one reason for Waterstone’s problems might lie with this description of their outgoing Managing Director:

When Johnson arrived at Waterstone’s in early 2005 from wholesaler Booker he was completely fresh to the book world, and was only a light reader.

Just the man you want in charge of a bookshop chain. Someone who doesn’t read much.