Waterstones md James Daunt cites the desire to fight back against Amazon lay behind the company’s decision to purchase Foyles.
According to The Bookseller, the book industry has expressed shock at the sale of Foyles to Waterstones, announced on Friday (7 September) for an undisclosed sum. The sale includes Foyles’ flagship store in Charing Cross, three further shops in London, plus outlets in Bristol, Birmingham and Chelmsford.
The announcement of the purchase has sparked fresh debate about the impact internet behemoth Amazon is having on the UK high street. In an interview with The Independent about the purchase of Foyles, Waterstones md James Daunt said: “Together, we will be stronger and better positioned to protect and champion the pleasures of real bookshops in the face of Amazon’s siren call.”
After 115 years in family ownership, Foyles shareholders made the decision to sell the business to Waterstones. A Foyles press statement said: “We will shortly be entering a new chapter in the history of the business, one which secures the brand’s future and protects its personality, something that can only be achieved by long term investment and leadership.”
The statement continues: “We have been determined to ensure that the buyer would both preserve and invest in the business. James Daunt, the managing director of Waterstones, has assured us of his desire to maintain and celebrate the Foyles name and our distinct bookselling identity.
“Whilst the decision to sell has been a hard one, we are confident that Waterstones will nurture and protect Foyles for the good of the business, its staff and its customers.”
Waterstones took to social media to dispel concerns about shop-floor changes to the much-loved Foyles, tweeting the following:
You may have seen the news that @foyles will become part of Waterstones in the future. And you may be wondering what that actually means if you love shopping in Foyles. The short version is that Foyles remains Foyles. And here’s why…— Waterstones (@Waterstones)
Bricks and mortar bookshops are important for so many reasons and we want to keep them open. That is what this is all about. Great shops filled with great booksellers helping you, the reader, to find your next favourite book. Happy reading and have a great weekend.— Waterstones (@Waterstones)
Bricks and mortar bookshops are important for so many reasons and we want to keep them open. That is what this is all about. Great shops filled with great booksellers helping you, the reader, to find your next favourite book. Happy reading and have a great weekend.— Waterstones (@Waterstones) September 7, 2018
Waterstones md James Daunt told The Independent that buying Foyles was part of a successful strategy of creating stores with their own individuality, and how that has helped Waterstones thrive while other high-street chains fall by the wayside. He added: “My way is to decentralise as much as possible. That creative tension is important.
“Booksellers had to face up to the “extraordinary challenge” posed by online retailers much earlier than others did. We knew you could buy everything Waterstones stocks online, so had to really justify why customers would come in store.”
Waterstones operates 283 bookshops across the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium.