Love this piece, and not just because I agree with EVRYTHING written there. No, I like it because it’s the kind of clear-eyed analysis that is sometimes lacking when people write about bookshops and the book industry (I’m a victim of this fault myself).
But mottos are one thing. Common sense also says that no business can suffer declining sales indefinitely without running into problems. Take a look at those like-for-like sales statistics on the high street side since 2005-06. The run has been: minus 7%, minus 6%, minus 3%, minus 6%, minus 4%, minus 6% and, if current trends hold for the rest of the financial year, minus 6%.
A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that, on a same-store basis on the high street, WHS is selling roughly £68 for every £100 of custom seven years ago. Surely that spells trouble one day: running up the down escalator is not easy.
via Can WH Smith defy gravity forever? | Business | The Guardian.
3 thoughts on “Go Read This | Can WH Smith defy gravity forever? | Business | The Guardian”
The ‘model’ WHS and others are adopting in regards to selling books is simple and comes down to, if it doesn’t sell don’t stock it, if it isn’t profitable don’t stock it, if it moves slowly or has only a limited small customer base, dump it. So it is likely that genre such as poetry will vanish to a large extent from mainstream and high street booksellers. Indeed, some booksellers have got rid of ‘small accounts’ and won’t even place a customer order with the publisher. Pile them high and sell them cheap seems to be the economics of the day and to hell with cultural pretence.
That’s totally true and I’ve no problem with that. There’s a place for retailers of that kind. As a publisher I might wish it were otherwise, but that’s all.
Worth remembering, surely, that WHSmith is by no means a ‘bookseller’ in the traditional sense. Sure they have books as part of their stock, but it’s as much about cards, magazines, DVDs, music, stationery and games. I think it’s this general hotch-potch that isn’t attracting customers, somehow. Borders did the same sort of thing, only weighted far more heavily towards books. You’d think it ought to do well, but for some reason it doesn’t. Mind you, have you been in WH Smiths lately? The stock is crammed in too tight and the result is offputting.