Outsider brings the Foyles family saga to an end

When two young brothers seized upon the enterprising notion of selling their textbooks after failing an exam, they started what would become one of Britain's best-known bookshops.

During the next century, Foyles, of Charing Cross road in central London, became as famous for its books as for the eccentricities of its family ownership. But yesterday, 100 years after the first textbook sale, the Foyle family announced that it was to succumb to growing pressure to modernise and recruit an outsider to a management position for the first time.

Mike McGinley, the former managing director of the music chain Our Price, has been appointed chief executive in an attempt to "bring the company in line with the 21st century". The decision to hire from outside the family was taken by Christopher Foyle, the store'schairman, and his cousin, Bill Samuel, who is a director; both are grandsons of William Foyle, who started the business with his brother Gilbert in 1903. Mr Samuel said: "There are advantages to keeping the business in the family but there comes a point when all the family shareholders are in their fifties and sixties and you have to look forward.

"We are very much aware of our limitations, as we are not retailers, and we are not too proud to look outside for help. Realistically I believe that we are the last generation that will have a strong personal involvement in the business."

For Mr McGinley, who has worked for companies such as Littlewoods and Virgin, the opportunity to transform a well-known business with an eccentric reputation is one he relishes. "I'm aware that I am the first non-family member but I'm very excited and honoured by the prospect of joining the firm," he said. "I'm looking forward to bringing the company further into the 21st century, building on its heritage as a uniquely different bookshop."

The appointment is one of a number of steps to modernisethe business made by Mr Foyle and Mr Samuel since they took over four years ago.

Under the auspices of their predecessor, their aunt Christina Foyle, who managed the business for 55 years, the shop was synonymous with a quirkiness that flouted conventional business practices. Without any computers and using an erratic filing system, row after row of dusty books lined the labyrinthinepassages. The shop's eccentric reputation was also bolstered in literary circles for its legendary luncheons at Grosvenor House.

However, by the time of Ms Foyle's death in 1999, the business had descended into a dilapidated shadow of its former self. The extent of the inefficiencies of its archaic business practices was reflected in a £10m fraud that went undetected for nearly two decades.

But Mr Samuel and Mr Foyle have masterminded a dramatic revamp to drag the bookshop into the 21st century. After introducing several changes - including a website, barcodes and computers - their efforts finally paid off in September when the shop earned a profit for the first time in 10 years.

And the shop has managed tomaintain the quirkiness that has endured it to customers for so long. Its second floor, home to an array of books ranging from archaeology to folklore, remains stubbornly old-fashioned. One of the shop's bestselling books is not a Booker nominee but Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves; The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. "Christina's management style was totally different from ours. She had her own way of doing things," Mr Samuel said. "Modernising the business was a natural progression for us and we will continue to be innovative. But it will always remain different and quirky compared to the other bookshops around."

He said about the past four years: "I've aged 15 years and my hair's gone grey. But I've also been having great fun and I know that whatever happens, it will be even more successful in 10 years' time."

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before