Bunhill: Do It All man to do it by the book

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The Independent Online
A PARKED van carrying a conspicuously armed policeman, and two officers guarding the door of Waterstone's in Kensington on Tuesday night marked the presence of Salman Rushdie at a party to celebrate the 10th birthday of the bookshop chain.

Founder and managing director Tim Waterstone, who regaled his guests with unfavourable newspaper quotes about himself, is about to hand over the reins of the company to Alan Giles, ominously described in the press as 'the man from Do It All'.

Mr Giles comes from the DIY arm of the WH Smith empire, which owns Waterstone's. This may cause the loyal clientele - who are accustomed to finding their favourite East European poetry and literary biographies among the bookshop's browser-friendly aisles - to quiver with apprehension.

Can Tim Waterstone's philosophy be perpetuated by a man accustomed to selling floor tiles? And worse, one who admits openly that he is 'not very well-read'?

Doubters, take heart. Before Do It All, Mr Giles was the man who bought books for WH Smith's bookshops. Still not reassured? Well, Mr Giles says: 'I feel a great responsibility as the custodian of Tim's brand values (if that doesn't sound too much like marketing speak), for the tremendous culture within the organisation and the enormous knowledge of and passion for books.

'I don't think customers at present connect WH Smith with Waterstone's, and that should continue to be the case. Any changes should be invisible, and not alter the shopping experience in either chain.'

That's all right, then. And for what it's worth, he has a degree from Oxford - in, er, physics.