Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader: Which book retailer is the bestseller?

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Christopher Foyle


WNG Foyle

ANY COMMENT on the bookselling industry must mention Tim Waterstone, developer of the original quality chain whose legacy permeates the UK. From his example there has been an onslaught of good book retail outlets over 20 years.

But will supply outstrip book-buying demand, killing a few major chains and leaving only the best to survive? With e-commerce growing at such an enormous rate and offering considerable competition to bricks and mortar booksellers, all shopping habits in the next millennium will change beyond recognition.

Jeff Bezos at has proved extremely efficient in online book shopping. On the high street I admire the Joseph family for their considerable success. With Books etc and now Borders [which bought Books etc], they have become a major competitive force.

James Heneage

Managing Director


THE BOOK retailer I most admire is Alan Giles, chief executive of HMV Media. As the head of Waterstone's when it was owned by WH Smith, he oversaw its growth with astute understanding and sensitivity. He retained local autonomy, yet introduced effective financial and marketing controls. Staff are of paramount importance and their aspirations must be understood and systems and incentives offered to attract and encourage interesting people from diverse backgrounds.

Alan acted as an accomplished buffer between Waterstone's and WH Smith. He reflected the important blend of strategic planning and innovation in an industry of extraordinary pace and change. He moved to HMV Media when it acquired Waterstone's 18 months ago. Now the Internet has sprung up, high street stores have to maintain their competitive edge by focusing on lifestyle retail, incorporating coffee shops into spacious and entertaining stores.

Willie Anderson

Managing Director John Smith & Son Bookshops

PATIENCE AND flexibility are important qualities in the bookselling industry. You need to know your market inside out to keep up with the pace. This expertise is embodied by Alan Giles, chief executive of HMV Media. Running such a huge chain involves major difficulties and responsibilities, but Alan keep his feet on the ground. I would also mention Tim Waterstone, who now chairs the board at HMV Media.

Trevor Goul-Wheeker

Managing Director, Hammicks Bookshops

GREAT BOOKSHOP managers are vital and their input needs to be supported and encouraged. Shop sites should be constantly improved and updated, new ideas and different approaches tried. The right books need to be stocked and displayed, computer systems installed to facilitate search and purchase and listening posts made available for audio texts.

Richard Joseph, chief executive at Borders UK demonstrated financial and marketing acumen when making a success of Books etc. He continues to mastermind the expansion of Borders. His success is attributable to a great knowledge of and enthusiasm for his products. His stores are bright, friendly and entertaining.

Richard Joseph

Chief Executive

Borders UK

I ADMIRE the forward thinking of Alan Giles, chief executive at HMV Media, and Trevor Goul-Wheeker, managing director of Hammicks, whose passions for the business have made them valued and successful. Progress is ensured by taking chances, trying new approaches and embracing change. Market leaders must surround themselves with a great team and try to offer the best books and the latest developments. This means integrating Internet advances with high street retail by supplying in-store terminals and the opportunity to search the Web.

David Kneale

Managing Director, Waterstone's.

WITHOUT BEING sycophantic, I would nominate Tim Waterstone as someone whose vision has changed bookselling and reading. The constant challenges and daily variations require strong listening skills coupled with the ability to communicate one's point of view.

Notable impacts in the market have been made by, and James Heneage, managing director at Ottakar's, has successfully exploited a niche in the market other players had yet to discover.

Richard Handover

Group Chief Executive WH Smith Ltd RICHARD JOSEPH, chief executive at Borders UK, espouses all that is admirable in an entrepreneur in this industry. He is a charismatic figure who combines the necessary vision to plan for the future with the commercial edge to understand and deal with the issues faced. Market leaders need to be able to lead, inspire and motivate their team, with the humanity and patience to listen to the opinions of others.

Jackie Thin

Managing Director James Thin

A PASSION for books is crucial and staff knowledge is a key resource; their customer focus and insight is evident in selection and presentation of the stores. IT skills are indispensable. Bookstores are retail outlets with a vast and diverse volume of stock which we need to have at our fingertips to offer the best service. With the Internet, a reduction and rationalisation of bookshops must be anticipated. Tim Waterstone has paved the way for the quality book shop chain. And Jeff Bezos, the billionaire behind, embodies the decision and drive to make things happen.