The Business On... Sam Husain, Chief executive, Foyles
Friday 24 September 2010
I can't find him in the family history
Correct. Mr Husain, who has been in charge of Foyles since 2008, is the first non-member of the founding family to be given completely free rein to run the bookseller in its 107-year history.
So what's the story?
A very happy one, thank you. Foyles announced yesterday that it made a profit of £336,000 over the year to the end of June. Not megabucks, but its first year in the black for a decade.
Weren't we heading for a sad ending?
It certainly didn't look good for a time. When Christopher Foyle, grandson of one of the founders, took over the business 10 years ago, it was losing a fortune. He took over from his aunt, Christina Foyle, who had run the flagship Charing Cross Road store for 54 years with not even a token attempt to keep up with the times. Mr Foyle made a good start turning the business around before appointing Mr Husain two years ago. He obviously feels comfortable with his selection: though he remains chairman, he's decamped to Monaco.
A new chapter has begun then?
Indeed. Mr Husain seems to have avoided the fate of other booksellers in an industry where sales have been falling off a cliff. And he's done it without deep discounting or even cutting staff numbers. Instead, the format has been updated, with shelf space cleared for more popular titles, and posh new stores at White City and St Pancras. Charing Cross Road has become a "destination store" hosting readings from authors such as Peter Carey and Martin Amis.
A literary hero for our times?
Maybe, but an unlikely one. Mr Husain moved here from Pakistan to study accountancy and has worked in financial and management consultancy roles ever since. He got the Foyles job after a friend introduced him to Christopher Foyle and he's not even much of a book lover, though he reads a bit of non-fiction. But he's brought a numbers-focused discipline to a brand people really like. The failures of several larger rivals have probably helped too.
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