by | Mar 8, 2017 | Ethics, Marketing, Perception | 0 comments

By Deborah Wroe

It was World Book Day last week. If you are a parent this event could not have passed you by. And if you are on social media – ditto. Feeds were full of cute images of children in fabulous costumes. World Book Day is a wonderful celebration of the written word and an opportunity to instil a love of reading into kids. What’s not to love? Well, the competitive nature of the costumes for some – ahem, see this scathing view of one author and parent!

World Book Day is supported by National Book Tokens, publishers and booksellers and on the day more than 15 million book tokens are handed out to children to exchange for a free World Book Day book, or £1 off other books at a local participating bookseller.

Some may choose to get their books from a local independent book shop, others from a national chain. Others could end up in their local independent book shop not knowing it’s actually a chain. Whaaaat??

Yes, it appears that Waterstones have been ‘deceiving’ customers in Southwold, Rye and Harpenden by opening stores that are passing themselves off as independents when shock horror they are big bad corporate wolves in sheep’s clothing. Well, not quite. The Southwold store has been around since 2014 and has a sign on the door saying it’s a trading name of Waterstones.

It reminds me of ‘You’ve got mail’, one of my favourites romcoms with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. She’s a small indie family owned bookshop and he’s the big corporate pile ‘em high sell ‘em cheap book flogger who comes into town and precipitates the decline and closure of her business. But hey they fall in love in the end so all is well. I digress…

Waterstones CEO James Daunt has said (speaking to BBC radio 4’s Today programme) “We can’t open up great big Waterstones here but we can open up small ones. We are coming into quite sensitive high streets with predominantly independent retailers on them and we wish to behave as they do.”

So haven’t Waterstones just been really clever here and given the punter what they want? The essence of great marketing. Existing thriving independent scene? Locals want a book shop? Don’t want a homogenised high street? Hey presto – they’ve matched the product to the audience. No wool has been pulled over anyone’s eyes in our opinion.

In this post truth era we believe they have been authentic and clever and a book shop is a book shop by any name, and along with libraries are key selling points of a community.

What do you think?