Earlier this year, I got out my magnetic self-help cliches kit and decided to move on, get over it and achieve closure. I had a new, better job. It was time to put the past behind me.
But I've never quite been able to get over the fact that the company I loved - Ottakar's - was taken over by one that was run by a cabal of people who didn't read (I thought that the baddies were supposed to lose?), so it was with extreme satisfaction that I read these two articles in the Bookseller.
If you can't be bothered to follow the link (and I won't hold it against you), here is a potted history of recent events:
Three years ago, Waterstone's acquired a new managing director, Gerry Johnson. With increased competition from the internet and supermarkets, Waterstone's sales were beginning to shrink, so Johnson's brief was to reverse the process. He had three big ideas:
- Establish a proper transactional website
- Introduce a loyalty card scheme
- Introduce central distribution for all stock items
I expect that Johnson calculated that the savings made from getting rid of staff and closing underperforming shops (which was done very quietly, with the minimum of publicity), plus the inceased revenue from the dot.com site, the loyalty card and various hideous initiatives, would put Waterstone's back into positive figures.
But it hasn't worked. The sales are still going down and the Hub, depending on who you talk to, is at best problematic, at worst a disaster.
I'm not in a position to comment on the sales figures - perhaps the odds against high street booksellers are too great. However, what interests me most about the comments threads on the Bookseller articles is the depth of feeling. Why has morale sunk so low?
As a desperate, knee-jerk reaction, Gerry Johnson has banned booksellers from accessing the Bookseller website. Since the demise of Publishing News, this is the only significant trade journal for the book industry. What is Johnson thinking? It is ironic that Waterstone's, who ran an effective promotion about banned books and censorship a few years ago, are now resorting to such desperate measures.