ACHUKA has been a vocal critic of the Waterstones online presence, so the news that James Daunt shares our assessment of its “pathetic” website (as reported in the Bookseller from a speech given at the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) conference in Oxford) comes as very welcome news indeed.
I wrote just over a year ago:
of my disappointment at the announcement that Daunt (as of that time) had “no plans to overhaul the digital operation”, saying:
I think this is incredibly short-sighted and defeatist. Amazon may have started as a bookseller, but it is not a bookseller any more.
I believe proper investment in and development of the Waterstones website experience, alongside the refurbishment and restyling of the instore experience, could have persuaded many people who buy their books from Amazon to use Waterstones online instead.
I fully expected this to be part of the rescue plan, which is why I introduced Waterstones buy-me links when I redesigned ACHUKA in the summer.
This interview with Daunt leads me to the conclusion that there may be little point in trying to promote online purchases via Waterstones if there are no plans to improve the ‘online offer’. By any standards the current online experience at Waterstones.com is not good. The browse results by Bestselling, for example, produce some bizarre lists, with out-of-print titles sometimes appearing in the Top Ten.
At last, it seems, he has seen the damage being done by having such lacklustre online presence.
I am looking forward to the summer revamp with great excitement.
Note also what he says below about the likelihood that there will be more store closures, offset by the opening of new, smaller shops.
Daunt called Waterstones’ current website “pathetic” and said that it needed to be made “engaging and intelligent”.
“We will have a new platform from July which will give us something more adaptable,” he said.
He said Waterstones still had a place on the high street focused on its “single channel”, and that its relevance came “back to discoverability”. He said Waterstones ought to be “as relevant to Amazon as it is to publishers”, but warned that its stores needed to be “outstanding” to get away with charging the premium price for books it needed to charge to cover its rents.
But he said that in the future he expected Waterstones to be running more shops, but smaller ones. Shops in “inappropriate” locations or those whose customer bases overlapped would be shut as their leases came up for renewal.