Extract from a long interview with James Daunt in Retail Week
Clearly Daunt admires Waitrose. But could he ever see himself running another retailer? After all, if he manages to turn Waterstones around, Daunt will be a man in demand. “I have a great interest in the way other retailers work and I admire hugely what they do at Next and Waitrose, and I absolutely unapologetically go and steal what others do. But I am a bookseller.
“You could put the riches of the world before me to run the Body Shop or whatever it is, and I wouldn’t do it. [Next boss Simon] Wolfson sells frocks, that’s what he does. I expect he would royally screw up the bookshops if he came to run them and I would definitely royally screw up his frocks business if I was to take over that.”
Does Daunt have any regrets about leaping out of his comfort zone and attempting a turnaround on such a huge scale? Emphatically yes, he says. But more because he lacks the time to pursue his love of being a shopfloor bookseller than anything to do with the scale of the task at hand.
“And I don’t get home as early as I used to either. It’s a lot of hard work,” he says.
“My analogy is it’s like skiing a couloir – it’s very steep and very narrow and really fun, your legs are going like billy-o, and if you’re asked if you have regrets half way down, it’s, ‘oh shit’. But there are none when you get to the bottom – assuming you’re still standing.”