Assessing the Waterstone’s Brand

Each week in association with retail and marketing consultancy Pragma, looks at a high-profile UK brand, assessing its performance against a range of criteria and offering suggestions to improve its overall score. Marks for each section are given out of five stars.

Waterstone’s is very well established in the UK and since its takeover of Ottakars last year it now has over 350 stores in the UK. The future of bookshops in the face of the onslaught from online retailers and supermarkets is questionable; Waterstone’s therefore needs to remain a step ahead of its competitors.

Most stores are pleasant and well laid out with themed areas such as ‘kiddies corner’ and coffee lounges in the larger stores. The books are clearly and logically categorised. The staff are generally pleasant, knowledgeable and passionate about books. The smaller stores (including some of the old Ottakars stores) are more cramped so have less seating areas. Although the staff picks are always good there could be more imagination in the way books are categorised.

Each bookshop has its own unique range of titles and space at the front of store to promote a choice of books selected by its staff. An average sized Waterstone’s store merchandises a range of around 30,000 individual books, with 200,000 titles in the largest store. More creativity is being used to tempt the impulse purchaser but the back catalogue would benefit from more offers and category recommendations, particularly for the occasional visitor.

Value Positioning*
Waterstone’s uses 3 for 2 offers and discounts the newly published hard covers, but the fact remains it is more expensive than both supermarkets and Amazon for best sellers. Many products are almost double the price in-store compared with the online shop.

Target the occasional book buyers with stronger offers and promotions.
Provide more reasons to visit the stores such as events.
Create more themed displays to inspire back catalogue purchases.
Install self-search computer terminals to ease pressure on the information points.
Match some online prices in-store and make sure this is publicised.

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