This morning, savouring our Christmas break but still committed workaholics, Andrew and I met at Brown’s on George Street to spend a very pleasant hour or two over tea and toast making plans for bookshop events and choosing titles for our Book of the Week and Book of the Month promotions (the only titles we discount don’t you know and all chosen because we think our customers will love them rather than because we’re paid to promote them – unlike, ahem, certainbookshop chains). Afterwards, we decided to wander down the street to see how Waterstone’s sale was going.
I’ll come on to that in a minute but first I’d like to share with you the decidedly tasteless poster that was adorning their front window. As one chain crashes and burns and hundreds of people lose their jobs two days before Christmas (and just along the street the Wesley Owen Christian bookshop is having a closing down sale because they’ve gone into administration) gloating about it really is classy isn’t it? It isn’t as though everyone in the trade who even glances at the trade press is unaware of how Borders staff are feeling and given that hundreds of people were made redundant at Waterstone’s earlier in 2009, you would think that the Big W would hesitate before indulging in such schadenfreude, wouldn’t you? Especially when figures like these are being released showing that Waterstone’s itself is hardly in rude health.
And the Waterstone’s sale? Well, they’ve got an awful lot of Jeremy Clarkson and Delia’s new Christmas book lying around – we counted well over a hundred copies of the latter – but what was surprising was the amount of discounting going on on titles that shouldn’t really need to be discounted – titles that have been selling well for us at full price such as Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson and Climbing the Bookshelves by Shirley Williams – so it looks as though they’ve over-ordered on those and discounting heavily makes a smaller loss than the costs involved in returning them to the Hub and then back to the publishers, with all the attendant problems that have been experienced getting books out of the Hub, never mind back in and out the other side. And the shop was a mess which never gives a good impression when combined with knock-down prices as they chase Amazon to the bottom of the market – after all, who wants to look like a bargain basement?
All in all, our visit made us feel quite pleased with how the first few months at The Edinburgh Bookshop have gone – not complacent by any means, but positive and we’re enthusiastic about the new year. But that poster in the window – that really gave us an opportunity to feel morally superior.