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Posts Tagged ‘WH Smith’

Booksellers Cope with Riots in London

As riots and looting spread through a number of London neighborhoods, booksellers around the city struggled to cope.  The authorities have warned many stores to stay closed during this difficult time.

Here’s more from The Bookseller: “A Waterstone’s spokesperson said it was closing stores early depending on police advice but only the shop on Clapham High Street had closed … A WH Smith spokesperson said it had closed at most six stores across the stricken areas in Brixton, Wood Green and Enfield.”

Jacket Copy reports that a few independent bookstores have remained open. One of them is Pages of Hackney (pictured, via), a store located in one of “the most volatile areas.” The bookstore’s Twitter feed includes firsthand accounts of the riots. About two hours ago, they assured one customer: “Everything is fine at the moment. A little edgy, but mostly ok.”

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Borders Wants UK Deal By Autumn

Borders is believed to be keen to clarify the future of its UK and Ireland business before the main autumn selling season begins, according to the Bookseller’s Graeme Neill. The summer lull has seen suitors scrutinise the finances of the company, with W H Smith gaining increasing currency as a potential buyer if the price drops below 25m pounds. “I can’t see it operating as a standalone business,” said influential City analyst Richard Ratner from Seymour Pierce. “WH Smith will only take them over for a decent price—and they will strip out the underperforming stores to cut costs.”

WHSmith to Bid on Borders UK Stores?

To which I say, WTF? The Telegraph isn’t so vocal in its confusion, but does say that news of WH Smith‘s interest in the company’s UK holdings – 41 Borders stores, 27 Books etc stores and three smaller Borders Express stores will surprise the City. Private equity bidders had been widely tipped as the most likely suitors for Borders. Sources close to WH Smith warned last night that there would be significant hurdles to overcome, including competition issues, and that the private equity bidders had a number of advantages. In other words, this is still rumor – for now.

Travel Publisher Plugs Guides Into Mobiles

The Bookseller’s Katherine Rushton reports that AA Publishing, a leading travel publisher in the UK, is launching a new series of interactive travel guides for use on triband mobile phones. The first title in the series, SMART TRAVELGUIDE: LONDON, will be released exclusively through Stanfords and WH Smith this month, ahead of the general launch in September. The Smart TravelGuides will be sold on memory cards that plug into 3G devices, and allow users to browse attractions by name or by proximity to the user. Each listing will be marked on a 1:10,000 scale map which has a GPS tracking function enabled by the national map agency Ordnance Survey.

Guides to a further 12 European cities and New York are planned for launch by next spring.

UK Booksellers Urged to Ban ‘Racist’ Tintin Book

The Telegraph reports that comic book character Tintin was at the centre of a race row last night after Britain’s equality watchdog accused one of the books of making black people “look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles”. The Commission for Racial Equality claimed TINTIN IN THE CONGO depicted “hideous racial prejudice” and that it should be removed from sale.

“This book contains imagery and words of hideous racial prejudice, where the ‘savage natives’ look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles. It beggars belief that in this day and age Borders would think it acceptable to sell and display Tintin In The Congo. High street shops, and indeed any shops, ought to think very carefully about whether they ought to be selling and displaying it.”

TINTIN IN THE CONGO had long been banned in Britain because of its content. Egmont, the comic strip’s current publisher, issued a colour version of the book in Britain in 2005, but included a foreword which tried to explain the colonial attitudes prevalent at the time it was written – which resulted in attracting the CRE’s attention. Last night, the Borders chain of bookshops agreed to move it to the adult graphic novels area of its shops, but the official Tintin shop vowed to keep selling it, as did Waterstone’s and WH Smith.

Harry Potter and the Continuing Price Wars

The news is surprising, even a slap in the face to hear, but wholly unexpected. The Times reports that HMV boss Simon Fox has warned investors that the seeming cash cow known as HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS is really far, far from that. Even though Waterstone’s had already sold nearly as many by preorder as were sold in total of the sixth Harry Potter book, because Fox said it was vitally important for the bookstore chain to offer the book at a competitive price – and so Harry 7 will be on sale for 8.99 pounds, roughly half the cover price – it would be “hard to make money”. Fox added that “if we try to be anything other than half price we are setting the Waterstone’s brand off as high price and that’s something we are trying to change.”

Fox’s comments reflect the fears of Kate Swann, the chief executive of WH Smith, and Philip Downer, the retail director of Borders. “Harry Potter will help sales but looking at the current offers we are not expecting it to help profits,” said Swann, while Downer added that “[July 21] will be a terrific evening of parties and events but we don’t expect to make any money from Harry Potter. The book will be available more cheaply from the supermarkets who treat it as a loss leader.” As the high street prepares for a Harry Potter price war with the supermarkets and online stores such as Amazon, which is already offering the book for 8.99 pounds. Asda and Tesco will deliver the Bloomsbury publication for 12p less, plus postage and packing. The retailers admit that the preorder price may fall to a 55 per cent discount closer to the publication date.

Outlook Still Dim for WHSmith

Thomson Financial reports that Kate Swann, chief executive of WHSmith, has again warned investors not to expect the group to deliver underlying sales growth any time soon. “In terms of sales growth, it’s difficult to put a time on that, but I think it’s unlikely to be in the short term … It’s unlikely that we’ll return to sales growth for the next few years as we continue to manage that [product] mix,” she told reporters after the retailer reported slightly better-than-expected interim results. Her strategy is to focus on cost-cutting and improvements to gross margins, by shifting the mix of products, rather than driving top line sales.

In related news, the chain plans to open up post office outlets in selected stores, according to the BBC. The move, which follows trials in six outlets, will boost WH Smith’s annual profits by about £2.5m, the firm said.

WHSmith eyes Borders Airport Stores

What with Borders‘ recent announcement that it will shutter all of its UK-based shops, <em>the Scotsman reports that WHSmith has its eye on the airport shops even as he market awaits a bid from retail entrepreneur Tim Waterstone for the whole group. City analysts say that although the Office of Fair Trading would block any move for Borders outright from WH Smith, its airport shops are a licence to print money and chief executive Kate Swann will be interested. Nick Bubb, retail analyst at Pali International, said: “WH Smith will definitely be looking at part of it, especially the airport stores and possibly the out-of-town stores. I would be surprised if they are not trawling over it [Borders] this weekend.”

As for Waterstone, he’s in talks with Mothercare to sell his Early Learning Centre toy chain for an estimated 85 million pounds, which might then be used to try buying out Borders – or at least, try something along those lines, even if Seymour Pierce analyst Richard Ratner dismissed the notion as “wishful thinking”.