Profiling business with a profit in excess of £5 million over the past two years, the E2E Profit 100 is the sixth in a series of six tracks created to celebrate UK business and entrepreneurship.
Founded in 1982 by Tim Waterstone and with its first store located on Old Brompton Road, Waterstones was set up with the aim of creating a more extensive and welcoming bookshop experience compared to existing book retailers at the time. Over the decades that have followed, Waterstones has grown to become an icon of the British cultural landscape, employing over 3,000 superb booksellers across over 280 bookshops.
Waterstones quickly expanded and opened several more stores across the United Kingdom. They are known for their spacious, well-designed stores with a wide selection of books and knowledgeable staff. The chain grew rapidly during the 1980s and 1990s and became the largest specialist bookseller in the UK. Waterstones faced competition from other book retailers like WHSmith and Dillons but has continued to grow and expand despite competition from other high street stores and the ever-growing e-commerce channels. As the last surviving national bookshop chain, Waterstones has cemented its place in the UK highstreet.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Waterstones went through several ownership changes. It was owned by HMV Group, then acquired by the A&NN Group (a Russian retail conglomerate) in 2006. Under new ownership, the chain went through various rebranding efforts, with some stores briefly being renamed “Waterstone’s” with an apostrophe. However, the name was eventually returned to “Waterstones.”
Waterstones continues to face challenges from the rise of e-books and online retailers like Amazon but its presence on the high street remains strong, giving book lovers a destination to spend time with other book lovers, over the isolation of an ecommerce store.
In 2011, James Daunt CBE, a British bookshop owner, was appointed as the Managing Director of Waterstones. Under his leadership, the company underwent a significant transformation. He introduced a more localised and independent approach to each store, allowing individual managers to curate their stock. This led to a revival in the company’s fortunes. With recent openings including Reigate, Clifton and moves to far more attractive locations for its shops in Edinburgh and Manchester’s Trafford Centre, Waterstones plans to continue to be ambitious.
Under Daunt’s management, Waterstones continued to expand its presence and profitability. The company also acquired several independent bookshops and integrated them into the Waterstones brand. Waterstones is known for its unique and often historic store locations. For example, the flagship store on Piccadilly in London is housed in a stunning art deco building.
Creating a feeling of community, Waterstones has also focused on community engagement, hosting events, book clubs, and author signings to make their stores gathering places for communities. Supported by independent coffee shops, gifts and new books each week, each Waterstones creates its own destination for book lovers.
Today, Waterstones is a prominent bookshop chain with hundreds of stores across the UK and Ireland. It is known for its commitment to physical bookstores, its role in supporting local communities, and its efforts to provide a diverse and extensive selection of books to its customers.
You can view the complete E2E Profit 100 track here.