Waterstones fools millennials with ‘indie’ village bookshops

By Kitty Knowles 27 February 2017

Don't be fooled. Be outraged.

Most millennials don’t want their area to lose its soul.

Today it’s cool to know what you’re buying, where it came from, and who your money is supporting.

The ‘indie’ supplier has never been more on-trend.

Bookshop subterfuge

Smart bookshops know this, and in their long-standing battle against Amazon, will wear their independence on their sleeve; we love seeing the old photos on their walls, the carefully handwritten displays, and jar of local sweets on the till.

But big dog bookseller Waterstones is trying to be even smarter.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing, it’s creeping into Britain’s chocolate box villages in a slick act of subterfuge.

Devious deception?

With it’s pretty painted shop front and spinning postcard stand, Southwold Books in Suffolk certainly looks the part.

But lean a little closer, and a single handwritten note in the window reveals the truth: this quaint village bookstore is actually a Waterstones.

And it’s no coincidence all three of Waterstones’ unbranded stores are located in lovely rural hotspots (the other two being in Rye, Sussex, and Harpenden, Hertfordshire).

Visitors are being fooled into thinking they’re supporting local businesses, say locals.

Community matters

Unsurprisingly, local businesspeople are not best pleased with Waterstones’ tactics.

“To call themselves Southwold Books is a bit naughty,” John Wells, owner of Wells of Southwold (which sells books, cards and gifts), told the Mail on Sunday.

“Locals know what the shop is, but visitors don’t.”

Gallery owner Clive Sawyer agrees: “Waterstones has crept in under the guise of a nice, independent bookstore, which it simply isn’t. Ultimately, it’s the dishonesty I really dislike.”

Ridiculous? Really?

James Daunt (founder of Daunt Books) is now the managing director of Waterstones. He argues that dressing up small shops as independent helps them ‘integrate’ with local communities.

“We don’t pretend we are not Waterstones. The idea that this is some type of subterfuge is ridiculous,” he said.

To us however, this just doesn’t stick. It exactly what an imposter would say.

What’s more we’ve seen the same tactics before (no one would guess hipster cafe Harris & Hoole was owned by Tesco).

You can’t pose as an independent bookshop, and be surprised when people fall for it.