'Foyle's bookseller makes first real profit for a decade'

Posted by Guy Pringle, 24th September 2010

Elsewhere on this website we've started posting pix of bookshops we love but this headline in today's Guardian took me back to one of my favourites. At various times in my career I've called on the world famous Charing Cross Road shop, then the only branch of Foyle's, to sell the wares of whichever publisher I was working for at the time.

Dickensian is the most apposite description I can think of, with queues of publishers' reps waiting apprehensively to see if the orders they'd taken in the various departments would be accepted by the General Manager. His name has faded into the mists but he was roundly trashed in the coffee shop over the road by reps who'd had those pieces of paper torn up for no discernible reason. How to explain that to their Sales Manager was the hot topic.

Foyle's newly refitted premises and change of attitude to staff - 6 month contracts used to be the norm to keep costs to the bone - have paid off. Chief Executive, Sam Husain has a clear view of what will ensure their survival at a time when opening a bookshop looks like the quickest way to lose a lot of money. Rather than trying to compete head-on with larger rivals - I leave you to guess who - he sees a sustainable niche.

Sure, this is all eminently sensible, but there was something magical about wandering through the many floors never knowing what gems you would find round the next corner - even if it was a great pile of exactly the book you had hoped to take a big order for that day!

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