Leading UK bookshop chain Waterstones has come under fire after rebranding some of its newer stores with individual names and interiors. Critics are accusing the retailer of ‘deception’ and ‘fooling customers’ into thinking the shops are ‘independently-run businesses.’
The stores are Southwold Books in Suffolk, The Rye Bookshop in East Sussex and Harpenden Books in Hertfordshire.
Waterstones’ chief executive James Daunt defended the move – telling the BBC that he wanted the shops to have ‘a more independent feel’.
Louisa Walters, founder of The Restaurant Club, a 17,000-strong membership scheme championing independent restaurants, comments: “It’s worrying that the shop fronts are designed to fool people into thinking they are locally run small businesses with the love and individuality which you find in local stores and eateries.
“We are seeing an increased appetite for a more personalised experience with many people actively choosing to spend their hard earned cash at independents over chains. Chains are responding by surreptitiously taking on the look and feel of local stores while still offering their core business pricing and service, which is somewhat deceptive and a threat to real independents.
“Independents stores, including British restaurants, already struggle to compete with the chains in terms of buying power so have to offer something niche or different. We are urging people to vote with their feet and visit – or research – independent businesses wherever possible. If we don’t support our high street we are in danger of having identical high streets with little choice or diversity.”