WHSmith is one of the UK’s oldest retail brands, originally famous, among a number of things, for selling books. Yet over time, its reliance on the category as a mainstay of its sales has declined and now in many branches across Britain it almost appears that novels, non-fiction and suchlike are almost an afterthought.
Yet, it is making efforts to regain lost ground at a time when book reading, rather than e-books, appears to be undergoing something of a revival. With this in mind, it recently opened its ninth standalone bookshop, in Euston Station, central London. The point about this store is that it is bookshop first and WHSmith outpost a distant second.
With this in mind, the exterior is hi-gloss metal with the name picked out in a bold contrast white. The long exterior side of the shop has a graphic consisting of floor to ceiling books – making it like looking at a wall in a library.
Within, this is traditional bookselling territory: bookshelves lining the perimeter and fashioned from plain wood, as are the mid-shop display units. The offer is aimed at the traveller, but this does not mean solely ‘bestsellers’, books for minority interests also feature prominently.
Overall, this looks a return to form for a retailer that seemed to have lost its way as far as this category was concerned.