James Daunt, managing director of bookshop company Waterstones, has defended his decision to market certain franchises as independent.
The company has faced criticism since the revelation that it has opened three shops under individual names, with minimal Waterstones branding.
The shops located in Rye, Southwold and Harpenden contain only a small handwritten notice displaying their link with the nationwide chain.
Mr Daunt said the pseudo-independent stores will be good for “customers, town centres and staff.” Daunt went on to add that he wants to encourage chain shops to operate as independent.
He said: “If you want to enhance a high street you need to act as an independent … and part of the reason we did it is to convince our own booksellers that they have the autonomy that they do have.”
However, local companies have called the move deceitful, claiming that residents would have been opposed to the shop if they had known it was Waterstones’ owned.
Online reaction has been mixed. One tweet suggested that most locals knew the shop was Waterstone’s owned, stating: “Twas great when Waterstones re-opened the book shop in Rye. Looks much nicer unbranded & all locals knew anyway.”
— Pebbles Beach House (@PebblesRye) February 27, 2017
Another Twitter user questioned the stance of the new shops towards authors. She asked: “Do the new unbranded ‘local’ Waterstones behave as indie bookshops towards indie authors?”
Do the new unbranded ‘local’ @Waterstones behave as indie bookshops towards indie authors?
— Linda MacDonald (@LindaMac1) February 27, 2017
The public reaction has been muted when compared to a similar discovery about Tesco and the coffee shop Harris and Hoole last year. There was significant backlash including boycotts by customers, against the coffee-shops upon discovery they were not independent but majority owned by the supermarket giant.
Sub-Editor: Jack Meggitt-Phillips