Sunday, November 10, 2019

Learnings from a Bookseller

James Daunt opened his first book shop, Daunt Books, in Marylebone, London in 1990 at just 26 years old.  I’ve been a fan ever since.  He added five more shops in London and became a Lovemark for book lovers.  Almost 10 years ago, James was drafted in as CEO of the mega Waterstones chain which was busy collapsing under on-line Amazon pressure and the death of the mall.

This year the chain – now profitable and growing again, was sold to Elliott Hedge Fund, who then bought Barnes & Noble in the US and asked James to weave his magic.  James’ formula is one I believe relevant to every retail chain, regardless of business.  His five fixes:
Empower booksellers:
Allow them to make decisions in their own shops.  The business model works far better than identikit diktats from an overly zealous head office.
Good books:
Stock titles that people actually want to read – and make sure they have a prominent place as you walk in the door.  Ensure that displays are consistent rather than having books jumbled together.
Impressions count:
A cosy space that encourages browsing is always more appealing than a big-box feel.
Details matter:
Customers may not immediately perceive them but everything – from the space (or lack of) between books to the angle of shelves – plays a part.
It’s not just books:
Think long and hard about which products to sell aside from books: endlessly stacked piles of dross aren’t appealing.  Quality stationery will work better than gimmicky fridge magnets.


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The 10 F’s.

Spent the last week or so in the North of England with 35 top Booths Buying Execs and Store Managers.  Booths is a 172 year old Northern Lovemark, famous for its find food and wine, delivered through its 28 stores in Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire with its Warm Northern Welcome.

We were working on Personal Purpose and Personal Leadership before weekending in front of four Rugby powers – The All Blacks, Springboks, England and Wales slugging it out in the Rugby World Cup.  The Final on November 2 saw a repeat of the 2007 Final between South Africa and England – and the result ended the same – a win for the Rainbow Nation.

I watched the game with old school friend Brian Ashton who was England’s Head Coach in 2007 and we spent a fair bit of the weekend talking about the Mysteries of Purpose and Peak Performance.

Brian has been teaching and coaching for 50 years or so and has developed his own list of 10 F’s to keep him focussed, learning and operating at Peak.  They are self-explanatory.  Here they are:

Food (F Number 11!!) for thought.


Friday, November 1, 2019

Foodie Friday – The Stars Come Out in Cumbria

My home county of Cumbria in the UK now has more Michelin starred restaurants than any county outside Greater London.  We have twice as many as London per head of population.

Three Cumbrian restaurants received new Michelin stars in the 2020 Michelin Guide.

My own favourite, Ryan Blackburn’s Old Stamp House in nearby Ambleside, Allium at Askham Hall near Penrith and The Cottage In The Wood near Keswick, all won their first stars.

With eight Michelin stars and seven Michelin starred kitchens, Cumbria is now the UK’s top gastronomic destination outside the capital.

L’Enclume in Cartmel – UK’s top restaurant in The Good Food Guide, retained its two stars, HRiSHi at Gilpin Lodge near Windermere, my next door neighbour Forest Side, and Rogen and Co all retained their stars.

And watch out next year for James Cross’ Lake Rd Kitchen in Ambleside – the Good Food Guide’s top 30 entrant and The Samling – they’ll be next.

And make a note of Bing at Wabi Sabi in Ambleside – one day a Star will be his.