Daunt by name…Daunting by nature or just plain Mr Bookseller….

The tall, handsome man strode in to the room, there was a sudden hush…

“Who may you be ?”

“Daunt, James Daunt…”

What James Bond is to spies, James Daunt is to books. Or rather Bond eliminates nasty spies, but Daunt creates an atmosphere for Good Books to survive.

James Daunt, has been a subject of a previous post (https://thepartyblog.org/2019/01/20/undaunted-by-the-big-beast/). Therefore, in short, previously working as a banker for JP Morgan , he opened his first book shop in London in 2012. It grew to a chain of six, which he sold and then was head hunted by the struggling Waterstones,succeeding in turning it around against all odds. Then in 2019 he was asked to go to New York to be CEO of Barnes & Noble, the giant but failing US book retailer Barnes & Noble (now owned by Waterstones).

Now, of course what Agent Daunt does, like all good secret agents, is slaughter a shed load of jobs at Barnes & Noble’s head office. But it is the area in which he does the majority of his nasty work , that is of interest , and that is ‘buying’. Within Waterstones he acted in a similar way. He understands that central buying just does not sit well with the book buying public. Not that they (the book buying public) know anything about central buying. What they do know and like is what is on the shelves. That is the result of the buying returning to the local branches .

What Agent Daunt understands that those with their noses closest to the ground have a lot more idea as to what their customers want. The good people of Southampton have very different reading wants and needs to those in Leeds . That is not to say that the residents of one city are anymore well read than the other. It is just a reflection of regional tastes and interests . Or rather in the case of Barnes & Noble it is the difference between Chicago and Atlanta . The ‘buying’ noses of head office are a long way from the ground.

Once again we return to understanding and responding to your customer base and the wide variations that can exist even within small geographical areas. I keep returning to the ‘future of retailing’ it has to adapt to survive. Simply speaking it is about knowing what your customer wants and making sure you have it. The days are long gone, if they really existed, that one size, or even just the popular sizes fits all.

All major retailers have trend analysts, futurologists, sophisticated data forecasting, AI systems and in some cases experienced and seasoned buyers but that is not enough . They may not be able to have a James Daunt approach. That said if it is about survival and perhaps increased profitability then maybe they would . A best seller novel may bring the punters through the door, but I suspect the margins are very thin , especially with the Amazon behemoth breathing down your neck , and you can’t rely on them as a business model.

M did not rely upon just one agent . M has agents all over the place to generate as much information as possible. What is happening in Moscow is not what is happening in Milan. Bit like Southampton and Leeds. M, with that on the ground intelligence can act in a more targeted manner. So should retailers.

Now to a far more important matter. The image below is seemingly completely irrelevant. Not at all. This little guy is a very important new addition to our household. He will be adding his impartial and apolitical wisdom (hence Aristotle). Patronising comments about doggie talk,or it’s a dogs life… are dogist. They will not be tolerated! His contribution will not always be obvious but it will be incisive, intuitive and above all invaluable.

Aristotle (Ari)

Atque efficaciorem adeo intuitive

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