Waterstones: Back, in the black, and better

Waterstones has reportedly cut 90% of its 2015 losses, and the bookseller seems to be back on a strong footing - steadying itself after a rocky few years. It's positive, because whatever your thoughts on big booksellers, the decline of a bookish standard-bearer is always going to be worrying. 

Yet the big W, which reported £18.5m in losses in 2015, is now reporting a cut to £1.9m, with revenues up 1% year on year, and a return to being in the black a very real prospect indeed. We're not big into financials, but speaking to The BooksellerManaging Director James Daunt clarifies the situation: things are "moving in the right direction".

That the news comes at a time when Amazon is (maybe) planning the opening of bricks and mortar shops in the US, is a clear lesson in the constant battle for booksellers to remain viable in business terms. 

This is never truer than when talking of independent sellers of course. But that Waterstones has had to reshuffle its deck in recent times, shows that no one company can afford to be flat-footed. And Waterstones is undoubtedly shifting the weight back to its toes. 

A fixture all around the UK, Waterstones started removing Kindles from  stores in October last year; preferring to focus on physical book sales, assured that the shift to e-books had plateaued somewhat. Yet Waterstone's company changes reach further back - to when James Daunt was taken on in 2011. 

Founder of Daunt Books, the now Waterstones MD oversaw job losses and store closures, before focusing on locally-focused book stock, the removal of staff uniforms, and good book-selling practices ("you enjoyed that? You might like this"). The company even redesigned its website. You know, the sorts of things all of us who love books, book conversations and book discovery actually relate to. 

Waterstones seems to be taking a good route in its rebalancing, and also seems almost out of a rut which threatened to bring a nasty future. What does that future hold now? Again, Daunt has some ideas:

I think we ought to open international shops. Our shops in Amsterdam and Brussels are very successful and they are very good at it. But the problem is at the moment, we are quite busy.

That's not all though, in the years to come we could see more Waterstones stores at travel hubs around the UK:

Travel is a huge opportunity for us but it is a very closed market. WH Smith has a lock on it. Our St Pancras shop has been fantastic for us and I would love to be in more travel locations, but a lot of outlets are in very long term contracts.

What do you think? Waterstones before you catch a train or plane? What are you experiences...is Waterstones doing things right?