Matthew Roach

Waterstones – The Online and the High Street

Just ike me, my wife loves to read, and she loves to read real paper books even after all my efforts to switch her 100% to the e-book world. While I read primarily things related to the future of AI, which can positively affect my business, my wife is more of an intellectual reader. Although she has got better over the past 12 months or so, but every now and then, she will buy a real book, mainly the ones she wants to keep forever and add to her bookshelves (which have be reduced dramatically over the past few years, and I can see them growing again).

While out in town a few days after Christmas we popped into the big well know high street bookshop Waterstones where my wife spots a book she noticed on their website. But, on their website it was showing as half price £8.50, in the store there was not sign of any reduction on the book itself. We asked the nice shop assistant if the book is half price as per their website. Their reply was no sorry, the online shop is different to the stores, we have different deals and they don’t apply between each other. Very odd, but the shop assistant went to check with another shop employee and came back and said they would give us the book at the online price this time, and suggest next time we just do a click and collect from their website to the store to ensure we get the online price.

Couple things which are very odd and broken here:

  1. The online and high street stores act as separate entities it seems, I can make sense of that for accounting/business reasons, but I can’t work out why they are selling items at different prices. The answer to the question: “How do umbrella companies work?” may shed some light on this question.
  2. I can use the click and collect feature from the online store to a high street store to get the cheaper price. But the book I actually get is from the high street store? Confused
  3. Next time I see a book in store I like, I could check their website and if it’s cheaper I could do click and collect there and then and pick the book up in store within minutes at the reduced price – This then skewing the online / high street business figures as I was technically a high street customer first.

And they wonder why the high street is struggling and in decline. Online almost always wins I find, but this seems like a broken system from Waterstones.