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Gower Street branch

Waterstone's is a United Kingdom based chain of bookshops. Its first branch opened in 1982. Waterstone's is the largest retail bookseller in the United Kingdom, with sales of 428.9 million in 200304.


Waterstone's has around 200 shops in the United Kingdom, Ireland (including Dublin and Cork), and continental Europe (including Amsterdam and Brussels). A substantial number of the shops are close to universities, and offer a wide range of academic books as well as general books. Its two flagship London stores are on Piccadilly and on Gower Street, between University College London and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The Piccadilly store is Britain's largest bookshop (and the largest in Europe) whilst the Gower Street store has a large well-stocked second-hand department.

Waterstone's has acquired a reputation for its sympathetic reuse of buildings of architectural and historical interest. Its more interesting branches include:


The chain was founded by Tim Waterstone after he was sacked by W H Smith. It brought modern marketing techniques to the sale of highbrow, academic and literary books, providing a "browser friendly" atmosphere, with knowledgeable booksellers, a wide range of titles, and smartly-designed shops.

In 1989 W H Smith took a share in the chain, and Waterstone sold out to them in 1993. In 1998, Smiths sold the chain for 300m to HMV Media (now HMV Group plc), a new venture in which EMI was a major shareholder and which already owned the rival Dillons chain. In 1999 all Dillons stores were rebranded as Waterstone's. Waterstone's had started selling books online, but in 2001 franchised its Internet operations to Amazon.com.

Also in 2001 Waterstone's launched a magazine for book lovers, Waterstone's Books Quarterly. The magazine brings together a mix of news, author features and interviews as well as reviews of over 100 books in each issue. A marketing tool, Waterstone's Books Quarterly aims to recommend across all genres and encourage readers to consider books and writers previously unknown to them.

In recent years, Waterstone's has been under more pressure from other chains: Ottakar's, which has many small shops; Borders, with large shops and huge depth; and Blackwell's in its academic heartland. HMV has responded with a "more aggressive and commercial focus... without compromising on the unrivalled range authority for which the chain is renowned." Nevertheless the current management has been criticised for concentrating on fewer, best-selling titles at the expense of range. Robert Topping, manager of the Manchester branch, became a high-profile sacking when he resisted these changes. Tim Waterstone, who had returned to the chain as chairman of HMV Media in 1998, was apparently also unhappy with the management and made moves to buy the chain back, without success. He was suspended as chairman and subsequently left the company in early 2001.

As well as the Waterstone's shops, the firm owns the London bookseller Hatchards, founded in 1792. The Gower Street shop first opened as Dillons in 1936.

In 2005 Waterstone's hit the news when they fired employee Joe Gordon for comments made about the firm in Gordon's blog Woolamaloo Gazette.

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