Waterstones v. Waterstones.com – I know the difference

I just went out to buy two copies of a book for my wife and her Mum and have learnt a lot about online/offline pricing in my little jaunt around the city.

Firstly there are only two real places you can buy a new book (other than the discount end of line retailers) and that is at Waterstones or WH Smith – who are a retailer of sorts.

Before I went out, I looked on Amazon for  target price. £7.49. Now that sounds like good value to me. £5.50 off list price but none in stock and my customers want this book NOW!

The Clean and Lean Diet 14 Days to Your Best-ever Body from Amazon.co.uk
The Clean and Lean Diet 14 Days to Your Best-ever Body from Amazon.co.uk

So it was off to WH Smith, the confused retailer that seems to have ‘buy one get one half price’ on almost everything. Isn’t that what Thresher did before they went bust too? Well, they had the book in stock, but only one of them, so the deal wasn’t that effective. They had a price of £8.44 online. If I had managed to buy the two of them in the store each book would have cost £9.75, so not far off a decent price.

The Clean and Lean Diet 14 Days to Your Best-ever Body - from WHSmith.co.uk
The Clean and Lean Diet 14 Days to Your Best-ever Body - from WHSmith.co.uk

And then onto Waterstones. The only decent sized book store in Nottingham. I was greeted by a friendly young man as I entered and asked him where on the four floors I would find this book. He confirmed they had five in stock at the full price of £12.99 on the third floor.

So I asked the kller questions.

Why could I buy the same book from them online for much less?

The Clean and Lean Diet 14 Days to Your Best ever Body from Waterstones.com
The Clean and Lean Diet 14 Days to Your Best ever Body from Waterstones.com

The answer?

Apparently, and I quote “Because they’re on the Internet, they don’t have the overheads we do.”

Oh, that’s it then, they’re not part of the same group or anything simple, or even based on exactly the same central distribution depot.

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago saying that their new logo was a bit silly and pointless, but did give them the get out clause that a new logo can be worthwhile if it marks a change in behaviour.

You judge for yourself whether this traditional retailer is behaving any different now it has an online presence, or if it is still making the same mistakes as Borders and all the other smaller book stores that have folded before them.

If you offer the same price online and offline (like Tesco and Asda and Sainsbury’s and everyone else with any retailing skill does) you may find that people still buy from your stores rather than looking at you as a showroom or a place of last resort.

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