July 25, 2013

66 managers depart Waterstones amid larger restructure


66 managers left Waterstones last week as part of a larger restructure.

Yesterday, The Bookseller reported that 66 managers had left the British book giant Waterstone’s last week “as part of its management restructure, with a number declining to go through the chain’s assessment process.”

The announcement came nearly two months after Waterstones began a major restructure, in which nearly 500 branch and assistant managers were “earmarked for redundancy.” As our own Zeljka Marosevic explained then:

Staff who hold positions as branch managers, assistant managers, general managers and deputy managers were told they would enter a period of consultation before the company began its restructure and abolished those positions for good. During such workplace consultations, staff usually have the opportunity to discuss their positions and their work and decide whether they should stay in the company and whether they should apply for the new role being created. In the place of these roles will be a new role of ‘bookshop manager’, which will encompass all of the old positions.

Of the 66 managers who left last week, a majority apparently chose to leave the company after declining to re-apply for their old jobs.

One Waterstones employee told The Bookseller that morale at the store was at “rock bottom,” while a manager said, “We feel all those with loyal service have been singled out and morale is at rock bottom.”

Waterstones’ Managing Director James Daunt, on the other hand, indicated that “he believed the process had been ‘fair and transparent’ and emphasized that ‘the majority’ of people had passed the assessment centre process and had been given new Bookshop Manager roles in the company.”

There’s no word yet as to how Waterstones will respond to these departures, though it seems likely that they will be disruptive, as managers will have to move from one store to another to cover the new gaps.

Of course, it’s still unclear exactly how much “managing” managers will do after the restructuring, as Waterstones managers lost the power to stock their stores themselves several months ago. Now, the ordering and returning of books is overseen by retail managers who control geographical clusters and oversee several shops.

Because the company is still restructuring its operations, it’s unfortunately likely that this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing of job losses at Waterstones.


Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.