January 22, 2016

English book retailer turns up the class with new “luxury” airport bookstore



Luxury. Coming to an airport near you.

WH Smith—the UK’s “worst retailer,” according to a 2014 consumer report—is in the process of opening several new airport bookshops, with the intention of targeting more affluent shoppers.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet TheBookshop by WH Smith. 

The Bookseller‘s Lisa Campbell reports that first TheBookshop opened just before Christmas inside Terminal 5 of London’s Heathrow Airport and is located near several other high-end retailers, including Dixons Travel, Harrods, and well, Caviar House. An Edinburgh Airport location came shortly after.

So, what’s the difference between TheBookshop and that sad sack bookstore in the dark corner of the loser terminal? Well, TheBookshop features a “luxury book” section, which—you guessed it—hosts more expensive coffee table-style books and gift books.

Additionally, TheBookshops will host author events. Which makes sense because in airports time ceases to exist, no one is ever rushed, and everyone is in the mood for poetry. Oh, and it’s a captive audience.

In order to differentiate TheBookshop by WH Smith from other WH Smith stores (which also have airport locations), Campbell explains that the TheBookshop’s branding will feature “white letters on a black background as opposed to the company’s signature white type on a blue background.”

Okay, call this all a hot take, but what the hell is one supposed to do with a very large, very rare, and very expensive J.M.W. Turner monograph purchased at TheBookshop? Hold it on my lap all the way to New York, where every bookstore is a luxury?



Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.