Chocolate, vouchers and a nice Bath

Johnny Morris is an entrepreneur and marketing expert, and he has blogged rather amusingly about WH Smith, here:

He has nailed the twin modern themes of the WHS experience – chocolate and vouchers: neither is of interest to most of the customers waiting in line, but the staff just have to keep on pushing them.

I was in WHS on Saturday, looking for GCSE study guiides.  WHS has a strong repuattion for carrying these titles, and they have a massive selection of all of the major brands.  Whether it’s the customers or the staff who have shuffled the range so effectively, so that every single workbook has to be inspected to see if it is the right Science text, I cannot say.  But I have learnt that WHS no longer encourages customers to seek help from its staff, so I ploughed on alone, eventually finding one of the three books I needed.  I refused the vouchers and the chocolate.

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Will Gompertz, the BBC’s Arts correspondent, has written about Mary Portas’s government committee, here:

He suggests, following The Bookseller’s awards night on Monday (when Sainbury’s was awarded the “best bookselling chain” gong…) that one way to revive high streets would be to recommend that every High Street should have an independent bookshop.

This is a delightful and wholly fantastical idea, sparked off by the success of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, which won the Best Independent Bookshop award for the second time in its short history.  Mr B’s is a terrific shop run with vigour and imagination, and anyone who can find a parking space in Bath should drop by.  But it is not a “high street” shop – it has kept its occupancy costs down by positioning itself in an off-pitch but accessible location.  Very smart – but not a revival for the traditional high street, I’m afraid.