Decentralisation within a book retailer
A Waterstones case study

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Page 2: Vision

Sharing a vision enables everyone within an organisation to think ahead and be part of the plan for the future of that business. The shared purpose within Waterstone’s is simple, “To be the world’s best loved and most profitable Booksellers”. This provides direction for the organisation to form the basis of a strong and vibrant company culture, which positions the customer as key in terms of business priorities.

The complete commitment and support of everyone within the company is required to deliver the kind of service this vision demands. Waterstone’s believes people are its most valuable asset. People need to know where the organisation is going and what it is aiming to achieve.


Decentralisation is the movement of power and decision-making from the centre outwards to other parts of the organisation. The belief behind decentralisation is that most decisions cannot be taken at the centre but instead must be taken on the spot by people who know the circumstances and customers. Decentralisation provides a radical challenge to the traditional methods of control and influence exerted within an organisation.

Within Waterstone’s, decentralisation means that wherever possible, individual branches have the freedom to make their own decisions about how best to serve their customers and manage their part of the business. This case study looks at why Waterstone’s chose to decentralise and examines the impact that this has had upon the business. It examines:

  • why decentralisation is a key response to the book industry supply chain
  • the impact of decentralisation on how Waterstone’s is structured as well as on how it operates
  • how decentralisation helps to equip Waterstone’s booksellers with the skills and knowledge that the business needs to fulfil its business priorities.

Waterstones | Decentralisation within a book retailer