Decentralisation within a book retailer
A Waterstones case study

Page 1: Introduction

The largest specialist book retailer in the UK and Ireland is Waterstone’s. It has more than 200 branches and employs approximately 4,200 people. Organisations are as individual as nations and societies. Their widely different cultures are reflected in their values, ideals and beliefs. Within Waterstone’s, the belief is that each branch is part of the local community. In this...
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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...
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Page 3: The supply chain

The book trade has a complex supply chain. At one end of the supply chain is the author with a manuscript, while at the other end is the customer purchasing the book. The industry supply chain is an intricate network of interconnected parties which form the process by which a finished product reaches its intended market.Books are a highly creative commodity for which there are countless authors...
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Page 4: Organisational structure

A typical retail company will have a hierarchical structure like the one shown. Dependent upon management policies, senior buyers will control the quantity and type of products provided, despite the fact that sales staff are the company’s direct point of contact with customers. In this model, communication is one way. Within Waterstone’s decentralisation helps to invert this...
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Page 5: Career development

Stage 1 A new bookseller will be ‘buddied’ with a colleague through a mentorship. This shared experience enables them to learn the skills of stock management during the first stage.They will be shown how to use Waterstone’s sales and stock database. This system is called Phoenix and booksellers use the information it provides to check the sales of titles in their sections...
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Page 6: Conclusion

Supported by the Career Development Framework, decentralisation has enabled employees within Waterstone’s to focus their work upon the needs of their customers. It has also empowered each individual to make his/her own contribution, not just to the success of the branch, but also to the business as a whole.
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