Foyles Grand Central, Birmingham:
Author voices bring books to life in digitally enhanced shop
Foyles, the independent bookshop chain, has opened its latest branch in Grand Central, Birmingham today, Wednesday 30 September 2015. It has been described as a retail space where ‘physical meets digital’.
John Browne, Finance Director and head of real estate comments:
“Foyles is delighted to be opening in such a prestigious and high footfall development here at Grand Central and believe that we add value to the mix of categories on offer. The store here represents our new format of Foyles stores nationally, which we are planning to develop into further locations. The resurgence of books and the lifestyle nature of our business is a blend that we see has a very positive future.”
The 4,300sqft bookshop, designed by lustedgreen, stocks a range of 15,000 titles and includes a number of digital innovations for enhancing customer service and experience. Only the second branch to be opened by the family-owned business outside of London in recent years, Foyles Grand Central employs fourteen expert booksellers under the management of Steven Harmon.
Digital enhancements include:
– three audio-visual author pods and a children’s story pod, where customers can hear and see best-selling writers read their work aloud
– booksellers with handheld tablets, running a new Foyles web platform offering access to a range of millions of books
– digital signage throughout the store including a floor-to- ceiling display screen
Positioned on the upper concourse, it sits next to John Lewis and The White Company in the landmark new retail development.
The first authors to feature in the AV pods, designed by Audionation, will be Simon Schama, Neil Oliver and some of the Man Booker Prize shortlisted authors. In the story pod children will be able to enjoy Michael Rosen performing his new poems.
A live author talks programme is also planned for an events space accommodating 30-40 people. Cressida Cowell, author of the multi-million selling ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series will open the children’s department on Saturday 17 October. Foyles has today announced further events including face-painting and a goody bag give-away on Saturday 26 September, and a Star Wars Reads Day on 10 October to mark the publication of the official new novel ‘Star Wars: Aftermath’ by Chuck Wendig.
Family audiences are central to the vision for Foyles in Birmingham, with children’s books a particular focus. Readers will also be able to enjoy the usual extensive Foyles range of fiction and non-fiction, with cookery, travel, music and more stocked alongside specially selected stationary and gifts.
The new in-store version of the Foyles website is designed for iPads, which all of the staff will be carrying to help them handle customer enquiries and orders on the go. The platform allows staff to respond to stock enquiries and, if an item is not in stock, order books for customers for delivery straight to their homes.
Recently recruited by Foyles as manager of the new store, Steven Harmon brings with him a wealth of retail experience in a number of different sectors in the region, having previously worked at Superdry, Hotter Comfort Concept shoes and most recently the stationery specialist Blott. He will report to Foyles Trading Director Siôn Hamilton and work closely with Janette Cross, Head of Customer Experience, to deliver excellent service.
Foyles Grand Central Birmingham is similar in size and style to existing Foyles branches in Westfield Stratford City, London Waterloo Station and Royal Festival Hall, also designed by lustedgreen. The opening brings the total number of Foyles bookshops up to six, with four branches in London, one in Bristol and one in Birmingham.
Siôn Hamilton, Trading Director of Foyles, comments:
“This is 21st century bookselling. We wanted a shop that affords a wide range of options to delight customers however they wish to connect with us. We are using technology to empower our staff, to share their love of books and to provide a more interactive and personal experience for our customers. By enabling booksellers with hand-held digital devices, we also are able to greatly increase the range that we can provide in our smaller stores and to respond better to customer needs.”
Simon Heafield, Marketing Manager of Foyles comments:
“With Foyles Grand Central, Birmingham we’ve embraced the latest digital technology to bring books to life, and author and readers closer together. We have taken the opportunity to enliven the instore experience by showcasing great books in an exciting new way. All of these technologies can be turned on and off and will be used in a sensitive manner. We are aware that many customers think of bookshops as an oasis of calm and these customers will be just as happy in the shop.”