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Foyles launches new flagship with wow factor

16 June 2014

The opening of the wonderful new Foyles bookshop in Charing Cross Road in London has shown a tremendous act of faith in bricks and mortar bookselling. The iconic bookstore has been suffering badly due to a drop in footfall relating to the building of Crossrail, a major new east-west underground line cutting through the heart of London's West End. It will though also benefit markedly when the line opens in 2018. It's hard to take the long view, but Foyle's is in a good position to do so.

This bookstore has endured in private ownership for 111 years but the move to two doors away, whilst tremendously encouraging, is also very risky at a time when the book trade is in a state of upheaval and bookshops seem under particular threat from Amazon and the supermarkets. The opening of the new bookshop has coincided with Blackwells announcing closure of their Charing Cross store just across the road.

The Foyles move was prompted by the availability of a fantastic building close to hand and the company bought the premises of the former Central St Martins College of Art and Design, associated with famous names such as Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Frank Auerbach, when it was vacated by the move of the college to the new King's Cross campus of the University of the Arts. The shop has 37,000 square feet and is the largest bookshop to open in the UK this century.

To show that Foyles has moved with the digital future, it is also offering a new service through the store's wifi, Foyles Book Search, which will enable visitors to the store to check the availability of the 200,000 titles in stock - which give it the largest range of titles available from a bookshop anywhere in the UK.

Christopher Foyle, nephew of the legendary Christina and chairman of Foyles, said: ‘Bearing in mind what is going on in the market at the moment with Amazon, internet sales increasing and digital book sales rising, if we are going to stick around as a physical bricks and mortar store then we have to be more energetic and focused about what we are offering. The past 100 years have been a different time to what we are facing now. We have to diversify. If it was just about the building we would have closed the current store tomorrow and rented it to Sainsbury's or Arman. But we wanted to invest in our future.'

These are magic words to all those who value bookshops. In the US Barnes & Noble looks less than secure but it's very cheering to report that the number of bookstores has grown again to 2,014.