Waterstones, the UK's leading bookshop chain, is on the defensive after going incognito at some of its newer stores. The firm has opened three shops that do not feature its distinctive branding, prompting accusations of deception.
They are Southwold Books in Suffolk, The Rye Bookshop in East Sussex and Harpenden Books in Hertfordshire. But Waterstones' Chief Executive, James Daunt, told the BBC the move was justified, saying he wanted the shops to have a more independent feel - a quality that evidently that attracts the masses.
Louisa Walters, founder of The Restaurant Club, a 17,000-strong membership scheme championing independent restaurants says, "It's worrying that the shop fronts are designed to fool people into thinking they are locally run small businesses with the love and individuality which you find in local stores and eateries.
"We're seeing an increased appetite for a more personalised experience with many people actively choosing to spend their hard earned cash at independents over chains. Chains are responding by surreptitiously taking on the look and feel of local stores whilst still offering their core business pricing and service, which is somewhat deceptive and a threat to real independents.
"Independents stores, including British restaurants, already struggle to compete with the chains in terms of buying power so have to offer something niche or different. We are urging people to vote with their feet and visit - or research - independent businesses wherever possible. If we don't support our high street we are in danger of having identical high streets with little choice or diversity."
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