Bookshops are going to the wall (two closures were announced in Toronto today) and print is supposed to be on the decline yet one of the most impressive bookstores in the world is taking shape in London.
Century-old Foyles is making the move from its long-term premises in Charing Cross Road to a huge Arts and Crafts building just a couple of doors down the road where they’re aiming to have a multitude of specialist booksellers under one roof.
Foyles was established in 1903 by two brothers and is still in family ownership. It has spent most of its existence as a London landmark at 113-119 Charing Cross Road but is nearly doubling in size from the present 40,000 sq ft to 75,000 sq ft with the move into the former Central St Martins College of Art and Design building at 107 Charing Cross Road.
I’ve always liked the look of the St Martins building, which is described as an eclectic mix of Modern and Arts and Crafts. It was purpose-built as an art school in 1939 and is a great example of fine municipal design as it was designed by EP Wheeler and HFT Cooper of the London County Council Architects’ Department.
Foyles was once renowned for rather idiosyncratic service. There was a time when you bought a book by taking it to one counter where you received a piece of paper which you then had to take to another counter where you paid. It’s all different now, they even have barcode scanners.
Work on the new premises has been in full swing for some time and the new store is scheduled to open in Spring 2014. Foyles has posted some photos of how the work is going and it looks like it’s going to be a fantastic place.
Foyles says the soaring atrium will be at the heart of the shop, with sweeping views of books from every floor. The children’s book department will be based in the impressive old Assembly Hall, venue of an early Sex Pistols’ concert in 1975, while the vast former ballroom floor will house the fiction department. There’s another huge space at the top of the shop for the cafe and exhibition areas.
The new shop will stock around 200,000 titles, which is about the same as it holds at present.
There’s also a new model of bookselling which has been evolving at Foyles and that is set to go further with each department in the store developing as specialist bookshops.
In recent years, Foyles has taken under its wing specialist operations such as feminist bookshop Silver Moon, Grant & Cutler, which was the biggest foreign languge bookshop in the UK, and Ray’s Jazz record shop, which are all housed within the Foyles store.
The company has been expanding throughout the recession years and now has impressive new stores at busy railway stations in London plus a shop in the massive Westfield shopping mall at Stratford in East London. It has also opened up its first shop outside the capital with a store in Bristol.
It hasn’t neglected the ebook revolution as the Foyles website has become increasingly impressive and features over 380,000 ebooks as well as print books which can be delivered or collected at a store. It has a link-up with Barnes & Noble and sells B&N’s Nook e-readers.
The property holding arm of the Foyles business, Noved Brothers, is developing loft-style apartments on the top floors of the St Martins building, with prices starting at £2m for a two-bedroom 1,250 sq ft pad. You can take a look at the designs at St Martins Lofts.
All pictures courtesy of Foyles.