Rye traders criticise ‘incognito’ store

The Rye Bookshop SUS-170203-113807001
The Rye Bookshop SUS-170203-113807001

A national chain has been accused of ‘sneakily’ opening a shop in Rye and disguising it as an independent book store.

Waterstones owns The Rye Bookshop in the High Street but has prompted criticism from several traders as the shop does not display the book giant’s name in big letters.

The company has also been criticised in the national press as it has two other incognito stores, one in Harpenden, Hertfordshire and another in Southwold, Suffolk.

Clive Sawyer, from Clive Sawyer Gallery, said: “One of the main things about Rye is its independent shops that support the tourist market and we want to keep it that way. There is nothing in the shop’s window to say it’s a Waterstones. I think it’s a bit sneaky.”

Chris Viner, from Soldiers of Rye, said: “When we learned a new book shop was to open on the High Street there was general delight. But soon, rumours spread it was to be a Waterstones. This was vigorously denied by anyone who ought to have known. However, long before it opened its doors the truth was out. It was a Waterstones trading under a different name. Don’t get me wrong, Rye needed a good bookshop, and The Rye Bookshop is just that. It provides jobs, is stocked with terrific titles and has an area for authors.

“But the question to be asked is why The Rye Bookshop? Why not Waterstones? To ‘blend’ into the High Street say they, to slip under the radar, say others. Were they perhaps concerned about any negative reaction from locals? If not, why hide behind a false name?

“We needed a bookshop, but in other towns and villages all across Sussex and other counties, independent retailers who struggle to keep going would simply not be equipped to trade against such a giant. Be they Waterstones, famous coffee brands, or supermarket chains, small traders deserve the right to know who is who and what is what.

“Small shops are the soul of small town High Streets, given that soul by the dedication, belief and hard work of their owners.

“Without a soul a body dies, and so it is with any High Street. Small traders deserve to know whose coming to challenge them.”

James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said it was part of the firm’s move to behave like an independent bookseller, with each shop having its own identity.

He told the Mail on Sunday that it helped the stores integrate with local communities in smaller towns.

Mr Daunt said: “We are very proud of The Rye Bookshop, proud because of the success with which we have defined and presented the shop, and proud to have restored a new bookshop to Rye after the sad loss of the Martello Bookshop.

“The idea we somehow hide that it is part of Waterstones is odd, not least that we encourage all customers to use - or join - the Waterstones Loyalty scheme.

“The success of the shop, and lovely enthusiasm of our customers, is greatly appreciated.”

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