Grand reading as Foyles Grand Central opens

Author voices bring books to life in digitally enhanced shop

Image credit: lustedgreen

Foyles, the independent book chain, opens it's latest branch at the new Grand Central shopping centre today, 30 September in a 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 4,300 sq ft bookshop has been designed by lustedgreen and will stock a range of 15,000 titles including a number of digital innovations for enhancing the customer experience and will employ fourteen expert booksellers.

The new store is the second to be opened by the family-owned business outside of London.  In 2012 Foyle's first shop outside London, in Bristol, made the Independent newspapers list of the top 50 bookshops in Britain,  Foyles was founded in 1903 by two brothers - William and Gilbert Foyle - with the Charing Cross Road store open for over 100 years.

The Birmingham Foyles will perhaps see it's own place on the best bookshops of Britain list with it's digital enhancements which 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 allowing staff to respond to stock enquiries and order books not in stock for delivery straight to customers homes.
  • digital signage throughout the store including a floor-to-ceiling display screen.

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. Cressida Cowell, author of the multi-million selling ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series will open the children’s department on Saturday 17 October. 

The store is similar in size to Foyles branches in Westfield Stratford City, London Waterloo Station and Royal Festival Hall and sits adjacent to John Lewis.

Foyles joins bookseller Waterstones in Birmingham's city centre which will be closing it's New Street store in November while retaining it's High Street store, adjacent to the Bullring shopping centre.

Foyles follows a rich history of bookselling and printing in Birmingham stretching back to the 18th century.  The father of famous literary figure Dr Johnson, Michael Johnson, was an early bookseller who traded at Midland markets including Birmingham while printer and typographer John Baskerville established the Baskerville font which is recognisable in the signage of retailer WH Smith today.

An early bookseller in the West Midlands was Michael Johnson (1657–1731), who had served his apprenticeship in London and was made a freeman of the Stationers’ Company in 1685. His bookshop was in Lichfield, but he also traded regularly at markets in Uttoxeter, Birmingham and Ashby-de-la-Zouch, sometimes assisted by his son Samuel.

Spreading the Word is a fascinating article on the history of bookselling and printing before 1800 which provides more detail, from History West Midlands magazine and available online:


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