26 comments

  1. Bookworld never displayed a closing down sign in any of their shops, they all said sale or closing for remerchandsing.

  2. I used to work for the company and they would have huge signs saying “CLOSING DOWN SALE!!” and at the bottom in tiny letters it would say “for refit”. They would do this even if they were just giving the shop a lick of paint one weekend, and the “sale” would go on for months beforehand. Also, very few items would be reduced any more than usual during the “sale”. They stayed within the letter of the law though, as you would expect.

  3. The thing is, it surely didn’t fool any one after the first or second time it happened. I mean, a “Closing down” sale at Bargain Books is as normal as a 3 for 2 offer on eggs in Tesco or something. And everybody knew that it wasn’t closing down. It is such a desperate tactic as well.

  4. worked for david flatman for 12 years and have to say they have been a fantasic company to work for. david would come to visit the shops and still get behind the counter.All the best to the flatman family

  5. Why did David visit the shops and work the till? Because it made you feel like you were a part of one big happy family. And anyone in that happy family made a big amount of cash… provided their surname was “Flatman”.

    I grant you, the company was great at retaining very talented staff (including graduates) for many years, due largely to the family atmosphere (certainly not due to the wages, even at area manager level).

    The problem with Flatty was that he had an idea that worked in the 80s, but never had the vision or flexibility to adapt when his original idea began to fail. He surrounded himself with yes men, all the time spouting the view that he liked them to “challenge him”. But all hell would break loose if their challenges were anything more than “we should get in more stationery”.

    I think it’s sad, for the workers affected, but not for the Flatmans. They’ll be just fine, believe me.

  6. Absolutely gutted Bookworld is no more, I worked for Bookworld for many years (started out as a xmas temp) and loved every minute making friends for life. Was sure at one time I’d be merchandising those 3 for £10’s with a blue rinse and walking frame. Good luck to the Flatmans and all the staff who sailed with them!!!

  7. We both worked at bookworld for over a year, we left for university before it closed down- leaving was also strongly influenced by the poor pay and incompetant business skills shown by the Flatmans, especially rob (keith and david’s love child?) and izzy. It was a constant embarressment to be repeatedly asked “are you finally closing then” when we all knew it was just a desperate scam to make a budget that no one would ever get even close too. What kind of company uses the same gimmicks over and over again such as “warehouse clearance” or “closing for refit”, why not actually attempt to remedy the intrinsic problems bringing down an initially good idea i.e. putting untrained family members in key positions, lacking any kind of focus – what were we actually selling? A rubber chicken, surgical masks and dog jackets in a “book shop”!! At the end of the day I think every single person in the company could see that bankruptcy was the only way this situation was going to go- the only good thing that we can think of that came of of it was our relationship.

  8. I too an am ex-Flatman employee and I’ve been reading about the company’s demise in the papers and on the web with interest. It appears that David and his son Rob are happy to blame competition from the internet and Tesco for the decline of their business. This is very convenient because these are two factors beyond their control.

    However, The Works has thrived and expanded under the same market conditions. In fact I believe The Works will be buying up the retail arm of Flatman. For the Flatmans to blame the internet and Tesco is rather like the failed sportsman blaming the weather when the rest of the field beat him in the same conditions.

    Simple fact is, Flatman got lucky early on but didn’t have the brains or the offspring to sustain the business. The remaining shops look almost identical to the way they looked in the 1980’s, but with less variety of stock. No progress = death for any company.

    J

  9. worked for the company before it closed down. i went to a lot of shops to get away from my manager and her corrupt way of running the shop, it was near dispotic dictactor getting her employees model from good old david where friends and family went first before quailfications. however she was one of the better managers i had met!! she did run the shop effiecently.

    says a lot really

    well anyway i agree, it was some huge family pat each other on the back… did any of them actually have any of the skills that where needed to obtain the job roles they have, or did they just instead pilfer endless amounts of stationary from BW!???

    now i have to use the company as part of my assigment for my leadership and mangement course and can find nothing on sales figures or a description…..anyone know where they are???

    Becca and Daniel- glad to see your still together

  10. I think the reason behind the demise of the chain is obvious and a clue is on this page. Flatty worked the tills in all the shops and blew his rancid breath on the customers. They weren’t coming back after that! The guy who owns The Works has always flossed and used mouthwash, clever man.

  11. c’mon guys, this is all a bit much! DF was always good to me though yes I did have to agree with him to keep him sweet. I did well in the company, got quite far in my career but like anywhere the boss is the boss. as long as you worked hard and told DF his ideas were all brilliant then you got promoted. looks to me like there are some bitter people out there – you should’ve known how to play the game!!

  12. If I may venture back in here… Would the fact that Mr Flatman might have been surrounded by yes-men have been a major cause of Bookworld’s troubles?

  13. Seeing as I hopefully won’t get recognised using the Happy Boy name, I can answer this truthfully. No question at all that the main problem was the autocracy he ran. Area managers and shop managers would occasionally offer a serious suggestion contrary to the DF opinion and it would always be shot down in angry coffee-fuelled flames. In the end the choice was “Do I say what needs to be done to save the company, or do I say what DF wants to hear (i.e. his way is always best) so I don’t get fired?” I know I could have stood up to him more because he never moved anything forward in 20 years, but if I had I know I would not have been employed for long, and I needed the money. Honestly, the above comments resonate with me because it was easier to suggest minor changes like a sign should be green instead of red, or we should sell 5 for 3 instead of 3 for 2 rather than pointing out the major changes needed to reverse the decline. Having said all that I do feel I worked DF like a puppet to forward my own career most of the time. Managing your own boss is something you need to do in any organisation.

  14. There have been many negative comments posted but how many of us actually stood up and spoke our minds? We were all ‘yes men’ in front of the family and higher management and kept our comments for ‘staff meetings’. Maybe we were all at fault or just too scared of losing our jobs? What a shame. It happened anyway.

  15. I’d like to add to this David Flatman/Bookworld/BW! debate by saying that I agree with the above comments. It was just too risky to challenge David even in a wee way. Later on Rob was similar in his approach. We all saw what happened in large meetings to people who challenged or disagreed with the perceived wisdom. They were left isolated, red-faced and in the doghouse!

  16. In response to bibliophile, I worked at the Sheffield branch and when the shop was rebranded as BW! I wrote to David Flatman personally with my concerns that the BW! brand was incoherent. The signage and branding suggested a funky, modern store, but in complete contrast to this, he insisted that we play a set play list from the awful 2 for £5 CDs, which annoyed both staff and customers, but nobody would stand up to DF. I received the obligatory “I know what’s best, if you don’t like it, get another job” reply so I found alternative employment and left.

    I bumped into DF a few months later and he boasted that all was going swimmingly. I’m glad i’m not the only one who thinks that that the Flatmans just didn’t move with the times, or listen to anyone and I think its for those reasons, rather than Tesco and the internet that it went belly up in the end.

  17. A friend from my old BW! days told me about this page. Sheffield Peasant has it spot-on. Any real challenges to Flatty got your card marked and soon enough it was impossible to stay working for him. It’s nuts how out of date those shops looked in the last few years. I put it down to stubbornness and laziness of thought. Flatty was hard-working but a lazy thinker.

  18. reply to all the comments so far:
    not a brilliant company but so what. work in retail your expecting to be poo’d on. david n haze were nice to me but i knew i was on minimum wage whil they earned £££££ and yes the shops looked crap!!neva mind eh? AAVIN IIITT!!! books VERY cheap for staff. cheaper than they eva shulda been!!!! 😉

  19. Bookworld was taken over by the works, they closed down the majority of the shops and kept the more successful ones open. i stayed on when the works took over my shop for a couple of months, when i left they still hadn’t bothered to change the signs, probably whats happened in nottingham.