Foyles is about to open the doors of its new flagship store. The historic bookshop hasn't moved far. After 85 years at 113-119 Charing Cross Road, you'll now find it practically next door at 107 Charing Cross Road.
The new store opens at 12.30pm on Saturday 7 June, and goody bags will be handed out to the first 100 or so customers.
The shop is a big departure from the veritable labyrinth of old. A large white atrium dominates the interior, letting in plenty of natural light. A staircase runs around the atrium. Its shallow flights resemble escalators, and the feel is more John Lewis than century-old bookshop. Those who relished getting lost among the old store's book shelves will, however, find plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. The history section, in particular, struck us as a joy to browse, with tightly packed shelving an enjoyable challenge to navigate.
Foyles has long been known for its popular cafe — something of a refuge for laptop-wielding freelancers. The new store has a larger caff, and free wifi throughout the whole store. They've also built in a gallery and increased the event space. This was, after all, formerly Central St Martins College of Art and Design, where the Sex Pistols played their first gig in 1975. The birthplace of Punk is now the children's section.
In another new departure, the store is increasingly looking to the digital. Anyone opening their phone's web browser on the free wifi will find a landing screen asking them what book they might be looking for. The search result comes with an in-store map and route-finder to track down that illusive tome. This not only helps the customer, but also gives Foyles another way to track which books are attracting most interest. Our mischievous side wonders if we might game the system: organise a mob to repeatedly visit the store and search for the same obscure title...then see if it ends up appearing in the shop window.
It's not all positive news for the chain, however. The small branch in St Pancras station is set to close at the end of July.
To mark the opening of the new store, Foyles has programmed three weeks of events, including appearances by Hilary Mantel, Michael Palin, Jarvis Cocker, PD James, Grayson Perry, Mary Beard, Sebastian Faulks and many more.