Waterstones acquires Blackwell’s, UK’s biggest independent bookshop

Waterstones has snapped up Blackwells, the UK’s largest independent bookseller.

// Waterstones has acquired academic bookseller Blackwell’s in a deal understood to be in the “low single-digit millions” 

// Blackwell’s will continue to trade under its own name and comes after Waterstones’ acquisiton of Foyles in 2018

Waterstones has snapped up Blackwell’s, the UK’s largest independent bookseller.

The sale of the 18-store academic bookseller ends 143 years of family ownership for Blackwell’s, which will continue to trade under its own name.

Blackwell’s is the latest acquisition for Waterstones, which also bought Foyles in September 2018. It brings Blackwell’s into the same group as the US’ largest bookseller Barnes & Noble, which like Waterstones is owned by US hedge fund Elliott Investment Management.

Waterstones is understood to have paid a figure in the “low single-digit millions”, according to the Financial Times.

Waterstones managing director James Daunt said: “Blackwell’s and Heffers are amongst the most illustrious names in bookselling, a legacy for which we have the utmost respect.

“We greatly look forward to working alongside the booksellers at Blackwell’s as we secure the future of these wonderful bookshops and preserve academic bookselling in so many towns and campuses across the UK.”

READ MORE: Waterstones in “strong position” despite 8.4% slump in profits

Blackwell’s outgoing owner and president Toby Blackwell said that finding a buyer had been “an extraordinary challenge”, however, he was heartened by Waterstones’ management of Foyles.

“Waterstones has demonstrated in its acquisition of Foyles most recently, that they understand the advantages and benefits of holding diverse iconic bookselling brands in their portfolio,” he said.

“I view them not just as a buyer of the business, but as the right buyer at the right time. This is a positive outcome for Waterstones, Blackwell’s and all our customers in the UK and abroad, who will still be able to enjoy the individual nature of what both brands offer. I wish everyone well with this new chapter.”

Blackwell’s chief executive David Prescot added that Waterstones had said it would invest in Blackwell’s people, staff and growing ecommerce operation.

Click here to sign up to Retail Gazette‘s free daily email newsletter


  1. Pity ! Really hope Waterstones do not dumb down their excellent academic or professional aka law section. They are much better at it than Waterstones and the online service from Oxford is fab.

    It is a monopoly but HMV and Fopp are the same. Last man / woman standing so to speak in physical retail. Hope Mr Daunt looks after the legacy of Blackwell’s and keeps the Oxford stores.

    I would really like to see some off campus stores in places like Canterbury and others. The offering is not the same as Waterstones. It’s more intelligensa the offer.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here