Waterstones Case Study

The Client

Founded in 1982, Waterstones is the UK’s leading bookseller with a retail estate of 285 bookstores and complementary online presence.

The UK’s last remaining national bookshop chain, it has shrugged off the perceived threat of e-readers and continues to expand through new, relocated and refreshed stores.

“Avoira’s sales and support teams were absolutely fantastic and the senior engineer on the job has been very responsive and knows exactly what we’re talking about. They’ve all been brilliant.” Matt Langner, IT Services Manager, Waterstones

Business Needs

Waterstones was suffering from high telephony costs due to the complex and outdated structure of its existing network.

Each of their stores operated its own telephone system, connected to leased ISDN2 and ISDN30 lines. These were each reliant upon external maintenance and support which required individual site visits.

This network was therefore complex and costly to maintain, with outdated technology unable to deliver the responsiveness and flexibility synonymous with IP and VoIP telephony.

“The motivation to upgrade was obviously cost” explains Waterstones’ IT services manager, Matt Langner. “We had 285 stores out there, each with its own telephone system, with no central management.”

“We knew Avoira, so they were the people we turned to discuss a solution. We needed a switch capable of handling about 2,000 extensions and they came up with an offering for us.”

The Solution

Avoira worked with Langner’s team to fully understand both the challenges Waterstones faced and the opportunities presented by its existing IT infrastructure.

A bespoke solution was designed which would utilise otherwise redundant capacity on the WAN to deliver VoIP telephony over the existing data links serving each store. This solution would see the introduction of a centralised IP telephone system.

Avoira also recommended centralising SIP trunks to increase efficiency and reduce cost, with five stores able to share eight SIP trunks compared to ten leased ISDN lines. The upgrade would also allow standardisation of handsets, with Avoira specifying Yealink’s handsets and conferencing units for executive use.

Waterstones subsequently took up Avoira’s suggestion of running a limited proof of concept project to test viability and benefits.

“What it showed us quite obviously was that cost was greatly reduced. It also demonstrated call quality and how many concurrent calls we were making which wasn’t many,” reports Langner. The latter was pertinent in determining that the available bandwidth would support a VoIP network.

“I projected we would save approximately between £120,000 and £150,000 a year,” says Langner. Over the term of the five-year contract with Avoira, this would result in total net savings of as much as £750,000.

The Benefits

“Avoira’s sales and support teams were absolutely fantastic and the senior engineer on the job has been very responsive and knows exactly what we’re talking about,” confirms Langner. “They’ve all been brilliant.”

The upgrade was signed off and a phased roll-out began in May 2018. This ran so smoothly that it was completed just three months later. As part of their upgrades, Waterstones also benefited from a guaranteed four-hour response from Avoira to any significant service issue.

Avoira also designed the solution so that it offers outstanding resilience. This includes automatic failover between the main system at the Northampton datacentre and a back-up in London.

“Because it’s a centralised telephone switch, any calls between stores are now treated as phoning an extension, so it’s free.”

Langner acknowledges that  there are further benefits yet to be realised, including introduction of voicemail and system reports.


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“There’s a whole new element we can move on to. Now we’ve got a centralised platform we can start building on and developing even further.”
Matt Langner
IT Services Manager
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