W & G Foyle Ltd. (usually called simply Foyles) is a bookshop at 113”“119 Charing Cross Road, London, England. Foyles was once listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest bookshop in terms of shelf area (30 miles/50 kilometres) and number of titles on display. But it was equally famed for its anachronistic, eccentric and sometimes infuriating business practices, so much that they also made it a tourist attraction.

The business was founded in 1903 by brothers William and Gilbert Foyle. After failing entrance exams for the civil service, the brothers offered their redundant text books for sale and were inundated by offers. This inspired them to launch a second-hand book business from home. Flushed with success, they opened a small shop on Station Parade in Queen’s Road, Peckham, where they painted "With all Faith" in gilt letters above the door. In 1904 they opened their first West End shop at 16 Cecil Court and a year later were able to take on their first member of staff (who promptly disappeared with the weekly takings). In 1906 they moved to the current premises on Charing Cross Road, site of the Old Goldbeater's House. In 1945, control of the shop passed to Christina Foyle, daughter of founder William. It was under Christina that the shop stagnated, with little investment and poorly paid staff who could be fired on a whim. She also refused to install any modern conveniences such as electronic tills or calculators; nor would orders be taken by phone. However, the shop excelled in other fields:- Expensive books ordered from as far off as Germany were sent with a bill without prepayment. The store operated through a payment system that required customers to queue three times (once to collect an invoice for a book, and then again to pay the invoice, then a third to collect the book), simply because sales staff were not allowed to handle cash. Equally mystifying to customers was a shelving arrangement that categorized books by publisher, rather than by topic or author. A quote of this period is: "Imagine Kafka had gone into the book trade." In the 1980s, rival bookshop, Dillons, placed an advertisement saying "Foyled again? Try Dillons" in a bus shelter opposite Foyles. Foyles is also known for its literary luncheons, which have been held since 1930. The store now also holds a large number of evening literary events throughout the year.

After the death of owner Christina Foyle in 1999 and the passing of control to her nephew Christopher, Foyles' shop and practices have been modernised. Christopher Foyle is also the Chairman and CEO of aviation companies Air Foyle & Air Foyle HeavyLift, was Chairman and is now Deputy President of the Air League, was a Trustee of the Foyle Foundation, and is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, a Liveryman of the Guild of Air Pilots and a Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Essex. Whereas the shop used to sell second-hand and modern books side-by-side on the same shelves, it now primarily sells the modern books found in any other large chain bookshop but in contrast to the well known chain bookshops, has a considerably larger range of titles on every subject. In addition it now sells secondhand and out of print books together with new books in its Art, History and Archaeology Departments. The heavily weathered panelling of Foyles' past has been replaced by a red-plastic-with-grey-metal-and-beech interior. Most of these changes were instigated between 2003 and 2005.

In 2005 Foyles opened a branch at the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank and in 2006 Foyles was awarded the concession to run the book departments in Selfridges' London Oxford Street and Manchester stores, but these closed in February 2009. In February 2008 it opened the only bookshop in the newly refurbished St Pancras railway station, which has become the Eurostar London terminal. Foyles also opened a branch in the enormous new Westfield shopping centre, which opened on 30 October 2008 in White City, West London. It will open a new 'Booktique' store at London's One New Change shopping centre in October 2010.

Foyles has earned the following awards:
  • 2002 Independent Bookseller of the Year;
  • 2005 Academic Bookseller of the Year;
  • 2006 London Independent Bookseller of the Year
  • 2008 Chain Bookselling Company of the Year, 2008 Bookseller of the Year

Floor Directory

Charing Cross Road store Floor 3 The Gallery, CDs - Classical & Jazz, DVDs, Music Books, Printed & Sheet Music, Ray's Jazz Music & Books Floor 2 Art & Design, EFL, GLBT, History & Politics, Humanities, Languages, Linguistics & Literary Criticism, Philosophy, Reference, Sociology, Theology, Toilets Floor 1 The Café & Ray's Jazz Stage, Computing, Cookery, Earth Sciences, Education, Engineering, DIY & Trades, Natural History, Sciences, Sport, Technical, Transport Floor 0 (Ground) Audio Books, Children's, Drama & Film, Fiction, Gifts & Stationery, Humour, Information, London, Poetry, Travel, Young Adult Floor -1 (Lower Ground) Customer Service & Order Collection, Business, health, Law, Medical, MBS