As a result of COVID-19, the book industry supply chain is facing a number of challenges, including truck driver shortages and lack of freight capacity, warehouse labor shortages, congested ports, and extremely high shipping container costs.
These disruptions stem from global setbacks during the past year. When the inventory-to-sales ratios hit record lows (both economic-wide and in the retail sector) in March, businesses liquidated unsold goods. As the economy recovers, businesses have not yet been able to return fully to pre-pandemic inventory levels.
Publishers of all sizes are reporting significant printing issues, which are affecting frontlist reprints, on-sale dates, backlist reprints, and labor shortages, which result in slower fulfillment times at warehouses. Stores should check in with their reps and/or distributors frequently to get the latest information.
Ingram and Bookazine have both shared the ways they are mitigating risks for the season.
Ingram is ordering books earlier and more aggressively, actively developing wage structures to meet labor market demand, encouraging publishers to send books early, and working with its transportation partners to anticipate challenges.
Bookazine is increasing inventory positions by 35-40 percent over and above the comparable increases taken last year to try to mitigate any possible inventory shortages throughout the season. They are also gearing up to start peak season within its own facility several weeks before it had typically started in prior years.
Both wholesalers recommend that booksellers stock for the holiday season as soon as possible and encourage their customers to shop early.
To prepare for the holiday season, booksellers should:
- Order up on the titles that they plan to support during the holiday season as reorders may not be available or shipping in a timely manner. Stock up on titles from catalogs offered to customers, such as regional holiday catalogs, the ABC Best Books for Young Readers Catalog, or the stores’ own catalog.
- Confirm on-sale dates with publishers for all pre-order campaigns. If the date has moved, alert customers so they aren’t disappointed when their book doesn’t arrive.
- Backlist reprints have also been affected by the printing issues. Review the strongest backlist titles and be sure to order a few weeks' extra supply.
Some publishers are suggesting that booksellers place a reorder now with a future ship date to hold stock for their store. This will allow booksellers to conserve space and cash in the short-term. Booksellers should check with their reps or customer service to see if this option is available.
Watch for ABA’s Q4 prep article in BTW on Tuesday, August 24, for ways to mitigate supply chain risk.