Book sellers fear running out of stock amid supply chain difficulties

TORONTO – When COVID-19 restrictions shuttered bookstores nationwide last year, Dundurn Press president and publisher Scott Fraser said he feared the crisis would deal a fatal blow to one Canada’s largest independent publishers.

But since then, Fraser said, sales of the Toronto newspaper have rebounded as many Canadians seem to have come out of their deadlock with a newfound love of reading.

Now, however, industry watchers say Canada’s literary sector is facing a new threat that has publishers and booksellers nervous about selling out of the season’s top titles. Critical festival: supply chain disruptions.

“Going back 12-18 months, and I think I’m probably not the only one looking back this way, it’s clear that the company isn’t going to do that,” Fraser said.

“Now we’re about to have a supply management problem that replaces our attempt to really go to market and promote and sell these books which is a big, big inconvenience, in a way. lightly.”

While supply chain problems are wreaking havoc on the global economy, the squeeze poses particular risks to the slow, agile and increasingly crowded Canadian book industry. , stakeholders and analysts said.

“This really is the perfect storm for supply chain concerns,” said Kate Edwards, executive director at the Canadian Publishers Association. “These disruptions are affecting the entire industry.”

The trouble started with worldwide paper shortages, coupled with rising demand for adhesives and printing inks, which has made book production more expensive and complicated, Edwards said.

Scarcity of raw materials has clogged book printers, she said, leaving publishers reeling from press time at sky-high prices.

Edwards said additional obstacles piled up on the distribution side as shortages of workers, shipping containers and storage space caused delivery delays.

Sales data shows that the turmoil comes at a time when Canada’s book industry seems poised for a change.

BookNet Canada, an agency that tracks publishing trends, reported that nationwide print sales totaled nearly $464 million in the first six months of 2021, an increase of about 11%, or $47 million, compared with same period in 2020.

These gains put the market on track to return to near pre-pandemic levels. But this momentum can be undermined by supply chain problems at the peak time of year to buy books, said Steven Beattie, a literary critic and writer.

Beattie, publisher of her blog, Shakespearean Rag, says the months leading up to the holiday season are when book businesses make a sizable chunk of their profits, thanks to fall literary awards and a spirit of dedication that fosters a love of reading.

The concern, says Beattie, is that publishers and retailers won’t be able to keep up with demand for titles at the top of readers’ wish lists, which culminate in “Christmas reverse lists” – a industry term for printed books. for more than a year.

“There’s a lot of very complicated back-and-forth going on between booksellers, distributors, and publishers trying to figure out the optimal level of inventory to order at this time to make sure we have enough stock.” , but not too much.”

Of particular interest, according to Beattie, are the so-called “black swans” titles – books not expected to be blockbusters, but fueled by a sudden literary buzz, that have made the list. bestseller.

Fraser said Dundurn Press faced a double-edged sword of unexpected success when “Children of the House” by Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize last month.

Typically, a publisher will reprint the book in bulk at one company for a bulk discount, says Fraser. But with many large printers booked, printers are settled for smaller runs from at least four different vendors at a higher cost per unit.

First print sizes have also become unpredictable, says Fraser, as consolidation in the book industry has given major retailers more time to place orders closer to publication.

In some cases, this has left Dundurn Press in the unfortunate position of catching up just as a new release is taking off, he said, noting that one book sold out on Amazon before it hit the market. shelf.

For authors, he said, missed opportunities can be devastating.

“It’s a major cause of anxiety, because they don’t get paid if the book doesn’t sell.”

Chris Hall, president of the Canadian Association of Independent Booksellers, said many sellers decide to stock up earlier this year than risk running out of must-reads for the season.

Co-owner of McNally Robinson, which has locations in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, said about six weeks into Christmas Day, the bookseller’s worst fears have not materialized. Stores were even busier than usual, Hall said, and he remained on “high alert” about stock shortages.

While independent bookstores can’t match the purchasing power of big-box retailers, Hall said, they do have another type of competitive advantage – relationships with their customers.

He encourages book buyers to shop early if they’re passionate about a particular title. But even if your first choice is sold out, says Hall, the staff at your local bookstore will be happy to make a recommendation.

“We will have a store full of good books throughout the Christmas season,” he said. “There will only be some titles that may not be available.”

However, Edwards of the Canadian Publishers Association warned that troubles in the book supply chain look to be a challenge well beyond the holiday season.

She notes that many of these issues predate the pandemic and that the industry needs to adapt as the literary landscape continues to change.

“This isn’t going to be resolved in 2022, maybe even 2023,” Edwards said. “People need to be nimble and strategic and be able to deal with the unexpected.”

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 18, 2021.


Source link


News7h: Update the world's latest breaking news online of the day, breaking news, politics, society today, international mainstream news .Updated news 24/7: Entertainment, the World everyday world. Hot news, images, video clips that are updated quickly and reliably

Related Articles

Back to top button