Friday, November 28, 2008

An unfolding, pre-Christmas drama

UK independents must be watching the unfolding Woolworths/EUK drama with mixed feelings. Some of them must surely be thinking, with a heavy dollop of sarcasm: “Can’t get Michael Parkinson/Dawn French/Nigella’s Christmas into Sainsbury’s or Tesco so they can sell it at half-price? Oh you poor things. How dreadful.”

Understandably, the chief concern of many independents is that Bertrams, one of their key suppliers, is unaffected which, at the time of writing, seems to the case.

If there is a hiccup in supply to the supermarkets – whom so many publishers have courted over the last ten years, at the expense, some would argue, of bookshops that will actually order a book for you and give you advice – then independents could be forgiven for not being uduly bothered. So Sainsbury’s has a problem with its book supply? Tough. Trying doing business when you can’t even buy some top 20 titles from a wholesaler at the price some supermarkets sell them at.

If customers fail to find certain titles in supermarkets as a result, it may even cause a few of them to visit an independent or a stockholding bookshop. The supermarkets’ loss could be bookshops’ gain.

But no one really wants to see publishers in trouble. One sales director at a major house told me this morning: “We’re waiting and seeing. Everyone wants EUK to get up and running, and quickly. Who else can supply 730-odd Tescos and 200 Sainsbury’s? It is very worrying. But I do believe that the administrators [Deloitte], EUK and the publishers all want it to work, and if you get those three bodies together in one room I think it will get sorted. There is just too much at risk for everyone.”

And if bricks and mortar stores pick up a few extra sales in the meantime, then all the better.

No comments: