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Posts Tagged ‘Christian book distribution’

Ingram Determines What is a Bookstore and What Isn’t

Ingram’s annual minimum is a slap in the face to small, independent bookstores. It’s another way of saying, ‘we don’t see you as a legitimate bookstore and we are the ones who will set the standard and make the determination of your legitimacy and entitlement to trade discounts.’

I really try to keep the personal rants to a minimum, but this is one of those, so feel free to move on.

I have mentioned before that several years ago we received communication from Ingram International informing us that because our wholesale purchase the previous year were less than $5,000 US net, we would be placed in a short discount category.

They no sooner did this than it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whereas before I had quite willingly padded my orders to meet the 10-unit minimum on iPage for trade discount, I no longer had any incentive. Instead, I started placing orders one book at time. (They do this for Amazon and Chapters, so I figure there are built in efficiencies at their end unknown to us in Canada. One time my single book arrived in a Chapters box.)

My account would never come close to $5,000 annually again. Furthermore, with the deals offered by Canadian suppliers, plus the fact their distribution rights are enshrined in Canadian law, there is no compelling reason to order a Christian book from Ingram (i.e. Spring Arbor) unless you are on the west coast and facing some delivery time issues for that book’s customer.

This week however, I actually had reason to place a ten-unit order through iPage, and when the confirmation came through, I was reminded again of how things have been since June 15th, 2015; over three and a half years now. The letter we received at the time read:

Dear Valued Ingram Customer,

As with any business, Ingram must closely monitor our expenses and make adjustments when needed so we can continue to provide the speed, accuracy, and support that you’ve come to expect. Sometimes, as our costs decrease, we have been able to pass that savings on to our customers.

However, to cover increased freight and operating costs, we’ve found it necessary to explore and evaluate our discount structure. On March 31, 2016, all accounts that fell below $5,000 in net sales for 2015 will have a new discount structure of 30% on all regular discount items. Please note, this discount applies only to regular discount titles, regardless of quantities purchased or order method. All other items such as video, short, audio, etc., will continue to be discounted as they have been. Also, Ingram does review each customer’s account sales annually and offers volume discounts based on net annual purchases.

We truly value your continued business and appreciate your understanding in this matter. Please contact your Ingram sales representative or call Customer Care at 800-937-8200 if you have questions about this new discount structure.

Sincerely,

Ingram Content Group

Again, playing the freight-cost card is illogical because of the aforementioned single-title drop-ships they do for Amazon and Chapters.

It also doesn’t make sense that publishers like Oxford University Press or Wiley Canada don’t mind my occasional purchasing and are quite happy to grant us trade discount.

This time around, however, four of my titles were from Carpenter’s Son Publishing; a Christian publisher which is locked into Ingram Publisher Services. It occurred to me that they are probably unaware of the policy and unaware how it diminishes the amount of ordering stores like ourselves are willing to do in order to encourage their authors and increase their authors’ visibility.

It occurred to me that well organized information campaign with Ingram Publisher Services might accomplish more than trying to shake the monolith. I mean, for starters, how do you argue or appeal your case with a company for which you have no real contacts; no names; no faces? How many stores reading this have had even so much as an email from anyone in the marketing department at Ingram? How many of you can name your credit representative?

So over the next few weeks I will be tracking down those IPS publishers and hopefully beginning a dialogue as to why their Canadian Christian marketing and distribution should be placed with Parasource, or Foundation, or Word Alive.

At the time we received the original letter from Ingram I wrote,

I missed it by $448 net. Less than 10%. A target I didn’t even know I was supposed to aiming for.

Last night I found out the hard way that my store was one of the ones that didn’t buy $5,000 from Ingram last year. $4,552 was close, but no cigar.

The company has removed all accounts falling below this annual purchase rate to a 30% max. short discount on book product. But they’ve done it such a way that stores are unlikely to take the steps to remedy the situation; effectively terminating those accounts, albeit perhaps over a long, drawn-out period of time.

1. There was no warning. The letter went out on June 8th [2015] to take effect on June 15th. This shows the low view they have of their customers.

2. There was no way to remedy the situation. The period the numbers were based on was January 1, 2014 to December 31st, 2014. For nearly six months we had failed to meet a target we didn’t know existed.

3. Offering to buy the difference to pull this year’s balance up is futile because that product would all ship at a short discount.

4. The situation is confirmed as irrevocable; there is no room for appeal, even for those of us who missed by less than 10%.

In the Fall of 2015, I wrote:

Here’s another way of looking at it: You buy a $10 book for $6. Your gross profit is $4. A supplier changes your discount by 10% and that book now costs $7. Your gross profit is now $3. In other words, you’ve been cheated out of 25% of your former profit margin.

So why does Ingram want to purge small stores from their roster when they already had a mechanism in place requiring minimum orders? It’s a question really requiring deeper investigation, and we’re working on it. Clearly, Ingram was the friend of the independent bookstore as well as gift stores which dabbled in books as a sideline. For our part, our purchases with them would have been much, much stronger in 2014 were it not for the service offered by Send the Light Distribution. We gave STL a “first pass” on our import titles and then used Ingram only for titles unique to them, and rush orders that STL did not have in stock at the time.

But it wasn’t enough. Neither was 30 years of goodwill and a perfect credit history.

There was no appealing their decision.

There’s a rule in pet ownership that you don’t scold a pet for something they did a day ago. You deal with it at the time. If any stores impacted by the new decision had been told ahead of time that, “In June of next year we’re going to change your terms if you don’t meet the $5K minimum, you need purchase only $421 more by the end of the year;” I know we would have put an order together in minutes. But to be punished in June for something we did the year prior… well, as stated, I wouldn’t do this to a dog.

The decision was arbitrary.

The decision was heartless.

Then in March, 2016, I wrote this:

  1. Small stores often get large orders. The bookstore owner or manager in a small market who works to get a 100 copy order gets no reward for their efforts. All other distributors base the discount on the size of the order, an approach Ingram has constantly resisted. I have orders currently holding from a couple of publishers waiting for me to add a few more titles. I have no problem working with that constraint. Send the Light’s minimum is 20 books. I understand why they instituted that and it’s not that hard for me reach their quota. As I said the last time this happened, I probably use some of my university publisher accounts once every 2-3 years, but my legitimacy and entitlement to a trade discount is never challenged.
  2. Ingram is a victim of their own system.  I received a $3.99 booklet from them. I have no idea why they do this or how they can afford to. When I placed my first iPage order, I was told to “click DC Pairs and where it says ‘hold/release’ click ‘release.’” I did what I was told. If I could change this, no one has ever told me what ‘hold’ signifies or how it would help save costs at their end and save the planet. They say they are “constantly monitoring expenses.” Uh…no, I don’t think so. If they streamlined their operations at their end, such as merging backorders or running multi-order invoices, they would not have to penalize small stores like yours at your end. Relatively speaking, this is all about shipping costs. The actual picking costs are minimal by comparison and the cost of a small store using the website is infinitesimal.
  3. Ingram already ships to addresses buying less than $5,000. In this case I’m referring to the host of individual consumers whose orders to companies like Chapters are fulfilled through Ingram. I feel like when I do place a larger order, I’m indirectly subsidizing the inefficiencies of Ingram’s costs in filling orders for online competitors.
  4. This shouldn’t apply to Ingram Publisher Services accounts. When Ingram is the exclusive distributor of a particular imprint, they are making money twice over. For a small store, they are the only game in town, and even if you approached the publisher directly and were willing to pay any importation costs, that publisher is contractually bound to Ingram as its exclusive warehouse distributor. Personally, I find scaling back the discount with respect to those publishers somewhat reprehensible. 
  5. Canadian stores were forced to scale back. Christmas season [2016] purchasing from the U.S. was greatly curtailed when our dollar crashed. With Ingram, accounts are settled by credit card on the 15th of the month following, so there was the added variable of not knowing what Canadian prices to set because no one knew how low our currency was going to fall.
  6. Ingram has other options. They could change the minimum order on iPage from 10 to 15 items or set a dollar-value minimum. They could change the “low” discount threshold from $2.99 to $3.49 or $3.99. They could adjust discounts on hardcovers as Send the Light did. They could modify discounts on publishers where they feel they are being squeezed. They could scrap the “cascade” system and have stores meet a 10-unit minimum per warehouse. They could scrap the minimum order altogether and change it to a minimum shippable. (The last two involve some major system reprogramming changes, but this is about saving shipping costs, right? And the price of oil is going to turn around eventually and courier fuel surcharges will again go up.)

I concluded:

I want to make clear that while this is partly personal, I just think this particular strategy is bad policy. It’s bad for bookstores, bad for publishers, bad for authors and really bad for Ingram itself, since it simply makes everyone angry.

If my account is a drain on their bottom line, then they should put structures in place that force me to consolidate orders, or higher minimum orders.

In our Christian product sales sector of the larger market, people are often well-networked and vertically integrated. So if I’m talking to a new publisher or a new author and they have a choice between Ingram Publisher Services and Advocate Distribution Services, I think it’s obvious which one I’m going to recommend.

If anyone has a list of the Christian companies using Ingram Publisher’s Group, it would save us some time. I want to continue to fight this on behalf of other stores which may get cut off from full trade discount in the future.

OM Ships Announces Remainder Sales to Canadian Retailers

Logos Hope (Wikipedia)

Three weeks ago we covered the closing of Books4Eternity, a remainder wholesale business based in Manitoba. At that time Autumn Youngs stated that the business would be assumed by OM Ships. We requested information on what the protocols would be for stores wishing to order and received this answer from Sherri Goodnight, Director of Sales:

Due to Books4Eternity closing, OM Ships International will now be working directly with Canadian customers. If customers would like to receive our lists, please contact Sue Eldridge at 641-648-2900 or sue.eldridge [at] gbaships.org. All orders will be shipped by UPS and OM Ships will be offering ½ free freight (includes prepaid freight, customs and taxes) on orders over $100 net! Customers will not have to worry about customs clearance and taxes! OM Ships will handle all this for them!

For those who don’t know the history of Operation Mobilization’s floating literature ministry — a good time to mention that for 2½ years my brother-in-law served as a marine engineer with them in the late 1980s, along with his wife — we were also given some background to share with you:

OM Ships International is the organization behind Logos Hope. The Ship Ministry began in 1970 as part of the global Christian training and outreach movement, OM International. Since then OM’s ships have visited 480 different ports in 151 countries and territories and welcomed over 46 million visitors on board.

Our goal is to share knowledge, help and hope with people of the world. We do this by supplying vital literature resources, encouraging cross-cultural understanding, training young people for more effective life and service, providing needed relief, and sharing a message of hope in God wherever there is opportunity.

In order for the Ship Ministry to supply the literature resources to the thousands of visitors who daily come on board Logos Hope, there is a Ministry Center in Florence, South Carolina where pallets with boxes and boxes of literature resources come in that need to be sorted, repacked and made ready to send to the ship and wholesale customers throughout the world.

Many of these remainders are donated by publishers, and in addition to supplying the ship, are made available to retailers in the U.S. and Canada at reduced prices. For many years this service (known to some of you then as OM Lit) had been provided in conjunction with STL Distributors. In an international context, especially in more sensitive countries, not all titles donated by American publishers work as well on the ships, so your purchases really do help out the ministry.

Note Re. ½-free shipping: Stores need to remember that the relationship between weight and total invoice costs is different when working with remainders. Shipping charges may seem high to those of you who haven’t purchased bargain books from the U.S. previously.


Wikipedia Entry on MV Logos Hope ship:

MV Logos Hope is operated by the German Christian charitable organization GBA Ships e.V (Gute Bücher für Alle, English: Good Books for All)…

…Twice as big as any previous ship operated by the organization, the ship was completely refitted over a period of 5 years. Logos Hope provides a better quality of life for crew as well as a wider range of activities for visitors and guests. The newly created Logos Hope Experience (which is situated on a deck that was installed into the original ferry’s car area) holds up to 800 visitors at any time, with capacity to host an additional 500 in the Hope Theatre and Logos Lounge. This publicly accessible deck offers visitors an introduction to the vessel and the organization, a book fair featuring over 5,000 different titles of educational and Christian books, a visual presentation called the Journey of Life, which is based on the story of the “Prodigal Son”, and the International Cafe.

The all volunteer crew and staff of 400 people, represent over 60 different countries. Unlike the crew during her original use as a car ferry, crew and staff normally join the organization to live on board for two years as volunteers.

Link to om.org; the official OM website.

 

Both New and Existing Christian Retailers Filling the Family Christian Stores Void

Publisher’s Weekly has a great article profiling new stores which are opening in the wake of the Family Christian Stores closures; some in the very same locations.

Nearly eight months after Family Christian Stores—the largest Christian retail chain in the U.S.—began closing the first of its 240 outlets and going bankrupt, other booksellers have begun to fill in the gaps left by the retailer’s absence. With stores in 36 states across the U.S., Family Christian initiated its closures in February, and the last store closed in May…

Later in the article they also look at the impact on existing stores which weren’t part of the chain.

…In addition to making room for entrepreneurs to open new stores, FCS’s closure has affected existing bookstores as well. Lifeway Christian Stores expanded into four new locations that were previously occupied by Family Christian. The chain, which has over 170 locations, already overlapped with over 140 former FCS outlets, and it has no plans for expansion in other locations, a Lifeway spokesperson told PW.

Sue Smith, manager of Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Mich. and president of the CBA (the Association for Christian Retail), said Baker’s sales increased 20% following the chain’s closing compared to the same time in 2016. Three FCS locations shuttered in Grand Rapids in April, followed by several more along the West Michigan Lakeshore. Baker, which is independently owned, was able to tap into FCS’s church customer base, and it now stocks products such as communion ware and curriculum…

click here to read the article in full with pictures of the new stores

Photo: Publisher’s Weekly on Twitter

Christian Book Shop Talk Enters Year 10

After a week off, we’re back just in time to celebrate the 9th Birthday of this blog. After blogging at e4God and USAToday, I came to WordPress and actually started seven blogs, all within the space of several months. This is one of three which is still regularly updated with new content.

It’s been great to connect with all of you in this forum. I don’t get to trade shows so this is my only opportunity to start conversations, which customers in my store will tell you is something I love doing. Those of us who own, manage or staff Christian bookstores walk a rather unique road which has all the drama of owning a business, all the glitter of the entertainment industry (with books, movies and music) and all the importance of ministry calling.

Canadian readers continue to dominate the stats (unlike my other two blogs) at 58%, but the U.S. is gaining at 37%. Moving forward you may see articles where I explain how things work here and you’ll wonder why I’m doing that since everyone here already knows, but I want to also be able to represent us to the larger readership, which includes executives and international sales directors of American publishing houses.

I also want to take a moment to thank the people at various Canadian distributors who share information beyond what I could expect to hear as a retailer, especially given the size of my own store’s market. I appreciate having a better understanding of what takes place behind the scenes, even if it’s followed by, “But you can’t blog what I just told you.” Sigh!

So Happy Birthday to Us. Thanks to all of you who drop in periodically, subscribe, leave comments, or contact me directly with both joys and sorrows.

This blog is available to all of you who wish to write longer-form articles than what you’re able to say in other forums, and hardly anything posted here has ever been deleted, so the material stays accessible for a longer time frame. Or feel free to pick a month and go back and see what was occurring and what issues were important 3 years ago, or 5 years ago or 7 years ago. If it’s something where you need to be anonymous that’s fine, as along as I can authenticate that it came from someone in the industry.

Finally, if you see an article in other media that you think stores should read, let me know so that we can run an excerpt with a link.

~Paul Wilkinson

 

 

 

 

 

Cook Canada New Name Revealed

parasource-marketing-and-distribution

David C. Cook Canada has a new name and a new logo. The company is becoming Parasource Marketing and Distribution. The name was revealed to staff yesterday at a luncheon held at the headquarters in Paris, Ontario and announced to wholesale accounts in an email released just after midnight.

The name change became necessary after the Canadian management group purchased the company from David C. Cook in the U.S. earlier in the year, along with buying Augsburg-Fortress Canada. 

Parasource becomes the leading independent distributor in Canada for Christian books, Christian music and media, Christian education curriculum, and Christian greeting cards.

Press release:

(Paris, Ontario, Canada) – Greg Tombs, President and Hardy Willms, Chief Financial Officer of David C Cook Distribution Canada and Augsburg Fortress Canada, are pleased to announce the new name for their company effective September 23, 2016:  Parasource Marketing and Distribution Ltd.

Tombs and Willms engaged with branding and design experts, Riordon Design, in Oakville, Ontario, to conduct extensive research and consultation with both customers and suppliers to understand the way in which both Cook and Augsburg Canada were perceived in the Christian marketplace.

“Research clearly showed that we were perceived as a service driven organization which supported our customers with both product knowledge and ministry understanding, coupled with the ability to warehouse and deliver product efficiently and effectively. This lead us to our new name which is made up of two words – “para”, meaning ‘to come along side’ in the sense of service, assistance and help as well as “source” as a convenient and efficient one-stop shop for Christian resource product in Canada,” Tombs said.

Parasource’s tag line is, “Serving Canada’s Christian Community”.

“Through strong relationships with both our publisher suppliers and our trade and direct customer base, we ensure that the Canadian church is serviced by Canadians who understand our unique culture and makeup of the Canadian Christian Marketplace and Church,” said Tombs.

Parasource represents over 25 major Christian book and curriculum publishers, over 35 Christian music and media labels, 8 Christian card and gift suppliers and over 17 Christian resource suppliers.

Parasource services and supplies the Christian retail trade stores in Canada through our trade sales and marketing team, the Canadian General Market, and has direct and exclusive supplier agreements with multiple Christian denominations in Canada. In addition, Parasource extensively services and supplies ministry and learning resources directly to churches and para-church organizations in Canada with our experienced church resource consultant group.  Parasource is present at numerous denominational and special focus ministry events each year. Launching later this fall, the new website, parasource.com will also directly serve the church and Christian consumer markets in Canada.

With their extensive contact lists of people in Christian ministry in Canada, Parasource will also be further developing their marketing services to Christian content developers in the publishing, music and media market spaces.

The Changing Christian Distributor Market in the U.S.

September 15, 2016 2 comments

Publisher’s Weekly writer Emma Koonse has done an excellent job documenting the closing of Christian distributors over the years such as Riverside, Appalachain Bible Supply and Send the Light Distribution in a piece appearing yesterday.

To read the full article click this link. Here are some highlights:

  • Christian Book Services, Larry Carpenter’s company, is now using Ingram for fulfillment, and was owed $52,000 by Send the Light.
  • Three Christian bookstores have opened since December, 2015, but 27 have closed.
  • New Day Distributors, originally a music company now has 60 publisher vendors.
  • Midpoint Trade Books* in New York City has picked up “10 – 15” of Send the Light’s publishing clients.

midpoint-trade-books*Midpoint was a new name to me, so I investigated. Their Christian products division is Covenant Media Resources which includes authors Danny Silk (Bethel Church/Jesus Culture) and John Bevere (Messenger International) among its clients.

In doing some follow up research from Emma’s article, I couldn’t help but notice that landing pages for Midpoint and Covenant stress their services to publishers, but I couldn’t find anything stating how a U.S. bookstore would open an account, or even see anything resembling a complete database.  The pages were directed at attracting publishers, not soliciting bookstore accounts.

The New Day credit application makes no allowance for Canadian accounts. This again is a reminder of how accounts north of the 49th Parallel were spoiled by Send the Light with door-to-door, pre-brokered shipments.

 

 

David C. Cook Canada to Undergo Name Change

cookLogo200x60“Thank you for calling David C. Cook Distribution and Augsburg-Fortress Canada.”

That prompt, which greets callers to the new combined wholesale distribution company is long, and because David C. Cook in U.S. doesn’t own the company any longer, it means that a name change is inevitable.

The best way to launch a name change like this one is with a brand logo that will appear on letterhead, invoices, Facebook, websites and at corporate displays at ministry conferences and conventions. It’s a daunting task in a world where so many keywords are already registered and therefore not available. You could just make something up, but you might find later it’s the name of a table sold at IKEA.

Before this year, the Canadian company had already seen a history of mergers and acquisitions. Cook Canada bought out the former CMC Distribution, and thereby became the dominant player in Christian music and DVD distribution in this country. Prior to that, Cook bought out Scripture Press Canada. At the time it seemed like a major concentration of curriculum, but after the closing of R. G. Mitchell in Canada, Cook Canada picked up Broadman & Holman, and thereby had the rights to LifeWay curriculum. More recently, Gospel Light was added to the fold. So when it comes to two key areas, curriculum and media, the company dominates; but because Canada sees little competition in terms of Dayspring’s virtual monopoly on individual greeting cards, it means the company owns that category as well.

On the Augsburg side, the company has in past years acquired the inventory and distribution for both Anglican Book Centre and United Church Publishing.

In total, just in terms of what was mentioned in the above two paragraphs, it means that where bookstores might have dealt with seven different wholesale sources, they are now dealing with one.

But historically, Cook has also jettisoned product lines as well; trimming its book roster after acquiring former R. G. Mitchell brands like Baker, Moody and Broadman (only to later bring back some of those) and unloading giftware brands, going all the way back to the days when Scripture Press (aka Beacon Distributing) was the source for Dickson’s merchandise.

A new brand name will need to reflect the diversity. Whether or not a unified brand for the wholesale divisions, the direct-to-church marketing, and the direct-to-consumer marketing will be created is yet to be seen. Currently, sites like YourMusicZone and YourChurchZone (the latter in partnership with HarperCollins Christian Publishing) operate without reference to the Cook brand.

 

 

Gatekeepers

Posting this tomorrow morning at Thinking Out Loud, and thought I would share it with you guys first…

binocularclock

When another volunteer decided to step down after many years, I offered to collect used books in our area for Christian Salvage Mission. I’m in the book business after all, so I believe in the power of Christian literature to transform lives. I haven’t been as successful at this as I could be however, because we now also have a Christian-operated thrift shop in town. Still, I try to inform customers of things we can take that the thrift store might not.

Sometimes the books that people drop off are excellent collections. I immediately recognize the authors or the publishers, even though the books may have sat on home library shelves since before I was born. Others are more recent; titles I would easily recommend.

But sometimes, in the middle of a great grouping of books there is the odd Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness or Seventh Day Adventist title. (I recognize that some readers will sense my concern about the first two, but not necessarily the third.)

How did those books end up on these peoples’ shelves? Was a friend persistent? Or did the individuals not realize what they were getting into?

At this point, as a matter of full disclosure, I should point out that I have a copy of The Book of Mormon somewhere in my library. My parents got it in a hotel room while as a family we were in Salt Lake City. I have read some small sections of it. If I die tonight, and someone is going through my collection, they might well ask the questions I am asking here.

Generally, though, I worry that the average, church-going, pew-warming, tithe-giving Christian may not have sufficient filters with which to process the origins of some books, and thereby see the books through a more finely-tuned discernment lens. Do people check to see what the publisher imprint is? Which group claims copyright? Where follow-up pages (with phone numbers or websites) lead?

I should say that I have an unfair advantage. I’ve spent so much time in the industry that when I see Pacific Press®, Deseret Book Company, or a reference to the Watchtower Society, I immediately know who I’m dealing with.

But it’s not just the publisher imprint. Many of the books out there use a similar style of artwork; even the titles themselves sometimes are just a plain giveaway, especially the outreach materials which are produced for giveaway…

…At first, I had no specific conclusion to this, other than to say that this is a reality and people need to be more careful what they allow to come into their homes.

But then it occurred to me that while I didn’t write this with any agenda, Christian bookshops offered the type of vetting process that is needed. One pastor once told me, “You and your wife are gatekeepers for the people in our town.” That’s an honor. It’s also humbling. It’s a huge responsibility.

As long as the Christian bookstore owner, or manager, or buyer knows what they are doing, they can insure that only titles of the highest orthodoxy are presented for sale. Even if they don’t, the distribution networks for such stores simply don’t carry materials from marginal groups. And the Christian publishers generally don’t produce such products in the first place.

To the contrary, when you buy a book online just because the title looked interesting, or it was “recommended for you,” or because “other customers also purchased,” or maybe just because it was in the religion section and you liked the price; you really, really don’t always know what you’re getting into, unless you are savvy about publishing.

When a Christian bookstore closes, we lose a certain level of discernment; we lose some badly needed filtering.

 

 

Word Alive Purchased by Anchor Distributors

Anchor Word Alive joint logoIn the past few weeks we saw two cases where an American owned Christian distributor was purchased by Canadians; David C. Cook Canada and Augsburg Fortress Canada. The new, combined company will doubtless be undergoing a name change over the next few weeks.

Today, we’re hearing of the reverse case, where a longstanding Winnipeg, MB distributor, Word Alive, has been purchased by Anchor Distributors of New Kensington, Pennyslvania. There are a number of reasons why this is significant.

First, in terms of independent distributor options available to Canadian stores, Anchor, Send the Light (STL) and Spring Arbor (Ingram) have been shipping to Canada to years, but Anchor never had a consolidated freight or pre-clearance system. Orders went out individually and stores had to pay hefty freight costs. Furthermore, Spring Arbor won’t export anything that isn’t a book, CD or DVD, which means that up until now, stores wishing to bring in ancillary items either got them from Send the Light or they didn’t at all. Importation of a variety of these items is a complicated process involving various harmonized codes and many countries of origin. Hopefully, that changes.

Second, the two companies have always been tied together doctrinally. They have carried similar publishers with a strong Charismatic and Pentecostal identity. While Charismatic books don’t drive the market as much as they did ten years ago, they are a necessity for stores selling to the Evangelical market.

Third, Anchor’s corporate association with Whitaker House hopefully means that Canadian stores will have frequent access to the Whitaker Bargain Books line without the aforementioned high shipping costs.

Fourth, the last point means that both companies have been involved in the publishing side of the business. Word Alive Press is home to many top Canadian Christian authors. Is it part of the sale? [See update below] Publishing is federally regulated and historically, in the name of cultural sovereignty, the Canadian government is loathe to let publishers here fall into American hands. It’s possible that division may need to spin-off in order to maintain a separate identity, but if Canadian authors are hearing about the deal, it sounds like a win with higher visibility of our authors. [See update below]

Finally, it’s an affirmation of our Canadian Christian market; showing that while two U.S. parent companies decided to divest themselves of holdings here, another U.S. business is saying that we’re worth the investment.

UPDATE 5/19 8:00 PM: Word Alive Press authors have been notified of the sale and the positive and an announcement has been posted on their blog. Here is portion of that announcement:

Word Alive Press itself is not part of the Anchor purchase. We remain a Canadian-owned publishing company, proudly serving the Christian book market in Canada and abroad. Our vision has always been to find and develop a base of Canadian authors who, through their stories and God-given talents, will teach, equip, entertain, influence, and ultimately extend the impact of the Kingdom of God in Canada. We are excited about this vision and now see an even brighter future for our authors to influence people beyond our borders.

This is a win-win for authors. The publishing stays Canadian owned and controlled but artists reap the full benefit of the enhanced U.S. distribution.

What Stores Are Looking For in a Supplier Relationship

For ministry objectives to be accomplished the relationship between retailer and supplier needs to be

Respectful

While suppliers have a window into books that won’t hit our shelves until Christmas, retailers have a window into what customers are needing and asking for. These are two very different information sets, with two very different sets of gifts needed to manage each. Suppliers who see the structure as hierarchical (i.e. top -> down) end up with a lack of respect for the very retailers they serve; and the retailers can sense it.

Collegial

While this may seem to just be repeat what was stated above, it’s meant to reflect a different idea; the notion of a partnership between retailer and supplier that serves the common goal of connecting people and products. The language should be, “How can we work together to facilitate getting resources into customers’ hands.”

Fair

The natural outgrowth of the above two factors will be a playing field that is level for dealers, big and small; and fairness in respect of pricing, discounts and terms. We are all squeezed right now, and have been since an industry downturn in the last eight years, but without the retailers, the suppliers have nothing. If store owners and managers even feel they are being taken advantage of, and curtail purchasing, the supplier losses will mount up.

Sustainable

The small store that is coerced into purchasing ten copies of each of ten new releases in May might have nothing left to work with for June releases. While “open to buy” programs are rather constraining and don’t allow purchasing to balloon for major titles, suppliers and their sales reps need to realize there is truly only so much money out there.

Flexible

We have a ‘sales final’ policy in our store on reduced items. It’s there if we need it, but it’s almost never enforced. Suppliers also need to have flexibility with regard to the special needs that may arise with a store. Yes, if it’s offered to one store it should be theoretically available to all stores, but suppliers need to trust the retailer’s judgment and be willing to bend terms or policies to suit particular situations.

If you sense that any of these are missing in any supplier relationship, I think you need to re-examine your support of that company.

 

Ingram Suspends Full Trade Discount to Small Stores

Ingram announcement

March 31st represented the annual culling of the herd at Ingram, better known in the Christian market as Spring Arbor, as stores failing to purchase $5,000 in 2015 had their trade discount reduced to 30% on books. If you’re looking for a notice you missed, it may be because the announcement appeared as a “service alert” posted on the right hand side of iPage that you had to click to read in full:

ingramDear Valued Ingram Customer,

As with any business, Ingram must closely monitor our expenses and make adjustments when needed so we can continue to provide the speed, accuracy, and support that you’ve come to expect. Sometimes, as our costs decrease, we have been able to pass that savings on to our customers.

However, to cover increased freight and operating costs, we’ve found it necessary to explore and evaluate our discount structure. On March 31, 2016, all accounts that fell below $5,000 in net sales for 2015 will have a new discount structure of 30% on all regular discount items. Please note, this discount applies only to regular discount titles, regardless of quantities purchased or order method. All other items such as video, short, audio, etc., will continue to be discounted as they have been. Also, Ingram does review each customer’s account sales annually and offers volume discounts based on net annual purchases.

We truly value your continued business and appreciate your understanding in this matter. Please contact your Ingram sales representative or call Customer Care at 800-937-8200 if you have questions about this new discount structure.

Sincerely,

Ingram Content Group

So once again, it’s survival of the fittest. They didn’t even wait until April 1st, the policy is now in effect. Once again, I have some opinions on this, some of which I shared last year at this time.

  1. Small stores often get large orders. The bookstore owner or manager in a small market who works to get a 100 copy order gets no reward for their efforts. All other distributors base the discount on the size of the order, an approach Ingram has constantly resisted. I have orders currently holding from a couple of publishers waiting for me to add a few more titles. I have no problem working with that constraint. Send the Light’s minimum is 20 books. I understand why they instituted that and it’s not that hard for me reach their quota. As I said the last time this happened, I probably use some of my university publisher accounts once every 2-3 years, but my legitimacy and entitlement to a trade discount is never challenged.
  2. Ingram is a victim of their own system. Yesterday I received a $3.99 booklet from them. I have no idea why they do this or how they can afford to. When I placed my first iPage order, I was told to “click DC Pairs and where it says ‘hold/release’ click ‘release.'” I did what I was told. If I could change this, no one has ever told me what ‘hold’ signifies or how it would help save costs at their end and save the planet. They say they are “constantly monitoring expenses.” Uh…no, I don’t think so. If they streamlined their operations at their end, such as merging backorders or running multi-order invoices, they would not have to penalize small stores like yours at your end. Relatively speaking, this is all about shipping costs. The actual picking costs are minimal by comparison and the cost of a small store using the website is infinitesimal.
  3. Ingram already ships to addresses buying less than $5,000. In this case I’m referring to the host of individual consumers whose orders to companies like Chapters are fulfilled through Ingram. I feel like when I do place a larger order, I’m indirectly subsidizing the inefficiencies of Ingram’s costs in filling orders for online competitors.
  4. This shouldn’t apply to Ingram Publisher Services accounts. When Ingram is the exclusive distributor of a particular imprint, they are making money twice over. For a small store, they are the only game in town, and even if you approached the publisher directly and were willing to pay any importation costs, that publisher is contractually bound to Ingram as its exclusive warehouse distributor. Personally, I find scaling back the discount with respect to those publishers somewhat reprehensible. 
  5. Canadian stores were forced to scale back. Christmas season purchasing from the U.S. was greatly curtailed when our dollar crashed. With Ingram, accounts are settled by credit card on the 15th of the month following, so there was the added variable of not knowing what Canadian prices to set because no one knew how low our currency was going to fall.
  6. Ingram has other options. They could change the minimum order on iPage from 10 to 15 items or set a dollar-value minimum. They could change the “low” discount threshold from $2.99 to $3.49 or $3.99. They could adjust discounts on hardcovers as Send the Light did. They could modify discounts on publishers where they feel they are being squeezed. They could scrap the “cascade” system and have stores meet a 10-unit minimum per warehouse. They could scrap the minimum order altogether and change it to a minimum shippable. (The last two involve some major system reprogramming changes, but this is about saving shipping costs, right? And the price of oil is going to turn around eventually and courier fuel surcharges will again go up.)

In my community, a large, general-market bookstore is closing today. We put the word out to our customers that we would happy to take their orders on a variety of different subjects; not knowing our access to full margin on those items might be restricted. (At least I can do Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin/Random House.) It’s more possible now that a store in my position (or a store that finds itself being given some larger orders) would have no problem meeting that $417 per month average. 

If you don’t know what your purchasing from them was in 2015, a phone call may be in order.

Sadly, for stores now facing a shorter discount, their relationship with Ingram vis-a-vis dollar volume, has now become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It should be about the order, not a store’s performance in 2015.  


Update: I want to make clear that while this is partly personal, I just think this particular strategy is bad policy. It’s bad for bookstores, bad for publishers, bad for authors and really bad for Ingram itself, since it simply makes everyone angry.

If my account is a drain on their bottom line, then they should put structures in place that force me to consolidate orders, or higher minimum orders.

In our Christian product sales sector of the larger market, people are often well-networked and vertically integrated. So if I’m talking to a new publisher or a new author and they have a choice between Ingram Publisher Services and Advocate Distribution Services, I think it’s obvious which one I’m going to recommend.

 

David C. Cook Canada adds The Good Book Company

The Good Book Company

David C. Cook in Canada announced the addition of The Good Book Company to its list of distributed product lines. If you’re not familiar with this publisher, I’ll let Wikipedia explain:

The Good Book Company (TGBC) is an evangelical, reformed Christian publisher, located in Epsom, Surrey, England.  TGBC began in 1991 under the name St. Matthias Press UK, in response to what TGBC saw as a “resurgence of Bible-based reformed evangelicalism in the UK.”Their name was later changed to The Good Book Company in 2000.  TGBC now supplies books, along with Bible study notes, to multiple countries including that of the UK, US, Australia and the developing world.

The company is truly the epicenter of much Calvinist/Reformed publishing activity right now, with a roster containing many of their top authors.

To learn more, visit TheGoodBook.com

In another announcement this week, David C. Cook Canada announced the addition of the Artistic line of church furnishings, including communion-ware.