Supply chain hiccups and a shortage of materials are setting back retailers across the country. This includes local bookstores who are being told to shop for holiday gifts now as they don’t know what will be on the shelves in the coming months.
It is easy to see how locally-owned Back of Beyond Bookstore is. Catered to locals and visitors in Moab, Utah, you’ll find books about life outside at every corner. The quiet struggle to keep the shelves stocked is what lies beyond the 1990s storefront. As the holidays approach, customers will start to notice this struggle.
“It’s becoming increasingly dire and Ingrim has just put out a white paper warning all of us saying, ‘Get ready; it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better,'” said Andy Nettell, the owner of Back of Beyond Bookstore.
Ingrim Content Group provides services to the American book publishing industry. Nettell states that Ingrim is used in most independent bookstores.
“Ingrim books can’t find staff. They can’t get our books to us in a timely fashion,” Nettell said. “They are very blunt they are simply saying we are not going to be able to supply the books that you need, period. And then they gave us a list of some of the reasons why and they admit part of it is internal, that they don’t have the employees they need to process the orders on a timely basis. They don’t probably have the financial resources to backstop as deeply as they need to, and the publishers are not able to get them the books they need in a timely basis.”
Due to this, the time to buy your gifts for the holidays is now. Bookazine President Cindy Raiton says there is a serious supply chain problem.
“September is the new December,” Raiton said. “Every step of the way right now is being challenged.”
“And the publishers are telling us now order more aggressively now when we do have the supplies because we won’t be able to guarantee your books come mid-November after Thanksgiving when the Christmas season kicks in,” Nettell said.
“You first have majority of the printing for color books, is done outside of the US. Many factories will close in COVID. In many countries, when there is a covid epidemic, things must be closed down. Then, in order to transport the goods from foreign countries to the US, we need the logistic carriers. There is a shortage of both these carriers as commercial traffic has slowed down. So cargo is dependent on commercial planes,” Raiton stated.
Raiton believes that a shift to a niche model is the best solution for wholesalers or bookstores.
“So, our primary focus has been enhancing our inventory for the new titles but to also make sure we are a resource for all long tales,” Raiton said.
It’s what Nettell says the industry does best.
“We don’t rely on bestsellers to make our money, we rely on maps and guidebooks and the unique items that we bring in specifically tailored to our customers and those books may well be a mountain bike guide as opposed to the latest Elizabeth George pop boiler thriller that everyone wants at Christmas,” Nettell said.
Nettell admits that these issues could have a greater impact on Back of Beyond than he would like. However, his business has been able to handle any crisis for the past two years.
“It’s worrisome and I hate not being able to put a book in a customers hand, but I think we’ll be okay,” Nettell said.