Follett Corp., which entered the school book fair business in fall 2017, will open five new fulfillment centers this summer.

New facilities are planned for Philadelphia, Orlando, Dallas, Chicago, and San Bernardino. All the centers are slated to be opened by August 1. The new facilities will allow Follett to expedite book deliveries to schools with scheduled fairs, plus provide for quick replenishment when inventories on popular books run low. Follett currently conducts fairs for students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Nader Qaimari, president of Follett School Solutions, said the opening of the fulfillment centers is the next step in the company's steady ramp-up of its fair program. Follett held 180 pilot fairs in the 2017-2018 school year to get a sense of customer expectations and fair logistics. In the current school year, Follett will conduct about 2,000 fairs, and has been using its existing Illinois fulfillment center to support them. "Now that we have insight about the scale needed to support the fairs we moved forward with opening these new facilities," Qaimari said.

Qaimari said Follett has been encouraged with customer response, noting that satisfaction levels have steadily risen as the school year has progressed. He said customers appreciate the quick fair setup (which can take as little as 20 minutes), the wide book selection, its point-of-sale system, and the fact Follett does not publish its own books.

One sign of customer satisfaction has been the "tremendous rate of renewals," Qaimari said. Already, Follett has three times the number of fairs planned than for all of the 2018-2019 school year. Qaimari added that, while some schools seem to be testing Follett fairs against those of industry leader Scholastic (which had fair revenue of $343 million through the first nine months of fiscal 2019), Follett's goal is to grow the entire school book fair market.