Industry veteran Christopher Robbins has acquired Sanger, Calif.-based wholesaler American West Books from the company's founder, Joshua Mettee.
One of the few remaining independent wholesalers, AWB specializes in distribution to non-traditional outlets. In addition to being the exclusive wholesaler to Whole Foods, AWB distributes to Costco, Sam’s Club, REI as well as other accounts.
Robbins was the longtime CEO of Gibbs Smith, before starting the publishing house Familius in 2012. In addition, Robbins cofounded Hummingbird Digital (HMD) with Mettee and Mettee’s father, Steve. HMD creates digital storefronts for physical retailers.
Robbins, who still owns Familius, said his initial focus will be to strengthen AWB’s infrastructure and improve its industry outreach. At present, AWB works with all Big 5 trade publishers and, Robbins noted, “at any given time are engaged with hundreds of publishers throughout North America.”
The Northwest has been without a regional distributor since Partners Book Distributing closed its Renton, Wash., office in March 2016. Robbins said that while AWB took over some of that business, he has no current plans to expand AWB’s capabilities beyond working with the larger account it now serves. Robbins said AWB enjoys “a robust California business for smaller accounts” which will continue.
One new area where Robbins may expand is in distribution. He said that given the recent consolidation in that part of the market, he is considering developing a “boutique distribution service for complementary publishers” to Familius which focuses on books for families.