Canadian indie bookstores are facing long waits for HarperCollins titles this holiday season, causing frustration and missed opportunities for sales. Since HC closed its Toronto-area warehouse this spring, distribution to Canadian stores has been provided by Indiana-based company R.R. Donnelley. Although booksellers were promised 48-hour shipping, they claim to be waiting two weeks or more to receive their orders.

Kelly McKinnon, co-owner of Vancouver Kidsbooks, said an order she placed with HC on Nov. 13 didn’t arrive in her store until Nov. 27. The shipping issue, she noted, is impacting the bottom line; while her overall store sales are up this fall, her sales of HC titles are down 20%.

“HarperCollins promised when they closed their Canadian operations that the Canadian market would still be a priority. Obviously it is not,” McKinnon told PW. “Clearly, the needs of their U.S. customers come before their Canadian customers."

McKinnon added that the current situation is particularly unfortunate since the publisher had, in the past, been so efficient with its shipping efforts. "When the Canadian warehouse ran it was known as one of the best in the country at serving the needs of its customers."

Two other B.C.-based bookstores, Mosaic Books and the indie chain Black Bond Books, expressed similar frustrations. Michael Neill, co-owner at Mosaic Books, said sales of HC titles at his store are “way down,” with orders typically taking 10 days to arrive. One order, placed on Nov. 10, didn’t arrive at the store until Nov. 26.

According to Lynn Lockhart, the buyer for Black Bond Books, the problem is being exasperated by partial shipments. The result, she explained, is that stores can’t finish processing their orders because the various boxes arrive days apart. “I don't think we can rely on anything being expedited and, at this point, will be left with chasing stock from wholesalers,” she said. “We had lightning fast service in December with our Canadian HarperCollins warehouse, so this is hard to accept.”

David Worsley, co-owner of Words Worth Books in Waterloo, said shipments to his store have been taking eight or nine days, and arriving piecemeal. “HarperCollins has mastered the art of shipping orders containing six boxes over three days. Box one of six and five of six on Monday, boxes four of six on Wednesday, the rest on Friday.”

HC, for its part, is trying to address the issue. Leo MacDonald, senior v-p of sales and marketing at HC Canada, attributed the shipping issues to “growing pains” as distributor R.R. Donnelley adjusts to the increase in print orders.

“We worked hard to try to address all issues and improve processes going forward,” MacDonald wrote in an emailed statement. “We regret the inconvenience this has caused Canadian booksellers but we are back to turning orders around in 24 to 48 hours. We expect our service levels to continue to improve with each month that goes by.”