A few days before Christmas, Canadian booksellers are reporting a slight improvement in shipping times of HarperCollins orders. The improvement comes after complaints surfaced last month that book shipments from the publisher were taking two weeks or longer to arrive in stores.
HC closed its Canadian warehouse in the spring, at which time orders started being filled by Indiana-based company R.R. Donnelley. According to booksellers, this is when the problems began. Some booksellers told PW that they noticed a marked increase in wait times for orders, while other complained about boxes from a single order arriving on multiple days.
Many booksellers PW spoke to in Canada said their HC orders are now arriving in about seven to 12 days. David Worsley, co-owner of Words Worth Books in Waterloo, Ont., said the change in service is hard to ignore. “It’s quickened a little bit, but I’m not sure if that means the fundamentals have changed,” he said. “Their customer service is still good—they didn’t change their reps—but getting books from their place to our door when they were Canadian...wow. They were the best there was. And now it’s something else.”
Michael Neill, co-owner of Mosaic Books in Kelowna, B.C., said HC's shipping times are still not good enough, especially during the busy holiday season. “If you say [to a customer that a book will arrive in] maybe eight days and it comes in 16 days, we lose their confidence," Neill explained. Worse, he noted, is losing the customer altogether. "Most times customers just say no to the order; they often tell us they will just use Amazon.”
Booksellers are hopeful that HarperCollins’ recent statement that service levels will “continue to improve with each month that goes by” is accurate. In the meantime, some booksellers, like Kelly McKinnon of Vancouver Kidsbooks, are increasing orders from another vendor. She said that Canadian wholesaler Raincoast BookExpress has allowed her to keep stock flowing, helping her make up for the slow shipments from HC.
“They really upped their game,” said McKinnon. “Our purchases from them are up significantly, and I believe it’s the same for most indies. I so appreciate them working hard to support indies in this difficult y
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Vancouver Kidsbooks has increased its general orders from Raincoast BookExpress, rather than using the wholesaler to bypass orders of HarperCollins books from R.R. Donnelley.