Booksellers across Canada have reported that over the last few months they have been dealing with significant delays in receiving shipments from HarperCollins Canada's Buffalo, N.Y., distribution center.
Lori Cheverie, store manager of Bookmark on Prince Edward Island and who serves as the chair of the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association (CIBA) supply chain committee, said HarperCollins’s distribution issues have been severe. “Orders are taking six, eight weeks before they even leave [HarperCollins’] warehouse,” she said. “Boxes are being shipped with no books in them, and books are being turned around without getting delivered. And we don’t even know that the books that we thought we’ve waited four weeks for have gone back to their warehouse, and it’s never going to come and we have to start from scratch.”
Another bookseller, Cathy Jesson, president and co-owner of Black Bond Books, a chain of three bookstores in suburban Vancouver, also pointed to troubles with HarperCollins Canada. From her vantage point HC Canada's distribution problems appear run very deep.
For its part, HarperCollins Canada acknowledged that there have been challenges with distribution this year due to upgrades being implemented at the distribution center, but they have largely been resolved. “A variety of issues did impact our shipment times,” said Corey Beatty, senior director of marketing and publicity for HarperCollins Canada. Beatty said that the publisher has been working closely with the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association throughout the summer to discuss their concerns. “Those meetings have centered around discussions about supply but have also included marketing topics and how HarperCollins can best help our authors and sales of their titles at Canadian independents throughout the holiday period,” he said. “However, warehouse upgrades are now complete, and we are already seeing improvement in turnaround times. We expect to improve even further through the fall with a return to regular service levels.”
The problems at HC Canada are the clearest example of the challenges Canadian booksellers have been coping with this summer due to inflation and supply chain issues. Cheverie said that publishers have shifted their strategy as the industry moves into a new phase of the pandemic, away from asking for smaller amounts of a broader variety of books and towards larger orders earlier and earlier.