New Inventory Tracking System Launched
Jim Milliot -- 1/29/01

Publishing Solutions Inc. is prepared to launch an upgraded system February 1 that will allow publishers to track inventory as well as to forecast book sales. The White Plains, N.Y., company conducted a pilot test of its point-of-sale-based program in 1999 with Penguin Putnam (News, Feb. 15, 1999), and has returned with new features and two new clients, Time Warner Trade Publishing and the Holtzbrinck Group.

David AvRutick, president of PSI, said that after the Penguin test, the company realized it needed to make its information available through the Internet instead of paper reports and has spent the better part of a year making the switch to a Web-enabled service. In addition, PSI has partnered with IBM, which created the "technological guts" of the system. "IBM can obviously handle vast amounts of data," AvRutick said.

At present, PSI's inventory risk management system uses point-of-sale information from Barnes & Noble to measure a publisher's inventory of individual titles at individual B&N outlets as well as to track the behavior of books to determine if titles are selling slower or faster than expected. The service can create a wide range of reports for publishers, such as a look at a single title's performance and how that title is selling in different parts of the country, a weekly title-change report that alerts publishers when a book's sales change by a certain percentage and the MBF (make books fly) report that is sorted by ZIP code and lets publishers decide if it is feasible to shift product from one store to another store rather than go back to press. "We can slice and dice the information in many, many ways," AvRutick said. And while PSI provides weekly updates, it has the capability to supply real-time information if stores can offer information on that basis.

AvRutick emphasized that PSI's service "is for the whole company, not just one department. While it can be used as a sales tool, it can also be used by people on the inventory and production side or anyone involved with the supply chain."

While PSI has relied solely on B&N data to date, it expects to begin receiving information from Borders in the next few weeks. The company is also looking to get data from regional chains plus some bellwether independents. AvRutick said PSI's service can not only help publishers reduce returns, but it can be used by retailers as a tool to prevent lost sales.

PSI's prices are based on the various services and reports requested by a publisher. Although AvRutick said the company's goal is to make the system affordable to publishers of all sizes, its initial marketing efforts will be targeted to the larger companies.