Supply chain hiccups and a shortage of materials are setting back retailers across the country. That includes local bookstores, who are being told holiday shopping begins now because there is no telling what will be available in the months to come.
When you step inside Back of Beyond Bookstore, you immediately notice just how homegrown it really is. Catered to locals and visitors in Moab, Utah, you’ll find books about life outside at every corner. But beyond this 1990s storefront is a quiet struggle to keep the shelves full. A struggle that customers will begin to notice as the holidays approach.
“It’s becoming increasingly dire and Ingrim has just put out a white paper warning all of us saying, 'Get ready; it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better,'" said Andy Nettell, the owner of Back of Beyond Bookstore.
Ingrim Content Group is an American service provider for the book publishing industry. Nettell says most independent bookstores, like his, use Ingrim.
"Ingrim books can’t find staff. They can’t get our books to us in a timely fashion," Nettell said. “They are very blunt they are simply saying we are not going to be able to supply the books that you need, period. And then they gave us a list of some of the reasons why and they admit part of it is internal, that they don’t have the employees they need to process the orders on a timely basis. They don’t probably have the financial resources to backstop as deeply as they need to, and the publishers are not able to get them the books they need in a timely basis.”
Due to this, the time to buy your gifts for the holidays is now. Cindy Raiton, the President of Sales at Bookazine says the supply chain problem is severe.
“September is the new December," Raiton said. “Every step of the way right now is being challenged.”
“And the publishers are telling us now order more aggressively now when we do have the supplies because we won’t be able to guarantee your books come mid-November after Thanksgiving when the Christmas season kicks in," Nettell said.
“You first have majority of the printing for color books, is done outside of the US. So again, many factories will close throughout COVID and in a lot of countries, whenever there is a covid outbreak things need to be shut down and then in order to get the goods from the foreign country to the US we now have the logistics carriers, and there is a huge shortage of both carriers because airlines, commercial traffic is down, so cargo is reliant on commercial planes," Raiton said.
Raiton believes the only answer for wholesalers and bookstores, is to shift to a more niche model.
“So, our primary focus has been enhancing our inventory for the new titles but to also make sure we are a resource for all long tales," Raiton said.
It’s what Nettell says the industry does best.
“We don’t rely on bestsellers to make our money, we rely on maps and guidebooks and the unique items that we bring in specifically tailored to our customers and those books may well be a mountain bike guide as opposed to the latest Elizabeth George pop boiler thriller that everyone wants at Christmas," Nettell said.
These issues may have a bigger effect on the Back of Beyond book store than Nettell would like, but after the last two years, he says his business can handle a crisis.
“It’s worrisome and I hate not being able to put a book in a customers hand, but I think we’ll be okay," Nettell said.