HarperCollins has said it will make changes to its delivery system in the new year following continuing problems reported by independent bookshops.
A number of shops have spoken of issues with the company’s new system, which means invoices are not packaged with deliveries, leaving stores to try and match paperwork with books received.
A spokesperson for the publisher said: “Supply Chain MD Gordon Scott and his team visited a number of independent bookshops during November to hear their concerns firsthand. As a result, the team is now working on a number of actions including making changes to the carton labelling and the invoice layout. These changes will be implemented early in the New Year.”
Booksellers have complained of the time they have to spend dealing with their invoices during the busy Christmas period. Wayne Winstone of Winstone's Bookshop in Sherbourne said: "The deliveries themselves have improved in terms of accuracy and timeliness, the hotline's working. But the most frustrating thing is paperwork - the accuracy of the invoice in terms of the margins agreed with individual publishers is rarely accurately represented. It's taking me double the time to do a month end with HarperCollins compared with any other publisher."
Steve Pritchard, owner of Pritchard’s in Crosby, said: “The basic minimum requirement when you’re sending our your boxes is to supply VAT invoices with any discounts, and order references. For the last three months we haven’t had invoices in boxes, and they send to us paperwork which has no relationship to what we ordered and we can’t match the two up. Then boxes arrive with things we haven’t ordered." He added: "They could have seen after three days it wasn't working."
Nigel Jones of the Totnes Bookshop said the publisher's new system was “out of step with the industry and not good for them because it means their books are delayed going onto the shelves.”
Nick Bottomley of Mr B’s Emporium in Bath said he had suspended his account over the "intensely annoying" removal of invoices from deliveries, as well as a glitch over freight charges. “In the last four or five weeks, they have started addressing these issues and they do seem to be putting their house in order. But I'm not starting with them again during the Christmas period,” he said.
HarperCollins said independents could check on their orders with an email service. “Independent booksellers can already take advantage of an automated emailed invoice that is sent at the point of despatch, advising them of the contents of the cartons in transit. To register for this service, please call our dedicated independents customer service team on 0844 576 8121. The helpline is open from 8.30am to 5.30pm until December 24th, from 9am to 5pm on December 27th and 28th and from 9am to 4pm on December 31st. It resumes normal hours from January 3rd onwards.”
HarperCollins' Glasgow distribution centres switched to a new computer system on 30th April. As well as its own books, HC handles distribution for companies such as Usborne, Anova, Simon & Schuster and Scholastic.