Adult Ladybird titles out of stock as demand soars pre-Christmas

Adult Ladybird titles out of stock as demand soars pre-Christmas

Penguin Random House UK's hit Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups series have run out of stock, leaving many booksellers across the country unable to sell the popular titles in the run up to Christmas.

A PRH UK spokesperson confirmed the stock shortage to The Bookseller but has promised the titles would be back in by the weekend.

"The Ladybird Books for Grown Ups series is a true publishing phenomenon," the PRH spokesperson said. "At times demand has been outstripping supply but we are doing everything we can to ensure that everyone gets their hand on the must-have Christmas books of the year. New stock is arriving with booksellers today (Thurs) and Friday. We are working incredibly hard to make sure that we meet all retailers’ stock needs."

Last week, UK booksellers around the country named the series as a suprise Christmas hit with customers, with Waterstones saying the titles were "flying off shelves."

Less than three weeks following publication on 29th October and initial print runs of 15,000 per title in the series, PRH reprinted its "new twist on a much loved British institution" to put a total of over one million copies of the eight Ladybird books for grownups series into print. But many booksellers have still been struggling to get hold of titles which they say has cost both them and PRH sales.

Sheila O'Reilly from Dulwich Books said: "The Ladybird Books for adults are all out of stock – Penguin wasn't able to cope with demand." 

Marie J. Moser, at the Edinburgh Bookshop, said: "How does somebody as big as Penguin run out? What’s possibly most disappointing is that it is Britain’s biggest publisher; therefore, once it realised how fast they were going, I’d like to think if anybody could have stopped something going out of stock it would have been Penguin, but they haven’t.

"I’m down to two. They’re just coming back in now - I got two yesterday, but they’re coming back in dribs. That has definitely cost everybody some sales. If the book isn’t there, you won’t necessarily go across town to get it."

Carol Peel, owner of bookshop The Grove, said the shop had experienced "ongoing struggles" with the Ladybird books. 

"All of them have been difficult [to stock]. They’ve been reprinting time after time, and I think that the big shops are getting preference for their supplies every time. That’s only a guess, but we’ve put in several orders for Penguin and not got them. We have now - at last - got all of them, except one; but we could have sold an awful lot more if the supply had been better.

"It took probably two or three weeks for some of them. They’ve been the worst [books to get hold of] really."

Moser added: "To be fair to Penguin, I don’t know if they’ve had to stock Amazon first. We could have some very interesting discussions about that. One of the frustrations of an independent is not always being sure the way automatic-buying systems work across wholesalers and publishers... I sometimes wonder if effectively, because we’re buying in fives and tens, if we’re ending up at the bottom of the queue.

"If you’re a customer you want to get it where suits you, not where suits the industry. Sometimes I think it’s a lost sale. I don’t think people always will go somewhere else, they might just buy something else."

The books feature original Ladybird artwork complete with new comedy captions from writers Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris. Books in the series comprise: The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness; The Ladybird Book of Dating; The Ladybird Book of The Shed; The Ladybird Book of The Hipster; The Ladybird Book of The Hangover; The Ladybird Book of The Mid-life Crisis; How it Works: The Husband; and How it Works: The Wife.

Michael Joseph publishing director Rowland White said: "I felt sure that they’d strike a chord, but to discover the real depth of people’s affection for Ladybird has been staggering. That there’s been such overwhelming demand is a tribute to the care with which writers Jason and Joel approached the original artwork. That we’ve been able to keep up with it is a tribute the efforts of the Penguin sales and production teams. But, blimey, hats off to the booksellers who’ve helped turn them into such a phenomenon."

Speculating on the key to their success, Vivian Archer at Newham Books commented: "They’re ideal secret santa presents! There’s a nostalgia; they’re silly, really; and the price is key. Also, they're unusual."

Moser added: "What you’ve got is the nostalgia for books, which I think anyone over the age of 30 has - they use the original drawings so you recognise immediately what’s being shown to you - and then most of them are very funny. There’s a lovely wry humour."

O'Reilly said: "It is hard to know why they have taken off. The Mindfulness one has been selling well for us along with The Hangover and they are both currently unavailable. They were a part of many people's youth growing up, everybody had one, so they are good presents for nostalgia. They are a bit of fun. We are getting a lot of people buying them as presents for men actually – uncles and brothers – who some find hard to buy for."

David Prescott, c.e.o of Blackwell's said: "They are genuinely funny. They are easy books to get chatting with customers about at the till. In Heffers in Cambridge where they first started flying off the shelves, people would start picking them up by the till and begin talking about them. They are easy to engage with. Their success has taken everybody by surprise, including Penguin. We haven't stock issues, but we have been selling high volumes of them."

Jasper Sutcliffe, Head of Buying at Foyles, said the books' "powerful blend of hipster irony and nostalgia, combined with a pocket-sized price tag" had made the books "irresistible" to customers. He said some weeks ago: "We expect to continue to sell them hand over fist right up to Christmas."

Other titles booksellers have been hard-pressed to get hold of include Ian Hislop's Private Eye Annual 2015 (Private Eye Productions Ltd), which sold out as early as the beginning of December for some booksellers; We British: The Poetry of a People by Andrew Marr (Fourth Estate); Dianna Athill's Alive, Alive Oh!: and Other Things that Matter (Granta Books); Labrador by Ben Fogle (William Collins); Maggie Smith: A Biography (Weidenfeld & Nicolson); and this year's Waterstones Book of the Year, The Fox and the Star (Particular Books).