HarperCollins distribution hit after systems change

The switchover to a new computer system at HarperCollins’ Glasgow distribution centres has caused delays in turnaround and a backlog of orders since its 30th April start date. The new system has also caused a problem with invoices, leaving some booksellers uncertain how to price their books.

HC has replaced its Vista and Boss systems with CDS and Oracle Financials, aiming to make the despatch and receipt of books smoother. However, the new system means printed invoices contained within boxed deliveries have been replaced by invoices sent separately via email.

Booksellers say separating invoices from deliveries makes it impossible to know what the discount is on the books arriving in mixed consignments from HarperCollins and the many different publishers it distributes, including Egmont, Simon & Schuster and Usborne. Meanwhile, some independent booksellers say they have not been receiving the emailed invoices at all.

Alex Milne-White, co-owner of The Hungerford Bookshop in Hungerford, west Berkshire, said: “We haven’t had an invoice at all for two or three weeks. We just get our delivery with a delivery note inside. They said we would get them emailed instead, but we haven’t had anything. I’ve talked to our rep but nobody has been in touch to sort them out.”

Rosamund de la Hey, of the Main Street Trading Company in St Boswells, said emailed invoices were arriving “up to a week” after the delivery. “We have been checking in books using the delivery note. You have to match the invoice and delivery note if you want a paper trail, and it’s impractical,” she said. Jonathan Main, of the Crow on the Hill bookshop in London’s Crystal Palace, said books for the launch party he hosted for May title Driving Jarvis Ham by Jim Bob had  to be “driven all the way from Glasgow”, arriving 15 minutes after the event had begun, because of delays blamed on the system switchover.

Siobhan Kenny, group communications director at HC, said there had been “a few teething problems” with the changeover, but the company was “pretty confident” that the main issues had been addressed, with numbers despatched “pretty much back to pre-switch”. She added: “The problem seems to be affecting indies because the bigger companies are all automated. We’re putting a contents listing in every box and hope to effect that by the end of this week.”

Group supply chain director Shaun Plunkett has written to customers apologising for the disruption and promising: “We expect to be back to our normal standards of service after the Jubilee weekend.”