The Publishers Association has dismissed Waterstone's m.d. Dominic Myers' view that £150m of costs could be cut from the supply chain as being "vastly wide of the mark".
At the recent Independent Publishers Guild conference, Myers calculated that if a square foot of storage space costs £50, then there is £150m-worth of excess space in the supply chain as it stands, considering Waterstone's services a quarter of the market with 150,000 sq ft and given a total of 3.5 million sq ft of book distribution space in the UK.
In a piece for this week's Bookseller, PA chief executive Richard Mollet called comparing a retailer's "cross-docking operation" and "the complex distribution systems operated by publishers" the argument's fundamental flaw.
He said: "Dominic is comparing apples and pears. While there may be some space saving to be done, there is nothing like the two or three million sq ft of unnecessary floor space to be slashed."
Mollet added there was nowhere near £150m to be saved from the supply chain in a given year, putting Myers' figure as being more than "the total annual cost of the distribution businesses to the industry".
In a further piece for The Bookseller this week, Myers elaborated on his views. He argued that overcapacity in the supply chain was forcing distributors to chase a "finite, shrinking market, for hard-fought but negligible reward".
He called for an industry debate on the issue at this year's Book Industry Conference. He said: "If we could reach a fast and cheap solution, the benefits to the trade would be universal".