Publishers have said they are committed to working with independent booksellers to help them weather the economic fall-out from coronavirus, with financial support on the table on a case-by-case basis from some.
Pan Macmillan confirmed it is offering "financial support", as well as focusing on helping indies to engage with their communities, while Hachette is investigating whether it can make an extended credit limit available. Penguin Random House said it was working with the Booksellers Association to explore how it could help all retailers, and HarperCollins said it is "absolutely committed" to helping independents and is currently working with shops on a one-to-one basis.
Rob Waddington, PRH's group sales director, said: "We are working with the Booksellers Association to actively explore how we can support our retail partners, including independent bookshops, during this unprecedented time."
HarperCollins is helping individual independents depending on their requirements – including extending credit, The Bookseller understands. A HarperColins spokesperson said: "We are aware of the challenges that many of our partners will face during this difficult period. We are working with independent booksellers on an individual basis to see how we can best and most appropriately support them, and are absolutely committed to doing so."
Anna Bond, Pan Macmillan’s UK sales director, confirmed financial support was on offer from Pan Mac where required. "We are acutely aware that independent booksellers need our support more than ever at this time and our reps have been talking to them to see what we can do to help," she said. "As well as some financial support we are also focusing on continuing to help them engage with their communities via ideas like virtual events including some of our biggest authors, storytime sessions online, signed bookplates, social media assets and exclusive editions."
Deputy c.e.o. Richard Kitson said Hachette UK was in contact with the Booksellers Association over what it can do to help stores survive during the health crisis and, likewise, it is looking at help for bookshops on a “case by case” basis.
“What we're doing is we're investigating what it would look like to give extra credit limits to independents,” said Kitson. “That's something we will potentially roll out. Cashflow seems to be the main concern for booksellers and we'll be as helpful as we can be.”
Kitson added Hachette was also looking at what content it could give booksellers to make their websites more impactful and what virtual events it could hold to replace cancelled signings and launches. In the meantime, he said the priority was to keep up the supply of books through Hachette's warehouses and pointed out the big wholesalers had a huge part to play.
He said: “Whether you're a big or small publisher, these are extremely difficult times and we're all just doing our very best. The main thing we think we can do is keep our supply chain as open as possible and making sure the supply doesn't dry up.”
Independent publishers have also been doing what they can with, for example, a pledge from And Other Stories to donate 20% of the price of each new subscription to the customer's bookshop of your choice.
After consulting with the Booksellers Association, Hive.co.uk is doubling commission with the backing of Gardners to support independent booksellers during the Covid-19 outbreak. Commissions are paid to independent booksellers signed up to the network from every sale that goes through the site. Over the next few months Hive will be offering double the amount of commission on home delivery book sales orders placed through the site. A minimum of 10% of the net value of each sale will be paid.
Gardners is having ongoing conversations with publishers to further enhance this offering, it said. “Where publishers are offering support with additional terms, this will be reflected in commissions being enhanced even further, but will not change the pricing on the site, so we can pass as much as possible to the Hive network of independent shops,” Gardners said. The additional commissions will be backdated to start from 1st March and will continue until further notice.
Nigel Wyman, head of business development at Gardners, said: “We are looking at various ways of supporting booksellers during these troubled times and hope that in some way this helps. We will continue to look at other ways of how we can support over the coming days.”
Andy Rossiter, BA president, said: “At a critical time for high street independent bookselling, it is essential that we make it as easy as possible for bookshops to sell to consumers. This initiative from Gardners and Hive will make it more attractive and feasible for booksellers to offer online sales, and we are very pleased to see another project designed to maximise the chances of bookshops creatively responding to this awful crisis, and ensuring their ongoing survival.”
Independents have been grateful for the support from book trade to keep bookshops in business. “Publishers have been great at stepping up to the plate,” said Richard Drake, owner of Drake The Bookshop. “There is lot of pointing people in the direction of indie shops rather than ‘that’ online retailer and extra discounting to help with carriage. And it’s not just the big publishers, even Bluemoose has offered us a little extra."
"The BA continues to fight our corner and, all round, the world is being awesome about keeping businesses alive and thriving. I am genuinely positive about the changes and what it will all look like at the end of this. People have seen what community is and how important it is."