Waterstone's steps up 'hub' roll-out

<p>Waterstone&#39;s will begin the final national roll-out of supplying stores via its new distribution centre next month. Fifty-three stores are currently being supplied by the hub and a further 17 branches, across the greater Manchester and Cheshire region, will be added imminently.</p><p>In an email to publishers, Waterstone&#39;s managing director, Gerry Johnson, said: &quot;The last few weeks haven&#39;t been without problems and we have successfully identified and fixed a number of issues that have arisen as volumes have grown. We still have a few improvements to implement and these will arrive over the next two to three weeks. Overall we are happy with current performance and confident enough in the facility to increase its volume by another 17 branches.&quot;</p><p>Waterstone&#39;s will continue the staggered roll-out of the new supply chain with a national roll out next month. One publishing sales director, who prefered not to be named, said: &quot;It&#39;s key that they get this up and running as quickly as possible. With the Dan Brown title this autumn along with the academic season and Christmas titles, Waterstone&#39;s need as long a period as possible to ensure the supply chain is working properly.&quot;</p><p>The retailer said in July last year that the hub would become fully operational by the end of this month. However, Johnson said to publishers in the email: &quot;We have an outline programme in place but, as before, we will always only move at a pace that protects our business and yours.&quot;</p><p>Waterstone&#39;s refused to comment on claims from staff in the areas supplied by the hub that deliveries have occasionally been patchy. The retailer is supplying stores from the Burton-Upon-Trent distribution centre in the east of Scotland, West Midlands, South Yorkshire and East Midlands regions.</p><p>The retailer will test hand-held terminals, which will be used to receive deliveries and handle returns, over the next two weeks before piloting them in stores.</p><p>Johnson said that he was pleased with how the distribution centre had coped with internet supply since it began fulfilling orders at the start of the year. He said: &quot;Availability and service levels are already good, and improving every week as we become more familiar with the operation.&quot;</p>