Bertrams' move into online retail with Wordery is necessary, the wholesaler said, although independent booksellers have been quick to criticise the move, describing it as "alienating".
The Norwich-based wholesaler unveiled Wordery last Monday (22nd October). It is a joint venture with former Book Depository finance director Will Jones, who is m.d. of the company. Bertrams will supply Wordery with books and the enterprise will initially launch on marketplaces as a third-party seller, starting with Play.com, before moving to open an online direct-to-consumer website next year at www.wordery.com.
Bertrams m.d., Graeme Underhill, has told The Bookseller the vision for Wordery is for it to become a market leader, differentiating itself from competitors by providing excellent customer service and competitive prices. However, some independent booksellers that use Bertrams as a wholesaler to stock their shops have criticised the plans as "unsupportive".
Keith Smith, owner of Warwick Books, said: "It is just not on, I will not accept it. I would take my business away straight away. They should be doing things to help us, not alienate us and setting up in competition with us."
Emma Milne-White from Hungerford Bookshop said: "They are a wholesaler, but they are meant to be supporting us too and I do think that the relationship element is important. I think the principle is more shocking than the reality. I can't see how anyone will beat Amazon in that market."
Underhill defended the company's plans to launch a consumer-facing bookseller as a necessary avenue for it to continue to perform strongly. "Independent bookseller customers are very important to us, Bertrams has a long tradition of supporting the independent sector and will continue to do so," he said. "While I understand that some will not be happy about our announcement, I hope they will understand that for Bertrams to thrive and prosper as a wholesaler we have to exploit all channels available to us."
Rival wholesaler Gardners launched consumer-facing website Hive last year that enables indies to feature their businesses on the site, with local bookshops given a small percentage of any physical or digital books bought from there.
Jones said: "Wordery is a great opportunity for publishers to increase incremental sales. We're determined to be independent and flexible, offering consumers competitive prices backed by great service. By sharing our respective skills we believe Wordery can become a significant new player in book retailing."
Steve Potter, commercial manager for Wordery, will manage key relationships with suppliers and publishers for the company.