During the coronavirus outbreak, Ingram Content Group has worked to provide booksellers with an expanded inventory and Direct to Home fulfillment service, so they can keep their businesses running as smoothly as possible while in various states of closure.
Ingram Chief Commercial Officer Shawn Everson told Bookselling This Week that when stay-at-home orders began to be issued around the country, Ingram immediately ramped up its inventory levels of bestselling, midlist, and backlist items in categories such as: educational products, children’s products, gifts and games, and activities, along with more traditional bestsellers.
Ingram also worked hard to keep its distribution centers, publisher service facilities, and Lightning Source print-on-demand facilities open; to do that, the company has significantly increased its safety and hygiene measures, said Everson. While some of the centers have experienced temporary closures due to COVID-19 cases, Ingram has worked with approved contract cleaning services to enable intensive deep clean and sanitation efforts quickly — allowing them to typically reopen within a day.
Everson also noted that Ingram has promoted Direct to Home fulfillment for booksellers, which is something many bookstores had not often used in the past. Since March 1, Ingram has added approximately 450 accounts that were not previously using Direct to Home.
“We started Direct to Home many, many years ago, but it wasn’t as popular with indies because they want to actually have the consumer inside the store,” said Everson. “Most [bookseller] business is face-to-face inside a bookstore. But [COVID-19] has obviously prevented that.”
Ingram is also giving all independent bookstores a one-percent rebate credit for any Direct to Home sales from March through the end of the year.
To help new users, Ingram has hosted webinars to train booksellers in using Direct to Home. Ingram Direct to Home was also the topic for a recent ABA Marketing Meetup; the session included a live demonstration and Q&A. Direct to Home is easy to sign up for and easy to use; booksellers can learn more information here.
On an as-needed basis, Ingram has also worked with stores to close and reroute shipments. Customer Care, Ingram’s support service, is still running as well.
“Indie bookstores are the backbone of our industry,” said Everson. “They make or break books, and they really make a lot of books through hand-selling. Without hand-selling and bookstores’ relationships to their communities, most books wouldn’t see the light of day.”
Booksellers also bring books to children and adults not only in times of leisure, Everson added, but in times of crisis.
“Being able to bring that material to consumers is key — and that’s what we at Ingram are all about. We don’t create the content and we don’t sell it. We’re just helping the content reach its destination,” Everson said, noting that Ingram’s business started with independent bookstores, and it has always offered its support for industry events. “If we can help ensure that the business stays active and maintains itself, just like indies did during the 2008 recession, we will.”