Ingram Blog

Distribution & Stocking Strategies: Traditional vs. Modern-Day

Huge inventories and massive warehousing costs are a thing of the past, or at least they should be.

Back in ’64 Bob Dylan sang “the times they are a-changin’.” And of course while Mr. Dylan’s proclamation had deeper social implications, the same spirit of enlightenment should be something publishers seriously consider when choosing an inventory management solution for smaller print runs, reprints, and backlist demand.

Today’s publishing landscape looks starkly different compared to those of decades past. And while many dated stocking and distribution practices survive—fixed costs, massive inventories, elaborate logistics cycles—new technologies have given rise to more efficient methods that offer publishers printing in lower quantities a competitive edge in a fast moving global marketplaces.

A closer look at two approaches—one which takes advantage of innovative tech, versus traditional means—reveals not only a need to adjust the way we think about the publishing business, but changes in customer expectations.

Distribution & Stocking: How It Used to Be

There are several elements indicative of traditional inventory management. Usually these all focus around paying for more of what publishers don’t necessarily need. And when it comes to smaller print runs, like fulfilling backlist orders, these costs can add up quickly.

Fixed Costs and Waste – Units, Warehousing, and Logistics

The first, and commonly most expensive cost publishers amass in the traditional model, is based on a fixed amount of units per run. In most cases publishers are given a minimum unit order, which can often be way more than what they need. This in turn leads to over-stock, which can be translated as added warehousing expenditures. It looks something like this:

Once a publisher has printed the arbitrary amount of required books they may or may not sell, the traditional logistics cycle kicks in:

  1. From the printer to the warehouse.
  2. From the warehouse to wholesaler.
  3. From the wholesaler to the customer.

Each one of these steps is an additional expense. On top of what is spent on shipping costs, publishers also lose valuable time:

  • Getting books to customers.
  • Managing logistics.

This creates more waste:

  • Cost per unit, plus warehousing expenses.
  • Distribution bottle necks reduce the ability to manage customer satisfaction.

This is a less flexible approach to small run demand that makes meeting customers’ needs while maintaining a strong bottom line almost impossible.

Distribution & Stocking: How It Is Now

When publishers need to print in smaller quantities (around 25 – 500 units), a more modern approach eliminates the additional costs and waste inherent in traditional methods, such as: over-printing, warehousing expenses, and longer logistics cycles.

Today’s strategies allow publisher’s to reduce costs, print with confidence, and meet demand by print only the titles they sell. This more flexible and efficient approach is commonly referred to as print on demand and works wonderfully alongside smaller print runs, which often require publishers to respond with added speed.

Print on Demand is the Future

Print on demand means publishers only print titles when there is a demand.

  • Nothing is fixed. No need to print 1,000 titles when 100 will do.
  • Eliminates the need for warehousing, since everything printed is already sold.
  • Titles are shipped direct to customers reducing delivery times.

Now publishers’ budget dollars are freed from fixed costs, allowing them to put their resources towards things that matter most. Like focusing on ways to offer the best in content, which ultimately improves business.

A Distribution and Stocking Strategy for the Modern Publisher

The best way to sell more books is to adapt business models to the demands of the modern reader. They want excellent content, in the formats they love, delivered now.

Need indicators? Look at book sale origins. While people still shop brick-and-mortar, more than 40% of book sales are taking place online. This points towards a need to make content available as soon as possible. A reputation for always being available when demand occurs will always result in a healthier, larger consumer base.

For publishers who are struggling on where to begin, start by taking a closer look at how you manage your inventory, especially when fulfilling smaller orders.

Technology isn’t scary. Readers love it and so should publishers. It’s time to shelve traditional stocking and distribution strategies and embrace forward-thinking methods like print on demand. More than just another form of distribution, it is adapting business models to meet the needs of today’s customer.

Why change? Because, like the much wiser Bob Dylan said, “If your breath to you is worth saving, then you better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone.”

Are you ready to meet the demand of booklovers everywhere? Let’s Talk.