Returns Again … And Possible Solutions

May 1996
by Curt Matthews

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I had a call the other day from an editor at Publishers Weekly who was researching an article about returns in the book trade. He wanted to know, from the independent press prospective, if returns were still running at the dreadful levels reached in the first half of this year, the explanation for those unprecedented returns, and if any new buying patterns had emerged in response to this returns debacle. (There is much fear and trembling among trade publishers at the moment.) I did some calling around in order to find some answers.

How bad have the returns been? For one very large and famous New York house, the returns for the first half of the year were above 55%. Most independent presses, however, have simply not experienced trade returns of anything like 55%. (A good thing too!) For instance, returns on the books my company publishes, which have historically been about 17%, did jump up to 30% for several months this spring, but now seem to be settling back toward the customary level. Not a pleasant experience certainly, but not a catastrophe either. Other independents I have spoken to confirm this pattern. To the extent that returns have been a disaster, they mostly have been more a big publisher disaster than a small publisher disaster.

Still, returns are up for everybody, and this presents a paradox. The new paradigm (to use the buzz word) for the book trade-stores stocked with fewer copies of many more titles, just-in-time restocking, fast inventory turn…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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