Oh great. • 19 April 2008 • The SnowBlog
A certain retailer whose shops are on station concourses has just returned 5000 worth of stock - that they bought last June. And guess what - that's perfectly allowed. Under the terms of the Industry Returns Initiative, retailers are allowed to return anything they buy, for full credit, between three months and 18 months after purchase.
My view is the the Industry Returns Initiative was more a way of making it easier for retailers to return stock, rather than the much more useful approach of trying to reduce returns. It's typical of an initiative in this industry: name me any industry level project in the last ten years that we can be proud of. Go on, try.
Aside from the brutal commercial implications, think of the trees and the print factory emissions and the diesel and the congestion and the packaging and the labour. One day the Daily Mail or the Independent will do an expose on the shocking waste in the book trade and there will be a public outcry. Maybe then the most culpable retailers might just have a bash at actually forecasting their stock requirements like all other multiple retail sectors have been doing properly since the 80s.
Update, after a morning's fuming: Oh yeah, and the other thing about returning stock after so long is that I've already paid royalties on those sales. Obviously we have a reserve against returns, but these particular returns account for more than the reserve allows for. And with paperback fiction, the sales profile is usually top heavy - the majority of sales occur in the first three months of the book, and it's quite common for sales to be virtually zero (maybe 5-20 units a week) a year after publication. So I'm never going to recoup that money. Sorry, authors, it sounds mean of me, but it is a serious consideration. Technically, at the moment, our authors are more than 10,000 in the red because of this phenomenon - money it's very unlikely will be earned back by future sales. And all this in a publisher that doesn't pay advances - imagine what it's like for publishers who do.
Also, I dropped my phone and I think it's broken. And Rob gave it to me, and he will be sad that I can't look after my nice gifts properly.
At least it's raining, which I like, so I can snuggle with the laptop on the sofa without Nice Weather Guilt.