In my last post, I talked about distribution being an equalizer in the publishing industry.
In the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association/ and publishers) market, the terms ‘distribution’ and ‘wholesaling’ are used interchangeably to describe a supplier, or middleman, who buys books from publishers and manufacturers and then resells them to retailers. And while the supply-chain function of the distributor and wholesaler are similar, there are some important differences suppliers need to know to make their businesses more profitable.
Wholesalers bridge the gap in the supply chain between the supplier and the retailer. Wholesalers provide a service for retailers. The strengths of the wholesale model are the tens of thousands of titles that can be purchased from one source, in one box, on one invoice – many times shipping with free freight. The most important factors in determining whether to use a wholesaler or which wholesaler to use are:
- Selection (or fill rate – plenty of titles to draw from and the inventory available to fill them)
- Speed (how fast you can get your selection form order time – wholesalers average 2-3 days, publishers 7-10 days)
- Service (low minimum orders to qualify for free freight)
Distributors provide an additional important service to the industry by representing product lines. Here are some benefits to look for with a distributor, or company that handles a publisher’s third party logistics (3PL):
- Distributors take publishers’ and manufacturers’ product lines and combine them with the best services of a wholesaler. (speed, selection and service)
- Discount (all of the above at a publisher discount)
- Direct representation (may include a sales team calling on retail clients)
Both types of supply chain companies are important to a supplier’s success. Suppliers/publishers need to consider the costs of trying to do their own distribution and juggling all that it entails, against the benefits of partnering with professional distribution companies. Sometimes, you can find both a wholesaler and a distributor under the same roof, which can be a huge benefit.