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Waterstones apologises (with a touch of snark) for stock issues caused by software upgrade

A software upgrade at Waterstones has left authors and publishers wringing their hands amid supply issues that have left some local branches low in stock and newly published authors unable to get their books on shelves.

Sam Missingham, a former head of audience development at HarperCollins, who now runs Lounge Books, said that the issue stemmed from implementation of software from digital supply chain and warehouse management specialist Blue Yonder – previously known as JDA Software – something confirmed to The Stack today by Waterstones, which apologised for the delays and said the upgraded software was now operational. 

Missingham said in a series of social media posts that local Waterstones branch managers were struggling to get stock in. One local bookseller told her: “the message [from head office] continually has been ‘this is fine just use it as an opportunity to sell through old bulk’ [but the] abuse we’re getting from customers is unreal… I think it’ll be another 3-4 weeks of this. We’re getting yelled at by completely justifiably irate customers.’”

Another added: “We didn’t have 2 out of the 4 books of the month for the first day of August, but head office are refusing to say this has been a failure or give even an approximate for a date when customer orders will arrive so all I can say to angry customers is ‘soon’. My stock file has been decimated. If it’s brand new you might be lucky, but chances are we don’t have it. Sold out of all the classics too! We’ve removed around 6 tables of stock in my store…, and I think maybe 3 bays have been taken out”, as Missingham shared in a Twitter thread. 

Waterstones stock issues: Company “very much regrets” slowness 

Authors, publishers and booksellers were lining up to castigate Waterstones this morning for its poor communication on the matter. Pressed for a response by The Stack, the company said: “Waterstones last month upgraded the system that manages stock distribution from our warehouse to Blue Yonder technology. 

“This is now operational, with stock flowing to our bookshops and customers alike. 

“Over the implementation period, however, a backlog of orders was created which we are now processing as quickly and efficiently as we can. We have been in contact with customers whose orders have been delayed to apologise for the inconvenience. We very much regret the unusual slowness, and we are pleased to have orders running again normally. Our expectation is to have the backlog of stock deliveries into shops caught up over the quiet August period, with August new releases now being processed without delay. Indeed, by September we anticipate beginning to benefit from the much more sophisticated platform now at our disposal.”

 A spokesperson added: “We note some of the public commentary, much of which complains that we have under-bought some titles. Unfortunately, no amount of sophisticated new warehouse systems changes the fact that as booksellers we choose what to buy, sometimes being a little too reticent, sometimes too enthusiastic. 

“We can’t blame Blue Yonder for this…”

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Ed Targett

Ed Targett is the founder of The Stack. He previously served as editor of Tech Monitor, Computer Business Review, and Roubini Global Economics. He has 15 years of experience in newsrooms and consultancies and an unrivalled network. His interests span technology, foreign policy, and sustainability. You can reach him on [email protected]

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