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'Don't be waiting until December': Book shoppers warned of potential shortages before Christmas

Supply chain issues are already impacting supplies this year.

Image: Shutterstock/Yulia Grigoryeva

IRISH BOOK LOVERS have been warned not to wait until December to buy their Christmas reads amid a “perfect storm” of problems impacting supplies within the industry.

Several supply chain issues have affected businesses around the world this year, with shortages of freight containers and booming global consumer demand already impacting on supplies of certain products.

But booksellers are now reporting that Brexit-related shortages of warehouse staff and delivery drivers in the UK, where the vast majority of Irish-sold books come from, are leading to unpredictable delivery times for many titles.

To make matters worse, a global paper shortage – driven by demand for boxes, packing materials and PPE during the pandemic – is leaving publishers short of material to print additional runs of popular books, including for titles that have just been published.

Tomás Kenny of Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway said that retailers are aware of the issues and beginning to stockpile so they have stocks available for shoppers in the coming weeks, which itself is causing further problems.

“Everything is running out together at the same time, and the printers can’t re-print stuff,” he tells The Journal.

“Some of these are books that have literally just been published this week, where we’ve sold hundreds in advance. We don’t even get our pre-orders because we’re told they’re out of print.

“It’s a perfect storm, because there’s a lot of issues. A lot of them are Brexit-related, but they’re not all Brexit related.”

Aoife Roantree of Dubray Books, who is also the chair of Bookselling Ireland, also believes the problem will be made worse by the demand for books in the run-up to Christmas.

“Because of the sheer volume that bookshops order as we get close to Christmas, they could easily receive double the number of consignments in a December week as they would in a non-December week,” she explains.

“And so when the volume is that much higher, like if there are already problems with drivers and couriers being overwhelmed and kind of customer problems, I would expect that those will all become much worse in December.”

However, Roantree points out that the paper shortage issue in particular is more likely to impact on bigger coffee-table books rather than paperback fiction, because the latter are more likely to stay in stock.

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She also says that those who don’t have a specific title in mind, whether for themselves or as a gift, are less likely to be disappointed because shops will be able to recommend alternatives.

“If you just want to get a book for somebody as a gift, I will say that shops will handle shortages well,” she says.

“They will be able to recommend something in a similar vein if they don’t have one thing you’re looking for.”

But those who are on the search for a specific title are urged to buy it as soon as they see it, or else they risk not being able to get it in a few weeks’ time.

“That’s the main message I would have to people,” Tomás Kenny adds.

“If you see a book that you think is a good Christmas present, don’t be waiting until December because there’s a good chance that might not be there.”

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