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Demand goes 'complete bananas' but supplies scarce as books consigned to boats

June 4, 2020

Demand goes 'complete bananas' but supplies scarce as books consigned to boats

Carole Beu, owner of The Women’s Bookshop on Ponsonby Rd. Photo: Shoshana Maasland

A surge in local book sales since lockdown ended has sellers struggling to keep up with demand, as reduced air freight means a long wait for new titles.

With few international flights landing in New Zealand, books that would usually arrive within days from Australia are now coming by ship, which takes several weeks.

The Women’s Bookshop owner Carole Beu says as she went into lockdown she started cancelling some and reducing other orders, fearing a drop in business.

It was a move she now regrets. As soon as New Zealand moved into Alert Level 3, sales went "from nothing to complete bananas", she says.

"It was unbelievable.

“We’ve got a lot of people waiting for the big international titles, like the new Hilary Mantel, The Mirror and the Light. We’ve just got some stock today for the first time in about seven weeks. It’s really strange.”

Booksellers Association manager Dan Slevin says the supply-chain problem is affecting all members.

“As we went into Level 2, many of our members who had quite strong Level-3 trading online were finding they couldn’t get restocked and they were really concerned about that. You can’t sell what you don’t have.”

Mr Slevin says although the situation has eased slightly with deliveries now arriving, they are "sporadic and not always predictable”.

“The whole supply chain and logistics have been really challenging for the New Zealand publishing sector. We don’t store much here.”

Despite the supply difficulties, Mr Slevin sees the situation as “a bit of a blessing in disguise”, with big international competitors such as Amazon and Book Depository “suffering probably worse than we are”.

Ms Beu has indeed noticed a move back to shopping locally.

“During the lockdown a lot of new people discovered us, and all our old customers are being really supportive.”

She says customers have been understanding about delays caused both by reduced flights and overwhelmed courier companies.

To help matters, Ms Beu says she’s been delivering books on her electric bike and by car. Her staff and even a helpful neighbour are also pitching in.

“It’s calming down now, but we’re still doing fantastic business. It’s great.”

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