Bookstore: in times of crisis, strengthen ties

Here is a tour of bookstores rather unexpected than the MDS program: the distribution component of Media Participations engages in a series of meetings with professionals, through eight dates – and as many cities. Following ” the industrial accidentrecognized at the end of November 2021, the structure sets out to meet its partners. On the menu, pedagogy and explanations.

Between April 14 and May 24, the MDS teams, which will join those of Média Diffusion, will travel across France: Metz, Lyon, Paris, Aix, Montpellier or even Lille and Bordeaux will count as so many destinations to return to the incident which will have permanently marked the end of the year 2021 – and impacted the holidays.

Indeed, bookstores then found themselves grappling with an unprecedented situation: the impossibility of ensuring book deliveries, since restocking orders did not reach a minimum of three copies. Modalities and as many contortions, to try to compensate for an unexpected increase in activity – and finally, become nightmarish.

Except that the bookstore, and particularly the comic book specialists, did not particularly appreciate the approach. And that this crisis situation also spilled over into literature — all the houses of the Le Seuil group. The end-of-year celebrations, always conducive to book sales, were going to suffer – between booksellers threatening not to place any orders and publishers, in solidarity with their authors, who were afraid of disappearing from the tables.

100 times on the job…

In a letter addressed to various interlocutors, Olivier Barbé, director of MDS recognizes the major dysfunctions which have abused the activities of each other – both on the distribution side and at the points of sale. Since the end of February, various actions have enabled a return to almost normalcy. However, at the end of February, difficulties persisted, accompanied by a ” growing resentmentat bookstores.

A month and a half ago, the director of MDS mentioned recruitment measures, a management plan, as well as an overhaul of the website to better receive and respond to complaints. And to assure in a letter to the Syndicate of the French bookstore: ” In no way does this lack of information indicate an underestimation of the problems created by MDS for booksellers or any casual attitude towards them.»

It should be remembered that the latter had amply soaped the board, recommending to its members to “ refer, whenever possible, to titles from other publishers “. A call clearly understood and understandable – although the SLF later backtracked denying having “never incited its members to take retaliatory measures by reducing or canceling their orders “.

Surprisingly, the famous message has since disappeared from their site…

2022, the infernal…

Especially since since then, ActuaLitté was among the first to note a notable drop in the book market. In an article of March 12, we mentioned the decrease in sales, in value and volume, from weeks 7 and 8 – February 14/20 and February 21/27. Since then, the situation has been confirmed, with week 12 still posting a decline: €55.82 million in value (21/27 March), compared to €66 million in week 7 (data: Edistat).

Faced with the extreme growth recorded during the years 2020 and 2021, the bookstore sector had experienced unprecedented dynamics. “The economic uncertainty and inflation that accompany the period push consumers to be cautious in their spending “, recognized Guillaume Husson, general delegate of the SLF on March 25 on France Inter. Ten days later, in The echoesit reports a decline of 12% compared to 2021 – but puts it into perspective, considering an advance of 4% over the first quarter of 2022, compared to 2019.

Several professionals also tell us that the decline recorded by the SLF is, however, masked by sales activities to local authorities. These budgets being voted, and resulting from public markets, it would mask the real reductions directly in cash.

Week 13 (28/03 – 3/04), on the other hand, shows an improvement: with 5.23 million copies sold, for 57.96 million €, it raises its head significantly after six weeks of descent into hell. Outings in the pocket of Valérie Perrin,Threeby Agnès Martin-Lugand,Unreasonor even Bernard Minier,luciaare probably no strangers to it. Especially whenThe Alaska Sanders caseby Joël Dicker continues to stir up the crowds and that volume 21 of Demon Slayer (trans. Xavière Daumarie) makes a dazzling breakthrough.

The great expectations

And in this context, the Madrigall and Editis groups indicate that they will apply a minimum 36% discount to physical bookstores. This measure will be implemented on July 1 for Editis and June 1 for Gallimard. A minimum threshold that the SLF obviously welcomes, thus seeing the end of a long-standing fight. Without forgetting to tackle the Lagardère Vivendi merger in passing.

Even the League of Professional Authors appreciates the decision, while considering with interest the setting of a strict amount. “While the minimum rate of 10% for authors had been considered contra legem by the SNE, which deemed the measure contrary to European Union law and competition law, we learn that, ultimately, the workings of the right are more malleable than they appear“, notes the organization. The reference to the negotiations on the remuneration of the authors, which the rue de Valois seized, will not have escaped anyone.

The context is heavy and we obviously expect new signs from other distribution operators – Hachette, of course, but also MDS. As such, Olivier Barbé’s message comes with a few nuances: to date, the general manager admits that problems remain, but that the teams are hard at work to resolve them. He also observes that the delivery times for the parcels sent have returned to more reasonable thresholds.

forget december

The objective of MDS is therefore to present the corrections made over time, as well as an action plan that will be rolled out. Thus, the project was set up with Stéphane Aznar, general manager of Média Diffusion, Olivier Barbé tells us, to go and meet booksellers. In fact, faced with reproaches, sometimes justified, the teams have chosen to switch to another approach, replacing emails and other communications with concrete meetings.

Within the group, publishers appreciate the approach, which of course received the full support of Vincent Montagne, CEO of the group. “Seeing the people who are our partners, talking, listening, and telling what happened will certainly have more effects“, assures us one of them. “It is also a question of “forgetting” what took place in December, by showing the investment of the structures. Everyone knows how essential it is to preserve this relationship…“says another.

If some booksellers fear “downward communication, when there was no real compensation solution», the MDS and MD teams will therefore make amends.

On the other hand, following the announcements of Gallimard and Editis – a minimum discount of 36% guaranteed at points of sale – the Media Participation group makes no comment. And therefore reserves the element of surprise – if there should be any. Over the course of the tour, we will eventually learn more.

photo credits: Mollat ​​bookstore in Bordeaux – ActuaLitté, CC BY SA 2.0