Monday, June 23, 2008

Blackwell to Deliver Their Own Blend

Why is the news of Blackwell’s in-store print-on-demand offer so significant?

Firstly, it makes a bold and decisive step towards the model of distribute and print and away from the old print and distribute model. This brings manufacture closer to the consumer, cuts inventory and makes a lot of sense in the current high fuel environment. We have seen the emergence of fuel surcharges and they are going away in a hurry. Forget the paper being from sustainable source that has little significance when the journies burn more that any other element.

As an industry we have been spoilt by low cost freight and haulage. We may think our supply chains were inefficient,well hello - any inefficiency has just exploded. All transport will cost more, albeit the shipping of materials to the printer, books from the printer to the distributor, the distributor to the wholesaler, the shipment to the retailer or the shipment to the consumer and then there is the returns. It will be interesting to see if the manic discounts shrink back to absorb costs or whether the price is merely ring-fenced and directly pasted on.

So it looks like Blackwell got their timing right on the that side.

If we also look at the Blackwell business they are in the academic and campus space which is where the vast majority of the current print on demand files are. So overnight they can fully exploit a readily available wealth of material that is applicable to their customers.

So it looks like Blackwell got that right too.

Blackwell also is historically placed in university and cathedral cities which are not just about students but a high population of readers who value books. This step may see them stealing back customers from those other stores who are often academic pretenders and also create that spark, innovation and event that will separate them from the pack. It also worth noting that Blackwell can now provide a new service to rivals, libraries, authors and become a print on demand hub.

It here, that one has to wonder why John Smiths, with its connections weren’t first.

Vince Gunn, Blackwell's CEO, is a retailer and a canny one at that. In this move he not only has made a considerable grab for the high ground, but has also taken one which fits perfectly into his offer. Now for the real question – where will the machines go in the store? In the flagship store in Broad Street Oxford the used books and real bargains at upstairs and not in the storefront.We would put the Espresso machine in the shop window and make it the front of store offer. So we now await the position with great interest and hope its not hidden away at the back or upstairs.

As for the rest of the market, their consolation is that the price of the machine should now be dropping fast.

No comments: