The economy is in the tank, and the prospects of a recovery seem very far off.
Virtually every publisher, distributor, wholesaler, or retailer I've spoken to in the past month or so has been moaning about sales this year. Based on my anecdotal evidence, this could turn out to be a very difficult year for all of us.
The good news is that books have generally been considered 'recession proof' as they are a relatively low cost of entertainment. But this recession seems to have different characteristics than others I have known. It seems to be hitting consumers last instead of first. There are still stadiums full of fans often paying north of $100 a ticket to see major sporting events. It's still just as hard to get a table at your favorite restaurant. It's only the financial markets that are in a shambles. Maybe when we all get up the nerve to look at our 401(k) plans, consumers will start cutting back, and feel the pinch.
In these hard times, though, companies need to focus on net profit more than sales. Being profitable means staying alive to fight another day under better conditions. The only way to hold our profits is to hunker down and do what we do better. We all have inefficiencies in our business. We need to route these out, and save time. Efficiency reduces costs, we all know that, but in stronger economic times, we ignore that in lieu of improving our sales. It's time to start paying attention again.
Now is a good time to look at your current workflows, to examine your management practices, your list management, and obviously anything that has an impact on costs. Now is the time to look hard at the way you feed the supply chain, and especially the way you lay down new titles. (It has long been established that most titles sell more copies in their first three months than they do for the rest of their shelf life - so it's important to make those first months as smooth as possible.)
Efficiencies can be gained simply by paying attention to the little things as well. How many of you do mailings where you know your contact lists are not in good shape? How many of you don't even know if you have rights in a certain market, or e-rights to some of your best selling titles? If you were trying to make a reprint decision, how many of you really know how many copies already exist in the channel?
So, during this time of economic morass, clean house a little. When the economy comes back, you will be poised for growth!