April 10, 2020

UK wholesaler Gardners reopens to fulfill single book orders


Books in a box: now shipping once more. But only one at a time.

As all of us in the book biz know, we don’t have a ‘biz’ at all without a distribution network. We can publish, publicise, pontificate and, er, something else beginning with p, all we like—but if books don’t make it to shops, it’s all for nothing. It’s a network under increasing threat in these extraordinary times.

On March 30th, Gardners—one of the UK’s biggest book wholesalers—put out the announcement many indies had feared was inevitable:

“…unfortunately Gardners have had to make the decision to temporarily suspend taking new orders for physical products in our warehouse. Our incredible workforce had been working hard to offer the same high standards as long as it could, but it was becoming increasingly difficult for us to keep our staff safe and still operate at the same levels. Staff safety has been, and remains, paramount to any decisions formed.”

The news was met with dismay across the country. As we reported recently, many UK indies have been adapting their working methods and devising smart ways to keep the flow of books from publisher to reader going. The catch? A lot of them use wholesalers, like Gardners. Accordingly, dozens of book stores, faced with no new stock arrivals, announced their own order suspensions.

But wait! This is a good news story. Just a few days later, on April 3rd, came this follow-up:

“We are delighted to be able to re-instate our Home Delivery service for UK customers to be able to use. We have managed to set a safe working environment for a team of staff, adhering to guidelines previously set out, and working comfortably within current government guidelines. Home delivery orders will currently be restricted to single line orders only at this time, this ensures we can continue a safe service.”

Gardners’ Twitter feed was adorned with pictures of a skeleton staff packing books at safe social distances – and even down to just one person, Nigel Wyman, who posted this update from an otherwise-empty warehouse on Monday.

Even a drastically reduced service represents a lifeline for the industry at this stage. And so join us in applauding the efforts of Gardners, and everyone trying to keep the chain linked. We salute you!



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.