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True Fact #3

Books In Store has the most powerful ordering tools.

Do you spend an eternity fussing with getting an order just right, then discover you overlooked something? Or double ordered? Or having to return most of what you ordered? Books In Store has an ordering tool kit with literally hundreds of specialized instruments. While this monograph does not pretend to exhaust the techniques available, we hope it demonstrates the power of Books In Store.


Prologue
Each purchase order begins with a prologue. In the prologue you set the purchase order's number, the company to receive it, whether to backorder, and, if so, how many days to keep the backorder open. Other information includes shipping method, special instructions, and the like. This is the mundane information every purchase order must have.

Manual entry
Manual entry is the trivial case for purchase order creation. In a manual entry purchase order you specify each book you want and the quantity desired. You continue adding items and quantities until you exhaust your shopping list. Of course, you never have to type a title or a price.

Automatic creation
To have Books In Store create a recommended order, you specify (up to) five parameters:

  • Which books to interrogate,

  • Window type (month or week),

  • Window size,

  • Direction, and

  • Multiplier.

Which books

Which set of books to interrogate can be those from a single publisher or a more complicated collection which we will cover later. For this example, let us assume we are interested in a recommended order to Putnam. For Putnam, we supply the vendor's abbreviation, "PUT."

Window Type

Specify "Window type" next. A window is the interval through which Books In Store evaluates your sales history to calculate demand. Specifying a window type of "Month," along with a window size (below) of "3," tells the program that you want to order sufficient copies of each Putnam title to bring your on-hand count up to a three-month supply. A window type of "Week" performs the same logic but uses the weekly sales history instead.

Window size

How many months (or weeks) supply of each title is desired.

Direction

Your choices are: "Prior," "Next," or "Both." "Prior" checks only the preceding months' or weeks' sales; "Next" checks the upcoming months' anticipated sales (basic on the same months' sales from last year), and "Both" checks in both directions. "Prior" works best for bestsellers. "Next" works well for seasonal books. "Both" is appropriate for backlist.

Multiplier

Multiplier is a "fudge-factor." After the program determines the optimum quantity to order, the program then multiplies that calculated quantity by the value in this field. Uses for "multiplier" include dealing with very small sales. For example, suppose you wanted a one-month supply, but wanted the demand averaged over the last three months. Use a window of three months and a multiplier of 0.33. Another use to account for growth. Suppose your store is growing by 20% each year. Use a multiplier of 1.20.

Result

After specifying the above parameters, the program thinks for a few seconds (less than a minute) and provides a list of Putnam titles, along with a recommended quantity to order. The program calculates the order quantity for each title based solely on the demand. Obviously, the quantity recommended may change from month-to-month (or week-to-week), depending on historical sales and the book's on-hand or on-order status.

Review
But a recommended order is just a suggestion. Jus as you supervise an employee, you check the program's work product by reviewing the order. Books In Store does not know that the fifty copies you sold yesterday were because of an author appearance; the program - call it silly - will suggest you order fifty more! The program does not know of an impending interview on Good Morning, America or the imminent release in paperback. The program knows even less about frontlist. Your expertise as a bookseller provides the finishing touch. What the program does, however, is to compress 30,000 possible buying decisions (your whole inventory) down to 200 (from Putnam) in a few seconds. Then the program winnows out the 150 titles of which you have ample stock. You end up with fifty titles for review. Fifty titles is manageable; 30,000 is not.

Other tools
In the case above, we asked the program to look at a single publisher. The program has several other lenses through which it can interrogate collections of books. Some of the more popular are listed below.

Restock Report

Here you ask the program to visit each book sold since your last order, ascertaining whether the sale resulted in a need to reorder. After all, if the book did not sell, you do not need any more (unless you do not have any at all, but that is a separate issue). This technique compresses 30,000 possible buying decisions down to the three hundred titles sold yesterday. Of those three hundred titles, maybe 100 need reordering.

To Be Ordereds

Checking the TBOs directs the program to gather all the titles individually marked as "To Be Ordered." Books with a non-zero TBO were usually so marked when added to the database from publisher catalogs or when added as special orders.

Filters

You may direct the program to look at (or order) those titles discovered using the sophisticated selection logic built in to New Standard's filters. For example, you might want to check all books with a Halloween theme, all books in French, all spiral-bound cookbooks, all books with a retail price greater than $30.00 whose on-hand count is less than six, all art books from Simon & Schuster, or whatever.

Other system
If a competing system offers recommended ordering at all, the system almost always uses the min-max system (or its sibling: minimum-stock-point, reorder-quantity) for calculated the suggested order quantity. Be clear on this:

Min-max works for pickles,
it does not work for books!

The min-max technique operates as follows: a title sells until it reaches a pre-set quantity (min). This triggers an order to bring the inventory up to another pre-defined quantity (max). The principle reason min-max cannot be used in the book business is that books sales are cyclical. Bestsellers start with a bang and taper to a whimper. The demand for seasonal books slowly rises then crashes to zero overnight. Even backlist has peaks and valleys, for example, as kids start a school semester or a holiday approaches.

Promoters of min-max challenge that the "min" quantity can be adjusted to reflect the season. But who wants to adjust 2,000 different records every month? No, the realities are that min-max is unsuitable for the book business and those that have it don't use it.

After the order is created
After you create an order in the Books In Store system, there are several things you can do.

Print it - You can print the order and mail it away. Or you can give the printed copy to the publisher's sales representative. Anything you could do with a typed order, you can do with a printed order. Books In Store actually prints two different renditions of the order: An "Inside copy" and an "Outside copy." The inside copy contains dramatically more information about each book (sales history, etc.) than the outside copy. You retain the inside copy to use as a receiving document.

Fax the order - Books In Store reformats the order in a form suitable for access by your computer's fax software. Since virtually every vendor has a fax machine, you can effectively eliminate the two-to-seven day delay that comes with mailing (faxing is also cheaper than a stamp).

Electronically transmit the order - Books In Store communicates electronically with more vendors than any other system. National wholesalers (Ingram, and Baker & Taylor), all regional wholesalers (Bookpeople, Bookazine, Koen's, BookSource, and more), specialty wholesalers (Spring Arbor, New Leaf, Riverside, Majors Scientific, and others), and every publisher capable of accepting electronic order (Harper-Collins, Simon & Schuster, Viking, Random House, and others).

Set it aside - Perhaps you cannot meet order minimums or you were merely interested in what the cost to stock-up might be. In these (and other) cases, you may simply discard your work. Remember, the project took less than five minutes.

Conclusion
Booksellers spend more time than necessary fretting over purchase orders. We at Books In Store know this because all of us are booksellers. Having the right tools, powerful tools, comprehensive tools, tools that yield proper results with minimum work, is an absolute requirement for an inventory system. Anything else wastes even more of your time.

 
 

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