An article published on mdr.de
By Pia Uffelmann, MDR KULTUR.
An article published on mdr.de by Pia Uffelmann, MDR KULTUR.
One year after the takeover of the insolvent book wholesaler Koch, Neff & Volckmar GmbH (KNV) by the logistics company Zeitfracht, the industry draws a mostly positive conclusion. This was the result of research by MDR KULTUR. Germany’s largest book wholesaler KNV had to file for insolvency in February 2019 due to overindebtedness.
Thomas Raff, managing director of Zeitfracht GmbH, gives a positive assessment on MDR KULTUR and calls the step a “right decision. In the meantime, he says, one has even been able to win new customers and regain market share.
Employees and know-how taken over
Zeitfracht GmbH was previously a blank slate in the book trade. On the one hand, however, this was not a problem due to the company’s general logistics expertise, according to Managing Director Raff. On the other hand, all 1,600 employees at the locations in Erfurt and Stuttgart were taken over. This meant that know-how and expertise were retained. This had a positive effect on both supplier relations and customer relations, reports Managing Director Raff.
Wave of insolvencies averted
Thomas Koch of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association believes that it was of enormous importance to the book industry that book wholesaler KNV was taken over quickly.
“There is probably no publisher or bookshop that does not work with KNV. KNV is definitely systemically relevant.”
Thomas Koch, Börsenverein des deutschen Buchhandels
According to Koch, the takeover by Zeitfracht GmbH averted a wave of insolvencies among bookstores and publishers. This was because KNV had already purchased books in advance, but these had not yet been paid for. Likewise, books had already been delivered to bookstores. This had led to outstanding debts on both sides. Thanks to the quick takeover, the situation was managed well, Koch praised on MDR KULTUR. In the end, customers in particular would benefit by being able to get their hands on books quickly.
Overnight book deliveries still exist. Nothing has changed since the takeover. What is new since July 1 of this year is the option of having books delivered within 36 hours. Bookstores can decide whether they want to be delivered the next day or the day after. This gives KNV Zeitfracht more leeway when it comes to deliveries and makes it cheaper for booksellers.
Positive conclusion from publishers
For Helmut Stadeler of the Thuringian publishing house Bussert & Stadeler, overnight book orders are a core task of the middleman. The fact that so many books can be delivered within a very short time is especially important for smaller bookstores, Stadeler told MDR KULTUR. He sees the takeover of KNV last year by Zeitfracht as an end point of a difficult situation for the book industry. He says there was “tremendous solidarity,” which led to a large part of the bookselling system being preserved.
The head of Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Roman Pliske, also has nothing but positive things to say one year after the takeover. He says that this was not obvious, as the new owner had no experience with the book trade. At the same time, Pliske believes that the insolvency has gambled away trust that must now be regained. Of course, sales had changed for the time being. On the one hand, some bookstores may have gone to a competitor during the period of uncertainty, meaning that potentially fewer bookstores are now supplied by KNV. For another, he said, business was then slow to start after the takeover.
“We did a decent amount of sales through KNV, but about a third less compared to previous years.”
Roman Pliske, head of Mitteldeutscher Verlag
Corona has benefited industry, not hurt it
Corona has not hurt the positive balance of the first year, said Zeitfracht CEO Raff. On the contrary, he said, books have experienced a renaissance during the pandemic, and volumes have been higher than in comparable months in previous years. This is primarily due to the online bookstore stores that host KNV, he said. In this case, the customers of the bookstores are then supplied directly. That is, the books were no longer delivered to the bookstores, but directly to the end customer on behalf of the bookstore. “That saved a lot of bookstores and was an important service we offered during that time,” says Raff.
It also had a positive effect on Helmut Stadeler of the Thuringian publishing house Bussert & Stadeler: Because during the Corona crisis, some of the books ordered were completely different. If there hadn’t been such a strong partner in the background, who then ensured that these books could get to the customer in the shortest possible time, then it wouldn’t have been possible at all, explains Stadeler.