Booksellers Association acquires tech system to support indie shops

The Booksellers Association (BA) has announced today (28 May) it is stepping in to acquire the stock control system from troubled industry wholesaler Bertrams, in a move that will provide a significant boost to independent bookshops across the UK and Ireland.

The decision to takeover Bertrams’ Bertline will support BA members facing supply chain uncertainty as the wholesaler has been put up for sale following difficulties encountered during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following the deal, which is due to complete at the end of June, The BA Group’s technology arm, Batch, will take over the running of Bertline in order “to provide consistency to BA members”. 

The BA will be communicating directly with its members who use the system to keep them up to date during the handover process.

Meryl Halls, managing director at the BA, commented: “The BA Group has focused all its energy since the start of the Covid crisis on putting in place mechanisms to maintain maximum stability for high street bookselling as it strives to return to full strength after the enormous body shocks of the virus and its ongoing impacts.   

“The purchase of Bertline by the BA Group is in line with this motivation – to preserve stability for the independent sector, to secure a crucial supply chain tool for over 250 independent booksellers, and to minimise disruption to the supply chain, and to the effectiveness of high street bookshops reliant on the Bertline system.”

Andy Rossiter, BA president, said the loss of the Bertline system would have been “another body blow to independent bookselling” during an already challenging period for those involved in the sector.

“I have used Bertline for the entire period I have run my three shops with my wife, Victoria, and have been engaged and active in its development as a user,” he said.

“Securing this essential ordering and stock control tool is a huge vote of confidence in the indie bookselling sector by the BA Group, and I can think of no better home for it than with the Batch suite of services.”

Fraser Tanner, managing director at Batch, added: “Raj Patel, [CEO] of Bertrams, was keen to work with us so we can provide a continuity of service at what is a uniquely challenging time.

“I wholeheartedly believe that Batch’s innovative technology can bring benefits in many areas, and my team and I will to do our very best to help the many wonderful publishers and booksellers across the country as they continue to serve their customers.”

The full terms of the deal have not been disclosed. The sale comes after The Bertram Group agreed to sell its online bookseller business Wordery to Waterstones' parent Elliott Advisors, at the start of this month.

Bertram Group’s European library businesses was also sold, in March.