Follett will close his book fair

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Follett School Solutions has announced that it is leaving the traditional book fair market. The company has not been able to support the loss of revenue from Follett Book Fairs caused by thousands of cancellations of in-person school book fairs since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. FSS plans to hold book fairs until November 15 for the approximately 1,200 clients who have scheduled events in this window. For all book fairs currently scheduled to begin after this date, FSS will contact those customers to cancel. In addition, FSS will pause its eFair virtual book business.

According to Britten Follett, CEO of FSS Content, the move was not the result of the recent acquisition of FSS by investment firm Francisco Partners. “We had obviously assessed the activity of book fairs since the start of the pandemic,” she said. “Of our portfolio, it was the hardest hit of every segment of our business. Essentially, it was cut short because schools did not allow in-person events. . “In addition to the cancellation of all book fairs in spring 2020,“ we had a very smooth last school year. [2020-2021] in fair accounts, ”said Britten Follett. “As things started to reopen, we saw a slight increase in fair bookings and we were hoping this fall would be back to normal, with fair accounts expected. But with the delta variant, we saw a further increase in cancellations to the tune of 50 to 75 lounges canceled each week. We simply could not continue to suffer the losses.

Follett Book Fairs was launched in 2017, with a pilot year in the 2017-2018 school year of 180 fairs and giving schools another choice of vendors in a space long dominated by Scholastic Book Fairs. In 2019, the FSS opened five book fair distribution centers across the country to support the ramp-up of its fair program. That same year, the company launched eFairs, an online extension of the traditional book fair program. The 2019-2020 school year was set to be the best of the Follett book fairs to date with around 5,700 fairs booked. But by the end of March 2020, 2,000 of these fairs had been canceled.

Although Follett Book Fairs made several pandemic pivots over the following months, including improving its eFair program, taking additional security measures against Covid, and offering direct shipping to students’ homes, these efforts were not enough. to provide a rebound. “We knew [Follett Book Fairs] was a start-up and it would take several years to achieve profitability, ”noted Britten Follett. “But several years have turned into several others. Since there is no clear path to profitability, we have to stop it so that we can invest in the areas of growth that we have in our core business, which is very successful and generating a return.

In addition to shutting down the book fair operation, Britten Follett noted that the FSS is suspending its eFair program from November 15. “It’s more a question of logistics than strategy,” she added. While FSS will close its book fair processing centers, “We cannot simultaneously fill the electronic rooms or send all of that inventory to our McHenry. [Ill.] installation, ”said Britten Follett. During the eFair hiatus, “we’re going to reset the strategy,” she added. “We believe there is a potential growth opportunity for us there, but we cannot pursue it at this time.” She hopes there will be a relaunch of eFair “once the shutdown is over”.

Scholastic’s book fair business has suffered its own sales declines over the past year, but the exit of FSS once again leaves the company as the only major player in the field, something that has not been overlooked. to Britten Follett. “Our customers loved our setup and the assortment we offered. And our publisher partners loved the fact that there was another player in space. And despite the progress FSS has made in building the business, the pandemic has left the business with little choice. “I know it’s the right decision at this point. Our organization is very healthy; it was truly a pandemic-induced shutdown of a business that is unable to thrive in this environment, ”said Britten Follett.

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