BA takes over Bertrams' Bertline

News - Bookselling Thursday, 28th May 2020

Move aimed at 'ensuring maximum stability for members with Bertline purchase' as wider Bertrams sale proceeds

The BA Group has today stepped in to support members dependent on Bertrams’ Bertline by acquiring the bookselling system.

The news was announced by the BA overnight. 'With Bertrams currently up for sale, and over 250 independent bookshops facing uncertainty as to the future of the stock control system, the BA Group’s technology arm, Batch, will take over the running of Bertline to provide consistency to BA members.

'The transition will complete at the end of June, with both Bertrams and the BA Group working closely together to ensure a smooth handover period. The BA Group will be communicating directly with those of its members who use the system about the development to keep them up to date.'

BA md Meryl Halls (pictured) said: "The BA Group has focussed 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.

"We intend to continue business as usual for our bookseller members, and we are delighted at the swift and responsive reaction of Bertrams’ ceo, Raj Patel, to our approach to step in to secure the system for the future. We look forward very much to working on the smooth transition with the Bertrams team and hope that our indie members who are Bertline users see a clearer future, and one less anxiety as they enter the re-opening phase of the crisis."

Andy Rossiter, BA president, said: "As a long-time user of Bertrams and the Bertline system, I am both proud and delighted that I am BA President at the point where the BA Group – albeit in vexed circumstances – has been able to step in and secure the future for the Bertline system at a time when its loss would have been another body blow to independent bookselling. 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.

"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. Batch has proven itself an invaluable tool for bookshops of all sizes for many years, and as the technology arm of the BA, is uniquely well-placed to continue the provision of the service to BA members."

Fraser Tanner, managing director at Batch, said: "I am delighted to announce that Batch has managed to secure Bertline for the book trade. As a key part of the supply chain and embedded in the operations of so many BA member, we could not stand by as the uncertainty of Bertline’s future was unfolding, adding as it did to the difficult situation that booksellers were already facing. Raj Patel of Bertrams was keen to work with us so we can provide a continuity of service at what is a uniquely challenging time.

"There will be a period of transition as we move to support everyone on the system, so we will ask you to bear with us over the next few months. 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."

Raj Patel, ceo at Bertrams, said: "I am really grateful to the Booksellers Association in taking charge of a much-loved system developed in tandem with the independent bookshops over the years. Bertline has been the system of choice for hundreds of bookshops across the country. I know Bertline is in good hands and will be further developed by Batch and representatives of our book industry."

Batch will be contacting members in the coming weeks with more details, with members able to contact the support email in the interim.

BA-designed Batch is a web-based electronic payments and information system that provides bookshops free EDI feeds for integration into stock control systems and accounts packages, such as QuickBooks and Xero. Batch Returns simplifies the returns process and helps to reduce waste in the supply chain; all its services are free to booksellers and the system is used around the world in over 80 countries.

Bertrams, which has a reported turnover of £250m, was put up for sale by parent company Aurelius earlier this month. Previously, The Sunday Times reported that the company would appoint an administrator, which Bertrams denied on twitter. "We are not in administration...there is no change to the operations disclosed at the beginning of April which are in a furloughed state for the foreseeable future."