Logistics and the Half-Blood Prince

Less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier Conway teamed up with book distributor Levy Home Entertainment to deliver over 4,000 LTL shipments of the latest Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Levy Home Entertainment services retail chain accounts in all of the 48 continental states, including Best Buy, Kmart, Meijer, Shopko, Stop & Shop, Target and Wal-Mart.

“With a huge number of stores and kids depending on us, even a slightly late delivery was not an option. Many of the stores were planning to be open at midnight on July 15. A late delivery would result in a great deal of disappointment,” explains Tony Carrozza, vice president of operations and warehousing for Levy Home Entertainment. “We began planning the deliveries with Con-Way in early June.”

In June 2003 Levy selected Con-Way to deliver over 2,000 individual shipments of the previous book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” All deliveries were made on time.

This time, Con-Way service centers in Illinois, Virginia and Utah were utilized as distribution hubs that fed the more than 4,000 shipments into the company’s nationwide service center network for delivery within a 24-hour window. The exact number of books delivered was not released and according to sources at Levy and Con-Way the number is a well-guarded secret.

According to Con-Way most of the shipments were “postponed” meaning they were delivered to Con-Way facilities and held under lock and key for several days before they were loaded in trailers for final delivery. According to the company, postponement of shipments is one way to ensure absolute precise final delivery. The extra step adds complexity to the task but the company’s entire coast-to-coast service network of over 440 facilities performs this type of logistics magic regularly for the delivery of “just released” DVDs and CDs for the entertainment industry which typically has very demanding and tight time delivery requirements.

Levy is one of several distributors chosen by Scholastic Books to handle distribution of the book’s press run of 10.8 million copies. Secrecy surrounded the books’ arrival and storage until shipment. All shipments were received from Levy and held under lock and key at the Con-Way facilities before final store deliveries were made on the authorized release date.

Meanwhile, online retailer Amazon.com reports that by teaming with UPS and the U.S. Postal Service, it was able to deliver hundreds of thousands of copies of the book throughout the U.S. on July 16. A guaranteed Saturday delivery option was offered for the same price as standard shipping and was free to Amazon Prime members.

Amazon's web sites serving the U.K., Germany, Japan and Canada also delivered books to hundreds of thousands of customers on July 16 as well.

"At Amazon.com we are always working to increase efficiencies and pass more savings on to customers," said Greg Greeley, vice president of Amazon's worldwide media business. "We're thrilled that we could offer our customers a trivially easy, inexpensive way to receive 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' on its release date, as well as a 43 percent discount on the book, and would like to thank them for making this our largest new product release ever."

www.con-way.com

www.levybooks.com

www.amazon.com

www.ups.com

www.usps.com

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