On Wednesday 13th March, 2019, Woodland Media (a division of Woodland Group – one of the largest privately-owned logistics companies with offices in the UK, Asia, Europe and the US) proudly celebrated its 25th Anniversary during the London Book Fair at Kensington’s Olympia Exhibition Halls in London, UK.
This significant landmark reflects a remarkable journey of a truly niche and specialised product, which elevated Woodland Media to be one of the market leaders in the shipping of printed books, magazines, stationery and packaging; offering services spanning 6 continents.
So, what’s so special about transporting books?
Ian Russell of Woodland Media UK explains, “If only we had a dime or a penny for every time someone asks why specialist logistics for books is so necessary! Publishing is vocational and publishers and printers alike view their books as a precious and very personal product. It can take months and even years from original concept to point of sale, with authors, editors, illustrators, production teams and paper & print managers all emotionally linked to a project; thus the ‘final mile’ requires plenty of knowledge, care and timing to satisfy the stakeholders’ collective expectations.”
Many forwarders have attempted to enter the market and increase their volumes but then decided against it. “We’ve seen a number of logistics companies, some very large and respected, bid to gain share in the Media vertical. However, time and time again, we only hear serious notes from the usual, select few competitors”, Russell continues.
Woodland Media, initially branded as Bookbridge until 2008, was founded by Ian’s father, John Russell, and Woodland Group’s Chairman & CEO, Kevin Stevens in 1994. The loyalty, trust and specialist service that make this industry so unique are perhaps best reflected in one of Woodland’s greatest success stories: The remarkable achievement of retaining a large number of longstanding, supporting clients, some of whom have been shipping with Woodland since those first days back in the early 90’s.
Jamal Essalama, who heads up the UK ocean operation, reflects on the Media customer experience: “Having been with Woodland Media for 23 years, I‘ve witnessed the changes in our customers’ needs and requirements over that time. Whilst the year on year increase in need for IT system solutions is natural and of course catered to, the one consistent element our customers associate with Woodland Media is the way we care about their businesses, irrespective of whether they’re a small start-up or a well-established global publisher. Everything we do for our customers derives from the consistent care every single member of our team shows whilst performing and seeing through the wide range of tasks for each and every shipment”.
Whilst price is naturally an important factor, Jamal’s vast experience in the world of book shipping leaves him in no doubt that service is key, “Price is obviously a significant factor in the business world and the Media trade is no different. However, the vast majority of our customers accept and understand that the peculiarities and nuances of the publishing arena demand a certain set of skills and expertise that only specialist organisations like ours can offer. Our experiences over the years have taught us that one size doesn’t fit all and, consequently, we have learned to always listen to our customers and then tailor a service and price package that suits their specific needs. The positive feedback and loyalty from our clients is something we are very proud of”.
Woodland Media boasts weekly Trans-Atlantic ocean services east- and westbound in addition to daily airfreight products on the same trade. Phil Friend, based in the company’s New Jersey office and warehouse operations, heads up the US to UK book services (sea and air). Phil explains the complexity and challenges facing the daily requirement to move books around the globe, “Books are a difficult commodity. There are hundreds, even thousands of US based suppliers. Our customers may order one book or thousands of books at any one time. They order from the major publishing houses such as Penguin Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Wiley. They also order from the large wholesalers like Bookazine, Baker & Taylor and Ingram. And last but not least they often order from small sellers, Amazon Marketplace, eBay and other such suppliers that perhaps offer a better price or a hard-to-find title”.
The New Jersey operation is an impressive testament to Woodland Media’s pivotal role in the movement of books to and from the US and Phil explains why, “At our Elizabeth, NJ facility, we typically receive over 600 inbound shipments per day which translates into in excess of 5,000 cartons/packages of books which will be processed and shipped internationally. They all need to be quickly sorted through and matched up by customer and shipper. Our customers rely on and trust us to keep track of every specific order, whether it be a single small package or multiple pallets”.
It’s a winning combination of slick processes, proficient systems and excellent staff that keeps books moving through the Woodland Media network with precision, speed and accuracy, “At Woodland Media, we meet our clients’ needs through a combination of a well-trained, highly skilled and knowledgeable warehouse team, our professional customer service team and our specialized Export Air and Ocean Staff. Our bespoke book tracking system allows us to capture the important information (supplier name, PO, invoice and recipient name) and journey of each shipment from receipt through to final overseas delivery”.
Responding and adapting to clients’ needs has played a pivotal role in Woodland Group’s growth and success over the years and the Group is known for its agile approach to logistics.
Adrian Blackman, Vice President of Woodland USA, comments: “As a global logistics provider to the printing and publishing industry, one of our primary reasons to travel both domestically and internationally to attend book fairs has great significance. Our clients stretch from one end of the globe to the next and therefore the opportunity to physically meet with many of our clients consistently presents some challenges. Attending book fairs provides us the opportunity to meet with as many of our clients as possible under one roof and listen to their feedback. These meetings are important to establish how our clients feel about our service offerings, address any possible queries and discuss any future opportunities. Attending book fairs can be a rewarding experience – you become exposed to new trends in the book publishing industry, which has been a vital aspect in further increasing Woodland Group’s service offering appropriately.”
The Media and Publishing services have been and still are a vital part of Woodland Group’s offering, success and focus. Blackman explains: “Whilst our global shipping offerings extend to all modes of transport, one of our faster growing services lends itself to our air export product. The Woodland Media volume has played a major part in our air freight offerings, contributing several million kilos of volume. The impact this has on our overall business is substantial, enabling us to better leverage pricing with airline carriers, resulting in the ability to offer our clients a more cost effective air freight solution. We pride ourselves in managing the tremendous volume of air freight we have been trusted with and will continue to improve systems and processes in this ever changing business, meeting customer’s demands, adjusting to their needs and delivering a service of excellence, whilst remaining relevant to the industry.”
When it comes to shipping books, and after 25 years, Woodland Media’s presence on the international stage is highly revered and and there are impressive plans to grow the brand and suite of products. Ian Russell from the company’s HQ in Chelmsford UK summarises, “Our anniversary coincides with an exciting time for Woodland Media and we are seeing growth in all areas of the business. Air, sea, road and rail services have and remain to be crucial cornerstones of the company. However, we continue to listen to our customers, look for ways in which to innovate and take ownership of as much of the supply chain as we are allowed. We have great people and love to serve our loyal and growing customer base”.