On an inconspicuous industrial estate in Sulzengasse in Vienna’s 23rd district you will find a whole world of books. Based in one of the long buildings on the estate is Mohr Morawa, Austria’s leading book wholesaler. Just inside the entrance to the building is a 24,000 square metre warehouse which holds more than 100,000 titles from 260 different publishers. This is where the books pause on their way to readers’ living rooms or bedside tables.
Millions of books from Austrian, German, Swiss, British and American publishing houses pass through Mohr Morawa’s warehouse every year. From its Sulzengasse site Mohr Morawa supplies booksellers and other stores that sell books all over Austria and in the neighboring province of Southern Tyrol. Within Vienna the books are transported by the company’s own eight trucks, but outside the city the wholesaler uses a transport company to dispatch the books, generally within 24 hours of the order being received, provided that the titles are in stock and do not have to be ordered from the publishers.
As well as providing regular supplies of books to its customers, Mohr Morawa also has to handle large numbers of enquiries. The booksellers’ customers may have read book reviews in the daily papers or in magazines or have seen a book reviewed on television and, as a result, would like to buy a copy. However, their local bookshop does not have the book in stock, perhaps because it has been very popular and the shop has sold out, or perhaps because the title is relatively obscure. For many years the next step was for the bookseller to call the wholesaler Mohr Morawa to find out “whether the book was in the warehouse, whether it could be delivered in 24 hours, whether it had to be back ordered from the publisher who might be based abroad, and, in that case, when a delivery could be expected.”
In order to answer all these questions, the employees at Mohr Morawa had to search the database of the company’s merchandise management system. Even though it was possible to find the required information relatively quickly, it was often not fast enough for the customer. “Instead of waiting for an answer the customer would simply leave the shop and go to the next bookstore in the hope of finding the book there or, in the meantime, would have changed his mind and decided not to buy the book at all, because the whole process was taking too long,” says Christian Langer, IT manager at Mohr Morawa.