When Harry Potter and The Cursed Child was launched, Waterstones received 130k internet pre-orders. This was the biggest volume of pre-orders that Waterstones has ever experienced and there was no room for error. However, when things outside the team’s control started to go wrong, it seemed that it was a case of Harry Potter and the Cursed Book Hub.
It started with the packing boxes. They arrived on the Friday before launch day but the box suppliers had received the wrong dimensions; the boxes could not be used. The site team had 24 hours to source 6000 new boxes. Of course this team rose to the challenge, tapped into their excellent supplier relationships, and had 6000 boxes ready to go by 10am the next day. The team now had the right boxes and the operation started to pick the unprecedented volume over a 3 day period. The initial volume of 130,000 that had to be shipped to stores was completed by close of play Wednesday.
Next, an internal Waterstones IT system gremlin popped up; this meant that customer order details were not released as expected. This was a real problem. Harry Potter fans were champing at the bit to get their copies, failure was not an option. However, the site team pulled out all the stops and managed to support the later than planned availability of customer orders, ensuring no customer was impacted by this technical mishap. Their flexibility and ‘can-do’ attitude was outstanding.
And then, on the day of launch, the automated sorter went down. In the 10 year history of the site this issue had never happened. The sorter manufacturer could not be on site until the following day. However determination, technical skill, creative problem solving and teamwork paid off, and after 4 hours of downtime, the sorter came back to life.
The team demonstrated agility, reacting quickly to a massive increase in volume and particularly when the automated sorter went down. The ability to fix a problem in-situ requires the ability to stay calm and think outside the box. They delivered perfect quality. They showed a deep and complete understanding of customer needs. Moreover, the team developed Unipart’s credibility and showed Waterstones that Unipart operates in a highly professional manner with honesty, integrity and commitment.
The team have positively helped to develop a true, long-term business partnership with the customer, which has had a high level of public acknowledgement from the customer. Kate Skipper, Buying Director at Waterstones said “Particular thanks need to go to the team at the hub. They must be absolutely exhausted but they have been amazing and we would not be looking at anywhere near these sales without everything they have done and continue to do to get replen back into the shops. And we’re the number 1 retailer in the UK by a clear margin! A great result and in no small part to you all. Thank you again everybody, this is fantastic!”