Wesley Owen: 26 Branches Enter Administration, Others Sold (Updated)

21/12/2009: The official press release is now out and no further updates to this page will be posted. Comments remain open.

From Wesley Owen Edinburgh’s facebook page, posted on Friday 18/12/2009 at 21.14:

We are now in administration and will be closing shortly. As will almost all of the Wesley Owen shops. I thank you all so much for your support and can I ask you to pray for all of the staff that received the devastating news today at 5.35.

As for STL’s other divisions, sources elsewhere (contacts on facebook and twitter, who have since removed their status updates) indicate that Koorong and Kingsway (David C Cook) have taken on Authentic, with Koorong taking over the books publishing, Kingsway taking over the music. Koorong may have also taken on some of the Wesley Owen stores [2]. There is as yet no reliable information about STL Distribution [1], but I’m told that an official press release will be issued on Monday 21st December.

This is surely one of the saddest days in the history of Christian bookselling/retailing here in the UK. As per the request from Edinburgh, please pray for all the staff caught up in this mess.

[1] Update, 4.15pm: From Everything ChristianBig changes at Christian book supplier:

STL Distribution has been purchased by Scottish book wholesaler John Ritchie. However, it isn’t clear how much of the business they will retain, or which employees will be transferred.

[2] Update, 20/12/2009, 3.15pm: The situation with the shops is reported to be:

  • 26 shops told at 5.35pm yesterday that they were in administration
  • 6 shops taken over by CLC (Bolton, Stockport, Cambridge, Kingston, Guildford and Coventry)
  • 8 shops taken over by Koorong (Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Bromley, Coleraine, Derby, Glasgow, York, possibly another, along with the website and the Wesley Owen brand)

Reports Roundup (most recent first)

For earlier reports, see my STL UK Crisis: Reports roundup and further reflections (updated) (last updated 12/12/2009).

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43 thoughts on “Wesley Owen: 26 Branches Enter Administration, Others Sold (Updated)

  1. 6 of the medium size wesley Owen bookshops have been bought by CLC and will continue trading. Bolton, Stockport, Cambridge, Kingston, Guildford and Coventry are the ones that have been taken over by CLC. Glad that there is still a christian presence on the high street in these towns and cities but it is tempered with sadness at the 26 that have entered administration.

    • Good news for those towns, certainly, but given that CLC generally rely on volunteers who have to raise their own support rather than paid staff, I’m not sure that this is necessarily good news for the current staff at those branches. But perhaps CLC’s staffing policy has changed?

      • Hello and a very blessed New Year to one and all. I came across this Blogsite a couple of weeks ago and it’s been an read.

        Yes, CLC is still out there and is very much alive. Booksellers need to know that we are in a position to help them with their supply chain difficulties. Indeed, many have already contacted us and are now enjoying the benefits. Among other things, we offer same day despatch, competitive terms and good service. To open a trade account, email accounts.received@clcwholesaleuk.com
        for further information.

        To reply to a point raised by Phil Groom on Dec.19 re CLC’s staffing policy in taking over six WO shops, yes, there has been a change. In fact a big change. It just that one of the amendments to our Constitution this past spring was to enable employment… Hmmmm, did the Lord know something at the time that we did not?

        Phil was right in his observation when he wrote that CLC UK does/did not employ its staff. This means we can keep more bookshops open on the high street, and we can support international literature initiatives. Re UK volunteer workers, while CLC can cover some costs, other support comes from…. wherever the Lord provides. Some of our shop closures in recent years have been due to the lack of personnel. Since fulltime recruits were still being noticed by their absence, provision was made within constitutional changes to be able to employ people , while at the same time we have continued recruiting along lines, ie part-funded volunteers. Little did we know what was over the rise in the road.

        We have been greatly saddened in recent years to see so many other shops closing down and we have felt powerless to step in when asked at various times if we could do something. But with the trickle suddenly becoming a torrent we saw the need to act. While respecting our traditions and our values, we simply could not sit back any longer and watch yet more Christian bookshops close down because . CLC has ministries in 56 other countries and was an employer everywhere else except in the UK. Even CLC USA have some employees. Like our colleagues over the pond we now have a hybrid system comprising both supported and paid staff. We have always been just as missionary minded and sacrificial in our outlook in those nations where salaries are paid as we are here in the UK in order that our purpose statement can be fulfilled. In short, CLC is now an employer in the UK too by taking over shops that have employees in them. TUPE regulations prevail in this sort of scenario. There is no alternative.

        CLC UK has taken a huge step in all this. And though it is one that raises a whole load of issues for CLC as a mission, for our individual members, and even perhaps for some of our supporters, the leadership have taken it in full confidence and assurance of faith that it is the right thing to do before God and His Church at this time.
        By the way, we still need those full time volunteers previously alluded to for a number of existing roles. And yes, they will need some personal financial and spiritual support……..

        For more information on CLC, including my email address, please go to http://www.clc.org.uk

        Phil Burnham, Director, CLC International (UK)

        • Some words that I wrote in brackets did not appear…. not familiar with the norms of blogsites….
          Here is the text without the brackets:

          Hello and a very blessed New Year to one and all. I came across this Blogsite a couple of weeks ago and it’s been an interesting read.

          Yes, CLC is still out there and is very much alive. Booksellers need to know that we are in a position to help them with their supply chain difficulties. Indeed, many have already contacted us and are now enjoying the benefits. Among other things, we offer same day despatch, competitive terms and good service. To open a trade account, email accounts.received@clcwholesaleuk.com
          for further information.

          To reply to a point raised by Phil Groom on Dec.19 re CLC’s staffing policy in taking over six WO shops, yes, there has been a change. In fact a big change. It just so happens that one of the amendments to our Constitution this past spring was to enable employment… Hmmmm, did the Lord know something at the time that we did not?

          Phil was right in his observation when he wrote that CLC UK does/did not employ its staff. This means we can keep more bookshops open on the high street, and we can support international literature initiatives. Re UK volunteer workers, while CLC can cover some costs, other support comes from…. wherever the Lord provides. Some of our shop closures in recent years have been due to the lack of personnel. Since fulltime recruits were still being noticed by their absence, provision was made within constitutional changes to be able to employ people just in case, while at the same time we have continued recruiting along traditional lines, ie via part-funded volunteers. Little did we know what was over the rise in the road.

          We have been greatly saddened in recent years to see so many other shops closing down and we have felt powerless to step in when asked at various times if we could do something. But with the trickle suddenly becoming a torrent we saw the need to act. While respecting our traditions and our values, we simply could not sit back any longer and watch yet more Christian bookshops close down because CLC doesn’t pay its workers. CLC has ministries in 56 other countries and was an employer everywhere else except in the UK. Even CLC USA have some employees. Like our colleagues over the pond we now have a hybrid system comprising both supported and paid staff. We have always been just as missionary minded and sacrificial in our outlook in those nations where salaries are paid as we are here in the UK in order that our purpose statement can be fulfilled. In short, CLC is now an employer in the UK too by taking over shops that have employees in them. TUPE regulations prevail in this sort of scenario. There is no alternative.

          CLC UK has taken a huge step in all this. And though it is one that raises a whole load of issues for CLC as a mission, for our individual members, and even perhaps for some of our supporters, the leadership have taken it in full confidence and assurance of faith that it is the right thing to do before God and His Church at this time.
          By the way, we still need those full time volunteers previously alluded to for a number of existing roles. And yes, they will need some personal financial and spiritual support……..

          For more information on CLC, including my email address, please go to http://www.clc.org.uk

          Phil Burnham, Director, CLC International (UK)

        • Thanks for this, Phil. Sorry about the missing words problem – most odd. Putting things (in brackets) doesn’t normally make them disappear…

          Highlighting this in a post scheduled for Sunday morning.

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  5. Keith Danby hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory in all this. My understanding is this: He sent an email to all shops explaining how *his* job would be safe (while all the shops were waiting for the big announcement about their future).

    Realising his insensitivity, he then contacted them all again saying how sad the news was – before the news had been announced.

    Then shops were told about the administration after 5.30 (after the usual WO clocking-off time) by email. By email!

    The communication start to finish on Friday 18th December was appalling and was a poor tribute to all the hard workers affected by the imminent closures.

    • I REMEMBER MR DANDY FROM HIS DAYS IN THE FURNITURE TRADE IN NORTHERN IRELAND HE WAS INSENSITIVE THEN GOOD TO SEE NOTHING HAS CHANGED

  6. I don’t quite get why STL have made all the announcements to the staff on a Friday and then expected it to stay a secret til Monday. I’m not suggesting that the staff are blabber mouths, you just can’t keep this kind of stuff under a lid. Feels all a bit messy.

    Joining with the prayers of others.

    • This whole fiasco is a lesson in how not to communicate. If it wasn’t such a tragedy it’d be a joke: you don’t give your staff their redundancy notices at 5.35pm on a Friday and expect them to keep quiet about it until you can release a neat and tidy press release on the following Monday. Utterly ludicrous, completely outrageous.

  7. This is terrible news especially for the staff who are losing their jobs just before Christmas. We have friends and colleagues who are caught up in this and know how hard it is.

    I’ve been asked whether there are any job vacancies at Eden.co.uk. Although we are not currently advertising any vacancies we plan to advertise a number of new posts in the New Year and are always open to receiving ‘speculative’ CVs. Remote-working (via Internet) is an option so location does not necessarily matter.

    CVs can be sent to jobs@eden.co.uk

  8. I understand that the shops going into administration are not closing immediately, unlike Borders, so there is a little time for all those who have expressed support in recent weeks to work with local staff to try to establish a rescue package for individual shops. It’s unfortunate timing in that so many establishments close down between Christmas and New Year which hampers progress. Sadly, I suspect that some of the shops to be closed are in high street locations with high rental costs which will not help, but all over the UK landlords are being persuaded to agree to monthly rental terms so it’s worth a try. With SPCK shops also closed, some cities could be without a Christian bookshops, so come on everyone, action with prayer, please!

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  11. Does anyone have any thoughts about the issue that Koorong appear to be a purely commercial operation (see wikipedia page) rather than an operation based on a charitible trust, therefore meaning that every poound spent just finds its way to shareholders at the end of the day?

    This in comparison to CLC who work on a very different model.

    • You mean like … Zondervan? Hodder Faith? HarperCollins Religious?

      I’m not convinced that operating as a charitable trust is necessarily the best thing for a business enterprise; and being a commercial venture doesn’t imply improper motives, any more than being a charity implies sound motives. Look at St Stephen the Great: that was a charity, and much good that did anyone! Look at Biblica: how has their being a charity ensured that their soon-to-be redundant booksellers have been charitably treated?

      See this brief report: Koorong Issues Fair Trade Policy – looks like a company heading in the right direction to me…

      • Agree, have no problem with anyone making a profit but is worth thinking how the market will now change. You now have the polarisation between hardnosed profit (Koorong) and a voluntary model (CLC) {although not sure how this will work re TUPE on old WO stores} I suspect that the market still has a way to fall and will be interested to see if one of these models works better that what could be considered the halfway house of the WO model. Charity but run by fully paid staff.

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  13. As Phil has said above, CLC relies on volunteers. Staff are seen as missionaries and are required to find their own support. As such many current employees will be in a position where to keep their roles they will need to find people to support them to the financial level they are at now. Yes Christian bookshop wages are not great but they are better than being on the dole – even with benefits.

  14. I’m thankful the Glasgow branch ( which has survived first as Pickering and Inglis, then as Independent, then as CofS bookshop amalgum into WesleyOwen) has been rescued. Sadly it seems the capital city of Scotland is to be left with no major high street bookshop- though it still has the Free Church Bookshop on the Mound and McCall Barbour’s on GeorgeIV Bridge. Can the CofS not take back the Edinburgh branch at least? And what of London? There’s the Protestant Truth Bookshop in Fleet Street but few others if WesleyOwen vanishes from behind Oxford Street.

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  16. Am I to understand that Wesley Owen on George Street, Edinburgh is to close? This an absolute disaster for me, and I’m sure many people will agree that this is a great loss to the Christian World. It is very sad to see a Christian store closing down, when faith is supposedly spreading throughout the world. What is happening to our country?

    • Ewan – Yes, WO Edinburgh’s head is on the block, although do keep checking this blog for updates.

      It’s very little to do with faith, I think. Christians killed off WO because they, like everyone else, used the internet instead of their local shop. Wesley Owen were too slow to respond to the drastic change in shopping habits.

        • Yes, I think he was too slow.

          He moved his office to the States some time ago and recently said Christian retailing in the UK had no future.

          I don’t think he took his eye off the ball: I think he kicked it off the pitch!

    • Putting on my moderator’s hat for a moment:

      I think Keith Danby is acutely aware of his failings and whilst I appreciate your anger and frustration, slagging him off now isn’t going to achieve anything. Please desist from further comments along these lines on this site.

      Thank you.

  17. [Comment removed at author’s request]
    Phil Groom and co – I’m not sure if you know this, but the Nationwide Christian Trust has bought Wesley Owen Harrogate, Leeds and Manchester. In Manchester’s case, the shop will close and then re-launch.

  18. ‘Horrified to discover Bedford’s W.O. bookshop all locked up and empty with no prior warning….. Many churches in the town (including mine which is way out of town, in Potton) had flourishing accounts with this store and a great relationship with those working there – and now it’s all gone. There’s no mention in the foregoing e-mail info. as to whether the Bedford shop has been bought out by someone else (I see that Cambridge has been rescued). I’m sure that God will still get His word out, on TV, DVD
    CD and the Internet, but many of us still like to read – and what about our Christian cards and gifts, which are no longer available in Bedford. I shall be praying for a resolution to this sad affair but I’m thankful that the shop was not closed, in isolation, because it offended the religious sensibilities of those of a different faith, which is what I feared may have happened.
    By the way, PG,Jesus is still on our High Street, book shop or no book shop, because His people are out there. Amen

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