Christian Wholesalers: is there anybody out there?

Received this question this afternoon:

Do you know of another Christian book wholesaler in UK? I am currently using CLC as much as I can (owing to the state of STL) but they don’t always have all I need.

It now seems it’s too late to order for Christmas from STL.

My reply:

Unfortunately STL do seem to have achieved market dominance, which doesn’t leave much space for others in our sector. Gates of Praise (01656 664245, sales [AT] gatesofpraise.co.uk) or Harvest Fields (01302 367868, sales [AT] harvestfields.biz) may be able to help with a limited range but I’ve never dealt with either of them myself so can’t make any recommendation one way or the other.

Looking beyond the specifically Christian sector, I’ve found Gardners to be very good: excellent range and availability including BRF, Church House, HarperCollins, Hodder, Lion-Hudson, SCM-Canterbury Press, Scripture Union, SPCK, Westminster/John Knox and Zondervan to name but a few, with a website that’s much more user-friendly than STL’s offering. Amongst other points in Gardners’ favour, their website tells you exactly how many copies of each item they have in stock, gives an ETA for items that aren’t in stock, and orders can be placed as late as 5.30pm for next day delivery.

Does anyone else have any pearls of wisdom they’d like to share, please?

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19 thoughts on “Christian Wholesalers: is there anybody out there?

  1. New Wine Ministries are also out there for a range of the US Publishers: T: (0)1243-867227
    http://www.newwineministries.co.uk/about_us/about_us.shtml

    Bertrams are OK as well, again good website much better than STL – next day delivery, ordering service, POD for a fair few titles. Stocked Christian range is ok for Lion-Hudson, SPCK, Hodder, DLT etc, though have to admit Gardners is probably a little better represented with instock Christian product.
    http://www.bertrambooks.co.uk/BertWeb/index.jsp

  2. Thanks Melanie. Now how did I manage to miss DLT from my Gardners list? Have only just restocked with various Henri Nouwen titles from DLT via Gardners. Also OK for Abingdon Press, Eerdmans and others distributed by Alban Books.

    SOS surcharges can be pretty steep, though.

    I’m a tad wary of Bertrams at the moment, given the collapse of Woollies…

  3. Hi.
    I know its not UK based but we had so many problems with STL that we set up a credit card account with Ingrams in the USA (who own Spring Arbor (largest US christian wholesaler). I can order on monday one week and it arrives 7-10 days later. Freight seems to be cheaper than STL and used to be fantastic margins on US CD’s as we got 40% discount minimum and exchange rate. Also back catalogue items are reduced, so John Michael Talbot CDs sell at USD $3.99 less 40% less exchange rate, and over here there so rare, every customer came in, went ‘i had that on lp – got to have it on cd’.

  4. I have been using Gardners regularly for years and have always found their service to be excellent, and the website is very user friendly. One or two things to note – it’s always worth checking what discount you are getting on a product – there is a little show/hide button which will tell you if you click it – I thought I had done well getting some Alpha manuals from Gardners the other day – hadn’t checked the discount and only got 15%.

    The other thing to beware of with Gardners is paying late – you get terrifying threatening letters with huge red writing very soon after the end of the month!

    The STL nightmare continues – seems to me to be getting worse ….

  5. I have also been using Ingram for years – absolutely brilliant. As a rule I order every Friday and the order comes without fail the following Thursday. Again, an easy, user-friendly website.

    The problem at the momment is that the dollar exchange rate has plummeted, making it quite expensive and rather risky, as Ingram take payment at the end of the month, so if you order at the beginning of the month you are paying using whatever the exchange rate is at the end of the month.

  6. I nearly signed LST up for an Ingrams account once, but the application form wanted my home address and for me to accept personal liability for everything. No way! If I was running my own business, fair enough, maybe; but not when I’m managing somebody else’s shop!!

    I use STL International quite regularly and they’ve proved very good. Quite why STL here in the UK can’t implement the same systems as their sister company in the USA will remain one of life’s little mysteries, I guess. Again, a vastly superior website.

  7. Slightly off subject, but here’s a wholesaler to avoid if possible! I had a customer enquiry for a £65 T & T Clark academic title, which the customer had seen on Amazon. The customer very kindly contacted us to see if we could supply. He was in a hurry for the book, being required for an essay he was doing, so contacted us on Monday for delivery at the weekend. Having checked our usual trade suppliers for this title, I contacted the main supplier, Orca Book Services, who assured me they had the book in stock. and since we had an account with them, I thought I was onto a winner! However, the very helpful member of staff apologetically told me that they only run invoices on a FRIDAY and then would despatch the following week…… If I wanted despatch quicker than that, I would have to pay a £5 surcharge! I then tried to contact their head of Customer Services, to get confirmation of when the book would arrive, received back two ’empty’ emails and finally an ‘out of office autoreply’.

    In this day & age, this really beggars belief.

    So Amazon got the order from the customer, we lost a £65 sale and Orca get todays wooden spoon for customer services…….

  8. As an academic bookseller I order from Orca fairly often, and it’s a constant frustration. Experience has taught me to warn customers that it’s likely to take up to six weeks for their books to come through. They are, quite simply, the worst distributor with whom I have the dubious pleasure of dealing.

    Numerous complaints and queries have achieved nothing. I only source from them now as an absolute last resort.

    I’m sure I read something about a merger with Marston somewhere: hoping if it’s true that Marston will be able to pick them up rather than be dragged down by them…

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  10. Just a note further to my previous post to say that TWELVE days after my ‘blank’ emails and an ‘autoreply’ assuring me of a prompt response (that Monday, if remember rightly) that we still haven’t received a reply from someone at Orca…….

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  12. 🙂 Signs of hope? Consignment from Orca that I ordered on April 17th was despatched April 22nd, arrived here yesterday, 23rd. To anyone from Orca reading: thank you — I am suitably impressed. Keep up the good work!

  13. It can be worth ordering direct from the publishers, though (like me!). We can often do deals that are better than the wholesalers. Moreover, some wholesalers (we’re with Gardners) can be very conservative about taking stock: if they can’t shift a trillion copies through W H Smith’s, they’re not interested.

    What’s up with Send the Light?

    Simon Danes
    St Mark’s Press

    • What’s up with STL?? Pardon my bluntness, but where have you been the last year, Simon?

      This time last year — to cut a long story short — some bright spark decided that STL’s IT systems needed upgrading. The idea was essentially to increase order processing efficiency and streamline the entire wholesale operation. Unfortunately it went belly-up: instead of improving things it ended up with them being unable to process stock through their warehouses and those of us at the sharp end of the business — the retailers — found ourselves facing endless picking and invoicing errors. Total nightmare, and they’re still trying to pick up the pieces as well as facing the double-whammy of an economic recession and bankers who … well, maybe the less sad about the bankers the better…

      These posts should give you a flavour of the chaos we’ve been up against:

      STL: Back Online but not Back Up to Speed: November 6, 2008
      STL: Light at the End of the Tunnel?: November 19, 2008
      STL: A Month of Darkness: November 28, 2008
      What’s happening at STL? BA CBG to Carlisle, blog updates coming soon and invoices – aaaargh! : April 28, 2009

      Feel free to poke around the archives for more: see the sidebar.

  14. i would like to do a book shop in my church and I would like to sell some of your books and tapes ect

  15. I want to find any Christian Wholesaler in China that specialises in Handbags……for my business idea………My wife and I would like to network christian businesses in China for the Kingdom advancedment reagrds in HIM
    Elijah & Esther Daniel…contact us on elijahesther2002@yahoo.co.uk

    God bless you.

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