Wesley Owen Want You – and a New Name for STL UK?

Wesley Owen Volunteer Search

Wesley Owen Volunteer Search

Wesley Owen want you — but they don’t want to pay you, they want you to volunteer, which is nothing new in the Christian sector.

They also want you to know that they’re a worthy cause: 100% Charity, apparently. So no commercial or business interest, then? No competing with other retailers? I find myself wondering what, exactly, we mean by the term ‘Charity’ in today’s world: as Melanie Carroll from Unicorn Tree Books, Lincoln, asked in a recent tweet, “Is it fair for charities running commercial & retail businesses to compete claiming 100% charity?”

Excerpt from the Wesley Owen Volunteer Leaflet (PDF, 104kb)

Excerpt from the Wesley Owen Volunteer Leaflet

But alongside those questions I’m also intrigued by a little snippet at the bottom of their Volunteer Leaflet: “IBS-STL U.K. will soon be re-named Biblica.” No doubt there’s some strategic — and 100% charitable — rationale behind this which will be revealed in due course. Another tweet from Melanie, however: “they can rename it anything they like – a rose by any other name – but if they ain’t fixed the problems it won’t matter anyway!”

And finally, some good news for would-be Wesley Owen volunteers: “You don’t need any special skills or experience as you will receive on-the-job training and support…” — but to be on the safe side: “Literacy, numeracy, enjoyment of meeting people and an interest in Christian books and music will stand you in good stead…” Application form here.

(H/T to the anonymous ‘Christian Bookseller’ who pointed me towards the Wesley Owen Volunteer Search: thank you.)

12 thoughts on “Wesley Owen Want You – and a New Name for STL UK?

  1. Pingback: Charity is what you make it - not always what you give! « Unicorn Tree Books Weblog

  2. Why do you hate Wesley Owen so much? It seems you never have a good word to say! would it be better for there to be no Wesley Owen or STL? I struggle to find a reason why you cant be supportive of anyone who is trying to promote the Christian faith. Do you believe that it is better to support non Christian companies which sell Christian books? I notice from your site you advertise Amazon as a place to find and buy such things. Maybe your pro non-Charity & would better see the money on the sale of Christian Books go to share holders of large American companies?

    Hard times are coming and every effort to ensure the Charity survives are being made. It would be a real shame if the only place to buy Christian products was from a non Christian company via wholesale or retail. Well thats the reality of a future without STL/Wesley Owen. I suggest you come up with a rival Charity in which to supply the remaining Christain Bookshops if your really that concerned that all is evil with Wesley Owen and STL and I dare you to release this comment if your so sure of your view point.

    • Hi Noble and thanks for your feedback. Not sure what you mean by “I dare you to release this comment” — apart from obvious spam, which is filtered out automatically, comments are unmoderated and your views are as welcome as anyone else’s.

      As for me ‘hating’ Wesley Owen — I’m sorry if that’s how you perceive this post or any other posts in which they’re mentioned. I don’t hate them: far from it! But I am concerned by the way they’re presenting themselves here with the implicit suggestion that other Christian retailers (many of which, like STL/Wesley Owen/Biblica, are registered charities) are perhaps less than 100% charity.

      One chain that may have the right to such a claim would be CLC: my understanding is that all their staff are volunteers “living by faith” (that is, living on charitable donations from personal supporters) so that all profits are ploughed directly back into the organisation’s mission.

      I’m all in favour of charitable endeavours: but let’s have less spin and more honesty. Wesley Owen is not 100% charity: it’s a business venture operating within the charitable sector.

      • The only way Wesley Owen could use this marketing term “100% Charity” is if they were cleared legally to do so. I would guess that this is the case. In my experience it pays to invest in people that are capable of doing the job well rather than rely on good people that mean well. I think the ideal is to have people who can work for free but who are these people that can live off nothing? It’s just not a sustainable business model and doesn’t attract people with the skills and qualifications to make the biggest difference. Getting sponsored people to work for free is a whole can of worms. I left a church 3 years ago because I found out how much money the pastor was receiving in donations from America. Let’s just say he lived like a king and took more than he needed. This is the double edge sword to getting sponsored work. At least earnings are regulated; tax is paid when people get wages. I just feel very emotional when I see a company trying to make a positive effort towards growing the Christian faith come under such heavy fire. It was because of Wesley Owen’s presence on the high street that I became a Christian and I continue to grow as a Christian because of their service. I’m sure they don’t get paid half of what they would from a non charity organisation. Let us support the work they do in a positive way and push out all those companies that are just as keen to take our money but for 100% profit! Waterstones, Border Books, Amazon, WH smiths etc…

  3. Thanks for coming back, Noble — Wesley Owen are good news on the high street, no doubt about it, and your story brings that point home: cool!

    Volunteers? Don’t knock ’em: most churches and other charitable organisations depend on them. But it sets my alarm bells ringing as a customer when a company like Wesley Owen tells prospective volunteers that they “don’t need any special skills or experience”, that “Literacy, numeracy, enjoyment of meeting people and an interest in Christian books and music will stand you in good stead…” rather than emphasising that these are, in fact, essential requirements! @Supersimbo:

    volunteers? that winds me up about this “work”! they will get a load of old retired folk who mean well & will destroy the shops

    On your last point: I think there’s plenty of room for mainstream as well as specialist retailers; no need to push anyone out! But as I’ve argued elsewhere, if we value a Christian presence on our high streets then we need to be part of it.

    • Phil.

      I work at one of the larger Wesley Owen branches, in Birmingham, as well as one of the smallest, Walsall, and now several months into this recruitment drive, I think it has worked out great for both of us.

      With regards to no special requirements, I think this is true. If a volunteer came in with none of the above mentioned items, but was insistent that all they wanted to do was sort shelves in the back, vacuum at the end of the day and unpack orders here and there, then great, we would use them, and they would be invaluable to us, at least in our large Birmingham Branch. In a store, at least one our size, there is as much “grunt” work as there is face to face retail work. There is a list of jobs to suit just about everyone, and all of them are more valuable than you can imagine.

      Secondly, we “hire” volunteers in the same way as we would do staff. They fill in an application form, are interviewed, and, if not a right fit either for our needs, or do not want to do what they are suited for, will not get the “job”. There have been several volunteers, especially in the small Walsall shop, where everyone really needs to be able to do everything, who, unfortunately, haven’t been a perfect fit, and we have not required service from.

      Finally, the comment

      volunteers? that winds me up about this “work”! they will get a load of old retired folk who mean well & will destroy the shops

      Seems, at least in my experience, to be both unfounded, and for that matter, offensive to our volunteers.

      We have had the pleasure of working with both retired professionals, who have added a great wealth of experience to our shop, as well as young, hardworking individuals who are in the unfortunate position of living in a city with 1 job for every 20 graduates.

      We have had highly intelligent University graduates, foreign nationals waiting for work permits to be granted, and amazing, hard working and articulate individuals who are unable to secure full time paid employment for various reasons, each of whom have far from destroyed the shops, have kept them open during these tough times.

      I would just like make sure we remember that these people are, in many ways, what has kept christian retailers like Wesley Owen and CLC on the high street, and should be praising them, not knocking what they do,

      • Having disagreed on the posting re ‘100% Charity’, I certainly agree with your posting here! We, too, use a mix of paid & volunteeer staff. It’s the role of ‘management’ to create a team (as Luke suggests) who have tasks to fit their abilities & interests. And then to train them to do the job properly. We have a great team of about ten volunteers who really help us in our work- we certainly couldn’t operate as efficiently without them.

        Don’t knock the volunteers- train them up!!

      • I love the concept of volunteers – though it has to be said it is easier to recruit volunteers if you are a charity – when i was manager of SPCK we had some fantastic volunteers at times, retired and ‘stay at home mums’.
        Indeed I do have willing volunteers in forms of friend & family for when I need extra hands & for dire times! they are a true blessing indeed.

        The only thing I would pick up and that I wonder about is the ethics of us using volunteers instead of employing staff when in the ‘unfortunate position of living in a city with 1 job for every 20 graduates.’ (which holds true & higher for all of the UK if we drop the graduate tag) because how does this fit with fair trade issues and workmen being worthy of their hire?

        Not knocking anyone here at all, just raising an issue I debate myself on and that I would be interested to get a feeling on from others.

  4. Pingback: More Changes afoot at STL/Wesley Owen « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

  5. Have recently become aware that quite a few Wesley Owen branches (the smaller ones?) now no longer open on a Monday. My guess is that this is because they now have only one paid member of staff, and they are closed Mondays so that person can get the right number of days off. I would be interested to know how this strategy is working?

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