We all know that STL UK (or Biblica or whatever they’re calling themselves these days) are in deep doodah. That’s not rumour, it’s fact as stated by the man himself, Keith Danby, in his miscellaneous missives to the trade with repeated references to financial difficulties and ongoing consultations with bankers and others.
There are some signs of hope, of an improved cash flow: one supplier I spoke to this week told me that their account, six months overdue, had at last been paid. Other sources, however, tell me about supplier accounts being put on hold due to non-payment; and I know, from my own experience of having to source goods elsewhere, that warehouse stocks are not what they ought to be, especially at this time of year.
What we don’t know, of course, because they’re not telling us, is how deep STL UK’s financial crisis runs: hundreds of thousands, or millions? If the former — perhaps even if the latter — then I suggest that, if we’re prepared to act together, between us we have the power to rescue them.
UKCBD alone lists more than 600 Christian retailers, most of them actively trading, most of them STL UK trade account holders. Then there are the many church and other account holders as well as all the suppliers: that’s thousands of us who stand — to put it mildly — to be massively inconvenienced if STL UK goes to the wall.
My proposal, modest though it is, is simply this: we buy them out. Between us, we pay off STL UK’s debts — or enough of those debts to make their bankers do a double-take — and take them over as a shared-ownership company. Careful plans, terms and conditions would need to be drawn up, of course; but amongst us, surely, we have the expertise for that.
If as few as 1,000 of us contributed as little as £100 each, that would be £100,000. I think that, however, is a very conservative estimate of the amount we could raise: there are far more than 1,000 of us whose own businesses and livelihoods stand to suffer immensely if STL UK cease trading; and whilst some of us would struggle to find £100, many of us could contribute significantly more than that to a trade buy-out.
We’ve prayed together. The time has come, I think, for us to act together: to put our money where our mouths are and recognise that we ourselves may be God’s answer to those prayers.
Too little too late, I hear you say. Maybe so: the winds of change are blowing in our industry as more and more business is being conducted online; but let’s not allow the Christian book and retail trade in the UK to go down in history as blown away by an errant trade wind when we could have saved it had we only been blown along by the Spirit of God…
Appendix: Biblica Financial Reports