And so it ends: STL UK puts up ‘For Sale’ sign

IBS-STL UK Announces Plans to Sell Operations

IBS-STL UK Announces Plans to Sell Operations

In a press release (full text below or pdf, 86kb) issued at lunchtime today, Biblica announced that they were finally pulling out of their UK operations and putting the division up for sale. In the press release, Keith Danby, Global CEO, is quoted saying,

Given the severe financial and operational strains we have experienced, the Board of Trustees and management team believe a sale or exit from all or parts of certain operations is a prudent and necessary step. Whilst a difficult decision, we are focused on finding a solution to continue the important work of IBS-STL UK, to secure the jobs of the 490 people employed in our ministry, and to fulfill our financial obligations to our suppliers and creditors. We are working diligently and praying vigilantly for a successful outcome.

Blame for the company’s difficulties is laid firmly at the door of last year’s unsuccessful IT systems upgrade which, combined with the current economic climate, resulted in unsustainable cash flow and stock movement difficulties:

The move has come after a succession of financial problems, in particular the failed implementation of a new SAP computer system in October 2008, the effects of which were exacerbated by the economic downturn. These have caused significant cash flow pressures, excess stock, and supply chain and service difficulties in its distribution and retail units. They have culminated in the decision to exit the business.

This decision comes in the wake of repeated reassurances from Danby that there was “no immediate crisis within the company” (August 2009) and that there was “a sustainable business ministry model going forward” (September 2009).

One possible way forward, proposed here on Saturday, would be a trade buy-out: if enough of us are willing to stand together then between us we could take the business on as a shared ownership company. But who will stand? Who will rise to the challenge?


Full Press Release
(or download pdf, 86kb – includes Notes to Editors and contact info for media and other enquiries)

LEADING CHRISTIAN CHARITY IBS-STL UK ANNOUNCES PLANS TO SELL OPERATIONS DUE TO FINANCIAL CHALLENGES

Leading Christian book and Bible charity IBS-STL UK today announced that it has appointed Baker Tilly Corporate Finance LLP to pursue the sale of its operations.

The move has come after a succession of financial problems, in particular the failed implementation of a new SAP computer system in October 2008, the effects of which were exacerbated by the economic downturn. These have caused significant cash flow pressures, excess stock, and supply chain and service difficulties in its distribution and retail units. They have culminated in the decision to exit the business.

IBS-STL UK convened an emergency task force led by Global President of Biblica and former CEO of STL, Keith Danby, which has been in constant dialogue with its suppliers and bankers. It had also engaged restructuring and business process consultants in an attempt to resolve the systems and financial challenges.

Danby said: “Given the severe financial and operational strains we have experienced, the Board of Trustees and management team believe a sale or exit from all or parts of certain operations is a prudent and necessary step. Whilst a difficult decision, we are focused on finding a solution to continue the important work of IBS-STL UK, to secure the jobs of the 490 people employed in our ministry, and to fulfill our financial obligations to our suppliers and creditors. We are working diligently and praying vigilantly for a successful outcome.”

The corporate finance division of Baker Tilly is actively marketing the operations of the charity to a number of interested parties and is hopeful it will complete negotiations for the sales or potential closures within the next few weeks. IBS-STL UK was founded in 1962 and has grown to become a major UK charity.

IBS-STL UK has three trading divisions; Authentic Media, a book and music publisher; STL Distribution, a distributor of Christian resources and Wesley Owen Books and Music, a retailer with 40 shops in the UK. IBS-STL UK is part of Biblica, a global Bible translation, publishing, distribution and outreach ministry serving more than 100 countries with books, Bibles and other Christian resources. Biblica said the planned sale of the UK operations will not impact its other global operations and donor funds supporting Biblica’s worldwide outreach ministries will not be affected.

Michael Fitch, Chairman of the IBS-STL UK Board of Trustees, concluded: “We continue to believe strongly in the power of God’s Word and Christian resources to change peoples’ lives. We are praying that we can pass the torch on to other likeminded organisations so that our UK staff, suppliers and ministry partners can carry our work forward.”

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52 thoughts on “And so it ends: STL UK puts up ‘For Sale’ sign

  1. There’s no question that these are difficult days, and in these situations much can happen in the space of two months. I think that references Keith made to the business in August/September being in no immediate crisis, and that STL was a sustainable business (and if it’s for sale it still presumably is!) going forward were at that time entirely true, even though there’s no doubt that implementation of the SAP system had damaged STL, it hurt a lot of us and looking back, was indeed almost for sure the beginning of the problems. Perhaps given the right conditions, and restored confidence and the right kind of support not insurmountable problems for the current team.
    One thing Keith Danby does not lack is integrity, as for his comments, well a glass can be half full or half empty depending on who is looking.
    There’s no question that Keith will feel the weight of every job, every family, there’s no doubt that he will be concerned at the effect on every publisher and trade customer that this potentially could have.
    I am convinced that he will work tirelessly in the search for solutions, investors or buyers, and he and the management of STL need our prayer support at this time.
    There was a time when the phrase “careless talk costs lives”, well careless talk always costs, so let us be careful in what we say here.
    At the end of the day we’re in the Kingdom business, and we do what we do to serve the King…….At times the struggle is hard, and stuff happens that takes our eyes from this single primary purpose! but God has a plan, He always does!

    • God has a plan. Too right, John. God’s plans involve people taking responsibility for the things God has given them: from the one to whom much has been given, much more will be asked…

      • Why am I not surprised by that sort of response Phil, you obviously know more about the situation than any of us to point the finger as firmly as you do. However You are rght about being given much and you and I have been given plenty compared to the poor and the unresourced of this world, each of us needs to ask that question of ourselves including you.

        • Hi John

          There has been a lot of speculation on this blog and until someone high up gives some answers then it will remain speculation.
          However, as head of Kingsway you will be able to give answers relating to Kingsway. We are entering our busiest period of trading so:
          Will Kingsway stock be available in the weeks leading up to Christmas?
          If a title is out of stock at STL will you be reordering it quickly so that it is available again?
          What will happen to Kingsway stock in the New Year?

          Thanks.

        • Sarcasm ill becomes you, John: please don’t. Keith’s integrity is not under question; his employees’ futures are.

          Yes, I’m well aware of how much I’ve been given, which is part of why I want to give back to this community which, for all my waywardness, has embraced me as one of its own.

          As I’ve said elsewhere, we — by which I mean all of us in the Christian book trade as well as the wider church — failed when SPCK hit hard times back in 2006. It would be a tragedy beyond belief if we repeat that failure with STL/Wesley Owen/Authentic.

          With SPCK/SSG I thought I could be a bystander, an observer, simply reporting on what was going on. I was wrong. I do not intend to make the same mistake this time around. Thousands of people’s livelihoods, not just the 490 STL UK employees, are at stake here and I intend to stand with them and do what I can to fight for them.

          If we can draw in churches and other organisations — anyone who can see the strategic missional importance of Christian bookshops on our high streets — then there is no reason for the entire edifice to collapse.

          My invitation to you still stands, John: I would welcome a guest post from you outlining something of your own vision for this trade of ours.

          Thank you.

  2. I’m not a bookseller. I’m an author and a minister looking for creative of doing mission in the UK.

    It seems to me that a high street presence in a non-ecclesiastical building where a whole range of activities could be staged would be great. We’ve occasionally floated the idea with our local Wesley Owen but not in a serious way. Perhaps now is the time to get serious.

    I think you’re idea of the trade putting up the money to rescuse STL is a good one. But what about a partnership between the trade, churches and innovative mission organisations like Cafe Church Network and Incarnate to bring some creative mission and church planting ideas into the mix.

    Wesley Owen’s mission statement is ‘the advancement of the Christian faith through retailing’ (or it used to be). So how about some innovative joined-up-thinking about retailing and mission?

    I’m probably mad, but…

  3. Thanks Simon, you’re not mad. I’ve long said that Christian Bookshops were fresh expressions before the term was ever coined and along with Mel and others I’ve spent much time and effort as a bookseller and as a priest with SPCK and now Wesley Owen trying to fulfill that brief – of being an open community, a safe space for spiritual exploration, a living manifestation of the Gospel on the high street. Now is the time for the wider church community to decide whether it wants the cheapest (virtual) option for obtaining its resources or something with a wider brief that can go places the traditional church model is ill-equipped to deal with.

    • 100% agreed. This is the time for the trade and the church to unite.

      If we can draw in churches and other organisations — anyone who can see the strategic missional importance of Christian bookshops on our high streets — then there is no reason for the entire edifice to collapse.

      We — by which I mean the Christian book trade and the wider church — failed when SPCK hit hard times back in 2006. It would be a tragedy beyond belief if we repeat that failure with Wesley Owen.

  4. I guess my complaint would be that churches are often good at the innovative thinking so long as someone else puts up the money. As SPCK and now STL are showing the money is no longer there.

  5. That’s the rub, Richard. Surely a partnership would have to mean a pooling of resources with churches putting cash and people and energy and strategic thinking and time into making the partnership work.

    Christian bookshops as fresh expressions is a very positive thought. All of us who love Jesus have got to find fresh ways of engaging our neighbours with the good news. Since they’re not coming to churches to meet Jesus in the numbers they used to, the church has to go and meet them. What better place than the high street where our neighbours gather already.

    • Simon

      I am sure you are right, that we need to go and meet people where they are. I’m just not sure that the Wesley Owen model is the right one. Why would significant numbers of people who won’t go to church go into a shop stocked with Christian books and music, and little else?

      There are shops, run by Christians, that do achieve this aim – but I am not sure if Wesley Owen is the right one.

      This is such a difficult area though. We are talking about friends and fellow Christians who are working for Wesley Owen. At the same time, is it responsible to place more money into a debt-laden company (I am talking Wesley Owen only here) if one isn’t convinced that the model is sustainable?

      Perhaps the best solution is to see Wesley Owen fall, but have a new project in each town ready to start – embracing a new paradigm on the high street – that can use the skills and experience of the former Wesley Owen staff. I think it is the people that are important, not the ‘brand’.

      I don’t know – it is such a complex issue this.

      • Ian, I encourage you to spend some time at your local Wesley Owen or other mission focussed christian book store, I think you would be pleasantly surprised.

        Firstly, I think you would find that people who would never step foot in a church REGULARLY cross the threshold of a Wesley Owen store… even those in church buildings. Whether simply to pick up their “rosemary beads” or “Willow Tree Figurines” or for advise or a friendly chat.

        In the last three weeks alone, two individuals have come into the store seeking advice and information, because they believe there may be something more to life, and want to know if it may be God… one of whom has committed to reading the message new testament to me, the other is now attending “seekers” services at a local church.

        I know these two were both “seekers” to begin with, but neither wanted to go to a church, for fear of judgement, and claiming to just “not be there yet”. And that is just in two weeks… not to mention the countless christians who still come to us and regularly comment on the advice our staff are able to give them.

        Secondly, i think the characterisation of Wesley Owen as “debt-laden” is a gross misrepresentation. While it is true Wesley Owen is not making huge (or in some cases any) profit at the moment, that is true of most christian (and general) retail. They are, however, to the extent i am aware of these things, certainly on the verge of self sustaining. In reality, I doubt that it would take much to turn most of them into profitable, self sustaining businesses.

        However, I do agree with your suggestion that should Wesley Owen fail (though i disagree that it may be the best solution) we should be prepared to start new projects in the towns which would be affected by the closure of the shops. I think that even now local churches and individuals, as well as staff in areas Wesley Owen serves should be making preparations as to how to continue post-wesley-owen.

  6. STL deos not only cover Wesley Owen bookshops but those that operate under the Crown title, Authentic Books and Music, Paternoster Press, St Andrews Press and is the only way that we can get hold of some American and UK publishers (Cook Communications/Kingsway, Scripture Union) without going to Amazon. As such this news is concerning, especially after the mess made of the SPCK chain.

    One problem has been the Wesley Owen one size fits all model – nearly every WO bookshop is the same where ever you go and what ever the needs of the community. If STL is to work as a buy out those involved need to work with the local churches, with authors and with suppliers to enable to word of God have the biggest impact in their locality. As much as possible we need to release people on the ground level to respond to the needs of their community.

    I do not have the money to put in to help but would be willing to work with whoever buys STL/WO/Authentic/Paternoster to get to this model and get the balance between making enough money to finance God’s work and being flexible enough to respond to the needs of the people. Or am I dreaming that this is possible?

    • Phelim,

      I am sure this is real issue for these publishers, along with BRF etc, due to their product being warehoused and predominantly distributed with IBS-STLD.

      Perhaps a lesson in case for why sole distributorships are not a good idea on the whole.

      However you can get cook/kingsway product via Gardners it’s just not all kept in stock for immediate despatch and the discount is significantly lower on most items currently.

      Same goes for SU product etc.

      Also SU product can be obtained from CLC, and a lot of the American publishers can be got from sources such as New wine, Gates of Praise, J Ritchie, integrity and a few others as well.
      The US stuff can also be got direct from the states if you open an Ingram account (and their service and speed is great!).

      So yes, convenience and speed may be cut down for supplies, but on the whole there are already viable alternatives out there, it is just the one stop convenince that has potentially been endangered, but then that’s been gone a while now due to the stocks held issues.

      On the distribution side this does not need to be seen as such a negative (though it is due to the potnetial loss of jobs for which I grieve!) but it can be a flourishing time for the alternative distributors and could potentially see some great things happen here.

      • Thanks for this Mel. I actually live near to the CLC warehouse and have spoken with a lot of small independent shops who can not afford to go to CLC distribution, even if they didn’t go to STL for SU and others. Same with going to New Wine, John Ritchie, Integrity etc because of the minimum order issue. A number have also been stung getting books from these groups as some have minimum orders including shop discount and some excluding discount. Also as a customer who now has to use local bookshops it is easier to go to Amazon for a Creation House book that wait for my local independent to get it from New Wine. If a small bookshop has one or two American books it is easier to add them to an STL order as CLC wont hold them (especially the heavily charismatic God Channel type ones) or ask the customer to pay the postage. Unless the smaller suppliers get their act together and are willing to work with the needs of the bookshops many people will have to go to Amazon. As to Gardeners I was told by one of their reps not to get Christian books from there when I was looking (after SPCK) to open a Christian bookshop as they got their books from STL rather than the publishers. It is not only convenience for bookshops, most of whom are staffed by volunteers, that is the issue but also overheads for the small independents that need to be kept to a minimum.

        This CLC stock issue is also one of the issues with the loss of SPCK. Wesley Owen is still very evangelical and many WOs have not picked up the SPCK trade. CLC bookshops often still refuse to stock incense, missals and other things the Roman Catholic/Orthodox/High Anglican churches use. So people are going to their local small shop or Kevin Mayhew online. Many small shops are going to Kevin Mayhew for candles etc who get them from Farrels again because of the minimum order issue. Well done to Christian Focus for reducing their minimum order and carriage charge. If STL does go for Christian bookshops to survive then other suppliers need to work with the small shops to help them survive as well.

        • As it happens I was chatting with Gardners yesterday and they are upping their game to try to help fill some of the gaps. They are only too well aware of STL’s difficulties and are now liaising directly with some of the publishers they were sourcing through STL.

          Gardners minimum for carriage free shipping is currently £100 retail (ie, about £65 trade), which isn’t difficult to build up to if you’re consolidating from several publishers. Well stocked with most SPCK titles, fairly good with Zondervan, both at standard discount; not so good/short discounts with Eerdmans and the others distributed by Alban Books or with SCM-Canterbury.

          Overall I’ve found them to be very helpful and, unlike STL, they offer a quarterly returns allowance. Anyone who is looking for an alternative supplier would do well to check them out; but as per Clive’s request below, please consider giving STL first refusal.

        • Erm Phelim,

          Last time I looked I was a ‘small independent’! so pretty sure I know an awful lot about those issues you mention first hand and from rather direct experience.

          As to the minimum issue – actaully CLC minimum is about comparative with STL’s and speed of service about 48 hrs.

          Gates of Praise is only £50.00 minimum and so when you add in the hodder books they do along with the heavily influenced ‘god channel’ books its actaully quite easy to get to the mimumum. and they generally have them out to you within 3 days.

          Ritchie are really good, minimum is not arduous given range and time is good, new wine have been fine the few times I have used them so not sure on the waiting issue anyway, unless it’s a not stocked title that they order in.

          That’s actually just excuses – and as phil said Gardners have upped the game and have been upping the game for a while now – Phil is not alone in talking to Gardners.

          And as to the Amazon thing – well as mentioned in previous blog posts – Amazon is already largely known in the general trade to be the UK’s third largest wholesaler! Whats needed is to get Publishers to be aware of this and to get them to talk more directly.
          I guess my problem here is I have been in this here christian booktrade business long enough to remember when STL wasn’t and when we majoratively have to go to publishers more directly anyway and they all had minumum order levels.

          Also I think it must be said that if you order as a customer from amazon you are looking at it taking a week to get to you anyway unless you pay carriage! So most of my customers are generally happy to wait the week or pay the carriage.
          I think other peoples customers generally are too – it’s a matter of explaining it and pointing it out.
          Of course offer the speedy service but on the same terms as Amazon – and that’s a carriage charge!

          As to the candles thing, wafers and wine, Farris and Dumont are more than happy to open accounts with trade customer – I know, I have opened accounts with both and get very good service from them. That’s not to say that the convenience of KevMay is to be overlooked, it’s an individual decision.

          Catholic material – well CBC Ireland do a great range of gifts, and of course if it’s books then I highly recommend Veritas Books, decent carriage and good speeds.
          Oh and of course there is Gardners and Bertrams.

          Yes Phelim, this is a tad more work than going directly to STL, I willingly admit this – but the benefits are sometimes more than worth it!
          Depth of ranges you can stock, alternative availabilities when not in stock, Discount levels and pricing structures etc.
          Sometimes shopping around is worth the effort with suppliers, and it’s something that with the convenience of one stop STL that some have overlooked and maybe it’s not such a bad thing to get back to it!

          You know its fine saying the indie/alternate suppliers must work with the shops, but they have been – perhaps now the shops will start working with the suppliers!
          It’s a two way street and I think that somewhere in monopoly land we lost sight of it because on a monopoly board you can only move one way!
          but real life gives choices on the direction you take!
          Now go for it, get on, do it, there is much still to play for, reach for and achieve, we just have to step up and do it!

        • Mel – the turn over of your shop,from what you say, is nearly the same as when you were at SPCK. There are five small independents near me with turnovers less than a quarter of yours. One was a Crown bookshop, left because they felt STL were tying there hands too much and have since rejoined because it is uneconomical to use Farris/New Wine/Marston/CLC and the others. They keep their overheads down by using volunteers and have had to move into rooms hired from a church because they still can not afford high street rent. Using STL and Kevin Mayhew is NOT a matter of convenience, it is a matter of economics. The other idependents around me say the same. They are all worried that they will have to stop trading if STL closes because they can not afford as charities run by volunteers to go elsewhere. I live in East Hampshire where Redemptorist is based and even they can be too expensive for a shop less than 8 miles away to use.

          I hope what Phil is talking about happens or it will lead to the loss of a lot of small independent bookshops in the South of England.

  7. I listen to all the well meaning words here but I cannot help but feel we are missing the bigger picture. Yes we remember what happened to SPCK but don’t forget also what the mission has been of CLC, where is all the support for them. Don’t you think the first step should not becoming up with business plans or rescue packages but bringing together folks who feel “called” to truly stand in the gap and seek God for His solutions. Man makes his plans but God orders His steps. Seek first the Kingdom of God and if this cannot be done do we honestly think God will bless any plans of man…what is God’s solution right now for this Nation, it is always a new wine skin for new wine…seek the Lord first while we can still seek Him.

  8. I’ve got this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. My prayers and thoughts are with all the staff and their families involved in all this uncertainty. I do know however, that prayers are not enough and am willing to offer my ‘widow’s mite’.

  9. It is always painful when things go wrong, but principles never change and we reap what we sow. Maybe prayer, fasting and repentence would find out what God want’s rather than what the world would do in the same circumstances. This is not said in a hard or critical way, as I feel for those who will suffer, but we have to face the facts. Sentiments will never solve real world problems.

  10. I worry a little when people talk about working with churches. I’m an Anglican so can only speak for the Church of England, but just in the past couple of weeks we’ve had the “Financial Times” talking about the failing Church pensions scheme.Clergy numbers in the C of E have reduced because of costs, so now a parish priest can be covering a dozen churches, so where is the time and the money to help?

    • Carol,
      surely churches are only buildings with people inside? when I talk of working with churches I am talking of working with/connecting with the people inside.
      It’s not like it’s not a reciprocal transaction – I work with them, they work with me and we all get something out of it and perhaps in the long run we ease each others burdens??
      As to the time – perhaps we need to move away from the model where just the minister and a few are seen as the doers – perhaps we need to work on that community model a bit more – you know back to the idea where in a community all are involved or else it isn’t really a community?
      This is the challenge though and one not easily resolved.
      However I figure if we all pull together locally then we do ease the burden, a minister can indeed be in charge of 4, 5, 6 churches, thats a lot of work but I can ease that burden a little by communicating with them and setting up systems in my shop that means I can pass info on etc. These are ways we can assist and work with churches.
      These are things we used to do in distant times but the model can still work today – indeed the model may be something we need given all the extra pressures.
      Community is at the heart of it and this is what I fear we are losing sight of.

  11. Carol B is correct every man and his dog wants to work with the churches…there is only so much that can go around…nearly every ministry and organisation appeals to the churches and their flocks for funding….it’s got to come to a grinding halt sooner or later it’s unsustainable as we are now finding out…it’s a new season everyone

  12. Without getting into the working with churches thing just wanted to add that my prayers are with the 500 people with jobs and futures unsettled in the run up to Christmas. In my local WO the assistant manager is also a good few number of months pregnant so it’s a double whammy for her, really but for all of the staff it’s something which makes me sad to think of what they must be going through.

    That said yes, I do agree that the model of what a WO must carry is a little disconcerting and the books on display not always to my taste, but they are in mission on the high street and it’s not just for the churches to work with them but also the wardens and the customers and the church members and all sorts. Me I’ve organised to chat to the congregation on Sunday to say look there first for Christmas presents (which I normally do but not this early), mentioned it to the local parish newspaper thing for inclusion in the next issue and emailed details around the local Christian charities. So there’s stuff we can do in the interim.

    What the future is, what God’s will for this is I don’t know, but they strike me as something I can do in the short term and I hope and pray that people able to do more, to think deeper into the situation, will be doing their piece.

  13. Kercal, that is my deep concern? What happens to the booksellers? I can’t think further than that.

  14. One big difference independant Christian Bookshops can make right now, to STL’s current budgets, sales figures,and projections is to order from STL.

    To make STL their preferred supplier,once again, despite any recent dissafections or let downs, and to support STL immediately, by purchases, by going out of their way from today onward to buy whatever possible from STL first and invest in STL in this way.

    To show support tangibly, like this, could make a huge difference ,even at this late stage, as wholesalers like STL work on very tight margins and current forecasts are immediately affected by current sales figures: upturns as well as downturns.

    Independant retailers have and will largely decide by their purchases, and to a lesser extent by their vocalised support, what is to be the projected future for STL Distribution, as a one stop shop resource for the Christian Trade,and if such a facilty is to exist.

    So for this week, my opinion is, that, if you want to do your bit to see STL continue in the best interests of the Christian Trade, by giving the service they provide the best way you can help is to order whatever you possibly can and show your support in that way.

    Stock levels, cash flow and computer problems may mean that the fill rate is not as it ideally should be, but even at this late stage simple, tangible support by ordering as much as possible from STL can undoubtably have a positive effect on the overall outcome and is the best thing retailers can practically do to help.

    • I believe Clive’s comments here are commendable and made in good spirit and should be followed if possible. However as a publisher we are aware that there are significant fill rate issues with STL that with the best will in the world are not acceptable at this critical time for the UK Christian book trade.

      So whilst supporting Clive’s comments I would add that Christian Focus have taken the initiative that I hope others publishers will follow. In a letter distributed to our UK trade customers dated 17/11 we have outlined a revised minimum order of just £30 trade value to receive free shipping and reduced our shipping fee to just £2.50 for those orders under this threshold for orders placed direct with us until December 11. This has been done to enable our customers to fill the gaps that STL are unable to fill as cost efficiently as possible. If you would like a copy of my letter please email me at anthony.gosling@christianfocus.com. We all hope that something can be done in a positive way to assist trade distribution at this time. I hope our action is seen to support such a hope.

  15. Pingback: From Dream to Nightmare to – where do we go from here? « Phil's Boring Blog

  16. Ey-up, those of you making it sound as if WO’s are all of one hue. They’re not. Some of them regularly ordered from CBC, McCrimmons, Veritas, Columba, Alban, CTS, et al. I agree with Mel – breadth & depth are important in the making of a great bookshop. And that can be as achievable in a WO as an indie. If you looked past the Joyce Meyers, saw beyond ‘the Shack’ then Henri Nouwen could often be found peeping through the windows and Miroslav Volf jostled for space with Wayne Grudem. Or Tod Bentley.

  17. Phelim,
    (posting here cause it wont let me add to the stream further up!)

    Pretty, in fact absolutely, sure I have never mentioned my turnover or sales volume anywhere here so you are making major inaccurate presumptions.
    I have mentioned my overheads but they are not turnover or volume of sales, the good lord knows I dream of having the same turnover as I did at SPCK but unfortunately it is nowhere near that.

    What I have said is that there are ways and means and the truth is anything is possible if people are willing to try.

    I’m sorry that with all the advantages you mention – low overheads, volunteer staff and charity registration the businesses can’t afford to use the other suppliers.

    However to me that says that there is a deeper issue here!
    What that issue is I don’t know but if based upon history of other shops and consumer statements in previous blog articles on this site then that may be an issue of model or depth of range or a number of other factors etc.
    Or of course 5 indies all near you (so what each within 20 miles of each other?) may also be an issue of competition and catchment, at which point it might be worth getting together and forming a buying group?? Working together as indies, maintaining their indie status but using their group power to cover costs or negotiate discounts/margins!

    There are ways and means and yes I ackowledge that STL serve a darn useful purpose, I don’t want to lose them either – heck I use them every week! but then I also use norwich books, marston, gardners, bertrams etc most weeks as well.
    (And as importantly I don’t want to loose any christian bookshop out there working with the people for the people and in the local community!)

    Finding new models or even old models of doing new things is the key. (I note Dave Walker has posted on this site today beginning to raise discussion to address this issue – we need to do so!)

    We used to have way more bookshops than we do now that we don’t now is an issue, one we need to address, but lets not just blame online competition and suppliers basic charges (though I am happy to consider blaming increasingly low margins given to physical shops as against those given to the e-tailers or direct to customers by some publishers, but then STL-UK is often on the low scale) when to a degree we have to accept we have to do some remedial work as well – and sometimes that work is understanding we need to remodel our models.

    My Christian element is carried and bouyed along with the fact I do other things, never denied it, in fact I highlight it as a working model.
    (lincoln for over 50 years had 2 christian bookshops that ran in the same city only miles apart! but within the space of a year both were gone, and it wasn’t just because of SSG though that was a factor for one, there is a sustainabilty issue as well as a change issue that we have to ackowledge).

    New old ways – many SPCK bookshops at their most profitable used to have secular components, they started a slow economic decline when this element was banished!
    But the truth is in these darker days it is my Christian element that has actaully helped carry my shop through the troubles – this is the element that has been growing. This is why I say there is growth and why I say that this is a disaster but not one necessarily of doomsday level extinction for the trade.

    • You couldn’t reply to Phelim higher up the page because I only allow nested comments to run 4 deep – it becomes a very narrow column of text if they run any deeper.

      Dave Walker? Do you mean Matt Wardman, today’s guest post?

      Meanwhile Christian Retailing USA has picked up on the situation: two related reports:
      IBS-STL UK up for sale
      ‘Missional Thinking’ about Christian Stores

      Can’t help thinking there’s something perverse about the way Biblica appear to have invested so massively in STL USA whilst pulling the plug on UK operations:
      STL Distribution moves to new facility

      Edited November 20, 2009 at 10:45 pm. Added “appear to” to final sentence.

      • Ekk – yes I meant Matt Wardman (sorry Matt!) you can tell where my mind was going with all of this :0)

        I have to admit I do feel a little cynical on the new move to prompting use of STLD-US if you can’t get it from STLD-UK!
        Nice incentivizing to us Ingram customers there though, however I would point out that if you do import anything other than the books you will incur a duty charge after a short while which is worth bearing in mind for the uninitiated. Oh and of course remember any DVD’s will be region 1 format.
        Personally I think it is more important that we support other UK based Suppliers of product on items we can’t get from STL-UK than jump shores immediately where previously we wouldn’t have. This will do nothing for our economy, for job situations, our publishers or to help the UK Trade in a larger and long term way.

  18. I would absolutely push for supporting independent UK suppliers, who are also struggling in the wake of the STL news. Christian retailing is a vitual and unique way of spreading our message. For example this Christmas I was looking forward to supplying new CDs from The Priests, Aled Jones, Hayley Westenra as well as many other Christian Sacred Music CDs. Yes, customers could all go to large commercial chains, but where would our independent culture be if all our customers did that. The word of God and perhaps our morals and whole ethos needs to be continued. Please support independent suppliers. Can I be shameless and advertise my website and note that if independent shops wish to contact me I can easily supply Christian CDs with no minimum order requirement and no charge for carriage. If this is not appropriate please delete this bit of my post? If shops wish to contact Caritas Music Publishing with regards to Trade orders I would love to hear from them, perhaps my details can be passed on privately. There is still time for Christmas to be a positive period for us all.

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