STL UK Crisis: Reports roundup and further reflections (updated)

Figured a roundup of reports on / responses to the STL UK crisis might be useful. Reports marked * are largely nothing more than re-runs of the official press release with minimal or no additional comment. No doubt there are a few I’ve missed and more will emerge as the tragedy unfolds — but as I’ve said, I truly don’t think it needs to be a tragedy: despite the sceptics’ voices, I still believe that there are more than enough of us to save the day if only we will stand together.

I may be a tad crazy but I’m not crazy enough to think the entire edifice can be saved intact: it will have to be split up into smaller parts, with local Christian groups pooling resources to support specific branches of Wesley Owen, rebranded and refocused to serve their local communities. Kudos to the Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent: he’s written to clergy in his area to see whether they can do something to keep the Harrow branch open. Do we have similar initiatives elsewhere in the country?

It’s also clear that some very hard questions need to be asked about the SAP implementation: why was it allowed to go so badly wrong? Why was it done as an all-or-nothing no-way-back project? We seem to be looking at some very serious high-level incompetence here and one of the first things whoever takes over the business will need to do is take a long, hard at this — then most likely scrap the system and start again.

An intriguing paragraph in the Civil Society report seems to offer a possible ray of hope for any parts of the business for which no buyer is found:

The corporate finance division of Baker Tilly is marketing the operations of the charity to a number of interested parties and hopes to complete negotiations for the sales or potential closures within the next few weeks. Young said that if buyers are not found for all parts of the business, Biblica may step in and buy the rest, but “ultimately IBS-STL UK will be wound up”.

Looking beyond Wesley Owen for a moment, all the shops that signed up to STL’s ‘Crown Books’ scheme now need to urgently rethink their ops.

Finally for now, for those who may have missed yesterday’s brief note: news has emerged of at least one publisher, Kingsway, pulling their stock out of STL’s Carlisle warehouse, returning it to their HQ in Eastbourne. I have requested further information from Kingsway: what happens, for instance, to retailers’ outstanding orders? No doubt an official announcement will be forthcoming.

Update, 24/11/2009: John Paculabo from Kingsway states:

As we approach certain timelines in our agreement, there are decisions that Kingsway will take irrespective of whether STL find a buyer or not, and currently these relate to foreign distribution.

STL remain our trade distributor, however in the today’s climate this poses a number of questions going forward, needless to say we are aware of thecomutations and possible implications.

I can assure you that Kingsway has not removed all of its stock from STL.

Update, 16/12/2009: Kingsway Books & Music back in stock at STL: STL Blog | Email Archive

Reports and Responses
Google News Search: Wesley Owen | IBS-STL UK | Biblica
Carlisle News & Star: STL News Stories

Reports marked * are largely nothing more than re-runs of the official press release. For a roundup of more recent reports, see Wesley Owen: 26 Branches Enter Administration, Others Sold (Updated) (19/12/2009)

Most recent first, list updated 12/12/2009:

21 thoughts on “STL UK Crisis: Reports roundup and further reflections (updated)

  1. Pingback: uberVU - social comments

    • not sure what you mean by this – but they can work at building their own ‘community’ shop! and their own networks. ;0)

      If by community shop support/network you mean some sort of ‘buy local, support local’ scheme it will depend on where they are based as to whats in the area – here in Lincoln there was a short push by the local paper, but nothing much done on a more county or city level, whereas an awful lot of area’s have a great support in local council initiatives and schemes which should really be commended and used where possible.

      Worth looking at is the US AMIBA site and network the nearest to this in the UK is the FSB ‘Keep Trade Local’ campaign – but it just isn’t the same! It would be fantastic to get something like this running in the UK and within the Christian Bookshop arena!

      • I mean that there are projects and networks which exist to support communities trying to preserve or take over their local shops, and that these have expertise and other resources – which might be relevant.


    Phil, please don’t print hearsay as you risk reducing this blog to a gossip column!

    1. Phil you have my email address…I gave it to you!
    2. You have my telephone number I gave it to you!

    If you want clarification on things that you hear you have the conduit to filter it, why choose to print what is very unhelpful when you could have emailed or called me?

    As we approach certain timelines in our agreement, there are decisions that Kingsway will take irrespective of whether STL find a buyer or not, and currently these relate to foreign distribution.
    STL remain our trade distributor, however in the today’s climate this poses a number of questions going forward, needless to say we are aware of thecomutations and possible implications.
    I can assure you that Kingsway has not removed all of its stock from STL.

    • Thanks for that clarification, John: much appreciated. Please note, however, that I do not regard eyewitness testimony as hearsay; and as stated above, I did request further information from Kingsway, albeit not directly from your good self.

      You had the opportunity to clarify things after Geoff Wallace posted a query in response to your last message; and once again I reiterate my invitation to you to contribute a guest post offering your perspective on things.

      Specific answers to Geoff’s questions would be a helpful starting point, please:

      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?

      Thank you.

      • Phil, seeing is not always believing, Let me repeat, STL are our trade distributors, I cannot and will not comment beyond that as anything more is speculation, and anything that undermines trade or public confidence in STL is very unhelpful, and dangerous.

        As our exclusive Trade distributor, clearly the ramifications for Kingsway should STL ever be in a position not to distribute should be clear for all to see, are we thinking about it? well just a bit!

        However to ask me, and for me to publicly discuss what will happen to Kingsway in the new year at a time when our exclusive distributor is fighting for all its worth, is and would be irresponsible.

        My job is to safeguard and futher the ministry that is Kingsway, however the health of my partner is important to me, my partners include STL, Trade, Artists, Writers etc and there are times when silence is a safeguard to health.

        There are a lot of questions out there I know, answering them isn’t easy without creating more questions, perhaps there’s more to it than you think, helping you think through it on a blog, is for sure not the way to go on this one!

        • Entirely your call, John. If you did say more then, of course, it wouldn’t be speculation; but until those such as yourself do choose to speak out then speculation is inevitable.

          As to what may happen in the new year: that was only one question out of three. The immediate issue is stock availability right now, as we approach Christmas. A straight answer to that one would help all of us — and if the answer is yes, stock levels will be maintained (which is what you seem to be implying) then that’s great: thank you.

          On the value or otherwise of discussing things in an open forum, I guess we’ll just have to agree to differ — but please be assured, I’m as concerned as anyone else to see STL pull through this crisis one way or another.

  3. Pingback: Imagine 40 Christian Bookstores Hanging in the Balance: STL (UK) « Christian Book Shop Talk

  4. Another interesting quote from David Young, this time at, Bookshop staff face losing jobs:

    Mr Young added: “We are really keen to sell as much as we can to secure the jobs.”

    He said a potential buyer would not have to bid for the whole chain, but might be interested in individual shops or a cluster of shops. “We are taking the next few weeks to gauge the level of interest, then we hope to make some kind of announcement.”

  5. Pingback: Wesley Owen: Bids for Individual Stores Not Ruled Out « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

  6. Whilst the news of STL UK putting up the ‘For Sale’ sign is a sad loss for those people directly involved it does come with the hope that God is shaking the industry.

    I have heard of far too many stories of bad management and bullying being a common practice at many self-professed ‘Christian’ organisations and I pray that leaders will look at the example at STL and respond to the call to change.

    I’m reminded of what it says in Colossians 3 v17 ‘And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’.

    So please… let us run our companies with honesty and integrity as we deal with each other and members of our staff who are looking at us to lead them like Jesus would. And let us equip ourselves with forward-thinking people and put them in positions to prevent these devastating consequences from re-occurring and employ skilled people who can help us to lead our teams in a way that glorifies God.

    • I hope that this post does not imply that the reason for the difficulties at IBS-STL are due to ‘bullying’ or ‘bad management’. While I agree with the call to run businesses with honesty & integrity, I have no question about the honesty & integrity of those at STL. And as for bad management- well, I know I’ve been critical of some things that have gone on- but then which of us don’t look at or remember things that go on in our shops & cringe?! I certainly do! And I also seem to have heard somewhere that one or two- or was it maybe several thousand?- other businesses have similarly suffered in recent years. I have spent enough time working in a ‘secular’ business to find out what bullying, bad management, exploitation and prejudice are really like- and I know on which side my bread is currently buttered…..

      The fact- or certainly my opinion is- is that ‘skilled’ and ‘forward-looking’ people HAVE been working very hard at STL in previous years. And it seems to me that they are continuing to work, trying to resolve this situation. It would have been far easier for the ‘top brass’ at STL to put the whole thing into administration. So I salute their efforts- which will be very considerable- to try & sell the business as a going concern, albeit in a number of parts.

      My hope & prayer is that, whatever emerges from this current situation, that as many as possible of those currently working at IBS-STL will continue to keep their employment. May God go with them as they walk this difficult path.

  7. UCB Direct-

    Just wondered if this had been flagged up anywhere?

    UCB2GO has recently been closely monitoring the activity of its main supplier ‘STL’, which has made several trade announcements over the last two months and which last week put itself up for sale due to trading difficulties.

    So that we can ensure that no UCB2GO customer is disappointed with unfulfilled Christmas & New Year orders we have taken the decision to suspend operations at UCB2GO for a period of three months as from the 23rd November 2009. However we are confident that our supplier will ultimately find a way forward and we continue to pray for the staff and management of STL during this difficult time.

    If you have recently placed an order, you should receive that order without any issue. If an item you ordered was out of stock and you paid by cheque you will be refunded for the value of the item in the next week alternatively if you paid by credit card your card will not be debited for items unsupplied. We are sorry for any inconvenience this will cause you over Christmas, we wanted to ensure no one was caught out potentially not receiving an order they placed in time for the festive season.

  8. Pingback: UCB Suspend Mail Order Services due to STL Supply Problems « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

  9. Pingback: Wesley Owen: 26 Branches Enter Administration, Others Sold (Updated) « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

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