My thanks to John Paculabo of Kingsway for taking time out of his busy schedule to respond to some of the concerns that have been raised in recent posts here and in the letters section of Christian Marketplace over the last three issues (April | May | June).
Since John’s comment is fairly long, I’ll take it section by section:
I have been cautious with regards to contributing to this site again, as some of the comments I have seen here over recent months have been questionable to say the least. That Phil Groom feels that for the sake of transparency it is acceptable to create a blog that has no editorial checks is in my view dangerous as it allows those who wish to simply vent, name call, and at times pour abuse on individuals a free platform to do so with impunity.
I realize that Kingsway is a significant provider and throughout our history have never wanted to be offensive, repugnant, or competitive with a trade that we hope we have faithfully served for over 50 years. It is with dismay that I see on parts of the blog comments such as ‘Kingsway is a bully’, and quotes such as ‘hopefully Kingsway have not sunken that low yet’ and ‘As blatantly immoral as Kingsway’ both by Phil Groom suggesting that what we do is immoral and implying while we may have sunk low, not that low at least not Yet!
It appears to me that there are times when this blog serves the purpose of telling folks what to be afraid of, and fingering who’s to blame for it, which in turn opens the floodgates for suggestions as to what the real intentions may be, I have to say that speculation, accusation and inflammatory remarks are seldom helpful.
John, I’m glad that you overcame your reluctance and have seen fit to engage with us in open conversation. I’m not sure where you got the idea that this blog has no editorial checks, however: please be assured that it is checked and monitored quite rigorously and inappropriate comments are moderated and either countered or removed as necessary. In particular, I do not provide a platform for contributors “to simply vent, name call, and at times pour abuse on individuals” (and, incidentally, I find it offensive that you choose to make such an allegation). I invite you to read my Comments Policy for clarification.
I am encouraged by your dismay to learn that some of your customers perceive Kingsway to be a bully, and I hope that you will take the opportunity to discuss things with your staff to find out what has caused this perception and to address it. I know from private conversation as well as from comments left here that some of your customers fear the consequences of daring to speak out about what they regard as your inequitable business practices. Part of my aim with this blog is to provide a venue where people can speak freely, without intimidation or fear of reprisals, hence my decision to allow pseudonymous comments.
So, John, this blog does not exist to facilitate fear but to offer freedom, it does not exist to lay blame or to open those floodgates you fear but to open the door to informed dialogue — and I have to say that whilst I very much welcome your participation, I find your speculations about my intentions and your running this forum down singularly unhelpful.
I am more than willing to address the issues raised in the blog in recent weeks with regards to Kingsway, pricing, internet etc, and I am more than willing to share with you our aspirations and many other issues and their possible impact including a generation that expects; no demands that music is free!
However I am not willing to commit discussion to a blog where those with any axe to grind can snipe from the cover of their office, but face to face is different. I am more than happy to meet in London or anywhere else for that matter at a suitable location, and with an independent chairman. (Board meetings and Charity work means that I would not be available until the middle of July), so let’s set a date of Wednesday July 21st at 11am, venue to be decided.
I am delighted that you are willing to address the issues and I look forward to learning more of your aspirations — and I once again extend my invitation to you to contribute a guest post outlining your hopes and dreams and their possible impact. As a point of correction, however, whilst there may be some who expect music to be free, the vast majority (especially in our sector of the marketplace) still expect to pay for it: witness the success of Apple’s iTunes store, amongst others. Musicians and singers deserve to be paid and let us not take any steps to undermine their work!
To reiterate: this blog does not exist for “those with any axe to grind [to] snipe from the cover of their office” — and any who have attempted to highjack it for such purposes have been politely but firmly rebuffed, and will continue to receive short shrift.
Your offer of a face to face meeting is commendable and appreciated: thank you. The problem with that, however, has been highlighted by Melanie Carroll…
Thanks for your response but I am not able to make London on the 21st July, making London is generally very difficult due to both cost & time but on days other than monday or tuesday it is pretty much an impossibility due to staffing, and getting there & to a venue by 11am next to impossible too – however I would be more than happy to meet with you in Lincoln.
… and as Melanie has also pointed out, you have a team of on the road reps. May I suggest that you authorise and empower them to address the concerns raised? Whilst is would be wonderful if you could visit every shop yourself in person, your situation is a bit like that of Moses, who wore himself out with attempting to deal with all the people’s problems by himself: I’m sure you’re familiar with the story.
The only statement I am willing to make on this blog is that the internet exists, there is a dedicated community of people, some presumably who live miles from a Christian bookshop who either choose to, or have no alternative but to purchase a wide range of resources this way.
The general perception is that the internet is cheaper we’re not first into this market, we’ve not pioneered it, we’ve not driven prices down, neither are we the lowest price, but like it or not the expectation is that it is cheaper, that’s why ALL OF US from time to time use it for holidays, shopping, air fares etc instead of those local retailers who can supply those services.
We do not wish to take business from Christian bookshops; we’ve worked with the trade for many decades have many friends, and there are many who support us.
In the midst of the most difficult transition in our history we are still trying to introduce a partnership scheme with no risk to the trade. There are so many reasons why we want a healthy trade, but we don’t control the buying habits of the public, or where and how they want to purchase. Our on-line prices are directed toward the ON-LINE community, the community that already exists and purchase on-line.
Have we made mistakes in this area ….probably, but not purposefully or maliciously, and none of our on-line advertising is intended to nor do we want to take business from Christian stores, it is targeted as I have said instead at those who shop this way already, and are buying resources from a number of established on-line suppliers.
John, I’m sorry to have to point out what should be blindingly obvious, but there is no separate online shopping community. The people who shop in bricks and mortar outlets are the very same people who shop online — “all of us”, as you yourself point out — and your online shop is in no way directed or targeted towards a separate online community.
So whilst you may say that you “do not wish to take business from Christian bookshops” the simple fact remains that you are doing so: your “discounting” of your own prices against your own RRPs — which I do regard as an immoral practice, especially when you do this to new titles that have never been on sale at your so-called RRPs — is undermining our trade and taking away those who would have been our customers. As per Michael Gibson’s letter in June’s Christian Marketplace: actions speak louder than words.
I am pleased that you acknowledge the possibility of having made mistakes in this area: may I encourage you to take this opportunity to rectify them?
You rightly say that the “general perception is that the internet is cheaper” and point out that you did not pioneer this — but do you really need to feed that perception? My perception — which I think you’ll find is shared by many in this trade of ours — is that you are creating artificially inflated RRPs in order to offer apparent discounts. That may not be your intention — but it is the impression you are giving.
I’ll refrain from commenting on your removal of stock from STL’s warehouse last year: that’s part of another discussion, which I’m happy to address separately if others wish to pursue it further.
Once again, then, John: I invite you to contribute a guest post outlining your vision, your goals and ambitions, here, in a venue that is open to all, regardless of geographic location and time of day. If you prefer to talk rather than write, please feel free to record a video and I’ll gladly post that.