STL UK: Goodbye Crown Books, Hello Retail Partnership

Back in January, John Gaines asked:

I presume that Woking as a franchise will be able to go back to being an Indie. But what is happening to the Crown Retailers? Does anyone know if that scheme will continue?

The good news is that Woking’s former Wesley Owen franchise has indeed rebranded as an indie— Origin Christian Books & Media — and if their facebook and twitter presence are anything to go by, they seem to be doing well (although a few more twitter followers might encourage them).

Crown Books Now Closed

Crown Books Now Closed

As far as I’m aware, however, nothing more has been stated publicly about the Crown Books partnership: it seems to have been allowed to quietly fade away. If you go there today all you’ll find is a simple holding page with a message to say that orders placed before the end of May will be fulfilled subject to stock availability: otherwise it’s a case of watch this space and — commendably — a note saying “To purchase Christian products, please visit your local Christian retailer.”

Update, Aug 11, 2010:
My thanks to STL for following up on my suggestion for a pointer to UKCBD: much appreciated.

Even better, if I may offer a suggestion, a link to the UK Christian Bookshops Directory might help those who don’t know where to find their local Christian retailer. Anyone wishing to link is very welcome to lift code for text links, buttons or banners from the UKCBD Link to Us page: please let me know if you do this — I’ll gladly reciprocate where appropriate.

So what happened the Crown Books scheme? After consultations with the scheme’s members, the new STL realised that it simply wasn’t working to the benefit of both parties: a new scheme was needed that all retailers could be a part of; and that scheme is the recently launched STL Distribution Retail Partner programme.

STL Retail Partnership Programme

STL Retail Partnership Programme (pdf, 766kb)

Most Christian retailers should have received full details of the new programme: if not, you can download the brochure here (pdf, 766kb). STL describe the programme as offering:

  • Consolidated ordering, supply (one order, one delivery, one invoice)
  • Broad Promotional Programme
  • Regular Stock Re-fresh
  • Preferential trading terms
  • Stock Management (Synergi)
  • Personnel support (From the STL Distribution team)

Personally I remain unconvinced by the “one order, one delivery, one invoice” mantra: desirable as that may be, given (for example) IVP’s reluctance to sign up to a wholesale agreement with STL and the ongoing limited availability of much product beyond the more pop-level evangelical range, it still feels a long way off for me at LST.

STL tell me they’ve had an encouraging response so far. How has it been for you? Have you joined? If not, why not? Whether you wish to comment here or offer feedback to STL privately, the more feedback we can give them, the better they can fine-tune the programme to ensure that it does meet our needs. The old has gone, the new has come and we are indeed Stronger Together, Weaker Apart. My personal thanks to the team at STL for all their efforts to work with us in our ministry.

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4 thoughts on “STL UK: Goodbye Crown Books, Hello Retail Partnership

  1. I’ve joined and I’m happy to join. I think it is much more realistic than Crown ever was. Crown as a scheme was always weighted ( some would say heavily) towards STL and many were in it because they felt there was no option. So long as STL review this new scheme and ensure that it is allowed to develop with experience and not written in stone then I think it has a future.

  2. Pingback: Is there an alternative to Kingsway? « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

  3. We have not joined (yet)… but that doesn’t mean that we won’t.

    So far we haven’t joined because the brochure is so sketchy on what they require of us.

    The simple fact is that there is so much cross over between suppliers and distributors now, that I can’t agree to anything “exclusive” with a wholesaler. STL is great, and under John Ritchie, it is becoming increasingly easier to source the stock my customers need. However, I also have partnerships directly with a large number of publishers, like Lion Hudson, Scripture Union, CWR etc to name but a few, who STL also deal with, and I have already agreed to exclusively use them for their product.

    Therefore, if STL is asking me to do the same, I can’t in good conscience do so.

    However, if the STL scheme is purely targets based, then it seems like a pretty good deal.

    In reality, I don’t think “exclusive” agreements or “targets based” agreements are really the best way to incentivise us to work with a distributor or wholesaler. Rather, i think agreements to carry certain “core lines”, and promotions with swap out schemes if the lines do not perform is the best way forward. Therefore, the onus is on the wholesaler or distributor to provide stock which sells.

    Perhaps this is weighted to heavily in favour of us retailers, but the reality is, stock doesn’t readily sell from warehouse shelves, but does move from ours, i think most sensible distributors prefer the idea of lots of their stock on retail shelves, and as little as possible filling up their own (unless they sell directly themselves too), and yet many have forgotten this fact.

    Can i make targets, or “Exclusive” agreements, definitely, but does that mean i am stocking their best stock, or what they have bet big on and have lots of stock of? quite probably not.

    All that aside, I am interested in what STL have to offer, and will be enquiring about it a lot more in the near future.

    Luke

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