Is there an alternative to Kingsway?

This is the question one commenter asked last month in response to Kingsway’s failure to address trade customers’ concerns about being effectively priced out of the market by their practice of comparing their online shop prices to their own RRPs. Astonishingly, as I prepare this post more than a month later, neither Kingsway nor David C Cook have yet shown the courtesy of offering a constructive response. No doubt if there have been any changes since, someone will let us us know via the comments.

To answer the question, however: both yes and no: no, in that Kingsway are the sole supplier of their own products; but yes, in that there are plenty of other artists out there on other labels — Kingsway do not have a monopoly on good Christian music.

Some other Christian music suppliers that come immediately to mind are:

  • Elevation: Own label products including ICC Recordings from events such as Greenbelt, Keswick, New Wine and Spring Harvest. Distributors for Vineyard Records UK. Carriage-free shipping by 2nd class post standard, 1st class available for a “nominal fee”; normally same day despatch on orders placed by 11am.
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As for Kingsway product itself, until Kingsway are inclined to put their house in order and are able to bring their ordering process up to speed, in real terms we’re better off ordering via STL anyway: with STL we know that if a product is in stock, it will be normally be shipped same day if ordered online before 4pm (2.30pm for telephone, fax or email), and if you’ve signed up to STL’s Retail Partnership programme you have the extra advantages that come with that.

In short, then, there is no shortage of alternatives to Kingsway, and it makes much more sense as a long term strategy to trade with companies that want to work with us than with a company that seems by its deeds if not by its words to have set itself against us.

18 thoughts on “Is there an alternative to Kingsway?

  1. Having looked through a few of those websites, they are also discounting online – so why are they an alternative?

  2. Ian,

    I’m most interested in what you say here.

    Can you please give more informaton and tell me which ones are discounting online and not making a comparative offer to me at shop level so I can do the same in shop? as I can’t see which one is doing that, but perhaps I’ve missed something?

    Also I can’t spot which ones are undercutting the price of their own brand new rrp price titles – again I might have missed it.

    What i do really like though about most of the suppliers Phil has mentioned, and their sites, are the ones that have made a point of mentioning that you can get their product from Christian Bookshops and I really want to say thank you to them for that, the inclusive mention of other ways to get product is fantastic.

    I also like the way some have dedicated trade sites as well enabling me to really have a full range of information and build up some great activity in store for their products using the great range of tools and information they provide – again this really feels like they are interested and wholeheartedly committed to working with me and other trade partners.

    So thanks to those mentioned in the above article who fall into one or the other of those camps.

      • Ian,

        Thanks for that, However:

        Integrity Provident are not Hillsong’s Distributor, that would be Kingsway.

        Therefore integrity provident are not discounting their own product or lowering their own set RRP.
        I can find no instance on worshipwithintegrity where they have done this with their own uk distributed or produced new product.

        Kevin Mayhew – I just reloaded their page 10 times (it’s a random generator from the looks of it) and could not find any ‘newly’ released product reduced to a price below that of the RRP they have set or on a deal they haven’t offered some comparative offer to me as a trade buyer on.

        However we do hit a sticky wicket with Kevin Mayhew because although they are a trade supplier they were originally, always have been and indeed still are majoratively a direct mail order company.
        In this respect it has always been an interesting and difficult road to navigate but Kevin Mayhew in my estimation have mostly done it with respect and regards to the trade, being openhanded and even in their offers and making it possible for shops to largely offer comparative offers in the shops so as to match to some extent their offers.
        They have ever been open and honest as to the fact that their first and preferred route to market is through direct sale to consumer, however yet again I would point out that I have not often known them to discount on their own freshly set RRP unless it was as a special offer, and then they have generally offered this at large to the trade as well. This is what has made them an alternative to Kingsway in this setting.

        Elevation – can’t comment on them either as to be honest they aren’t someone I deal directly with as yet, perhaps one of the shops who does deal directly with them can let us know if they offer deals on products that would seem to match any offers (if there are any on new product when the sites up) that they make on their consumer facing website, thus allowing the shops to play on an even field with them?

        You see Ian, it seems to me you might have missed the point of the argument that has been raised here the last few weeks.
        It’s not and never has been the Discounting in and of itself that’s the problem.
        Discounting of some product is rather a fact of life, some pre-pub offers are rather a fact of life.
        It’s not so much that they discount it’s the manner in which they do it that’s the problem.

        Please go back to the first article posted on this issue back in May
        and read the issue as raised initially and the comments posted.
        Please read Michael’s letter in Christian Marketplace,

        The arguments directed at Kingsway are they do not by and large seem to offer comparative offers to the trade that allows a somewhat even playing field to be achieved on matters of price on new product.
        They do however use some rather unsettling marketing activity by discounting off their own RRP on brand new and some backlist product.

        Those are the points everyone has been trying to make and as yet it’s still not been answered or accounted for in a meaningful way, nor has it yet been demonstrated that the others companies seem to be doing it in such a way either.

        • I thnk you are splitting hairs here. Kevin Mayhew are selling products on their website at a price lower than the arbitrarily set RRP, which is surely the problem? Even more so, they would rather sell direct to the customer which is NOT supporting the trade ‘stronger together’.

          Good point about Hillsongs, I didn’t realise they sold more than Integrity product on the site. Here is a ‘not yet released’ Integrity product discounted on pre-order:

          For the record, I still don’t see anything wrong with this – it is healthy competition and I think perfectly valid – but I think there is an unwholesome witch hunt of Kingsway going on here that is unedifying and quite nasty.

  3. Thanks Phil once again, for your support and for the support of the many Christian Bookshops that we at Caritas Music supply. This is much appreciated and I have had a number of new shops opening Accounts all because of your fine blog.

    Due to various requests from shops, I am currently compiling a complete stock list of all the Christian & Classical CDs that we can supply, rather than just several lists for each individual label. Hopefully this will enable all shops to find out what we distribute and what CDs we can find for them.

    Keep up the good work and do let me know if I can help with publicising Christian shops or your blog too!

    Katharine @ Caritas

  4. Ian,

    I’m not splitting hairs, you are deliberately misrepresenting the situation and the problem that is being raised in relation to Kingsway it is just as simple as that.
    No hair splitting at all.

    On Kevin Mayhew, I could find nothing NEW that they are doing that on, neither I think could you.
    Backlist discounting means the product has previously been sold at the higher price thus the RRP was not in anyway arbitrary, but was in fact a true price. That is the difference.

    As to Mayhew, well again I contend they are what they have always been. Their commitment to supporting the trade is exactly at the same level it has always been, it is the fact that they are willing to sell to us and indeed offer us terms that allow us to majoratively match their own deals that actaully make them supportive of the trade in this instance.
    This is not splitting hairs this is simply acknowledging the difference and honesty within which they are working.

    Please see John Duncan’s response to Dave as it puts it the way most of us within the trade see and feel about the situation as it would seem to be practiced by Kingsway vs. Kevin Mayhew.

    None of us have moaned about pre-pub offers, they happen and in Integrity Provident’s case as I have clearly stated they have and do make offers to the trade that allows them to sell the items at the same price as that advertised on their consumer facing site, it’s as simple as that.

    For the record I agree with you that when practiced fairly and honestly then there is no problem with the actions of pre-pub offers, time limited new release offers and discounting of previously sold product. These are all standard industry practices that are generally used with us retailers involved.
    I don’t think anyone actively involved in these discussions has claimed otherwise?

    Indeed the issues raised are quite particular and have been detailed quite specifically, and as yet I still contend that no evidence has been furnished against others that show them as undertaking the same actions as those put forward to Kingsway.

    I’m sorry you think this is a witch hunt Ian. I don’t think this is a Witch Hunt. I don’t think anyone wants to burn Kingsway nor demonise them, in fact those on this blog have continually expressed their desire to work with and to be in communion with them, but they are making it hard to do so currently in a way that others in the same industry just are not.
    Calling a company to question over an action they are undertaking, an action not undertaken by their own parent company David C. Cook, is not to my mind witch hunting.

  5. I have sort of deliberately stayed out of this one recently, for two reasons. Firstly, our shop has recently partnered with Kingsway, which for the most part has been a good partnership, and while it doesn’t solve every issue raised here, is certainly is a step in the right direction.

    Secondly, we have been in regular dialogue directly with Kingsway about some of their problems (or perceived problems) and they have actually been very helpful.

    However, I feel it is worth while to weigh in here.

    Firstly, i do not like that any distributor undercuts us at all.

    Whether by selling product cheaper themselves, like kingsway, or at such high discounts to the “big boys” that the likes of amazon etc can sell at significantly below retail price (like just about everyone else).

    One way or the other, just about every distributor is doing it, but i agree that it seems particularly underhanded when a company makes the product and then also sets the RRP, and sells it themselves at below that.

    As to an “alternative” to Kingsway, i think there are a few options. If you aren’t part of their “partnership” place a statement in your shop saying that due to their trading terms, you will only source Kingsway product to order.

    Perhaps it is a case of cutting your nose off to spite your face, as much of their product is very good, and doing so may force your customers to the very websites which undercut us, however if enough people decide to let kingsway product sit on their shelves, perhaps it will force them to rethink.

    Alternately, you can stock the product, but be very upfront with your customers about pricing… perhaps even using the ubiquitous “Our Price” and “Their Price” stickers to highlight what Kingsway is doing. If your customers are loyal, hopefully they will be shocked by the practice and side with you. Explain that you will sell it at the price they do, but explain what it will do to your margin, and how, in some cases you may even make a loss on the product – Generally, your best customers tend to be quite understanding about these sort of things, and in our experience, a good number are more than happy to start sentences with “the price is not the important part, we want to support you”.

    In either case, it is important that you tell Kingsway what you are doing, this sort of protest is not worth much if Kingsway do not know that you are protesting in this way.

    Finally, there is the route we have taken, which is to join their partnership scheme, make the most of the situation, but register your problems with them directly, and often.

    I am not buying the Kingsway line that there is no place for outside discussion, and i think that this is a very good place to do so, but I also think that there is merit in saying that, if as it seems, Kingsway have decided that they will no longer frequent this site, we must also register our problems “on their terms” no matter how ridiculous they may be at times. In general, I have found people like James Batterbee and others at Kingsway, to be pretty receptive to the comments we have made, and while change may not be immediate, i do believe that they are taking our comments to heart.

  6. Hi Luke,

    As ever all sound suggestions with which I fully agree with. I certainly agree with direct contact and affirmative action.

    I think most of us involved in this discussion here probably are in direct contact with Kingsway one way or another, whether that be raising issues with the reps, customer services, or like I have been in direct contact with John Paculubo himself in the last few weeks.

    I say nothing here I have not said to him directly, have not asked him directly, have not pointed out to him directly.
    Indeed I even thanked him on this board for his time out in a very busy schedule to respond to me.

    That’s why I think I can say with utter sincerity to Ian that this is not a witch hunt at all, but an honest, open and frank discussion to try to resolve something that is making things hard to deal with Kingsway in the way in which we all would like to be dealing with them.

    I do have to be honest and say that my Kingsway rep, Oli P, has not yet been to see me about this partnership I keep hearing about as yet, I’m currently waiting on him getting back to me about it.
    From what others have said it sounds intriguing, I understand there is a good margin on Card and Gift product? – however I do hope with this partnership comes slightly better speed of turn around and accuracy on invoices and orders placed ;0)

    I have to be honest and say as yet despite my contact with John I’m still waiting for a slightly more resolute response than I’ve so far had.

    I really do want one simple question answered – why are Kingsways doing things that David C. Cook don’t do on any of their sites? What makes here so different to there? Why is there no mention of Christian Bookshops as alternative suppliers on their sites, whereas with David C.Cook sites there is great synergy?
    I think the answer to this one might go quite some way to helping highlight and resolve this problem.

    Thanks Luke as ever for your sound response, and for stepping in as you have with some excellent ‘alternative’ suggestions for in shop affirmative action and for reminding others that they must speak out to be heard.

    • The partnership is certainly an improvement in terms of discount across the board. As usual, exactly how much of an improvement depends on how big a shop you are, and how much business you agree to put their way… but I will say this much. We are not a huge shop by any stretch of the imagination, and we are at a significant enough improvement in terms that we were, without hesitation, able to agree to their terms, which as usual include agreeing to use Kingsway exclusively for their product.

      In terms of whether or not it is an improvement in accuracy, efficiency and turn around time… i shall sum it up thus.

      Kingsway support have got to be sick of hearing from us by now!

      That said, although it took nearly a month to fix a number of issues with invoicing, discount and supply, the team were always helpful, and professional. A couple of weeks in, I must confess, we began calling from our mobiles and withholding our number just in case they were screening our calls! But credit where credit is due, the customer services team, under James were exemplary (and those of you who have been around here for a while know how hard it is for me to say something like that about someone like James Batterbee after some of our prior… urm… what’s the polite word for “slanging matches”).

      I would strongly recommend getting on to Oli about signing up. On the bottom level commitment is minimal, and discount a significant improvement, comparable in many cases to what we got when they were through STL, and at the mid and top ranges, though the commitment from yourself is higher, the rewards, in terms of discount, promotions and support, are very attractive.

      It is, in a very real sense, a partnership.

      It is just such a shame that, at times, it seems that what they give with one hand, is taken away with another.

      I am convinced that it is more to do with a fundamental misunderstanding of certain business principals, rather than anything malicious. It is jut a shame that, perhaps, it has gotten to a point where a few people, on both sides, now seem unable to humble themselves and admit that mistakes were made.

      I think it is amazing that anyone in the music business, is able to maintain, with a straight face, that the online market and retail space serve serve “different markets”. If that is the case, why do you also maintain that digital downloads are killing the physical CD (or tape, or record if you are so inclined). It is a simple fact that most people who buy online also occasionally go out into the real world and shop there… and vice versa.

      And as excellent as their partnership is, in certain parts and departments, in others, it fundamentally undermines this.

      All that said, however, I do maintain my original point, that though we can not see an about face happening soon, i am convinced that, given time, egos can be put aside, and our partnership with kingsway and others can grow to be something that others in the industry strive towards emulating.

      And let’s not forget, that what Kingsway are doing is only a slightly more overt version of what most other suppliers do, when they sell to Amazon and other big chains at such huge discounts that they can, often, RETAIL at prices lower than our so called WHOLESALE prices.

      Yes, Kingsway is in a way an easy scapegoat, but they are not alone in what they do, just a little less covert about it.

  7. Just out of interest, has anyone been to

    I have heard that Pura have had a presence at a number of major events this year, in the post WO world.

    According to what i have heard, they will not discuss who they are, or who they represent, but simply direct people to their website, where people are impressed with their “below RRP” prices.

    Anyone who has spent any time around the kingsway site will immediately recognise that the layout, and below RRP prices are indeed very similar to Kingsway’s own site… coincidence? I think not.

    Indeed, if you take a look at the copyright page (who does that in the real world though) you will see Kingsway Communications Limited in bold letters all over the place, but still, nowhere to be seen on the main site.

    I’m not trying to imply that there is never any reason to maintain distinct and different “brands” for different purposes, In all honesty, there are probably a lot of good reasons. I will never know why DSG international maintain separate Currys and Dixons branding, but they do, and it works for them.

    Like i said, it may make sense to maintain the different branding, but does little to help with the transparency we desire.

    Has anyone here had any contact with “Pura” at any event you have been to? Were they open when you enquired about who they were, or as closed as they appear to be from the (admittedly third hand) accounts i have heard?

    I’m certainly not trying to make things worse for kingsway than they already are (read my previous post, I think I was quite complementary), but while we are seeking openness and transparency in all of our practices, is this something we should be looking into further?

    I don’t know. I am just interested to hear what (if anything) peoples experience with them at events and the like have been?

  8. Purashop used to be the retail site run by Fierce! Distribution who folded up about 18 months ago, I think, when Delirious announced their demise. Fierce! were bought up by, er, …. Kingsway. I hadn’t realised that the Purashop site was still up and running.

    • I knew that it used to be the Fierce! webstore.

      Indeed, when I first heard about this, I couldn’t remember the name, but found it again as a link from the delirious website.

      And I also knew that Fierce! had been brought up by Kingsway… why wouldn’t they, it’s an excellent catalogue.

      But like you I hadn’t realised that they had taken over the domain, and were continuing to use it as a sort of “mirror” store to… with different branding.

      I guess in and of itself, none of these things are problems. What sort of concerned me was when I heard that Kingsway were taking this branding, rather than their own, to major christian events, and trying to appear as if they are somehow an “independent” seller.

      Like i said, the reports of this i heard were second, and sometimes third hand, so i was just interested in knowing what, if any, contact you have all had with them at these sort of events.

      • I don’t want to sound like a constant apologist for Kingsway (honestly!), but I don’t think the separate branding this is that big a deal. Memralife (Spring Harvest/ICC) do it with ‘Elevation’ as the publishing and music company, but do events under the brand name ‘Essential Christian’ – indeed that is their consumer retail branding online as well.

        It makes a lot of sense, especially when you are selling product from other suppliers as well, as I think both Essential and Pura brands do at events.

        • I agree, that maintaining separate branding is a useful, perhaps even vital business decision.

          I think that the issue i was highlighting was that Pura (at least according to the reports I have heard) were not willing to identify themselves as a part of the Kingsway family, instead making out as if was an independent retailer, like (which it is not) and using the same cut price RRP that uses.

          If was a wholly owned subsidiary of Kingsway, which served a different market (eg by also stocking third party stock) then that would be fine.

          My concern is the impression that this makes with our customers who attend these events. When we try to justify why our prices are higher (kingsway discount the prices when you buy direct) the appearance that Pura is independent undermines our appearance with our customers yet further.

          As i said previously, my goal is not to make things worse for Kingsway, just ascertain if some of the reports i have heard are accurate and widespread or individual isolated events.

        • Also… It is subtley, but significantly different to the Memralife / ICC / Elevation example that you previously mentioned.

          Memralife is a big, sprawling organisation which maintains a number of different opperations.

          Elevation do not sell direct to the public (they encourage you to visit your local bookshop)

          Essential Christian is the “Public Face” of elevation music. They only sell directly to the public under their Essential Christian branding, Elevation is trade only.

          Additionally, Essential Christian do not undermine their retail partners by significantly undercutting them.

          Conversely, IS the public face of Kingsway… but so is PuraShop.

          They stock identical product ranges, at identical prices, but the Pura brand has the perception of being separate, and representative of the prices you should expect to pay from other independent suppliers.

  9. Pingback: Kingsway: no meeting with John Paculabo and “an unwholesome witch hunt”? « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

  10. Can I just say that my wonderful Lion-Hudson Rep, Julian S, has just been in the shop – and let me say Lion-Hudson still score top to my mind as far as partnership/alliance schemes go.
    No hassle organised returns, with good rates across the ranges, and good promotions as standard -lovely and perhaps a few more suppliers could take a leaf out of their book ;0)

    I’ve also spoken to my wonderful Kingsway rep, Oli P, this week and he sent me through the Kingsway Partnership info – and though it really isn’t bad as a scheme on the whole, at the base (bronze)level which is where small shops are going to be at it’s very disappointing when it comes to discount levels :0( especially when you take a look at what Lion-Hudson do.
    However it is about comparative with the new STL partnership. Though fair to say that at Silver/Gold it’s really not bad at all.

    However the reason I’m writing here is because Lion-Hudson reps are now also reps for Elevation, and can I just say that the Elevation Christmas promotion just repped in is great – 100% see-safe, good extra discount and extended terms! fantastic and what was nice to see as well was the same style of promotions on some new key titles from their ranges as well.

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