Kingsway: Letter to Retailers from John Paculabo

Letter to Retailers (pdf, 1.6mb)

Letter to Retailers (pdf, 1.6mb)

MY THANKS to John Paculabo for kind permission to post his letter to retailers — which he mentioned yesterday, Friday 30th July 2010 — for download here. Some retailers will have already received it by email, others can expect to receive it by post within the next few days.

As John himself explains, it’s a long letter — three pages of A4 — in which John sets out to address recent concerns raised both here and privately, looking at issues such as distribution and fulfilment, direct sales and digital downloads in particular. John outlines initial proposals for ways forward that should work for all of us, acknowledges that mistakes have been made, seeks to reassure us that these have been genuine mistakes with absolutely no intention to compete with or undermine high street retailers, and finally invites us to share the journey: “to walk this road together”.

Rather than reproduce the full letter, I’ve simply excerpted the opening paragraphs: to read the rest, download the pdf: Kingsway Letter to Retailers (1.6mb).

John writes:

Dear Retailer,

I apologise for the length of this letter, but it is written to bring you up to speed in a number of areas, including distribution, fulfillment, direct and digital sales to name but  four, and so I would appreciate if you could make  time to read this carefully.

Since the decision to bring home distribution from STL in Carlisle, we have worked tirelessly in the pursuit of of providing you, the retailer, with a first class service; as a consequence  this task has brought many challenges. Many of the skills that we previously possessed in this activity had been lost in the last 20 years.
I am aware that we have some way to go in this respect; however, I am extremely confident that within a relatively short space of time, our service to you will be much improved and by the end of October at the latest, we shall return to levels of excellence that many of you will remember.

Our new distribution system marries perfectly into our accounts package but has proved to be somewhat inflexible in certain areas, and while we forced it to fit our needs, it has been a difficult process. Having to train new staff with little prior knowledge of our products or the new system also added to our distribution difficulties, however, we continue to work extremely hard to improve our service to you. Having now completed our annual stock-take (our year begins June 1st) we are confident that we have stock integrity and therefore going forward, fulfillment of orders will increase…

6 thoughts on “Kingsway: Letter to Retailers from John Paculabo

  1. I realise I have been a dissenting voice towards kingsway here in the past. I would just like to thank John and everyone at kingsway.

    I have been in discussion with John personally over the last few days, and, if anyone has problems with Kingsway, or any supplier really, I strongly encourage you to do so.

    The bulk of what I discussed is now common knowledge, the remainder, while i have agreed not to discuss in public forums like this one, i’m sure if you were to ask him he would tell you himself.

    I believe there is a benefit to blogs like this, but not at the expense of breaking off communication with people like John who can actually make a difference.

    I believe that a Blog can be a valuable tool, and vehicle for discussion, but perhaps should not be our sole vehicle for attack. I will be the first to admit that at times I used it to attack John and others, and while i stand by many of my comments, others, especially those which were character based, could not be more inaccurate, and i apologise for whole-heartedly. Rightly or wrongly, I think if i was in his position, i would have also withdrawn from the conversation which was taking place here.

    I know kingsway have been working very hard to solve a lot of the problems we have been experiencing, after all, a lot of the promises John has now made to us did not happen unilaterally or overnight.

    We can discuss the relative merits of the methods of releasing information, but the fact is, John Pac, and everyone at Kingsway have had the best interests of the industry at heart. We can debate whether they are how we would do it or not till we are blue in the face, and I still do not agree with everything they do, but by telling John himself, i believe i have done a lot more good than moaning about it here.

    While it would be unfair to Phil to say that his blog is “unhelpful” I do think that the picture, at times, that it paints of people like John Pac and Keith Danby are wildly different to the men i have come to know and respect.

    It would be unrealistic to say that a few emailed conversations make John and I best friends, but I can assure you of this, in spite of the picture that has been painted here and elsewhere, at times by myself, John is one of the finest, most candid and honest people i have had the pleasure of working with in this industry. His passion for the Christian retail industry, in all of it’s forms, including Bricks and Mortar stores, could not be more evident, and he is working so hard to address concerns personally, professionally and honestly.

    I am certain that he would hate that i mention this, as he does not do anything for his own glory, or for praise, but John answered the first email i sent directly to him, at 5 to midnight, well outside of office hours.

    While we will probably always disagree on a few things, I am certain that in the main, we have the same goals, the same passion and the same heart for making God’s word available.

    I have often extolled the Kingsway staff, like Oli Proctor and James Baterbee at the expense of people like John, so now, I would like to thank John for the way he has dealt with the situation, and with me personally.

    As I have said, We still do not entirely agree with the way he exited the conversation here, but I thank him for continuing the conversation in other forms, and making the changes necessary to see Christian Retail remain as viable as possible, for as long as possible.

    Thank you John, and Thank You Kingsway

    • Thanks for this candid assessment, Luke: much appreciated.

      My view, as you’ll be aware, is that both public discussion and private conversation and correspondence are essential, and simply for the record I’d like to point out that I raised the questions over Kingsway’s comparative pricing practices using their own RRPs privately some time before I opened these discussions here. Had there been a satisfactory response at that stage then the public discussion would have begun on a different footing and no doubt taken a different shape.

      I also regard this blog as a discussion and campaign forum, not an attack vehicle!! If anyone does perceive it as an attack vehicle, please revisit the About page and the Guest Posts section where the blog’s purpose is spelt out. A brief excerpt:

      The aim of this blog is to provide a place for Christian booksellers, authors, publishers, suppliers and their customers — in short, anyone with an interest in Christian books and music — to exchange ideas, news and views, discuss the latest reviews and generally get more interactive.

      I aim to be fair in my analyses and reporting, to avoid personal attack and to be open to criticism. I don’t always succeed and that’s why comments are always open.

      I’m delighted that John has re-entered the public conversation and even more pleased that our private correspondence has entered a new phase. There will, I suspect, always be areas of disagreement: the important thing, in my view, is to keep all channels of communication open.

      Any further reflections from others on this particular campaign and how either side might have handled things better would be very welcome: to quote John, “There are lessons to be learned here, let’s all be big enough to learn them!”

      Feel free to send me your thoughts privately if you’d rather not place them publicly.

    • In the Christian Marketplace article you refer to here Clem Jackson states near the beginning ‘In the post-IBS/STL UK world, Kingsway has emerged as the leading supplier in the Christian products industry.’ I must say I find that baffling. I would say we are probably reasonably typical of Christian bookshops, and having checked our last three months of purchasing I find Kingsway coming in sixth, in terms of money spent. We spent roughly five times as much with STL as with Kingsway, and four times as much with Marston. I am not sure how else you would measure being the ‘leading supplier’, but by any standard I would say Kingsway has a fair way to go.

      • Have to admit John, I too had to giggle a little at that bit of journalistic license – but I assume Clem may have been thinking of the amount of music & books coming from the Kingsway/David C Cook labels as opposed to the amount of sales to shops maybe?

      • Yes, a thoroughly overblown claim — unless, of course, we look at it from an advertising perspective: considering how much Kingsway product is featured in the last mini-mag, Kingsway have certainly emerged as a leading light on that front.

        I was rather surprised by the spin Clem has put on this debacle: from where your quote ends…

        … and, like IBS-STL before it, has become the target for much of the frustration of retailers. Given the problems they have faced in getting product to customers, wrong, delayed and unfulfilled orders, combined with a perceived unfair internet pricing policy, it is perhaps understandable that Kingsway, and their Executive Director, John Paculabo, have become the butt of the criticism.

        Not sure whether that’s an attempt to be diplomatic and avoid upsetting one of CM’s biggest advertisers, or whether Clem simply doesn’t get it.

        The reality, however, is that Kingsway were operating in direct breach of the government guidelines on price comparison practices and were undermining their trading partners by so doing. This has nothing to with perception: it’s simple fact.

        There are genuine issues to address here and dismissing what’s happened with the idea that Kingsway or John Pac have simply become targets for retailers’ frustrations because of their supposed preeminence doesn’t help: as John Pac himself has said, mistakes have been made, there are lessons to be learned. Let’s be big enough to identify those lessons, reflect upon and learn from them, not try to sweep it all under the carpet by pretending it’s nothing more than frustrated retailers howling at the moon.

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