NEWS HAS EMERGED* that the URC Bookshop, which advertised widely for a new manager and assistant manager earlier this year, has now closed down, having quietly closed its doors on Friday September 3rd. This puts the number of Christian bookshops known to have ceased trading on the most recent trade Day of Prayer at two: two independents that essentially stood alone and died alone.
Standing alone is, of course, what independents do. It’s what they like to do, it’s what they’re good at; and given the fate of the SPCK Bookshops and the breakup of Wesley Owen, there’s no guarantee of security in being part of a chain either. Given the state of play at LST, my own former employers, there is no security in being part of a larger institution either if that institution is not committed to bookselling as an essential part of its ministry.
But whilst acknowledging all of these points, I still find myself wondering whether working more closely together — treating one another as partners in mission rather than as competing businesses — could have made the difference that might have saved both the Fareham Well and the URC Bookshop?
We’ve talked about being ‘Stronger Together — Weaker Apart’ (see Joy McIlroy’s report Christian Resources Together Retailers and Suppliers Retreat: A Bookseller’s Perspective if you need a reminder) but whilst we’re good at singing together on retreat, we are still learning how to dance together in reality.
There are signs of hope, however: it’s encouraging to see that the PA Christian Suppliers Group now has its own column in Christian Marketplace, p.17, just over the page from the BA Christian Booksellers Group column, p.15.
Although both groups exist as subgroups within their own separate, commercial organisations, Christian publishers/suppliers and Christian booksellers/retailers are at last beginning to unite under a missional flag. Commercial considerations are not being ignored yet we are finding our ‘common thread’ (to steal from Doug Ross’ column title, which falls neatly between the CBG and CSG pages).
I look forward to the day when we see these two groups fully working together, not only talking about one another in the pages of a magazine but offering a constructive joint trade commentary, actively co-operating in a regenerated trade in reality as well as on retreat.
If you read nothing else in October’s Christian Marketplace, read those two columns, listen to their call, and make sure you’re part of it. Don’t leave it to the point when there are so few of us left that we have no choice about working together…