Living Oasis: Ray George speaks to the Bookseller

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IN A REPORT POSTED YESTERDAY by the Bookseller, Ray George has spoken briefly about the current state of play at Living Oasis, dismissing concerns that staff were given little notice of the closures:

The Bookseller: Five Living Oasis stores to close

Five Living Oasis stores to close

Ray George, chairman of trustees for Living Oasis and head of the Nationwide Christian Trust, said that managers of the affected bookshops were warned in October that if trade didn’t pick up he would have no choice but to close them.

“We said the shops had to sustain themselves to be safe from closure, staff were well aware of that,” he told The Bookseller. “The shops that were closed were losing £40-50,000 each a year and we just cannot afford to keep sustaining that, we had to make that decision.”

Hope that trade would pick up in the weeks before Christmas was not borne out, he added.

The closures bring the number of Living Oasis stores nationwide from 19 to 14, with George adding that further closures would depend on the result of “dialogue” between Living Oasis and church leaders in the coming weeks.

The statement adds to the uncertainty hanging over the remaining shops apart from Leeds and Liverpool, where “Phase Two” developments are in progress.

Please pray:

  • For staff who have lost their jobs
  • For staff at the remaining shops as they face an uncertain future
  • For the churches which Living Oasis hopes to engage in “dialogue”
  • For increased transparency and clearer communications both within Living Oasis and in the company’s external relations
  • For suppliers to the shops facing loss of business
  • For Andy Twilley and Ray George…
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10 thoughts on “Living Oasis: Ray George speaks to the Bookseller

  1. Dialogue with church leaders – if over just a few weeks, during Lent and Annual Meeting season when life is hectic, how available will these people be? In conurbations, how likely is it to be able to meet with all churches? How do you get all round the country in such a short time? Or just impersonal phone calls? Actual cash in hand from struggling churches? And so on… pie, sky …

  2. Our industry is facing meltdown.Our Christian Bookselling and Publishing industry is under the Judgement of God for it is no different from the world.Every man does what is right in his own eyes.Does anyone think that those shops which have closed down over the last two years were more guilty than us I tell you no and if we don’t repent we will likewise perish(Luke 13:4)In Judgement may God remember mercy.Give careful thought to your ways.(Haggai 1:5-7)
    Paul Slennett Southend

    • Paul; I find this comment singularly unhelpful at a time when so many folk out there – our friends in Christ – are struggling. This sweeping generalisation flies in the face of the fact that so many people do what they do because they believe in this wonderful ministry of Christian literature. Now is the time for healing and help, not for condemnation.

      • Eddie, Good to hear from you!

        I accept your rebuke and apologise for drawing an analogy with the tower of Siloam (Luke 13:4) in too general a manner. I too am sad that so many people who believe in this wonderful ministry of Christian literature have seen their shops close in the last two years.
        But did it have to be that way? There is a sea change in the way people buy, but God can give us a strategy to survive in these turbulent times. God reminds us: Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil (Prov.3:5-6).

        This month, I have been 30 years in Christian bookselling. This is the most hostile market I have ever known. Keith Danby, in the August 2009 Marketplace, said: “We’ve got to understand that, by and large, Christian retailing is not going to be viable in the UK….”
        Was he correct and is Ray George, by now closing the same Wesley Owen shops, proving Keith’s statement to be true? Today, it was announced that STL are going to make further redundancies amongst their staff. I repeat what I said, when many of us met in London at the beginning of last year: God is speaking through all these things, but is anybody listening? I read then from Haggai 1, verses 5-7: “…You have planted much, but you have harvested little…” If this speaks to you, God says, “Give careful thought to your ways.” For example, some of the Christian publishers are competing with us and hastening our downfall. Can that be right? What about The Shack? Our trade made it the Christian Book of the Year, but many say it is a heretical book, and very dangerous for undiscerning Christians to read. I think we all know that there are things in the trade that need to be addressed before God. At this moment in time hundreds of Christian bookshops are struggling, including my own. Unless something changes we all face closure in the next five years. Does God want that? I don’t think so. But as I said in my 2008 report to the Christian Booksellers’ Group: “If we are not to face meltdown in our industry, publishers and booksellers need to come together in a forum to seek the mind of the Lord and to discuss the issues that are now confronting us before it is too late. This is not the time to bury our head in the sand and hope it will all go away.” Well, we didn’t do it then, as I suggested, and so over a hundred shops have closed and we are facing meltdown. What will our response be now?

        Paul Slennett Southend

        • Paul, may I suggest that you stop referring to your “report” as a report to the BA CBG, please? It gives the impression that it was commissioned by or has been endorsed by the BA CBG. It was not commissioned by the group, of course, and to the best of my knowledge has never been formally recognised by the group.

          If you wish to pursue the issues raised in it further, I’d encourage you to set up your own blog for that purpose, please, rather than effectively highjack the discussions here.

          Thank you.

        • Why does Philip Groom get edgy with Paul about his comment? If the CBA did not take Paul’s comments seriously, it makes them look rather like a lame duck, or even a bathtub model. These issues are important, and we mustn’t shun to look below the surface!

        • Michael, I’m sure that the BA CBG did give Paul’s ‘report’ due consideration; but the fact remains, as I’m sure that you and your colleagues at Southend Christian Bookshop are well aware, that the ‘report’ was not commissioned by and, to my knowledge, has not been endorsed by the BA CBG. Referring to it as a report to the group gives a false impression and I simply ask that you and he refrain from such.

          I don’t propose to discuss the content of Paul’s paper here: please refer to my comments policy, point 3ii, for clarification of that stance.

          If either you or Paul wish to discuss the issues raised in it further, please set up your own blog for that purpose and I will gladly refer people to it.

          Thank you.

  3. This is a sad situation and not entirely of L/O making.Nobody can continue to support losemaking shop forever L/O stepped in to try and rescue something from the W.O. disaster and despite their best efforts have failed.Sad for all concerned but the staff would have been unemployed a lot sooner without L/O.

    • Brian, I don’t think it’s that they tried and failed – I think no one would detract from the fact that they tried to do a very good thing, that they couldn’t succeed is very sad but in this they are no different than many other Christian Bookshops facing the same situation, I think what is so sad and where the sadness really comes in though is in the attitude with which the shops would seem to have been closed and the way those staff have seemingly been treated. yes they would have been redundant sooner – but for some the method of treatment might be the hardest thing to bear for them. Living with the axe always hanging over you is no way to live for anyone and to then jsut be given notice by phone or email is utterly soul destroying on some fronts, as Christians do we not have a greater duty of care than that – are we not called to be there to support our brothers and sisters in Christ, to help ease their burdens and offer comfort, to put them before ourselves if we can?
      I have had to make redundancies in my career and know it is never easy to do or an easy option to take, but I have never ever considered not doing such things face to face and being with them every step of the way where I can to offer support, assistance and to even be the whipping post they may need to vent against.
      I have also been made redundant from employment and no personally the pain from that too and how it can really leave one realing if handled badly and it is this that concerns me greatly.
      I really do pray for all involved in this, both the staff being made redundant and those making the decisions. There is support but there does need to be care, consideration and communication I think to fully see that realised best.
      I pray hard that from the dust of this overwhelmed oasis that a new breeze may blow and clear the wells bringing a new refreshing and causing new independent green shoots to arise and flourish, nurtured by the living waters, in these area’s where the shops are closing and the others that may still close _ I also pray for all Christian Bookshops wherever they are, chain or independent, that they may be rooted in love and care and grow still through times of troubles, indeed may we grow like the cedar in lebanon and stay fresh and green. (Psalm 92:12ff)

    • I’m agreeing with Melanie. The fact that someone would have been unemployed a lot sooner is small comfort when those who took you on seem to have whipped you and hung you out to dry before eventually dropping you in a tangled heap on the floor.

      That may sound overdramatic but the feedback I’m receiving does give that impression of staff treatment, and one would hope for better from a Christian organisation. Staff need respect and encouragement if they are to work effectively: a carrot always works better than a stick, for humans as well as for animals!

      As Melanie has said, no one, I think, would wish to detract from the Living Oasis vision: it’s a high calling; but a high calling demands high standards in all areas, in the back room as well as the shop window.

      Good motives, bad methods would seem to be an apt summary thus far…

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