Living Oasis Crisis Continues: Farewell to Harrow and Southampton

ONLY TWO WEEKS after celebrating its first birthday, Living Oasis Harrow is closing down. The news emerged yesterday via facebook as staff and former staff posted status updates about becoming unemployed and expressing concern; local church leaders were notified by email. The branch ceases trading next weekend.

Living Oasis Locations as of 26 March 2011: only 12 stores will remain after next weekend

Living Oasis Locations as of 26 March 2011: only 12 stores will remain after next weekend

Living Oasis Southampton also appears to have closed down, having been quietly deleted from the official list of branches (screenshot opposite) which now shows only 13 stores, including Harrow, out of the original 20 (or 19, discounting Croydon)

No official public announcement appears to have been made about either branch by Nationwide Christian Trust, the company’s owners, and rather than respond to my enquiries, Andy Twilley has taken the interesting step of blocking me on facebook and has instructed staff not to speak to me and to restrict my access to their facebook pages. Comments I left on the Leeds and Liverpool pages requesting prayer for staff at the stores facing closure have been removed and I have been blocked from leaving further comments.

Please Pray…

Please continue to pray for the staff affected by this turmoil as those who remain face continuing uncertainty whilst those whose stores have been closed or are closing face unemployment.

Please also pray for Andy Twilley, Ray George and all others at Nationwide Christian Trust as they seek the best way forward for the organisation.

Finally, please pray for me as I seek wisdom and grace both for my reporting and in my response to the information restrictions currently imposed by Living Oasis.

Looking Back: Living Oasis Harrow's facebook photos - shop opening

Looking Back: Living Oasis Harrow's facebook photos - shop opening

14 thoughts on “Living Oasis Crisis Continues: Farewell to Harrow and Southampton

  1. Really sad news, especially with the first anniversary of the reopening just achieved.
    We will be praying for all the staff.

  2. I am sorry to hear news of further Living Oasis closures. My thoughts and prayers are with staff-members who are now looking for a new job (as well as those still working to make the remaining stores viable). The demise of many of these Christian retail outlets could have been over a year ago – but I feel the involvement of the Nationwide Christian Trust though well-intentioned was always naive, at best, and foolhardy. There was, I think, too much expectation of how local churches would be involved in these projects.
    I hope that Andy Twilley & Ray George understand that many of us are praying for them – and that they will be able to manage this situation with wisdom, grace and integrity.

  3. Phil once again you are rubbing your hands in glee at a terrible siuation. You have been anti Living Oasis from the very beginning, and i’m sure you’ve been blocked from the Living Oasis facebook pages for a very good reason. You are a nasty little man and maybe you should just shut up on the matter. These people have put in too much effort to have to put up with your constant “for prayer” gossip mongering and bile.

    • What a bizarre and sad comment, annoyed. I don’t know who you are, though it’s not difficult to hazard a guess.

      Be that as it may, however, I would assure you that I am certainly not “rubbing my hands in glee”. Nor am I against Living Oasis, though I am concerned at the way staff are being treated. As for gossip mongering and bile, I simply invite you to reread your comment and ask yourself whence the bile.

      May the Lord grant you grace and healing: you are in my prayers.

    • Dear annoyed,

      That hardly looks like glee that Phil is showing and I’m pretty sure that few are feeling any sort of happiness or joy at this situation at all.

      Everyone, Phil included, from what I know has only wanted good things for Living Oasis from the beginning, though to be fair most of us that have been in the trade for a goodly while were concerned that there was a certain level of niavete that was being shown that could lead to exactly where we are now.

      Most of us pray regularly for all Christian Bookshops out there – that they will be blessed and continue safely in their mission – and I think most of us pray for more to arise in the empty high streets of our towns and cities.
      To this end we offer each other support where we can – this support is often through mediums like this blog or fb and involves discussion of what’s going on, initiatives and idea’s of what works or might not have worked etc, it is a fellowship of those engaged in the same mission endeavour – and like all fellowships there are times when news and missives are sent by a third party to let others know of what is going on, sometimes the news or discussion is not positive.
      This is not generally meant as a meanness but is for the edification and knowledge of the community that they might pray for and support the ones being written about, only when something is brought into the light can it be seen by others – and only then can others work with it and for it, this I think is probably what Phil is hoping to do here – let others know of what is occuring so prayer and support can be offered as is needed.

      I can’t really talk for Phil or others but I can talk for me, and my wholehearted concern in all of this is for the staff being made redundant and for those involved that are feeling the effects of this situation,
      is for the customers losing a shop, is for the strangers on the street losing another witness.
      There is no joy here, no glee, there is only a great and profound sadness.

    • Dear Annoyed,

      You may well disagree with the way that Phil has reported on things. That would be a legitimate position and one that you should feel free to express.

      However, to use your anonymity to call someone a ‘nasty little man’ is quite frankly beneath contempt. If you must stoop to ad hominem attacks, you should at least have the courage to put your name to them.

  4. I agree with Melanie that Phil does a good job of keeping us all informed of what’s happening in the Christian book trade. There have been occasions when suppliers have not been fully aware of bad things (SSG) happening in the trade, and have suffered as a consequence. This blog advises of new initiatives from suppliers which can be of help to shops, and sometimes dialogue results from which an exchange of advice and ideas can take place. We are all desperately sorry for the staff of Living Oasis shops that are closing, and for one having been made redundant within a shop chain suffering closures, I can empathise with the pain. My ex-employers wouldn’t listen to anyone or try to learn, so I hope and pray that Living Oasis having taken the bold step of taking on the former Wesley Owen shops to save them from closure, are now learning the difficulties of the trade and are able to use the information to build on and develop their work so that there are no more closures.

  5. Let’s be clear here, I’ve not always agreed with Phil on everything in the past, and have said so. I’m not always sure he reports things in the most positive ways, and some, myself included, have a tendency to focus on the more negative news he reports, however, to suggest that Phil, or anyone around here, is rubbing our hands in glee when news like this breaks, is frankly, offensive.

    I also think it’s so hypocritical to accuse someone of making personal attacks, while at the same time doing so yourself.

    And, while anonymity is your choice, my at least when Phil makes comments, however offensive you may find them, he makes it clear who he is, and how to contact him if something is incorrect. I also know that he does edit comments and articles which contain factual errors, and, let’s not forget, he was also one of the few sources who reported the positive news of Harrow’s first birthday too,

    No-one here is “against” Living Oasis. Not in the slightest. Some of us have concerns about it, and it’s business model. Some people have concerns about my business, and business model, I am one of them at times, and I encourage people to share those concerns with me.

    I recently wrote a letter to our supporters asking them, not only for their continued support, but to tell me if there are reasons they don’t feel that they can use me the way they want to, and asking them to pray and ask God if we should continue at all. Why? Aside from our financial concerns, (we are solvent, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, and cash flow is a big problem for us following a harsh winter, and late easter) we don’t want to do this alone. We want the support, advise, and yes, criticisms of the community so we can grow and improve at what we do.

    I guess I say all of that, to say this. This blog isn’t perfect, Phil would be the first to tell you that. He does some things very well, and some things less well. Some times he acts with only limited information, but to be fair, that is not for want of trying. Phil has invited people involved to make direct comment, and, of course, the comments section of any article is open to anyone.

    My concern remains that Living Oasis and the Nationwide Christian Trust continue to try and sweep these significant facts under the rug, and hope that Phil and others don’t notice, absolutely crazy!

    NCT/LO could control how this news is broken and put out the whole story if they chose to, but instead keep us all in the dark, force us all to make (perhaps incorrect) assumptions, and force Phil and others to act on partial information and conjecture.

    I don’t care if they want to avoid this blog like the plague. If they hate Phil, and how he does things, that is their prerogative, and they are perfectly entitled to refuse to engage with him here, but to refuse to engage outright, well, my fear is that doing so only encourages the perpetuation of potential falsehoods.

    Andy and Ray, I suspect that you don’t read this any more, however, if you do, I encourage you, whole heartedly, to please engage with us. Tell us what’s actually happening, and don’t assume that we are an insignificant minority.

    Perhaps you missed it, but, not long ago, Kingsway were on the end of some pretty significant slack over their RRP Policy. At first they ignored it, it didn’t go away, then they attempted to sway the conversation away from the real issues, it didn’t go away, finally, John engaged in a real, open and honest dialogue with us, both individually (I personally had some very insightful, personal email conversations, that went on way into the night, on several occasions) and corporately, both on this blog, through their own contact network, electronically, and in letters, and i also believe, in some cases, face to face, either with reps or John himself.

    Yes, they had to make some changes to a few things, and yes, they had to accept (as did we) some culpability in allowing the mess to get out of hand, but you know what, doing so got most of us on side, allowed us to look at everything much more objectively, and now most of us feel very good about Kingsway, both as a trade partner, and fellow (albeit online only) retailer.

    Ignoring the problem, and putting our concerns down to a few (as Ally Simpson once put it) internutter, who don’t really represent the consensus opinion, is a dangerous misunderstanding of how most people view you.

    It’s easy to assume that the readership of this blog is a few dozen people, all of whom comment, but in reality, my experience couldn’t be more different.

    I also write for several sports news websites, which, amongst other things, gives me an insight into the readers vs commentors ratio.

    In my experience, each commenter represents upwards of 20, and in some cases, over 100 readers.

    Don’t believe me?

    All three articles have several thousand readers, but somewhere between 15 and 34 comments (half of which, on average, are my own).

    And, if you doubt that page-views don’t equal public opinion, make sure you take a look at the polls, most of which have several hundred participants.

    So yeah, Living Oasis we want to support you as best we can, but we can only do so if you allow us to, and give us the information we need to do so.

    We want to pray for you, no, Phil’s prayer requests aren’t sarcastic, and certainly aren’t unheeded, and we have prayer networks which want to uphold you in prayer, but we can only do so if we know what your prayers really are.

    As I say, if you don’t want to do so in this blog, I’m sure Phil wouldn’t be offended, but start your own, put out press releases, or send more news to the national media, like the bookseller.

    Tell us which stores need prayer, which ones are in trouble, and allow us to pray for them BEFORE it’s too late.

    Or don’t. It’s up to you, but don’t then complain that there is only one side of the story being told, and mutter, behind closed doors, that Phil is going to destroy the company, because it is not phil who will do so in that case, if you refuse to engage with those people who want to support you, it will be you who does so.

    Okay. Wall of text over!

    • Phew! Hope you feel better for that, Luke! I share your sentiments that Phil is trying to encourage open sharing of matters that concern many who have an interest in the Christian Retail scene. I am saddened by NCT/LO not feeling able to admit they may have got it wrong – I’m sure there are many in the trade who, like you, would welcome support and advice in a difficult time. It seems that rather than openly sharing their problems, the trustees of NCT have chosen to not only keep things to themselves but actively discourage others talking about them.
      BTW, does anyone know what happened to LO Southampton? If any of the (ex?) staff happen to read this, I hope you’re getting support as you try to work out what to do next – God bless you, and the folk associated with all the LO stores, extinct and extant.

      • Looks like LO Southampton closed on 23rd March: brief notice (undated) on the Southampton Christian Network website: Living Oasis – Shop Closure

        The good news is that the churches there haven’t given up:

        There is a hope of starting something up in Eastleigh, (a group of Churches are interested) but this has not yet been finalised. It may be an independant bookshop rather than a Living Oasis.

        • Thanks for that, Phil. I hope they can start something at Eastleigh. My particular interest comes from being one of the team who set-up the shop when it first opened as Wesley Owen, all those years ago – with Paul Smith & his team.

  6. First an apology- yes i went too far and got personal in my comment this was wrong and not excusable.
    Second, its been commented that i am hiding behind anomynity, well my name is Dave and I live and work in nottingham (a note phil its amazing you could guess who i am as we’ve never met)

    I’ve been a living oasis customer since it opened last year.
    My biggest bug bear in life is that people have frequently used prayer requests as a way to gossip, about me, about my family and now it seems about the place i choose to buy my christian books. I suppose my anger was not solely directed at phil but at everyone who employs this tactic.
    So in summary, while I stand by the gist of what i said, i really do apologise for the way i said it and for the unfounded personal comments that i made.

    • Dave, thank you: apology accepted; and my guess at who you are would have been wrong, so let’s forget that 🙂 … by the way, I lived in Nottingham for two years and was a regular customer myself at the Castle Gate shop, back in the days before it was taken over by Wesley Owen and, more recently, by Living Oasis: it provides an important ministry and the staff have my wholehearted support just as much today as they did then.

      I’m sorry that you’ve had such an experience of so-called prayer requests — I’ve come across it before, sadly, and it is abhorrent; and it is certainly not my tactic here: my concern for Living Oasis, for Ray, Andy and all the shop staff is genuine, and my calls for prayer are heartfelt.

      Now you say stand by the gist of what you said: what exactly do you mean by that, please? Because as I re-read your comment, the gist of it seems to be that you think people are rubbing their hands in glee at the difficulties faced by Living Oasis, that I in particular have been against Living Oasis from the beginning and that I have been blocked by Living Oasis on facebook for a very good reason.

      In response to that, a simple question: have you read my reports on Living Oasis from the very beginning? If not, on what basis are you making those allegations, please?

      You’ll find all my reports, most recent first, under the Living Oasis tag:

      They follow on, of course, from my previous reports on the demise of Wesley and they start here: Living Oasis: A new and exciting vision for your local Christian Bookshop — which, as it so happens, is a copy of Pauline Banks’ message in January 2010 about the Harrow branch: we have, tragically, now gone full circle 😦

      How do you interpret that post in a way that justifies your allegation that I have been against Living Oasis from the very beginning?

      I invite you to read my reports on Living Oasis Nottingham, your local branch:
      Living Oasis Update: Croydon, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Worthing
      Living Oasis Nottingham Opening Saturday 8th May 2010

      Again I ask: how do you interpret those posts in a way that justifies your allegation that I am against Living Oasis?

      I know about the message that Andy Twilley sent to staff instructing them to block me on facebook, and that he made essentially these same allegations against me in that message — allegations that he clearly regards as good reason to block me on facebook. I simply invite you to examine the evidence for yourself and ask yourself whether or not those allegations are true — then ask yourself whether or not blocking me on facebook is in any way justified; and if it is, perhaps you’d be kind enough to explain why, please?

      Finally, please pass on my very best wishes to everyone at the Nottingham store.

      Thank you.

  7. Pingback: Living Oasis Harrow: Message to Churches: Please pray… « The Christian Bookshops Blog

Comments are closed.