Farewell to Weston-super-Mare as Living Oasis announces yet another closure

Update, July 18,2011: The Bookseller today reports on LO Cheltenhams closure and Ray George talks about the situation and how only Harrogate LO is making profit – Comment also from Eddie Olliffe, ‘A flawed Plan’, and the BA’s Meryl HallsExtremely regrettable& ‘Controlled Flux’

Update, July 8, 2011: facebook announcement: Living Oasis Cheltenham to close tomorrow, Saturday July 9. Join the facebook conversation with Eddie Olliffe

Update, July 7, 2011: Lisa Campbell reports on Chester’s closure in the Bookseller: Fourth Living Oasis to close

Update, July 6, 2011: News has now emerged that Living Oasis Chester will also be closing down by the end of this month. Please pray for all affected by this latest development…

MORE SAD NEWS for the former Wesley Owen booksellers working with Living Oasis has emerged via the Bookseller today as Lisa Campbell reports on the imminent closure of the Weston-super-Mare branch:

The Bookseller, 04/07/2011: Living Oasis announces third closure in 10 days

The Bookseller, 04/07/2011: Living Oasis announces third closure in 10 days

Christian book chain Living Oasis has announced its third store closure in just over a week, with Weston-super-Mare the latest branch to cease trading.

Ray George, head of the Nationwide Christian Trust, which owns the chain, said the shop will close “within two weeks”, making two staff redundant.

This follows the closure of the Nottingham and Worthing branches just over a week ago, where seven people in total lost their jobs. In March and May, Living Oasis also announced it was shutting six other branches, including Edinburgh. The new closures reduce the once 19-strong book chain, all formerly Wesley Owen bookshops, to just 10… Read the full report >>

By my count, however, we’re now down to 8 branches, of which only 6 are currently trading:

  • Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
  • Chester, Cheshire
  • Harrogate, North Yorkshire
  • Leeds, West Yorkshire*
  • Liverpool, Merseyside*
  • Manchester
  • South Woodford, London
  • Watford, Hertfordshire

* Leeds and Liverpool remain temporarily closed pending “Phase 2” developments.

Official List of BranchesMy Overview

Whatever the count, however, it’s a tragedy for everyone caught up in it…

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19 thoughts on “Farewell to Weston-super-Mare as Living Oasis announces yet another closure

  1. Sad to see and gutted for the staff losing their jobs, my thoughts and prayers really are with all involved in the LO bookshops at this time.

    Eddie Olliffe on twitter posted ‘#LivingOasis going from bad to worse and very sad. Weston Super Mare to close ‘within two weeks’ – a flawed model?’

    as ever Eddie asks the difficult but important questions and this is certainly something to consider – is this a flawed model?

    – the idea that the impetus must be on the community to be willing to move up to phase 2 of a businesses plan?
    – that the community must want a coffee shop and community space in the shops regardless of if they already perhaps have them locally?
    – that the impetus must be on the community to drive the shops rather than the shops to drive themselves?

    I am sorry to say but I really do think it possibly is faulty in the extreme – yes an agenda and a vision is essential to any business but at the end of the day a successful business surely has to be willing and able to tailor that vision to the want and need of the community and not always expect the community to want and need what the business percieves it’s vision and expectations to be! hasn’t this been the lesson of the big box shops that have closed with catastrophic consequence over the years recently?

    There is of course a need for community support and we do need to work on educating and building up the essential understanding of working as a local community, of supporting each other even if at slight cost to each other, of building each other up and not doing each other down, of putting people, community, local jobs and understanding at the heart of our commitment and not be based on a form of laziness, money counting and devolution of personal and moral responsibility – and yes this works both ways!

    If we can’t meet each other half way, if we can’t support each other just a little better and be big enough to change just a little then I think somewhere all of our models are flawed – let’s hope that in time we get to the model of supporting our brothers and sisters and a true understanding of the servant mentality that is needed to really live the gospel in action and deed as well as word and thought.

  2. More bad news for friends in the trade. So sorry for Kathyrn and her team – I understand they’ve tried hard to make a go of the business since Nationwide Christian Trust (NCT) took over the shop.
    I suppose it has just postponed the inevitable in these difficult times.
    However, I do agree with Eddie that it could be a “flawed model”. Mel makes some wise comments, but I think the decision to take on a chain of 20 shops was possibly reckless, especially as – as far as I could tell – the people who took this decision had no retail experience (I stand to be corrected here!). I think I am always ready to encourage any exciting mission opportunities – however, I also believe God calls us to be wise (didn’t our founder talk about tower-building in Luke 14:28?). The business model seems to have fallen between the type that the STL/Wesley Owen espoused – charity run as a business – and CLC which is more “faith-oriented”, and does ask for financial help from supporters. I am not sure whether NCT failed to do their sums at the outset, or if they hoped/assumed naively that local churches and others would feel able to provide the financial support to sustain the vision. In the promotional video posted on Youtube last September, Andy Twilley pointed out that they had “become aware that low levels of trade undermine the financial viability of the shops” – yes, we could all have told him that! He goes on to attribute this to two factors: the locality of the shops and the customer base of mainly Christians. His proposed solution is to re-locate – to larger premises at the very heart of the community. In other words, he suggests that by moving to larger, more prominent sites their vision will attract sufficient additional turnover to cover the dramatically increased overheads such a move will obviously incur. No wonder they’re struggling – and sadly I fear we’ll be hearing of even more closures in the future.
    “Lord, please help all those involved in Living Oasis – those whose shops are closing soon, those who continue to trade and the Director and Trustees who are trying to run this business.”

    • it is sad indeed, it is very very hard when so much commitment and effort has been made, but we must not lose heart and we must press on to find a model that does work.
      I am sure that the cafe culture is live and well in our nation, so why should all the profits go to chains such as Starbucks, Costa – well probably because so far we in the Body of Christ have not invaded the public space of airports, train stations, large stores, let alone every High Street, but that is not to say it cannot be achieved – a new measure of co-operation must be achievable?
      A strategy of prayer and action to take the land for Kingdom enterprise.
      In some places such enterprise is flourishing; and let us pray fervently even now that an appropriate entrepreneur with business ability and vision to bring blessing and life to community, will emerge RIGHT NOW.

      When we are down on our uppers, God is up on His, to call us to rise up on eagles wings, not to grow weary, nor lose heart.

      Pret a Manger have a ministry to community – i hve made no enquiries but i believe they could be a collaborator?
      Post Offices are under threat still, especially in small community locations, where often the local church is not a thriving bookshop as well, and the local cafe does not exist; the elderly are in dire straights as we are hearing from our politicians, the government is enforcing them to sell up at the clolsing stges of their days to pay prohibitive sums to live in enclosed spaces and loss of sound or sight of live in all its fullness according to the Kingdom lifestyle.

      We are here for such a time as this, to bring transformation; we shall not fail if we continue to pick up ourselves, brush ourselves down and start over. My Mum used to be part of a team ov volunteers who drove Good News vans round the villages to take Christian books for loan. Volunteer help is vital to the equation of success in a floundering economy, and for some people starting out voluntary leads to employment with payment. Pret survive and give away to the community because they employ staff who are content to work on lower wages, than not work at all. I have participated in prayer times and discussion on the demise of the Christian bookshop business; i am still full of hope and confidence that a new beginning awaits all who have laboured, not in vain; ” for with God nothing is impossible”

      • Sally, I agree “with God nothing is impossible”. Let’s hope that human wisdom will be combined with faith in God’s power to produce some exciting ventures in the future.

    • I don’t think anyone’s going to disagree with your observation about NCT’s naivety, Pete, or about their lack of retail experience. I’ve exchanged messages with a few ex-employees and they all report similar frustrations: bombastic “we know best” approach to management from NCT, refusal to listen to their people on the ground or to take advice from anyone else. There are various other factors as well which have led to the company’s increasing alienation from its customers and business partners, which I won’t go into right now out of respect for the remaining shop staff who have their backs to the wall. All very sad.

    • very sad news indeed – my heart goes out to all effected by this, and especially to Ian who really has gone through this more than once now.
      Prayers are offered and hopes for the future for all.

  3. Agreed, Melanie. Sad that Ian has to go through it yet again having worked really hard at Chester including excellent instore events with Frank Field and Grace Sheppard. He tried everything one could but still failed. I don’t feel he failed at all but as we know in any chain there are central costs which have to be funded by sales at the shops, and this contribution can make local profit become a negative. Perhaps indies are the way ahead.

    • Definitely not a case of Ian failing, I’d say: if there’s a failure here, it’s the people behind the scenes … first SPCK handing things over to the Brewers, then IBS-STL/Biblica doing a cut-and-run on Wesley Owen, and now NCT with its inability (or refusal) to grasp the realities of retailing…

  4. Lots of sad news.

    I think my sadness, especially with Weston, was that there were some really positive conversations I had with staff about the possibility of going indie before they eventually decided to give the LO model a try.

    Not saying it would have ended better, we can never know this for sure, but I worry a second failure in less than two years may make anyone with a future vision for these stores think twice about it.

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