Living Oasis: And so the dream ends…

NEWS EMERGED this weekend of another closure as Living Oasis Manchester reportedly closed its doors for the last time on Saturday, and Leeds has issued a last-ditch shout out for help on facebook, announcing that they are “exploring other options” as Nationwide Christian Trust prepares to withdraw support:

Living Oasis Leeds: facebook announcement, 19/07/2011: As of last Friday morning, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that NCT are able to support the Leeds vision going forward...

Living Oasis Leeds: facebook announcement, 19/07/2011: As of last Friday morning, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that NCT are able to support the Leeds vision going forward...

The company’s difficulties have been well charted both here and by the Bookseller, with their latest report citing Ray George describing Harrogate as the only viable store:

Living Oasis Cheltenham shut up shop last Friday (8th July), becoming the chain’s fifth closure in four weeks. Ray George, the chain’s owner, said only the Harrogate branch is making money. On average the recently closed stores were losing £2,000–£4,000 a month, which George said was ­unsustainable.

The report also cites Eddie Olliffe, who observes succinctly:

I think the model was flawed—to rely on financial support from the church community I think was naïve, because churches themselves are struggling and perhaps do not have the resources or the vision.

An earlier report states that staff in Cheltenham were given only two days notice, which sadly seems to typify the lack of respect NCT has shown to its staff, a factor that has no doubt contributed to the company’s demise as bookseller morale has crumbled.

As of the date of this report, only Harrogate, South Woodford and Watford appear to remain trading, with Liverpool still in limbo pending completion of its “Phase 2” redevelopment as it continues to seek investors. The claim to be “one of a growing, national chain of stores” has been removed from the Who We Are page and — with an interesting change in emphasis — the store now describes itself as “working in partnership with Nationwide Christian Trust”.

To end on a positive note, congratulations to Rob Chandler, a former staff member from Nottingham, on a very successful secondhand books-and-more sale held at Sherwood Methodist Church on Saturday:

Todays sale went ever so very well! I’m stunned as well as a bit worn out. Sold lots and lots of books, two guitars and a train set! Big thanks to all who donated books and to helpers and customers. Next one booked for Saturday 24th September, again at Sherwood Methodist. No plans beyond that so far.

If you’re in Nottingham, please book that date in your diary now and let’s see what the future brings…

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12 thoughts on “Living Oasis: And so the dream ends…

  1. We think that praying for God to do a new thing in Christian retailing is exactly what we should all be doing. We run a small shop in a market town (Wisbech in Cambridgeshire)with volunteers and nobody can take a wage (although we ourselves can sometimes take a little on “good” months). Before Living Oasis started we were already serving more coffee and doing a lot of listening, and some praying, for customers. Looking at the growth of e-books, and the monopoly Amazon has, the direct sales to the public by publishers etc it is obvious that the Christian bookshop is not needed as it was when our predecssor started the shop in the 1970s. Maybe most will have to shut and then God will raise up something else? Surely our main burden is for Christian books and other resources to be available to the general public and this may mean change for all of us.

  2. Gutted to hear of so many shops going – so very sad that what started with such high hopes and claims has now come to little more than sadness and closures.
    I pray that this will not have dinted peoples ability to do something more realistic and to step out and continue a high street (side street, or indoor market!) christian retailling venture.
    Despite the changing times if we are able to flex and bend a little, to change and to work with our communities – all of our communities not just the churched ones – then I do still believe there is hope and growth for Christian Retailing, for indie bookshops that have a really strong and committed faith component that mixes with the general too, I think here is where we will find that we need to be, that we can continue and grow – yes this is a change from what went before but it could well be a change for the better in some ways I think.

  3. re Nottingham event, thanks for your report; Please note, not me solo, all ex-Living Oasis staff were involved, Sue Dan Laura and me, also partners, friends, church members and local retailers. Rob

  4. Re. The now closed Cheltenham shop

    A year or so ago I pointed out to the then manager at Cheltenham that since the shop was next door to a Christian owned computer business that they had an option to open a ‘computer cafe’ (with books). At the time they were still looking for larger premises in order to fulfil the original plan, but now the shop has shut then this option can be explored.

    One of the problems with Christian bookshops (amongst others!) is that the customers tend to be mostly Christians. Had Oasis been able to open with a coffee shop then this would have brought in others (as the Good News Centre in Newent has successfully shown).

    In my view a Christian computer cafe in Cheltenham would be much more likely to succeed than yet another coffee shop and the expertise is right at hand. I do not live in Cheltenham so can’t promote the idea further but if Christians in a small place like Newent can run a project then they should be able to do so in a place like Cheltenham so over to you.

    Incidentally, re. Eddie Olliffe’s comment: I have yet to come across a tithing church that was struggling and without resources and vision!

    Roger P

  5. I am not sure who Mr Groom is, but he seems a very jaded character. Thanks for following your news of Liverpool with the strap “on a more positive note” – the implication being that what were are doing is considered negative. I can assure him that no dreams have ended in Liverpool – we have a longstanding vision for a local store of this nature, NCT came along at the right time and seemed an obvious partner. It was a brave, and perhaps in retrospect naive step on the part of NCT to try and maintain these stores and it has ended up breaking them financially. They made significant sacrifices in order to do something that they believed God was calling them to do. If as a Christian community we feel justified in critcising those who have suffered because they have followed God’s call, then frankly we have lost the plot. I sense that had Mr Groom been around on Good Friday and had access to the web, he could have put together an equally informed “the dream is over” blog. Keep carping if you want, but if its OK with you, we’ll continue to dream dreams and pursue visions in our neck of the woods.

    • … and as for being jaded: let’s just say disillusioned by an organisation that started out with such great promise but then proved itself to be led by arrogance, bullying and business tactics that frankly seemed to have more in common with those who crucified Christ than with those who were following him.

      A large part of what broke NCT was the way they dealt with their business partners, to the point where as one supplier put it to me some time ago, “We stopped supplying to them months ago as they never paid for stock.” … to the point where other suppliers had no choice but to put LO accounts on stop because they weren’t being paid; to the point where landlords reached the point of despair because rent wasn’t being paid; to the point where court action became necessary because business rates weren’t being paid… and now, of course, those problems have come home to roost and we see staff — excellent staff who embraced and were committed to the company’s vision, who worked beyond the call of duty, who took retrospective pay cuts, who were kept in the dark about the company’s plans, whose expertise as booksellers was ignored — discarded like chattels.

      Call that carping if you wish. I’ll agree it’s not a pretty picture; but NCT isn’t suffering because they followed God’s call — rather, because they heard God’s call but followed their own way.

      I too embraced the dream and spent hours updating the UKCBD entries for the LO shops, doing my utmost to promote the vision, reporting shop openings and rejoicing with the former WO employees who thought they’d found a saviour. But whenever I asked for up to date info to keep those entries current, I was met with evasion; and when news began to emerge of redundancies and shop closures, I was met with denials and accusations of rumour-mongering and could only look on, aghast, as shops were quietly deleted from the official Living Oasis Locations page and staff were set adrift.

      That, Mr Jump, is the sorry truth of the matter… but if you in Liverpool are prepared to dream your dreams and pursue your vision with integrity, then I rejoice with you. As I’ve said in response to your other comment, please keep me informed and I’ll be more than happy to help publicise the story. Thank you.

  6. Personally Phil Jump, I don’t suspect Phil G would be acting that much different than dear old Peter did – you know that bloke that did the denying, or of course there’s that dear old doubter Thomas, or indeed most of the others there after the fact and before the big reveal … and look what they went on to do for the larger community.

    Sometimes someone has to ask the questions others don’t, sometimes someone has to do the things others wont,
    sometimes ignorance is bliss and acceptance is a painful road,
    and yes, sometimes we all make mistakes.

    – If the bible teaches us anything surely it’s that there is a place for all and a time for all and a need for voices in the wilderness, yes even today – even if it still means losing ones head, ones sense of proportion and even ones illusions and dreams 😉

  7. sorry to hear about living oasis and its problems,i do not know what mistakes have been made or by whom,i do feel sorry for all the staff and hope things work out well for them,however i must add to compare this situation to the last hours of our lord,as on the blog,and to start arguing who is like the apostles and who is not is ridiculous,we must all unite as christians to pray for and seek a solution,let us work together and find the courage to admit our mistakes,God Bless you all.

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