HMV gets @worshipcentral’s Spirit Break Out – at £7.99

Update, 29/09/2011
“Somehow we have to deal with this or we will be torn apart by it” – Eddie Olliffe reflects on the current situation: Book Trade – Pricing policy, discounts and the deepening sense of unease

THE SCREENSHOT BELOW shows Kingsway’s announcement telling everyone on their mailing lists to “check out your local HMV” for Worship Central’s Spirit Break Out, where people will be getting “a dose of God-soaked, Spirit-powered, Jesus-centered live worship” — and that’s what it’s all about, right?

“All about Jesus”, in the words of Tim Hughes.

Kingsway Announcement: HMV Gets Spirit Break Out

Kingsway Announcement: HMV Gets Spirit Break Out

I’d love to echo Kingsway’s enthusiasm, I really would. But what I see isn’t so much an opportunity as a missed opportunity — because the truth is that HMV don’t get Spirit Break Out: HMV don’t get it at all. To HMV, it’s just another money-spinner, another chance to rake in the £££s and set their tills ringing, just like iTunes.

And the people who do get it, the people who genuinely understand what it’s all about? The people for whom it really is all about Jesus, namely Christian retailers? They’re left out in the cold with a standard trade discount from Kingsway of 35% 33%* against Kingsway’s £12.99 RRP (apart from a few who may have secured more favourable terms through advance orders). That’s a retailer buy-in price of £8.44 £8.70*, which compares to the real market pricing as follows:

I ask quite simply: how can this in any sense be fair? Yes, it’s great that at least one bricks & mortar retailer can match the iTunes/Amazon price… but imagine how much better it could be: imagine not only the impact upon the UK’s struggling Christian retailers but also the outreach potential if Kingsway dropped the artificial RRP and used their own selling price as the starting point — then went a step further and declared that they’re making the album available to retail at £7.99 across the board!

Imagine a Christian publisher operating their business on a level-playing-field basis!

How about it, Kingsway? Is it all about Jesus? Or is it really all about the price?

And last but not least: I know since last year’s discussions you’re no longer comparing your actual selling prices with your own RRPs publicly on your website, and that’s great: thank you. But you are still doing so behind the scenes in your direct mailings. I’m sure that’s just an oversight, and no doubt now that you’re aware of the matter you’ll straighten things out in your one-to-one dealings too, so thanks again.



* Updated 28/09/2011 following Melanie’s comment – thanks Melanie!

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109 thoughts on “HMV gets @worshipcentral’s Spirit Break Out – at £7.99

  1. I was saddened to see this but it at least confirmed my decision that i hd passed onto my Kingsway rep and my join the dots rep that I am not going to stock much music in the shop any longer.
    The simple fact of the amtter is that my shoppers are canny and know what it’s priced at online and so aren’t buying it from me if I can’t match that price – as I most often can’t match that price without real hardship I now give them my card with our webshop address on and tell them they can buy it from there at the best price and i’ll get a 5% percentage from that sale!
    For me that makes much more sense as it means I can give that space to items that do sell and to companies that aren’t all the while cutting my throat by offering unmatchable deals either online, through bigger competition or direct to my customers.
    It also means my cash flow is increased as I’m not paying to be a display warehouse for those companies as well – even if I do get to return some of the items due to being in a partnership at a later date and then await a credit from them.
    personally I am afraid I am reaching the decision that many of the so called partnerships just aren’t real partnerships and that in the end I would prefer they gave favourable discount on all product – so what’s the discount to amazon, hmv, supermarkets? about 55-65% well i will willingly take that across the board and do firmsale with them instead – sadly few seem willing to offer this though.
    Can I just say of those that do a partnership type thing the two I most commend and really consider my partners in this, are without fail so far, LionHudson and IVP.
    Of the others I am sadly and seriously considering ending such relationships.

  2. It is indeed a crazy situation. Who is going to pay 12.99 for a product that they can get from Amazon or HMV at 7.99? Kingsway are even seriously undercutting their own Kingswayshop (10.99) by selling to Amazon/HMV for these silly prices.

    Sure, if you are prepared to order a quantity before publication, KW will give a better price – but all that is doing is giving KW a cashflow boost at the expense of struggling shops. It also doesn’t encourage ling-term sales of a product, because when we go back to KW for more stock, we won’t get the prerelease discount. It also doesn’t really help the little independent shop who might only sell 4 or 5 copies of a product per year.

    So in 5 years time, when there are no Christian bookshops left, maybe we can look back and say that Kingsway were one of the biggest nails in the coffin of independent Christian retail in the UK?

    • “So in 5 years time, when there are no Christian bookshops left, maybe we can look back and say that Kingsway were one of the biggest nails in the coffin of independent Christian retail in the UK?”

      – the above is really rich coming from you Andy……Christian Bits (who consistently undercut shops) is one of the very online sites we’re fighting against.

      • Admin Update: OK m’dears: jumping in briefly now with my admin/moderator hat on, even if it looks the same as my regular hat 😉

        We now have either two different people commenting under the pseudonym “Guest” or one person using that pseudonym with two different email addresses. That’s a recipe for confusion, so from here on in, the pseudonym “Guest” is banned and any further comments left under that pseudonym will either be deleted or reposted using the first part only (ie, before the @) of the commenter’s email address.

        If the person or persons posting under “Guest” would kindly indicate 1. whether or not they are the same person and 2. what pseudonyms they would prefer their comments to appear under if not the first part of their email addresses, I’ll edit the existing comments as necessary.

        I’m updating the comments policy with a note to this effect.

        Thank you.

      • TB: Andy at Christian Bits isn’t the enemy — Christian Bits are in fact a very small-bit player (sorry, Andy: couldn’t resist it) in the online stakes. We’re all in this together, etailers and b&m retailers alike, and we need to learn to work together somehow to find a way towards that elusive level playing field we’d all like to see. If you ask him, I think you’ll find that Andy gets the same terms as most b&m retailers; and there’s nothing to stop any b&m retailer developing an online shop to enable them to operate as Andy does…

      • On this particular CD Christian Bits is retailing the item at £12.35 and thats not beyond any of us retailers to match should we have to or want to, even those of us that choose to only buy on standard terms instead of in multiple pre-purchase offers. it’s substantially more than Kingsway retail it at so that comment really is below the belt.

        I don’t know TB whether you are a retailer yourself or on the supplier side and truthfully I suppose it doesn’t really matter that much, but I don’t consider the online genuine etailer trade as such to be my enemies or someone I’m necessarily fighting against.
        After all no one forces anyone to buy from them, people make that choice so tht’s where the education needs to happen, and if when they are undercutting, well again in my view to date that’s largely down to terms given and publishers/suppliers mostly set them or agree to them, so again one can say the etailers are not the problem and to just blame them ad hoc is a superficial and ill thought out argument at best.

        Indeed some etailers are very definitely my collegues and others are my allies, so you’d better throw that accusation at me whilst we are here as my webshop is powered by Amazon so I’m undercutting too!

        The truth is that the only way I can have a webshop presence is to use the pretty much free tools available and that’s either amazon, or affiliate partnerships like eden or the Hive – and they all are online businesses that undercut bricks and mortar shops!
        But to not have a web presence would in itself to my mind be a total failure on my part indeed.
        Sadly despite much talk I haven’t seen any of the current christian suppliers or publishers/producers rise up to the challenge of making a webshop for their customers, more’s the pity!

        However I will give the the etailers their due and that is that for the most part they are dedicated retailers albeit etailers, for me that’s a darn big difference! They are largely not producers of the product and so are not unfairly undercutting the active retail trade out here trying to sell their product for them but with little return.

        Now admittedly with some like Amazon that line has indeed become very blurry due to their subsequent aquisitions and that can well be problematic for the industry as a whole and across the board and does raise serious concerns! and then of course there is the Hive which is run by a wholesaler but is run by that wholesaler for the independent booksellers trading with them so that ebooks, dvd’s and books can be sold online by those who otherwise might not have the ability to reach such an admittedly important market.

        All of these things are what make me question as to whether publishers/producers do still genuinely need to be selling online directly or if they couldn’t better work with all their trade partners in a more direct way.
        Old fashioned view I know, but retailers retail and publishers/producers do what their title says too and sell onto the retailers, thus the selling circle works well and strong community is built and hopefully everyone wins and goes home to their nice little tree houses in fairytale land 😉

  3. Yes, but Kingsway make the very generous offer to ALL the trade, that if you order (pre-release date) only 3 units of a music title that is a Kingsway proprietary music title (which this is) you will get 50% DISCOUNT on that order, certainly enough to compete with the big boys and still walk away with a reasonable return and the sale.

    My suggestion Phil; stop whingeing and stirring things up all the time and get on with making your business work!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Mediawatch, and for offering such an encouraging response. As others have pointed out below, 50% discount on an artificially inflated RRP really isn’t a generous discount though, is it? It’s marginally better than standard trade discount on Kingsway’s actual selling price, but that’s all; and it’s only available on advance orders, even to those who had the foresight to place advance orders — and it certainly doesn’t leave room to compete with “the big boys” if the retailer wants a reasonable return.

      Oh, and as for “whinging” — I think you’ll find that’s a term normally used for those bemoaning their own ill fortunes, and if that was the case, fair comment; but I’m not a retailer: I have no vested interest in Kingsway’s sales one way or t’other. I am concerned, however, when I see my former colleagues in the trade being marginalised by the big boys such as Kingsway — and when I see injustice and unfair business practices I’ll speak out about them and ask the questions that I believe need to be asked. Because if it is “all about Jesus” I think it’s important to try to work out where and what Jesus’ priorities would be: what, I wonder, would Jesus make of selling worship in the first place, let alone selling it in the temple of mammon?

      If I don’t ask these questions, who will? I can’t see the cause being taken up by Christian Marketplace for instance — there’s too much at stake in terms of advertising revenue. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great mag, and Clem does a great job with running features; but contentious issues, real issues of trade relationships, are never going to be effectively tackled in those pages, are they?

      My business, by the way, is running this blog and the UK Christian Bookshops Directory, both on a voluntary basis; and I’m delighted to be able to let you know that both are working very well, though it’s always a battle to keep up with demand.

      Finally for now: if you’d like to step out with the courage of your convictions from behind your mask of anonymity, then I’m more than happy to offer you a guest post to share your wisdom and let the rest of the trade know how you think these issues should be addressed — your call.

      • Phil,

        Just to let you know that many of us – and some of those don’t even comment on t’blog – find what you do to be an invaluable service and thank you for it.

      • Au contraire (that’s french!) to whinge, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary is to ‘complain persistently and in a peevish or irritating way’ – yep, that’s the way I meant it Phil. And, without wishing to make you blush any further, I agree with Melanie on this one thing; it (the blog) is an invaluable service and you are to be commended for it.
        My beef with this blog and particualrly with this subject matter, is the way the positive side of it has been completely sidelined for the whinging, grumbling and complaining tone in the original post from you and then followed by others takling up the negative baton.
        What I don’t get is, why not approach the companies directly when these sort of issues arise, you know, almost following the biblical pattern (sorry Melanie….’throwing the bible’ around again!); one person makes the first approach and then you escalate it from there if there is a lack of response.. In fact, isn’t there a quadrant of people from the trade who regularly meet with Kingsway and their top Generals? Why not ask someone like the intelligent Geoff Wallace of Maranatha, Uxbridge to represent the trade and raise these very issues? Does it have to be posted on here in such a negative way?

        I have to admit, your comments re. Christian Marketplace were fairly accurate, no, I don’t see these issues being taken up…..not because of adverttising revenue (Clem Jackson is a man of integrity and I don’t believe he wouldn’t rattle cages if he felt it was a strong enough subject that needed tackling) but rather because it appears the trade magazine is not always cognisant of the isuues and how they impact on the trade. Having said that, it does raise the question; if the contentious subjects and real issues of trade relationships are not raised in what is a trade magazine, what is it there for…..surely not just for profiling the various companies products only? Maybe those who work in the trade should submit some of the issues they should like to see covered. I can’t see Clem turning such ideas down.

        Anyway, back to the subject at hand; agreed Phil, some may not be able to compete pricewise ‘like for like’, but it’s my experience that they don’t need too. Historically, mainstream advertised product at reduced loss leader prices, continue to sell in Christian Bookshops to their constituent audience even at the full price. Granted there may be some lost sales because the price is not exactly evenly matched with the likes of Tesco or Amazon, but even getting close often results in a sale to the Christian Bookshop, just because of the instant availability of supply.

        As to what Jesus would make of ‘selling worship’, I don’t know the answer -maybe the same as he would think of ‘selling the Bible or cuddly toys with scripture texts on?

        And, in the words of Trevor McDonald when he was on News At Ten “And finally” – what is it with you (and Melanie) requesting identification of who the ‘guest is? If I’d have wanted to identify myself I would have…..but, as it is, you have the facility for ‘guest’ posting and I chose (done it again Melanie) just like Batman, to remain anonymous. Nothing to do with ‘courage of convictions’ – more to do with being easier that way. If you’d rather that folk didn’t post anoymously, then you can always change it….but I’d rather you didn’t.

        • MediaWatch, I told you yesterday afternoon before you posted this that I don’t mind if you want to throw bible quotes around so you can stop apologising now if you wan’t because I’m finding it a tad tedious.

          I also told you what my problem with the anonymous bit was.
          But to be clearer, If someone is going to accuse then I prefer it if I know whose doing such, unless of course it’s because they are in genuine fear for their job or their person and I wouldn’t have thought any of us here had that much clout really or were that scary! but there we go.

          As to a quadrant of people that meet with – well, so you and Jon P have told me but as I’m not one of them or in the BA I wouldn’t know about that and haven’t had any retailers names until now. but you are right Geoff is indeed a brilliant bloke and bookseller and i do indeed trust him.

          However, again, just to clarify for you and let you know that biblical patterns are important to me too, i can tell you i did speak to Oli P my kigsway rep on pretty much exactly the same pricing issues raised here back on 19th July, and indeed probably pretty much every visit even before that, and if you go back to about May 2010 on here you will see I largely raised the same issues in person and then online back then too!

          Now, to clarify again, these are indeed all my choices and I willingly accept my responsibility for them, you are free to chose to do things differently and I willingly accept your right to do that too, but I do uphold my right to dissent 😉

          Oh and by the way thanks for joining the conversation, I really can say I have genuinely appreciated every single thing you’ve posted. 🙂

  4. Dear Mediawatch,

    My suggestion is just that Kingsway stop acting in a way that is at heart less than fair trade and in a way that works against their trade partners and go over to the Christian Retailing facebook page and look up the suppliers pledge.

    Whilst, from what I can gather from american collegues, Kingsways parent company may well be able to sign up to it with impunity I’m not convinced the same is true of Kingsway.

    To be fair Kingsway are not alone in this and a number of UK suppliers would have to look deeply at themselves given how they direct sale and undercut their trade partners at any chance given and then bemoan the low sales they get from Christian Bookshops (who are probably buying their product cheaper on the open market!) and the potential loss of Christian Bookshops.

    And by the way do you really think for a moment we believe only 50% was given to HMV to sell it at £7.99, it is a vatable item after all and some of us work in retail and can do basic math 😉

    But nevertheless thanks for your comment, it is appreciated.

  5. Dear Mediawatch

    So what happens when you sell those 3 pre-order copies that you got at 50% discount? You put the price back up to 12.99 or thereabouts, and then say bye-bye to any future sales of that product.

  6. Here’s the maths – we bought this in at 12.99 retail, costing us net £6.49 after we reclaim the ‘input’ VAT. If we sell out at £7.99 retail, after paying out 20% VAT we earn £6.39. So to compete with Amazon/HMV retail prices etc, we lose 10p per sale……. And don’t think for a minute that Amazon/HMV are selling below cost!

    From my point of view, full marks to Phil for looking into the pricing issues behind this. Glad the product is selling well, and no issue as such with it selling through ‘secular’ channels. But it would be helpful if the playing field was just a bit more level, dear friends at Kingsway. If the product is selling well, and you have the benefit/opportunity of selling at such volume, why not introduce a retrospective discount to enable ‘the trade’ to adjust their prices/compete a bit better?

    • In fairness, I stand corrected on the final point.

      Oli Proctor, our Kingsway rep, has pointed out that he followed up the success of this CD with a ‘trade’ email. This offered a re-run of the 50% ‘launch’ discount in case any of his retailer wanted to pick this up.

      I didn’t pick this up, so my apologies to Oli/Kingsway for not reading my emails properly…… This would have allowed me to get down to £9.99 or so. Maybe not a level playing field, but a bit less bumpy!

  7. I am so saddened to hear all this. This is one of the reasons that I have reluctantly decided to leave Christian Solutions in Jersey. I have put my heart and soul into this shop and tried and tried to explain the vision of our shop to people, ie. that we are more than a bookshop, we are a mission, and we are there for people who need us. We listen to people, pray with people and make sure that we are there when people need us. If Kingsway and other suppliers would like to make a suggestion as to where those people will go if our shops have to close, then I would be very interested to hear it. I work over 50 hours a week for very little, although it has never been about the money, I am here to serve GOD; but I am sure that GOD is telling me ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Why do Christians want to do battle with us over prices when all we are trying to do is to help others. There are enough people out there trying to have a pop at Christians, without other Christians joining in with them. It is not our fault that we have to charge certain prices for things. We are happy that as long as our bills are paid in order that we can ‘SERVE’ others, then that is all that matters. I am around at Christian Solutions until the end of March 2012. The shop won’t be closing. I know that I am not irreplaceable but my prayers will remain with the Industry and whereve it is going. I await with great anticipation as to what GOD wants me to do next. I am very saddened to be leaving the Industry as I beleive it has a major part to play in bringing others to a relationship with Christ. I am so sad as I write this because I feel that I have been forced into this decision, there is no joy left in Christian Retailing at the moment and that breaks my heart.

    • Julie,

      my prayers and thoughts are with you at this time.
      Such a hard decision to have had to make, but I give thanks for the fact that you have been there helping others in these times and working away to do the best for keeping a christian bookshop and witnessing presence there on Jersey for this time and on into March of next year.

      This mission field of ours is not an easy one and the burn out rate can be high, especially in these hard times we are travelling through.
      Not to inflate myself (or other booksellers) but I often think of it akin to the prophets in the OT, a message to give to a generation and people that frequently don’t want to hear it and not only battling that but faced with the difficulties that arise when seemingly even your own religious brethren don’t want you to spread the message either due to the issues it brings for them. Strangely I take heart from this.

      Interesting to note is that some were called only for a short while, a single message to give sometimes, and yet these were as important as those whose whole lives were perhaps devoted to the mission – one voice there at the right time preparing the field for the others to come or opening the eyes of those there at that moment. Thank you to all those, like you Julie, for whom that may be the case.

      I hope that in the next few months all becomes clear and revealed for you as you step out onto the next part of your journey with God and your life.

      Blessings.

      Melanie

    • Likewise saddened, Julie — as you say, it’s a struggle, especially when so many of those we seek to serve simply don’t seem to get it … *sigh* … but thank heavens for those who do.

      Every blessing to you, wherever the future takes you, and thank you for all your encouragements along the way.

  8. This does make somewhat of a mockery of their so called “Partnership”.

    While i would love to see secular shops really pushing christian product, the sad reality is that they are not, as any honest kingsway rep will tell you.

    The CD, is not, for example, front page on any HMV.com page I can see. In Fact, you need to drill 4 categories deep (Music>Other Music>Blues and Gospel>Gospel) to find this mis-catagorised CD at all.

    Though I have not been to my local HMV, I suspect it will be similarly hidden away in store.

    Nothing like the high profile, front and centre Kingsway display located next to the till in many of the christian book shops up and down the country.

    And in response to Mediawatch… no, 50% is not “very generous” when speaking about a £12.99 CD. As Andrew points out, it’s very, VERY not generous.

    I like kingsway, we have a good relationship with them, and value the “partnership” we have with them, but when they do stupid, ill conceived things like this, it makes a mockery of the whole thing.

    The issue is not that they sell to the “Big Boys” at lower prices, they order in larger quantities—though it would be nice if they lumped independent indies like us together when calculating order quantities, the same whey they do when defending their website pricing policy. “Indies made up 65% of our sales of this title, compared to less than 2% online”—but that they rub our faces in it when they send it to their sizable databases.

    I HIGHLY doubt that HMV have agreed to sell and stock all of the product we do to get in on their partnership scheme. I seriously doubt that they keep all of the core stock, receive all of the counter display packs, new titles etc. we do to be in on the partnership scheme. No… they have seen one christian CD make it into the itunes download chart, said “We want part of this” and negotiated far more favourable terms than we ever could hope for without any of the other hoops we’re being expected to jump through.

    What’s more, I suspect that the product HMV have in stock is returnable, and just as soon as it loses popularity, it will be dumped back on Kingsway—and by extension us “second tier” retailers by way of our “fantastic” promotions where they will try and flog it for a tenner in their 2-for-20’s for the next year or so.

    Come on Kingsway. You are better than this. You HAVE BEEN doing better than this. Why stop now?

  9. Also. I know it’s a little off topic but did anyone actually read the press release?

    Patronising much?

    “That’s right: High streets and shiny shopping malls up and down the country will be getting a dose of…”

    Did anyone else feel like the implication of that sentence was something like “unlike the dodgey back streets, and dirty dive “malls” (if you can call them that) you usually need to brave to find our goodies”

    Come on guys. Not all christian bookshops are dingey, grotty neglected little out of the way shops people are otherwise scared to visit, any more than HMVs are all shiney new, clean, nice or inviting. What’s more those of us who are falling into disrepair are doing so because our suppliers terms mean there is little-to-no spare cash to invest in renovating our property, or moving to more high profile locations.

    • Top Ticket there Luke!
      Totally agree, though to be fair some of us totally admit to be a little dingy around the edges and in a neglected little market hall but we are not ashamed of that fact given our customers like us, find us and use us and we are still here despite everything when most of the nice shiny places have gone!
      But yes it would be so much nicer if our suppliers terms to us were more akin to those of those shiny places 🙂

      • lol, though some of us are now feeling shiny today as we have been informed today that we are included in the Independent Bookshops Directory being given out with The Guardian on Saturday, along of course with over 300 other independent bookshops up and down the country and in ireland too 😉

  10. Pingback: HMV gets @worshipcentral’s Spirit Break Out – at £7.99 | supersimbo.com | Christian blogger designer in Ireland

  11. What an amazing opportunity for us.. The thought that worship music can now be picked up in the high street is one that only people have been dreaming about for centuries.. Gone are our evangelistic opportunities of walking around the high street with ‘God is nigh’ boards in an attempt to win people for Christ to a new wave of opening up the worship scene for all!

    Is it fair that HMV can sell it cheaper than Christian Retailers? Surely that’s upto them? If HMV decide to make less margin on each product with the hope of selling several thousands then good luck to them – and good luck to the people that buy it – I hope you experience the sense of God’s revelation in your lives as we do!

    Surely we are simply taking our church music to the streets and I do question what is the harm in this? If we had been open in our Churches and accepting to all people would this be needed? No probably not.. So were the church has failed… let the music go in the places where the church can’t.. to the ears of thousands of young people across the country and let us work together in spreading the message of love and peace to our land.

    • Robin, I’m not suggesting for one moment that it’s a bad thing that this album is now available in HMV: kudos to HMV and more power to them — would that every decent Christian album were available in HMV, in Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s too! That said, I do question the whole ethos of selling worship as an entertainment commodity — but that’s another matter.

      As to fairness: it’s not about HMV, it’s about Kingsway and terms of supply. Do you really think a company the size of HMV will have seriously cut their margins on what is for them a marginal product? Of course not: the reason HMV can sell it at £7.99 will be because there’s been some hard bargaining which has made it possible without HMV having to sign up to the partnership terms that Kingsway’s regular “partners” are expected to comply with: see Luke’s comment, No.10, above.

      The issue isn’t with HMV: it’s with Kingsway; and as Luke has said, they are capable of better than this, far better.

    • Erm Robin, for which centuries were they able to pick music up on the high street anyway at all? Perhaps you meant generations?

      If centuries it is only this one and last one – and in both of these this has been done before and is nothing really new, since the 90’s and possibly before Asda, Tesco, HMV etc have frequently carried the TimeLife & indeed some other brands releases by top christian artists, the wow’s and bests have even had tv adverts for them!

      I rejoice to see these things in the mainstream and no one is cribbing because they are available from elsewhere, we are cribbing the unfair terms at which some suppliers, Kingsway being a main one it seems, tend to deal with us christian indies who are supposedly their bread and butter customers.

      As Luke says they are quick to lump us together with statements along the lines of Indie Christian bookshops account for 65% of sales of an album, but they fail totally to deal with us on terms on that basis, preferring to use us as a money maker for them by giving lower terms to us due to our individual size when corporately without us one has to question how viable is the industry long term??

      Thus we support and enable them selling the item on their own websites at less than they tell us the retail price is that they offer the terms on – not that anyone but us charges this rrp but us – and we have no choice if we wish to make anything from the transaction as Andrew points out so well at no.8!
      Thus we support and enable them selling the item to Amazon, HMV etc at at least 45% off their selling price – ie £10.99 not the rrp of £12.99 they charge us ( i am informed by a friend in the industry that that is the least percentage certain suppliers will consider accepting on such products – and even then they expect higher discount or a lower base price to start with!).

      I’m sorry but at the end of the day I consider this to be little more than a hidden form of usury being inflicted on the Christian Trade.

      Let’s face it Robin, when you are treated so unfairly wouldn’t you get upset?

      • In response to your question Melanie yes of course I would speak out if I was being unfairly treated. I would however only resort to media tricks if I couldn’t work it out with the company directly. What I’m not seeing here is anyone who has been treated unfairly. Apologies for quoting Kotler again however he does give insight as to why this issue has come. In his theory of competitive strategies he says that it’s not possible for a niche company to compete on price with another company that has a low price strategy so what is needed is for the niche to get their competitive advantage which they can do by finding out what their value added benefits are.

        Christian bookshops are in dangerous place at the moment however I do believe there is a solution out there.. if not a business one then a spiritual one. I’m happy to provide some more solutions on how Christian bookshops can compete in today’s market if needed.

        • Robin,
          Have a read of what you said, do you realise you just answered exactly why we are having this discussion here, the fact that niche can’t compete with low price!! and need a competitive advantage? one which in this case was actually wiped right out from under them by the marketing going out as it did??

          Here’s a very recent report that says what you’ve said – http://press.kelkoo.co.uk/kelkoobestretailbrand.html – well what Kotler said actually, but more importantly it also points out why this is a real problem perhaps more so than at any other time in retail, and it also demonstrates why Kotlers arguments for capitalising on our USP’s won’t, unfortunately really work these days. It’s a very important article and please read it in light of further responses made down the page to get a grasp of where the problems lay. Oh and give real consideration to the last line of the article in light of what Kotler said and what you have been taught, sometimes theory becomes outdated really quickly and even the best models of practice just don’t quite work how they should or did.

          Feel free to offer solutions if you have them, those of us actively working in those shops have a few of them ourselves and we are always looking for more, indeed the more the better to my mind 😉

          Again thanks for your comments and thoughts, they are valued. (Lol – not necessarily always agreed with but nevertheless very valued all the same!)

  12. But surely this is just a simple case of buyer power. If you study Kotler’s 5 Forces (which I have) then this is common practice within business. If your buyer has more buying power than you then yes you are in a better position to negotiate.. And at the cost of weighing up should we be encouraging worship music in our high streets then yes of course I believe it’s a price to pay… I’m not a particular fan of Kingsway however I’m not sure what they have done wrong here…They can only be accused of creating an leavened playing ground if they have acted differently and I’m not sure they have. Discount structures for bulk buying is common place and is a principle taught to thousands of business students.

    Neither can I see how selling in HMV damages sales for Christian bookshops in the UK. I’m a big fan of supporting my local bookshop and will even pay higher than necessary to do this.. I however would go into HMV to buy DVDs and chart music and my christian bookshop for Christian CD’s. I can only imagine that others are doing the same. Surely the CD’s in HMV will appeal to a new market of people that wouldn’t usually go into their local Christian bookshops so surely this isn’t a Kingsway problem. It is however a problem of not having an alternative as many towns nowadays don’t even have a Christian bookshop.

    We are in a in-perfect world and have to work alongside practices are aren’t fair however I do believe it’s important for us as Christians to work together on this. So many unbelievers are put off my church because we seem to be too busy bickering amongst ourselves.. Let’s put our own agenda’s down here and look at the big picture. WORSHIP MUSIC IS BEING SOLD ON OUR HIGH STREETS! And amen to that!

  13. Oh for goodness sake….please at least get your facts right Phil; first of all, you do not know what deal was done with HMV (nor do I) so, let’s stop second guessing; second, any store can benefit from the higher discount that is offered by Kingsway – order 3 of a Kingsway title to get 50% discount – most reps, if they have any sense, will not be resistant to offering a higher discount for a reorder of a reasonable quanity; third, it’s my understanding that Kingsway responded well and in a generous manner when various folk pulled them up on the seemingly unfair way they sold product on their website, by offering to everyone (not just ‘partners’) a 50% discount for pre-orders of 3 units of a title – (who else ofers such terms for such a low quanity order?) – and even then, some shops didn’t use this extra discount to compete, but rather, pocketed the extra discount and sold them at the usual price!

    As for you Luke, words almost fail me (thankfully they don’t though!) – who said that all the Christian Bookshops were ‘dodgey’ ‘dirty’ ‘grotty’ _ did you read a different press release to me? – talk about hearing not what’s being said – get a grip man! Regarding discount; yes, I do consider 50% to be generous when compared to 33% – maybe you have just been spolied by other companies.

    Thankfully, there are some (well done Robin!) who, rather than consistantly griping, see the bigger Kingdom picture of impacting and influencing, in whatever way we all can, the secular world we live in – I’m up for that, whether it’s through the preaching of the gospel, the music of the saved or the deeds and way we live and treat each other on a daily basis. If you wish to continue seeing all that’s done as purely a money making enterprise and encouraging others to share your negative world view, then I pity you – to quote Corinthians
    13:7 ‘Love believes all things’ – if you choose to see only the negative in what is being done, then to quote Private Fraser off of Dad’s Army, “We’re all doomed!”!

    • Dear Mediawatch,

      I’m not feeling spoiled at all by the other companies, but I am feeling like I’m treated fairly by them as opposed to by Kingsway within this arena of my business.
      Most, no in point of fact ALL the other companies, give me substantially more than 33% as standard!

      And sorry to burst your bubble but actually there are a couple of the other companies that are doing 50% on ‘such low order quantities’ indeed sometimes on even lower order quantities and even on top up orders post release date in some cases too!!

      So sorry but on the whole I’m afraid your posturing in the face of what are at the end of the day quite obvious facts based on the reality of the trade as many of us know and understand it and the prices that others are retailing things at really doesn’t change things and neither does bible quote throwing.

      Now would you actually like to address the issues and concerns being genuinely and honestly raised by the Christian Trade represented here?

      Also perhaps while you are at it you could come out into the open and give us a name to actually engage openly with?

      Alternatively feel free to make contact with me directly to discuss my concerns, issues and upsets – Oli can give you my details if you want, but I rather think you have them already, if not click on my name go to my webshop and my details are on the contact page.

      • Posturing eh? – means to ‘behave in a way that is intended to impress or mislead others’ – well, that’s certainly not my intent, rather, to impress upon you and others, that this kind of whining, bickering (good word Robin) and negative thinking gets us absolutely nowhere. i totally agree with Joy’s more sensible comment: ‘ If you aren’t able to sell CDs at a price that will make it worth stocking them then don’t. Fill that space up with stuff that will sell. We all know what kinds of things sell better in our shops, so get more of that!’ – now, that makes sense. The reality is, bulk orders result in higher discounts – everybody who has any business acumen about them knows it – the mainstream independent grocer shops have had to deal with the likes of Tesco/Asda etc for years – most just get on with and SELL the unique services that they can offer instead. Yes, there are lots that have gone to the wall, but not all – the remaining stores have fought the good fight successfully (ooops, close to ‘bible quote throwing’ again there….naughty!) All I read from you is ‘this is so unfair’ – well, life’s unfair…just deal with it!

        I’m pleased (and happy for my ‘bubble to be burst’) to hear that you receive generous discount from other companies – but be honest, you could get more from Kingsway if you wanted to…..but you choose not, so, that’s your choice – don’t whinge when it’s you who has made that decision! You say, ‘sometimes you receive (high discount) on even lower order quantities and even on top up orders post release date in some cases too!!’ – great, order from them then and don’t order from the ones you consider to not be so generous to you – as Joy said, ‘vote with your feet’.

        As much as I should like, it not for me to ‘address the issues and concerns being genuinely and honestly raised by the Christian Trade represented here?’ (really, this is all of you?!) – rather, I wish to address the ongoing grumbling, complaining and bickering (great word Robin!) that is consistently dragging the christian trade you claim to speak for, down. To quote Robin, ‘Let’s put our own agenda’s down here and look at the big picture. WORSHIP MUSIC IS BEING SOLD ON OUR HIGH STREETS!’ – and surel;y that is why Kingsway were shouting about it in the first place…..not to wind us up, but to proclaim good news to Christians everywhere that the world is taking some notice……..not huge, but some…….surely that’s encouraging to us all. Melanie, I should just love to see much more of the Barabus spirit on here and some rejoicing with those that rejoice (Ooops, there’s that ‘bible throwing’ again)

        By the way, I choose (my choice …see, I can do it too!) to post as a guest -take my word for it, it’s easier that way.

        • Dear Mediawatch,

          My response to your above post:

          Paragraph 1:
          Ok, may I suggest you go to the top and read post no.1, the first paragraph to be exact.
          Oh and yes despite all hardships such as the ones mentioned here and in this paragraph I too am still here, not going anywhere or on the cusp of closing, made a profit, paid my taxes, paid my suppliers and paid off the loans I took out to buy my business this year(yay me! and I pray the same for all my friends in the bookshop businesses too!)
          I believe in the FSB’s position and other trade groups and the fact that they are speaking out against the treatment indies and small businesses get from Tesco etc.
          The point is they don’t just deal with it and take it lying down, the ones still there get on with their day to day business, yes, AND they confront and campaign against goliath and his business practices head on. Bo on ‘BUY LOCAL’!

          Paragraph 2.
          See paragraph 1’s response and:
          Now I suggest you read Joy’s post no.16 again and the second paragraph, and in case you didn’t notice, that name there she cites is Melanie – that’s me! 😉

          Paragraph 3.
          Are you the one the slammed Luke in Post 15 paragraph 2 for reading things that aren’t implied into things??
          I clearly stated ‘the Christian Trade represented here’. I did not say I or this blog represented all the ChristianTrade, I clearly said the ones represented here, you know here on this blog, and to my count there are at least 5 or 6 of us from all types of shops all across the UK that have commented and represented ourselves here, thats about 1% of the trade as figures stand these days, not many I admit but there are possibly more that have ticked little boxes and there might be more that have read it and don’t comment on blogs and there are probably even more that aren’t even aware of it, but the point is some are and feel strongly enough to comment. It’s a trade blog and that’s what we do.
          Now read my response to point 13, in particular the words I begin paragraph 3 with 😉
          Oh and by the way i never said you couldn’t throw bible quotes I just pointed out it doesn’t change anything, actually I’m a bit of a whiz at bible quote tennis myself, lob one out and I can generally volly one back, but I think really that’s not how we should treat the word of God, my choice so feel free to toss them about if you want.

          Paragraph 4.
          Like you say your choice, but no sorry I don’t believe it’s easier that way, I believe in being open, honest and out there, and it’s hard to take the word at face value of someone that won’t even give me a name, sorry about that but as you say it’s a choice thing. I may be wrong but I’m not ashamed of what I say or do, i do it openly, honestly and right out there for all to see.

          Right now enough with the posturing ( I can do it too and allow myself to be tricked into it and misled by it!) back to the real issue of this post and that’s the pricing etc, so again anyone out there up for setting up or talking about setting up a buying or negotiation group?

          oh and Mediawatch, Sorry if that that post stung a little.

          Cheers

          Melanie

    • Hmm, well you’ve hit the nail on the head there, Mediawatch: it is for goodness’ sake. It’s for goodness sake’ that I run this blog and UKCBD and it’s for goodness’ sake that I allow people to post under pseudonyms, albeit more for the benefit of those such as the former SPCK/SSG employees who had good reason to fear reprisals from bullying employers if their identities became known rather than to allow people to take a pop from behind a cloak of anonymity *sigh* … but c’est la vie (that’s French too, btw, and italicised as well 😉 ) — to use your phrase, we’ll deal with it 😉 … and in response to your more recent comment, don’t worry: I have no plans to withdraw the pseudonymous commenting option — but no more comments under generic pseudonyms such as “Guest”, please.

      It’s also for goodness’ sake that I raise questions about fair business practices, especially when it comes to the way Christian organisations deal with their business partners, Christian or otherwise: with the Brewers and, more recently, NCT, we’ve seen some splendid examples of how Christians ought not to deal with one another, and I remain optimistic that Kingsway do indeed have the best intentions in mind in their business practices — but at times like this, it’s hard to see that. If you haven’t already done so, please do go read Eddie Olliffe’s take on the situation: Book Trade – Pricing policy, discounts and the deepening sense of unease

      As I and most others commenting have already said, it’s great to see a Christian album making it in a mainstream outlet. You’ll find no argument with most of us on that point. The problem arises, however, in the pricing structures — and the issue raised last year wasn’t over the “seemingly” unfair way Kingsway were presenting product on their website: it was, in fact, a direct breach of the government’s consumer protection guidelines — see my post Truth, Lies and CD Prices: Taking a Closer Look at Kingsway’s Price Comparisons (8 June 2010) if you need further clarification on that point. There was no seeming about it: what Kingsway were doing was both unfair and illegal and it was only with a sense of weary resignation that I decided to give notice of a formal complaint to the OFT, a point that should never have been reached and wouldn’t have been if Kingsway had responded in a more timely manner.

      So, dear Mediawatch, this isn’t about griping and negativity, much as you may choose to read it that way: it’s about that bigger picture, Christian integrity. It’s about how we, as Christians, live out our Christian values in a society that sees everything through a money-spinning lens. It’s about how Christian companies apply their Christian ethos in their business dealings — in this instance, it’s about calling Kingsway to follow the King’s way that they’ve adopted as their name. You’re right: love believes all things; it also hopes all things, including fair business practices … and even dares to hope for a little transparency from its conversation partners. As another scripture reminds us, perfect love drives out all fear, and my prayer for you is that whatever fear is holding you back from identifying yourself will, in due course, be driven out by that love; but as Melanie has said, your choice 🙂

      Having mentioned Clem Jackson in my previous response, I’ll finish with a quote from him, because, despite whatever differences we may have, we are all in this together:

      So here’s a rallying cry to producers, retailers and consumers alike – let’s all support one another. Publishers and distributors, make it a priority to give the best possible terms to B&M bookshops and don’t just look at bulk sales. 400+ bookshops could together generate more sales of a title than on-line sellers. Retailers, develop your relationships with the local Christian community and if they won’t come to you then go and find them.

      Full article: What is the future for Christian bookselling?

  14. Firstly, it must be awesome for the Worship Central guys to be on sale in HMV. If I was a musician with an album out I’d be seriously chuffed! As a consumer I remember back in the day when Delirious? King of Fools album went on sale in secular shops. Top job!

    I agree with Melanie’s comment on Facebook that once you’ve put your point across to Kingsway, you are best off voting with your feet. If you aren’t able to sell CDs at a price that will make it worth stocking them then don’t. Fill that space up with stuff that will sell. We all know what kinds of things sell better in our shops, so get more of that!

    I wonder how many shops actually use the 50% discount to pass on the savings. I guess it must be tempting if you are a struggling shop to still mark it at full price.

    I’m also guessing that from HMVs perspective they will have gotten a bulk order discount that no indie retailers are going to be able to compete with and whilst they are keen to get a slice of the action their prices are always going to reflect how well they think the item is going to sell.

    • Joy,

      I agree with most of what you say and yes I am voting with my feet, but the truth is that I shouldn’t have to. I’m not stopping selling music because I want to I’m doing it because I have to 😦

      As to the 50% I can say when I got it I passed it on, but I rarely got it because there are very few CD’s I will ever sell 3 of in fast succession and I can’t warrant the tie up of the cash flow sitting on my shelf, or waiting for a credit later on.

      As Andrew so ably demonstrated in point 8, even with 50% on a £12.99 cd that Amazon etc are selling at £7.99 then you make nothing but a loss if you price match!
      Amazon etc sell most of Kingsways new releases at £7.99 or £8.99 thereabouts, not just this one and truthfully it is Amazon etc that is the price all the customers know, even when they know it is cheaper (but more) on KShop, however it is the Kshop price that make them think we are somehow ripping them off and inflating the prices!
      Indeed there are times here where it seems like somehow even Kingsway folks seem to think that a shop selling the item at the price they have set is doing something wrong! Perhaps they really need to think on that because actually that’s quite telling from a psychological point of view! A bit of a pink elephant in that there room!

      And Joy you are right, we can’t compete with a bulk order, but the truth is that if you add our sales together they probably more than equal that bulk order!

      So perhaps now is the time that we look into forming a buying group or partnership – and no we don’t need a direct warehouse to send it to as I am reliably informed by a number of different sources that a number of different addresses to send things to, or small orders formed over a number of weeks, is actually quite standard these days!

      Now i’m up for that and would welcome us getting together and working on this seriously – you all know where to find me 😉

    • Lol Joy,
      can I just check something, you know that last bit ‘whilst they are keen to get a slice of the action their prices are always going to reflect how well they think the item is going to sell.’
      Did you mean that to infer that HMV want it because it’s on itunes but have priced it down because they reckon no one would pay more for it? lol.
      I guess truth is HMV just might, sadly, be right on that front if so.

      • I think the key phrase in my post was ‘i’m guessing’!! I obviously have no idea what went on with any deals with HMV but I would have thought they would be fairly cautious with this. They are also not immune to the current financial climate so they would probably tread carefully with this. Whilst we know how wonderful the album is, I expect they don’t expect it to sell as well as some of their other new releases this week!

  15. Hi all

    James from Kingsway here

    Having read through some of the comments I would like to post the following statements and thoughts

    1. All CBA customers were offered a firm sale deal on a minimum 3 Spirit Breakout with a 50% discount. This is £19.47 cost inclusive of VAT

    2. All CBA customers were offered see safe terms on this album plus selected backlist titles (inc 50% pre release discount) with packs starting from approx £55.00 inclusive of VAT

    3. Amazon/HMV have bought their stock at a price more expensive than this pre release offer to the CBA.

    4. The price that Amazon/HMV etc choose to sell at online is set by their sales and marketing team not by the Kingsway staff

    5. The sales of Spirit breakout in the CBA in the first 2 weeks of release have exceeded the lifetime sales of Lifting High (WC 1st album).

    6. Exposure through Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and ITunes have in no small part increased the public knowledge of this excellent album

    7.Having a Christian album in the High Street is a fantastic witness

    8. We have produced an e-card for you to send to your mailing lists with 4 tracks for customers to listen to. We hope this will help with your sales

    There are many other comments and thoughts I could post, but I’m not sure this would be the best place to share these

    As John Pac put in his letter to our trade last year we are always happy for constructive feedback and our desire is to serve you in a Christ like way.

    I am happy to answer any email that you wish to send me to the best of my knowledge and ability.

    My email is jbatterbee@kingsway.co.uk

    Regards

    James

    • Lol, as no one else has yet said it as some think they are on facebook with the little likey thumbs –
      Thank you James for commenting and responding, it is always nice to get a little informed opinion with our supposition. 🙂

    • Thanks James – that’s helpful.

      If you, or John Pac, would care to address the issue of your notional RRPs, please, I’d appreciate it.

      Taking this specific album as an example, you cite an RRP of £12.99 but have gone straight to market with it at £10.99, not as an introductory price, but simply as your “web price” — yet you’ve advertised it to those on your mailing list as “£10.99 / RRP £12.99”.

      Why not be straight with both your business partners and your direct mail customers over this issue, stop quoting a notional RRP, and simply let the price you intend to sell it at be the price? Then discount to the trade from there…

      • Hi Phil

        I’m not convinced I understand what is the issue with an online shop selling an item at a reduced RRP?

        When I was at Wesley Owen the web prices were different to the store prices and never really had a negative impact on store sales.

        I’m sure that John mentioned that our direct to consumer business is a small percent of our turnover and is not aggressively marketed but is there to offer a service to customers who don’t live near a shop.

        I understand the perception of a false ‘RRP’

        The way see it is this

        David C Cook/Kingsway as the publisher

        Kingsway Distribution

        Kingsway Shop

        All have the same name but serve a different function and are distinctly different parts one company.

        STL had distribution, publishing and retail. All separate parts but one company and this is the same.

        If the web shop decide to sell something at a reduced margin in the same way as Andy mentioned in his post about Christian bits then it is a much their call as it is for Andy or any online retailer.

        This may not be a satisfactory answer for some but we see the shop as a resource for the Church in areas where there is no shop not a direct competition to other online retailers or bricks and mortar stores

        As mentioned before I’m not on this blog very often so the best way to contact me is by email jbatterbee@kingsway.co.uk

        Regards

        James

      • Thanks James. The issue is quite straightforward: Kingsway, as publisher, set the RRP; then Kingsway take on the role of retailer and sell it at a lower price, telling customers in their direct mailings that they’re offering them a discount.

        That would be fine if at some point in the proceedings Kingsway actually sold the goods at the RRP, providing a genuine price comparison; but you don’t. Allow me to quote from my piece that I cited above in response to Mediawatch, Truth, Lies and CD Prices: Taking a Closer Look at Kingsway’s Price Comparisons (8 June 2010)…

        It seems to me that any company advertising their own products on the basis of “Our price £X, RRP £Y” when they themselves have set the RRP is operating in a grey area at best, if they’re not actually being downright dishonest. When a supposedly Christian company engages in this sort of practice, it’s a double whammy. But what does the Government guidance itself say? Whilst the guidance is not comprehensive, several sections have some bearing on this situation:

        1.2 Comparisons with the trader’s own previous price

        1.2.3 (a) A price used as a basis for comparison should have been your most recent price available for 28 consecutive days or more;

        Kingsway, of course, are not claiming that their RRPs are a ‘previous price’ so it could be argued that the specific guidance of 1.2.3 (a) does not apply. But if the RRP has never been charged, is it not a purely fictional device? Let’s move on, then, to consider the guidance on RRPs:

        1.6 Comparisons with “Recommended Retail Price” or similar

        1.6.1 You should not use a recommended retail price, or similar, as a basis of comparison which is not genuine, or if it differs significantly from the price at which the product is generally sold.

        1.6.2 You should not use an RRP or similar for goods that only you supply.

        Given that Kingsway’s RRPs are not generally charged by Kingsway themselves but are only used in their dealings with other traders, any claim that those RRPs are genuine seems a tad shaky at best; and since Kingsway are the sole supplier of Kingsway products — even when made available through other traders — then, with the best will in the world, I’m finding it difficult to see how Kingsway’s practice can be interpreted as anything but a deception, the ‘discount’ nothing more than bait to draw people in, the RRP a hook to hang it from…

        This is a completely different scenario to Wesley Owen or any other retailer selling other people’s product at below RRP: WO didn’t set the RRP; it’s a valid comparison. But Kingsway setting the RRP then selling below RRP and claiming, either publicly or in direct mailshots, that they’re selling at a discount, is, quite frankly, disingenuous.

        Similarly, the comparison with the old STL/Publishing/Retail relationship doesn’t wash either: products published by Authentic/Paternoster, when they were all part of the same outfit, were generally sold at the RRP: discounts were either introductory offers or brought in some time after the products had been on sale at the RRP — and as often as not, when discounts were brought in they were via Engage or The List and their various predecessors, made available to all participating retailers, not just WO.

        I answered John’s contention that the Kingsway online shop is a resource for those who don’t have a local bookshop during last year’s discussions in my post Kingsway: John Paculabo Responds — there is no separate online shopping community, and the advertisements for the site that I’ve seen in Christianity magazine, for instance, target all readers: there’s nothing on the site or in your ads for it that would back this up by, say, pointing people to their nearest Christian retailer first…

        I have to confess to be being puzzled that this conversation is necessary more than a year on from the previous discussions; in fact, I’m equally puzzled that those discussions were ever necessary between Christians: government guidelines really shouldn’t be necessary to ensure best practice by Christians — it should be the other way around, with the government coming to us and saying, “How do the followers of Jesus deal with these issues?” then drawing up their guidelines from what they find; but I dread to think what state the marketplace would be in if they did…

        I’ll email a copy of this to you as well 🙂

        • Hi Phil

          Thanks for clarifying this for me.

          So am I right in following your thread that if Kingsway shop were to run a kingsway originated product at RRP for 28 days you would feel this fair, honest and correct?

          Or alternatively if an item was sold as an introductory offer then this would meet the guidelines?

          From your point 1.2.3 it is clear to both you and I that no law or guideline has been broken. Thank you for your honesty here.

          Having ‘done retail’ for 15 with Wesley Owen and before them a very large high street secular firm I fully understand the Was/Now comparison and the 28 day ruling.

          As for the RRP being a fictional device I think our opinions will differ on this. The RRP has a greater function than just what a company recommends a store to sell at. There are many things that it is used for not least paying artists who in turn will continue to be released to resource the Church with songs of substance.

          On your point 1.6.1 the product is generally sold at the RRP. The logic you seem to apply is that if everyone priced an item at £5 then that is the new selling price which doesn’t make sense to me.

          On point 1.6.2 can you please clarify for me what we should call our price if not an RRP?

          Are you saying you want a cost price and then you sell it at whatever you feel is right?

          I’m intrigued by reading some of the comments you make ‘ supposedly Christian company’, ‘deception’ , ‘baiting hooks’ ‘disingenuous’.

          I would ask that when addressing any issue we respect an honour on another in a Godly fashion and not use words that could offend one another or incite feelings that cause another to stumble in hei walk with Jesus.

          I am as I’ve said previously very happy to dialogue these issues and try to find resolution.

          Our heart at Kingsway is this

          To resource the Church with songs if substance which lift high the name of Jesus Christ

        • Phil & James, for me the issue is the branding and impression that gives, I’ve said this numerous times now on here and on many many other places and in person to my rep and to Jon P and I’ll keep saying it.

          Given they trade as Kingsway all along the bulk of customers take the Kingsway advertised shop price to be the real Kingsway price and trying to explain to them that though Kingsway shop may sell it at 10.99 it’s really 12.99 is nigh on impossible!

          Instead because of brand awareness and market force and marketing impact they(the customer) see us selling it at the RRP – this being Kingsways RRP that they never seemingly charge except as a list price tool to trade! – and then they(the customer) look at most of their other favourite comparison sites like, say amazon, and see they sell it for even less and then they assume that we in the shops are overcharging them and trying to inflate the price and make a hefty profit.

          Thus the detriment to our businesses is actaully phenominally damaging in this instance and that, sadly, is a reality of the situation, that many of is in shops have faced and overheard from our customers. This action is not just upsetting because we lose a sale but because the long term impact of such a thing is killing, sustained and something that causes them to doubt us and lose faith with us through no fault or action of our own.

          I advocate education and I am honest in my shop and actively explain how things work using the fair trade models they do have a basic understanding of, but they don’t fully get it and short of getting out invoices (which I have taken to doing recently in a number of cases and sadly yes Kingsway is indeed one of those cases!) and showing them the reality in black and white it is next to impossible to convince them that we are not ripping them off somehow.

          That James is the reality of the detriment of what is happening when you do not use your own RRP but sell under your own brand.

          Now the trth is I put forward again a thought I have already raised here both in this conversation and in many others, both with Jon P, Kingsway and many other publishers and suppliers and that is – do you really need a selling webshop, honestly do you, because if it’s for the benefit of the church who don’t have a shop in their town then what about Eden, Christianbits, lincolnchristianbookshop. Glo, 10ofthose etc and the many many other Christian online bookshop/webshop presences that are already out there retailing, let along and heyho even amazon if we really must!
          Aren’t these retailers more than able of selling your product to the wider christian community if that’s really what the shop is there for??

          Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying don’t have a website, it’s essential!
          but I don’t really think webshops are honestly needed given the sheer number of christian webshop and etailers out there already if the purpose for publishers/producers isn’t really as an extra revenue source, and if it is well then just be honest about it guys – but think too what that really means to your trade partners and think hard on how you act on these sites and what you do and the real lasting impact that may have!

          Wow, just imagine how much more vibrant our trade might be if retailers retailed and publishers/producers did their best bit and then sold to the retailers and let them do the retailing!

          Think of the amazing potential of publisher/producer websites that really highlighted, marketed and ‘sold’ their product but that then directed the visitors to their local christian bookshop to buy it
          (oh and just in case you think that bit can’t be done I suggest you go look at the David C Cook.com website where they have on every buy button a little blue link that says ‘Locate a Christian Bookstore Near You! now that’s a positive thing!)
          and now I really step out and move beyond even the easily and more commonly done, as store finders aren’t that rare, but what if instead of selling direct or just pointing to local stores publisher/producer websites instead of actively selling online themselves actually included suggested online retailers links perhaps instead!
          (oh and if you think this couldn’t work then go look at o-books.com and instead imagine a host of christian etailers listed along with the link for the local bookshop lookup!!).

          How fundamentally amazing would that be, how many jobs would we create, how many communities would we help build up, how much would we really be working together and how much would each of our fortunes honestly grow if we followed the kingdom principle where we each played our own individual part and didn’t try to do someones else part instead!

          I think this could be an incredible, amazing and powerful thing and truthfully I don’t think it’s impossible to achieve at all, think of the real world witness of this, think of the amazing kingdom potential – so come on how about it James and Kingsway and all you other Christian suppliers and publishers too! let’s really think out of the box and into the kingdom 😉

        • Thanks for such a prompt response James. I see the conversation has moved on a bit whilst I’ve been otherwise engaged today, but I’d like to address several specific points you raise:

          1. The question isn’t about what I feel is fair (although I won’t deny that customer perception, as Melanie has indicated very clearly, does come into it) but is rather about what (a) is fair and (b) what the government guidelines specify — and the 28 day rule is part of the government guidelines that Kingsway persistently disregards. But yes, if Kingsway did sell its products at the full RRP for a period of 28 days before selling them at a reduced price then, yes, it would certainly be complying with the letter of the law, if not the spirit. I ask you quite simply: is it fair for a company to specify an RRP but to go straight to market at a reduced price? If a product is offered at an introductory price for a specified period after which the RRP kicks in, then I agree that it would be fair; but that’s not what Kingsway is doing, is it?

          2. The points cited above are not my points: they’re the government’s guideline points.

          3. From point 1.2.3, no, it is far from clear that no law or guideline has been broken. If that were the case, I wouldn’t have cited that part of the guidelines. Please refer to my full article from last year for a more thorough analysis. Kingsway’s practice of taking its products straight to market at a reduced price makes this a grey area at best, hence my further analysis of the guidelines.

          4. If you “fully understand the Was/Now comparison and the 28 day ruling” may I suggest that you ensure that Kingsway complies with it? It is, of course, well over a year since I first raised this question…

          5. OK, so “As for the RRP being a fictional device I think our opinions will differ on this.” Would you/John P *friendly wave to John – I’ll reply to yours later* like me to request an official ruling on the matter from the OFT? I’m quite happy to do that and such a ruling should, I trust, settle the matter once and for all.

          6. If the government guidelines I’ve cited don’t make sense to you, which is what you appear to be saying, may I suggest that you ask the OFT for clarification?

          7. I’m delighted that you are “very happy to dialogue these issues and try to find resolution” — that, of course, is precisely what this conversation is about: thank you.

          8. Last but not least… with apologies if my frustration with the dialogue thus far is showing through… if Kingsway conducted its business affairs in a clearly Christian way, then I wouldn’t be using terms such as ‘disingenuous’ and ‘supposedly Christian company’ etc. Actions speak louder than words, James: to echo your own words, I simply ask that Kingsway operates in a way that does not cause offence or incite feelings that might cause another to stumble in their walk with Jesus… and I’m saddened to say, James and John, Kingsway has certainly got me stumbling right now…

    • On another point, what do you mean by “CBA” please? I know there’s a Christian Booksellers Association in the USA, but that’s hardly relevant to the UK market, is it? I’d also advise against abbreviating Worship Central to WC… 😉

      • Trade accounts in the UK are what I have abbreviated to CBA. I should have put CBC or UK trade accounts. Apologies

  16. Such a difficult issue. The chance to get a product in the largest high-street music retailer? I would jump at the chance.

    With the Christian bookshops in decline is it right for Kingsway to be actively and aggressively seeking new channels – absolutely. There is no way the Christian retail trade could support the music and publishing industry on its own any more. In one of the areas I work in now (documentary film) it has never been a good outlet. Searching for new routes to customers is necessary, but doing it in a way that preserves the relationships that already exist – whilst desirable – is probably beyond the wit on man.

    I would recommend Eddie Olliffe’s excellent article posted yesterday: http://bit.ly/nlQIMp

    • I definitely second Ian’s recommendation of Eddie’s post yesterday.

      However, rather as Eddie made mention of in his post, I do rather wish some people would stop assuming and telling me my business is in decline when it really isn’t that much given all the circumstances in play for the last few years and the wider book and indeed retail trade as well 😉

  17. Admin Update: Since our “Guest” commenters haven’t come back to express a preference, I’m now proceeding on the basis that they are, in fact, two different people, and am resetting the names on the comments and in the responses to the first part of the email addresses used. Thank you.

  18. [ In response to comment 14023 above, “On this particular CD Christian Bits is retailing the item at £12.35…” ]

    Thanks, Mel – very well worded.
    Just for the record, Christian Bits get exactly the same terms as the rest of the bricks and mortar shops. No special discounts. If we sell below RRP, its because we have chosen to make a smaller margin on that product.
    Also for the record, our turnover is about the same as one average bricks and mortar shop, so I don’t think we are taking much business away from the rest of you guys. In fact, if we could afford the rent (sky-high round here), we would have a bricks and mortar shop just like everyone else.
    Andy

    • Robin, whoever you are (clearly not ‘Robin Hood’ as you’ve more recently styled yourself), the reason your posts haven’t appeared is because Akismet, the WordPress spam filter, has identified them as questionable. Provided that you remain civil, I will override it and authorise your comments: welcome and thank you for your input.

  19. Clearly a lot has been said here that is worthy of comment. And clearly I am not going to address each and every point which has been raised in a single post, but let me note a few important ones.

    1: Thanks to James for taking the time to respond here. While I don’t know if all of what he has said makes perfect sense to me, (EG, Amazon and HMV have chosen to sell the product at effectively zero margin, if not at a loss???) I for one certainly appreciate his taking part in this debate.

    2. MediaWatch. I don’t know who you are, or what, if any, your vested interest is in this, but what you are saying is confusing and contradictory at best.

    You say things like “but be honest, you could get more from Kingsway if you wanted to…..but you choose not, so, that’s your choice – don’t whinge when it’s you who has made that decision!” coupled with statements like “The reality is, bulk orders result in higher discounts – everybody who has any business acumen about them knows it – the mainstream independent grocer shops have had to deal with the likes of Tesco/Asda etc for years”

    The facts are quite simple. The “average” discount we receive on non-VAT products is about 40-45%, about 40% for CDs and DVDs and for other “VATable” product is at least 50% (most retailers work on a double-cost-plus-VAT model for VATable product) and even with this many retailers are struggling to make ends meet. By comparison to this kingsway’s 33% standard discount is absolutely crazy, and their 50%-pre-release price is only marginally better than average, which is disappointing given the profile we are expected to give Kingsway product to get that slim extra margin.

    The problem, however, is not the level of discount, but the way it is calculated. Specifically, that it is calculated on an RRP that even Kingsway themselves do not charge.

    I understand James’ point about RRPs serving more purposes than just being a recommended price (used for royalties etc.), but once again, it seems to be yet another way small retailers who (if you believe the kingsway rep’s pitches) make up a significant percentage of total sales are being squeezed out.

    None of us are proposing a system where retailers are not free to take a smaller profit margin to undercut their competitors, but we would prefer a system which allows us to at least come close to competing with the big boys. We would hope that the playing field would be at least a little more even.

    As we’ve said. To get any extra discount on top of the 20ish percent they offer as standard (by the time the tax man has taken his cut) we have to keep an extensive core stock list, accept multiple promotions, and find space to display upwards of 10 new titles and recommendations (supplied in quantity) at any given time. Do HMV and Amazon need to do the same, or not? are Amazon and HMV told “Well, our standard discount is 33% on a £12.99 RRP. There is zero flexibility on that if you don’t take our partnership scheme” as many independent retailers have been told? I don’t know, but it certainly seems not (as mentioned, Kingsway product is still hidden 4 pages deep on the HMV website in the “Blues and Gospel”, and was nowhere to be seen at my local HMV).

    If Kingsway (and others) acknowledge that indie shops account for a significant percentage of their sales, why are they not more worried about helping them stay competitive?

    No-one here is saying that seeing Spirit Breakout on the iTunes Chart, or HMV is a bad thing—on the contrary, we all acknowledge that it would be good, were they making it genuinely high profile. However, I, like Phil, have yet to see any evidence to believe that this happening in HMV.

    With regards to my comment about the wording of the notice… I stand by it.

    While the wording of the notice may not have explicitly stated that, the implication was hard to miss. I am not saying that they were DELIBERATELY implying this, I’m sure they weren’t, but it is non the less, a valid subtext reading. While by no means the main focus of anyone’s complaint here, our point has always been that kingsway often need to think more, before acting.

    As I say. I like Kingsway. We have a good relationship, in the main, with them, and their rep in our area, who I would consider a friend.

    I say these things not because I dislike Kingsway, or their product, nor simply to moan. On the contrary, I say these things because I like kingsway, and their product, and would hate to have to reduce our commitment to them, in terms of what we hold, and the promotions they are offering, because customers see that our prices are so much higher (nearly double in this case), and they no longer come to us.

  20. I am both fascinated and dismayed to read the comments referring to Kingsway’s so called latest undermining of Christian Bookshops and always wonder why Phil Groom just doesn’t pick up the phone and call me, or email me after all Phil has my contact details.
    However perhaps Phil would not be able to insert his cryptic cynicism into a one to one conversation and of course a ‘one to one’ wouldn’t be in the interest of stimulating conversation on the blog!

    Throughout history there are those who simply want to find fault, any fault will do and rather than ask the question ‘should I check this out’ they prefer instead to pick up the nearest brick and start throwing! Words like deception, illegal, dishonest, unfair business practices are the words of an aggressor and malcontent, they do nothing to find resolve or understanding.

    We simply wanted to celebrate the fact that we have an album that sat higher in the i-tunes charts than the Beatles, and that HMV wanted to champion this album in the high street we thought was a cause for celebration – how wrong we were!!,

    Apart from James Batersbee’s comments regarding the discount to HMV which does not undercut bookstores, I would add the fact that we currently use an RRP to calculate artist royalties, but would certainly not be against a fixed selling price (dealer price) and let individual stores decide on their own resale price! Then no-one can be accused of undercutting!

    If you believe that the margins you receive are unfair, here are some other facts to consider that hopefully give you more perspective.

    Facts!

    • Take a retail price of £12-99 (on which we base royalties)
    • Our ‘out of the door’ costs for artist and writer royalties, plus manufacturing and design costs are approximately 32% of retail.
    • When we sell to a retailer who only receives 33% discount the retailer has 33% to cover overheads Kingsway has 67% less 32% = 35% to cover it’s overheads.
    • When we sell at 50% discount our royalty payout is less and so our ‘out of the door’ costs become 23%. Therefore at 50% discount a retailer has 50% to cover overheads, and Kingsway has 50 – 23 = 27% to cover it’s overheads.
    • The risk Kingsway take in making an album such as Worship Central is financially huge, and on a per album basis we make less than the retailer most of the time and dare I say have higher overhead costs.
    • Kingsway has no sale or return option on the money it lays out!

    Leveling the playing field

    In as much as all retailers receive 50% discount on new product then the opportunity to discount and to match on-line retailers is there for all, we did this to help retailers at a cost to ourselves! How is it possible for retailers not to be able to compete with on line prices for new product?
    Despite this there are senior retailers who have confided that they simply pocket the extra margin, as in their opinion whether they discount or not, it makes no difference to their sales! So much for the argument in these cases of internet taking their sales!

    We’re not giving mainstream a better deal, and I cannot control their prices, of course we could stop selling into mainstream, but does anyone really suggest that this is the way forward?

    I understand that things are tough, believe me they are tough for suppliers too, and if Kingsway is to survive it has to find sales channels everywhere, in the last 30 years we have lost Pilgrim Music, Word Music, Authentic Music, and others, companies that played a vital role in resourcing the Church with Christ centered music resources, admittedly some have been rolled into Kingsway but only because they faltered and fell.

    We’re at the very limit of what we can give, and if Kingsway is to continue to provide excellence in Christian music, and the UK not to become similar to many other world nations ie dependent on the USA for Christian Music, then we have to find more sales channels. As far as mainstream is concerned, the facts speak for themselves, on the odd occasion that we have been successful eg ‘The Best Worship Album in the World Ever”, sales through Christian bookstores even at higher prices experienced an uplift!

    Integrity Music, the experts at direct always insisted that a successful recording through their direct continuity club, always sold more in Christian Bookstores than a similar recording that was not available through direct.

    One observation I would make is that the inflammatory comments that at times this blog yields, the veiled insults it produces seem to be missing in the non Christian world, at least in our experience.

    We’ve tried so hard to bring a level of equality into the trade and this latest blog is just disheartening. I think we need to look elsewhere for the answer to lack of sales and footfall, Kingsway is not the enemy!

    • John, my angry friend, it’s always a genuine delight to hear from you and a privilege, if not quite a pleasure, to be on the receiving end of your wrath: I echo Melanie’s thanks to you for taking the time to respond in person.

      You know something, John? Communication works both ways: you, too, have my contact details; but I suppose that if you’d contacted me directly you wouldn’t have felt able to vent so freely and call me “an aggressor and malcontent” or accuse me of brick-throwing etc… I wonder: do you treat all your dissatisfied customers with this level of contempt, or is this special treatment for me?

      Because the thing is, John, that’s what I am: a dissatisfied customer. I’m a customer who has purchased from your web shop, who has tweeted about your web shop and directed my friends and twitter followers to your web shop; and I’ve also purchased your products from Christian retailers when I happen to come across one in my wanderings. My observations about Kingsway’s business practices – especially over this matter of the RRP v/s actual selling price – don’t stem from a desire to find fault but from a desire to see Kingsway living up to its name, both in its direct dealings with customers such as myself and in the way it treats its business partners in the retail sector.

      I choose to do this via this blog because I happen to believe in transparency: I believe that honest and open conversation is the best way of dealing with things; and I believe that my former colleagues in the trade deserve to be party to the conversation.

      So I ask you, John, the self-same question that I’ve just asked James: is it fair for a company to specify an RRP but to go straight to market at a reduced price?

      OFT guidelines are clear: if a product has previously been on sale for a period of 28 days at the RRP then, by the letter of the law, if not the spirit, it is perfectly acceptable to reduce the price and advertise it as such at the end of the 28 day period. Similarly, it is perfectly legitimate and fair to offer a product at an introductory price for a specified period, then put it up to the RRP when that period ends.

      But you know full well that this is not what Kingsway have been doing; and it’s now over a year since I first raised this issue. As I said above, thank you for addressing this matter on your web shop; but I’m surprised and disappointed that you haven’t addressed it in your direct mailshots. Wouldn’t it be better to do that rather than blather and bluster about how offensive you find my questions? Would you carry on like this if I’d drawn the conclusion that you weren’t listening – not an unreasonable conclusion after all this time – and decided to raise the matter with BBC Watchdog instead of via a footnote to a blogpost in this little corner of the blogosphere?

      Now as to what an RRP is for: help me out here, please, John, as I guess I’m a little confused… call it the addled thinking of the over-50s if you like 🙂

      You see, my understanding is that RRP is an abbreviation of “Recommended Retail Price” – it’s the price that a manufacturer/producer recommends their product be sold at by retailers. Yet both you and Mediawatch have been highly critical of retailers who do that: it’s as if you think that a retailer who accepts your recommendation on pricing has, in fact, overpriced the product … as if you think that the RRP is not so much the value of the product but a purely notional price point for the retailer to provide a price comparison against. But as I say, I guess I’m a little confused…

      I’m also confused by your statement that you use the RRP to calculate artist royalties: because just a sentence or two later you say, “When we sell at 50% discount our royalty payout is less” – so how do you calculate artist royalties? On the RRP? Or on the ‘out of the door’ cost, as you call it? Maybe it’s different in the recording industry, but I’ve always understood that in the book trade author royalties are based on the actual selling price, which I gather is why some authors are taking the self-publishing route these days…

      Personally I think RRPs are past their use-by date: they’re a hangover from the old days of the Net Book Agreement and I’d love to see them scrapped altogether – in both books and music – and replaced by a Dealer Price, so I’m with you on that one and would love to hear what others think of it.

      Enough of RRPs though: you know the score and I’m sure you’ll do the right thing now; let’s get back to Spirit Break Out.

      I say again, John, that I think it’s great that Spirit Break Out made it into the iTunes top 10; and I think it’s great that it’s made it into HMV; but claiming that HMV want to “champion” the album in the high street – isn’t that a tad overblown? But I still think, as per my original post, that you’ve missed an opportunity here. You say that your ‘out of the door’ costs on a £12.99 RRP album are 32% of retail. That’s £4.16 (even less for the download, of course, as there’s none of the packaging to contend with). £7.99 – £4.16 = £3.83. So let’s say you keep £2 of that for Kingsway and supply it at a dealer price of £5.83 to retail at £7.99 – and make it a condition of that dealer price that the retail price is no more than £7.99. Then, my friend, you’d really have something to crow about and celebrate. Yes, of course it’s a slim margin, I haven’t factored in the VAT, and the artist royalties are reduced – but the volume sales would be even more phenomenal than they already are as you shout out “Spirit Break Out: £7.99 everywhere!” … and yes, I’ll celebrate and shout out with you as I see you treating my former retail colleagues with the honour, respect and equity that I believe they deserve.

      Oh, and a final observation: it’s interesting what you say about dealing with the mainstream marketplace. You see, I’ve never come across this disregard of OFT guidelines in the mainstream. But I have had cause for complaint – and I’ve never had the CEO of a non-Christian company respond to my complaints with insults and vituperation. Food for thought, isn’t it?

      PS: Since you’ve asked for direct communication, I’m emailing this response to you as well.

    • John.

      Once again, thank you for your comments.

      I certainly appreciate your taking the time to comment here, and appreciate that in general, you have been open and up front about this issue, and others like it. Please accept my apologies that this will be a long one in advance.

      I still find it hard to imagine that Amazon and HMV are selling a product like this, with a minority market base at a loss but if you insist that you are not selling them directly at a greatly inflated discount, then I have no reason not to take your word for it.

      While the direction that the comments have taken seems to be a little different to that posted in the article itself, ie. the RRP vs Direct selling price, i think there are also some important questions raised in the original which are worth mentioning once more.

      Specifically, do HMV (and those like it) really “get it”, or is it just another money spinner?

      For this, I once again appeal to this:

      On HMV.com today spirit break out is STILL 4 clicks deep. Not only that, it is not even where you would think to look for it. It is located under Music>Other Music>Blues and Gospel>Gospel.

      It is located on page 14 of their bestsellers between the ever popular Four Tet and Penguin Prison, and just a few places between The Score by the Fugees which while a genuinely brilliant album was released in 1996.

      As of yesterday, it was still nowhere to be seen in my local store. One of the staff was “pretty sure” that they had it in stock, but couldn’t think where it would be. He did offer to look it up on his system for me to make sure (I declined). He didn’t offer to order it for me if not, but suggested that I could probably get it online if not! When I told him it was a christian worship CD, he did indicate that he thought their was a christian shop somewhere in town (which was nice).

      And yet, in spite of that, they get a significant sales drive, sending customers in their direction by way of the e-card you sent out. “Go check out your local HMV and maybe buy a copy.” reads the email.

      At the same time “The sales of Spirit breakout in the CBA in the first 2 weeks of release have exceeded the lifetime sales of Lifting High (WC 1st album)”.

      And in return we get… nothing. Nada, not even a mention in the e-card that the CD was available from anywhere else but HMV and iTunes. No e-card went out (that I saw) saying “Here’s some great news, In just the two weeks since launch, Worship Central’s newest CD Spirit Breakout has already outsold it’s predecessor, Lifting High in Christian Bookshops up and down the country. So find your nearest Christian bookshop, and show them your support by buying a copy today!”

      Maybe HMV paid for the ecard. Maybe it was a term of their agreement to stock and supply. I don’t know, I wasn’t part of the meetings, but you can’t doubt, that it is exactly that sort of thing that makes partner shops like my own question whether it is a true partnership. Because maybe HMV give you the chance of showing up in the chart, which many christian sales don’t count towards, so maybe you are motivated to discourage further sales in christian shops to see if you can chart? If that’s the case, fine, but at least be honest about it.

      Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to partner with kingsway. I am happy to fill my windows with kingsway posters, dress my till in kingsway POS material and have dozens of kingsway counter displays, floor stands and promotions throughout my shop. I am happy to do this because I know that their products are popular, and if doing so gets me that little extra discount which may make the difference between my business surviving and folding—such is the margin I, and many like me operate on—then of course I will do it.

      I absolutely appreciate the work kingsway does in promoting christian music, especially their investment in british christian music, and have no issue with you seeking out new sales channels for it. I also appreciate that you have no real sway about what individual retailers actually charge (though I wonder what Oli’s reaction would be if he walked into my shop and saw that I had taken the most recent promotion, not promoted it, stuck the CDs on my racks, and pocketed the extra discount… I wonder if I would still be in the partnership scheme after that! Clearly you have SOME sway). I understand that some retailers will always undercut others and will do anything possible to kill the competition, even if it means using some products as loss-leaders. And while personally, i would have issues—as a christian—dealing with companies who operate in such combative and destructive ways, I am also aware that there is more to that side of the industry than meets the eye, and certainly more than I understand.

      I do, however, take some issue to you highlighting one particular retailer at the expense of your so-called partners. I took issue to it when the TV advert for one of the “best album… Ever’s” announced that it was “Available at HMV” and I take issue to this now. I told our rep about my feelings then, and will continue to do so, for as long as people keep doing it.

      As much as you may claim that it doesn’t make a difference to us, it really REALLY does. To pretend that christians ONLY shop at christian shops, and that the products sold at HMV or amazon are to people who either don’t shop at christian bookshops, or don’t have one in their locality is the height of naïveté.

      Christians also buy non-christian books, CDs and games. They do shop at HMV, Amazon and others. They do compare prices, and no matter how much I try to explain otherwise, they will never believe that I cannot match HMV or Amazon prices without taking a loss on those products.

      However, that isn’t the big issue here either. Simply by virtue of HMV and amazon selling the products, christian bookshops will, and do, suffer.

      The BIG issue, for us, is when one of our so-called partners to actively drive customers to those channels which are damaging the gospel mission of those bookshops which are struggling to survive, which are actively contributing to our downfall.

      You may claim that we need to look elsewhere for the source of our declining footfall, I would suggest that we have looked elsewhere, and the answer, time and again, is that cost is the number one factor why people go elsewhere.

      Is getting the CD in HMV really worth it if you have to watch whatever percentage of your sales are made up by CBA retailers slowly shrink to zero as the bookshops close down?

      If it is, then what you are doing is perfectly acceptable, but if you genuinely (as I believe you do) think that a healthy christian retail trade is an important part of your business model, and more than that, an important part of the ministry of Jesus Christ to this world, then I encourage you to please think about the effect some of your actions have on it, and not just feign ignorance. This is an open call to all suppliers and distributors, by the way, not singling out Kingsway.

      This debate exists (I think) not because you decided to sell to HMV—perhaps I am wrong, but I am certain I would not be engaging in it if all that happened was HMV decided to stock the product, as they have with dozens of your, and other, products in the past—but because of the less than choice phrasing of your e-card, and the appearance that you are singling out a few retailers as “key partners” (who appear not to care very much for you), actively driving customers towards them, while the rest of us, (who value you and what you do greatly) are expected to survive on their cast off’s.

      One last comment i believe is worthy of mention is this.

      “One observation I would make is that the inflammatory comments that at times this blog yields, the veiled insults it produces seem to be missing in the non Christian world, at least in our experience.”

      One observation I would make is that in the non-christian world, the highest goal, the sole motivator is money. There is no greater mission. No higher purpose. Their only, and expressed raison d’être—at least in retail—is to make as much money for its owners or shareholders as possible.

      If a non christian company can run one of it’s competitors into the ground, and make huge profits out of it as they watch them disappear then that is far more effective than a few “veiled insults” (which I would argue are not what we are making, but rather collectively trying to find a way to continue to exist, and co-exist).

      As Christians, we do have a higher goal. A much higher calling. We need money to do it, without a doubt, very few of us have the financial backing required to do all of the things we feel lead to do. Most of us do live from hand to mouth, watching money flow from our tills, directly to our suppliers, landlords and other creditors with little or no money spare for anything else. At times it is disheartening. At times we do struggle. At times we are discouraged by the actions of some people who claim to be in it for the same reason, but don’t always act that way, and sometimes we do say and do things which discourage others who claim to be in it for the same reason.

      But we do so because we believe so strongly in the Gospel mission God has given us. We do so because we believe that their is a higher motivator than merely profit for our investors, owners or shareholders.

      We are happy to make little-to-no bankable profit, so long as we can break even, and maintain our presence in the towns and cities we have been entrusted with.

      And when we watch partners who we rely on singling out others in ways which drives footfall away from our shop, and that put the mission in jeopardy—whether intentionally and consciously or not—that does hurt us. Perhaps we don’t always deal with it in the best way. Perhaps these conversations are sometimes more hurtful than helpful. Perhaps we all say things which are both unfounded and untrue—intentionally or not—Perhaps these sorts of things could be sorted in private, rather than here, though i believe the biblical principal is that an issue raised in public should be dealt with public, a private offense privately.

      Regardless, the fact remains that the way that secular businesses deal with one another should have no bearing on the way christian brothers and sisters do.

      We cannot simply say “So long as I’m alright, who cares about anyone else” We cannot simply say “Who cares that this christian bookshop, or supplier is going to the wall… more sales for me!” and we should certainly not seek to undertake in practices which actively seek to undermine the work of other christian brothers and sisters.

      So while we must certainly not seek to undermine a genuine push to get more christian books and CDs out to a wider audience, and should not engage in tactics which hurt our partner publishers, suppliers or other retailers, nor should publishers or suppliers seek to do so in such a way which causes customers to abandon their already struggling christian bookshops, in favour of cheaper secular alternatives, unless we are confident that those secular shops will take up the full mantle of the mission of those christian bookshops when they close.

      Because, like it or not, up and down this country, Christian bookshops have been closing their doors for the last time in part because they continue to lose sales to online, secular businesses, who’s express goal is to watch them close down so they can corner that part of the market and in part the terms available to them are simply not enough to cover their ever increasing costs.

      As we speak many others are preparing to do so, or contemplating ways to avoid having to do so, which have no guarantee of success.

      At this very moment, dozens, perhaps hundreds of owners and staff of christian retailers are working knowing that they will possibly not be paid again at the end of the month, knowing that once again, they may have to re-invest their wages into a business which they believe has a mission which goes beyond simply selling products and making money.

      Would staff at HMV do the same? Of course not, there is no higher purpose in HMV than selling music, dvd’s and games, and collecting a pay cheque at the end of the month.

      Am I saying that christian retailers need to sign a “non-compete” and expect all of our competitors, christian or otherwise to do the same? Of course not.

      But just as I would not send out e-bulletins to churches I know use Wesley Owen or CLC in birmingham, and hope they would not do the same to me, I would hope that Kingsway, and others, would not send out e-cards to my customers, in my area, sending them to another shop who has not partnered with them, and has not done as much to make their product high-profile in my shop, and yet that is what they have done, and I stand by the fact that THAT undermines the very concept of a partnership.

      John. You have my email address, if you would like to continue this discussion in person, I would be more than happy to do so, drop me a line.

      Once again, I appreciate your taking the time to comment here, and to read this. While it may seem that we are at odds, I assure you, that is not the case. We fully value Kingsway, the partnership we have and what you have done for the Christian market.

      We pray for you, both as a business, and as an individual, and all other suppliers, staff and retailers we know, and that you will be successful, and that God will give you favour. Perhaps this HMV deal is part of the outworking of that, we hope it is.

      We engage in these discussions and debates, not to throw stones, and to create more hurt, but to corporately work out a way for us all to be better, and to work better together.

      We perhaps fail at that more often than we succeed, and if we do, I apologise, but be assured, our motivation is not ever to hurt kingsway, but to help everyone.

      Luke

  21. John,

    I really want to thank you for taking the time out to reply, it is appreciated.

    My responses to most of what you say have been said to you directly previously, have been said to the reps, and are said on here. I’m not going to repeat them again.

    You are right, you are not the enemy and most of us don’t think you are our enemy, most of us want you to be our friend, we want to be your friend, we want to be allies on this field, in this place and at this time.
    I think for some of us we just don’t know if you are quite the friend you once were I guess, we feel a bit like casualties of friendly fire to be honest with all of the ramifications that tragedy brings with it to the field and relationships.

    I appreciate the need to reach as far as possible, to impact the most people possible and make relationships, grow communities and spread the word outward, I appreciate the need to balance the P&L sheet, to make the overheads balance, to get the best return. There’s not one of us here that doesn’t.

    I rejoice at music in the mainstream, I rejoice at books in the mainstream, I spend most of my limited free time in that mainstream and in those shops myself so I love to see what I like there!
    I may have competitors all over the place but I do not have enemies i’m working against in any of those competitors. Sure we are competing but they are not to my mind my enemy, – now if they see me as such and treat me in such a way that causes intentional or obvious and avoidable collateral damage on the field, well that’s another game and down to them.

    I understand that your industry is as beleagured as our industry, and in that respect I talk of your industry as recording/producing/publishing in this instance and mine as retailing.

    I know that what we all need to do is find new (or even old) ways of working together to achieve all our fortunes (though I’m not talking an excess of riches here ;-).

    I’ve put some of my suggestions out there already and I’m always willing to talk, share and grow our businesses mutually. I’m here waiting, working, and believing we can turn this all around for our betterment and that of everyone else too.

    Again John, James and all others that have contributed, here and elsewhere, thank you for your insights, for your words, I really value them. Now let’s start doing real things together that make an incredible difference, I do believe we can do it.

  22. In light of some of the discussion going on here take a look at this report freshly out (thanks as ever to Eddie O for finding it for us and sharing on the social media!), http://press.kelkoo.co.uk/kelkoobestretailbrand.html

    For me it’s all much food for thought and with significant and important insights.
    However scroll down to the ‘Consumer priorities when choosing where to shop’ chart and look at the way the list runs – the fact tht over half consider the most important thing in their choice of where to buy is value for money with drastically significant lesser numbers for the other things really is incredibaly telling – and factors on why this discussion is happening.

  23. All this fuss over a CD of worship music. Gosh. It is not like its Radiohead. Or a new translation of Scripture. Just worship music. Wow. It seems as if the ephemeral overides the eternal every single moment of every day in our dearly benighted economy.

    • Lol, Pax,
      do I denote a tone there of a less than favourable feeling to such worship music when compared with the wonders of the great Codex? ‘Just worship music’ you’d better hope that the Karma Police don’t get you for such statements, and given that the transient overides the lasting these days – well there’s No Surprise there, really 😉

    • Ah, Pax, good to hear your voice, my friend 🙂

      It is bizarre, isn’t it? I ask for fair treatment for my friends at the sharp end of retail and *bang* the balloon bursts all over my head. I’m struggling now to remember what that quote was from Tim Hughes in my original post … something like “It’s all about Jesus”…

  24. Phil

    I doubt you could ever find anyone whose seen me angry, and I’m sure that the right response would have been to simply ignore you, however I watch every day the efforts of dedicated staff to serve the trade only to be reviled by a self appointed watchdog, by language that is just undeserved and and I won’t stand for that and I will stand for them every single time!!!!

    You choose your words carefully and yes they are straight from a discontented heart, I have no idea why you take this position dwelling only on the so called problems and never rejoicing in the solutions. the fact that on the majority of sales retailers make more than Kingsway seems to have passed you by, who else gives everyone 50% discount on all new proprietary releases.

    I repeat we cannot give any more we’re at the limit of what we can give, and I repeat on new titles any retailer can match online prices we increased discount to ensure this was possible.

    As for our retail price whenever we go to events as Kingsway we always sell at the full retail price, and the calculation for royalties on discount of 50% is still calculated on the RRP, sorry you’ll have to take our word for that as hard as that is……………

    I won’t comment on further posts there’s obviously absolutely no pojnt in engaging you this way, However if you have a point to argue then come see me it’s an open invitation, however I am sure you have no interest in serious discussion face to face!!!

    Had you chosen to call and ask in the first place we wouldn’t need to have this exchange publicly would we? but then again it’s all for the sake of transparency isn’t it, ………oh yeah really!!

    • I think what I find most sad here, John, is that you fail to address the two people that have raised genuine issues with you, both of whom posted in direct response to your earlier post significantly before you came on this blog and posted this response to Phil, and that both hold accounts with you.

      Yes only one of us is in the Kingsway Partnership Scheme, but the other one trades with you and has just this week recieved goods from you, see’s, and enjoys seeing, her Kingsway Rep, and so is an active trade partner in that respect.

      This blog isn’t just about engaging with Phil as there are at least 5 or 6 of us actively within the trade that have actively posted comments on here in response to this particular blogpost, and there are likely many more that have vistied and read the posts and comments, so when you post on here you are also engaging with them too, so please don’t just ignore us like this.

      I thought maybe you had decided to make contact with me directly – I’ve already said to you directly previously and on this blog and indeed on this post in the comments that I am open and willing to direct contact to discuss my issues and concerns – but I have recieved no communication from you at all – perhaps Luke has.

      My concerns are genuine, cogent and real – please don’t dismiss them or me in this way.

      • Can I take a moment here to say thank you to John Pac for making direct contact with me, it is appreciated, especially as I do know that he is a busy man.
        In the immortal words of Bob Hoskins in BT’s amazing ad campaign that helped change the brand perception – ‘it’s good to talk’ and it really is.
        Thanks John, and thanks Phil too.

        • I would like to echo Mel’s thanks.

          John has also been in contact with me directly, and it is a great help.

          While i cannot, and will not repeat everything said in those emails here, I strongly encourage everyone with concerns to contact Kingsway support, and if necessary, John himself, directly.

          While I stand by the fact that there is a time and place for the open, corporate discussion which goes on here, and that discussion is not inherently bad, I also acknowledge, when issues are as wide and varied as these here, it is often only possible to get answers to your own personal concerns through direct communication.

          I thank John for his grace, patience, tact and honesty throughout our discussions, and for his reaching out to make contact with both myself and Melanie.

          Whatever perceptions you may have of him, and the business he runs, I can assure you, in my dealings with him he has been the perfect gentleman, and the model of a Christian businessman, and for that, i thank him sincerely.

          While we may never agree on every point, I can say without apology or hesitation that John’s heart, and that of his business is in the right place.

    • John, John — I appeal to you as a brother in Christ, and once again, I thank you: I genuinely do appreciate you taking the time to respond, whether you choose to do so aggressively or otherwise … and I would ask you, who is taking the stance of an aggressor here?

      Tell me, please: do you really suppose that wading into a conversation, guns blazing, then walking away hurling abuse is actually a sensible way forward? I’ve responded with civility and openness, with honest questions and even a possible solution to the dilemma this specific album presents to the trade — but you’ve come back accusing me of reviling your staff.

      Please give me a single example of when I’ve responded to any of your staff by calling them brick-throwing malcontented aggressors or, indeed, anything similar? Ask James about my replies to him. Have any of your other staff posted? Have I abused or insulted them? Then I apologise, unreservedly. Please show me and I’ll gladly put the record straight.

      But this conversation isn’t about you, me or your staff, so I’d be grateful if you could stop personalising it in this way, please. What it is about is Kingsway’s business practices, its trade relationships and the way those practices and relationships are perceived. To quote Eddie Olliffe,

      Somehow we have to deal with this or we will be torn apart by it.

      If you haven’t read his piece, may I encourage you to do so? Link at the top of the page. If you’re too angry to hear my voice, please listen to Eddie’s. I’ve been honest with you about my perceptions and I will continue to be honest; but I acknowledge and recognise that sometimes the truth hurts, and I apologise for the pain my honesty may have caused you — but when I see what I perceive as injustice and unfair business practices being perpetrated by a Christian company then I will speak out. John, would you call on any disciple of Christ to do otherwise?

      As for meeting up: sure, I’d love to. We did talk about that last year, but we never found a mutually convenient time and place. We’re both tied down by our many and various commitments — which is another reason why I prefer open dialogue such as this.

      Please, John: address the issues, not the personalities. Try to see things through your customers’ eyes; try to be less cynical about my observations; and please don’t walk away…

    • A couple of further thoughts: first, thanks for the info about your event sales, John: that’s useful to know, but doesn’t actually change the fact that generally you go straight to market at below RRP without it being either an introductory price or in line with the 28 day rule. I’ve already asked James this but received no reply: would you like me to request an official ruling from the OFT about Kingsway’s RRPs?

      Second, no one’s asking you to give anything away: I and the others posting here are simply asking for fair business practice — as I’ve said before, for Kingsway to live up to its name.

      If you or James would be kind enough to answer the questions I and others have asked, please, that would be most helpful.

      I’ve said this to you privately, John, but I’ll say it here too: shouting rarely helps, unless you’re drowning; and if you are, far better to take hold of the life-ring that’s offered.

      Grace and peace to you.

  25. Having watched the comments on this for the last few days I am quite saddened.

    1. The fact that John Pac has taken the time to come on here and answer the main thrust of the questions is to be admired.
    2. James Battersbee made it quite clear that no preferential terms were given to HMV
    3. Disputes over a understanding of retail pricing legislation is not going to be answered here – this is not a tribunal but a modest website – so the differences of opinion just need to be accepted. If a law has been broken then the law can be applied. If not, and until then, it needs to be dropped.
    4. The frankly unpleasant way people have acted on here is not a good reflection of Christian character or behaviour
    5. If you don’t like Kingsway don’t sell their stuff. If it means that much, take a stand with your business.
    6. I think Kingsway need to be applauded in this difficult time in finding the creativity and drive to achieve what they have with this album. I bet the average church-goer out there will think it is just great to see worship music n HMV and on iTunes.

    • Thanks Ian, and welcome back. I’m both saddened and have been quite taken aback by the ferocity of some of the responses we’ve seen thus far.

      As you say, John Pac taking the time to address some of the issues (not sure he’s tackled the main thrust, though) is indeed to be admired; I think everyone who has responded to his comments has thanked him and made that point.

      What James Batterbee said, however, was that Amazon/HMV bought their stock at a price more expensive than the pre-release offer to the Christian book trade: that’s rather different to saying that no preferential terms were given to HMV.

      You appear to be quite correct in your observation that disputes over our understanding of retail pricing legislation are not going to be answered here — although I fail to see what is so complicated about the matter. I’ve already summarised the guidelines, and no one has taken issue with that summary:

      OFT guidelines are clear: if a product has previously been on sale for a period of 28 days at the RRP then, by the letter of the law, if not the spirit, it is perfectly acceptable to reduce the price and advertise it as such at the end of the 28 day period. Similarly, it is perfectly legitimate and fair to offer a product at an introductory price for a specified period, then put it up to the RRP when that period ends.

      I’ve asked both James (here) and John (in private correspondence) if they would like me to request an official ruling on Kingsway’s practice from the OFT. They have not responded to that, nor have they replied to my question, is it fair for a company to specify an RRP but to go straight to market at a reduced price?

      What would your answer be to that question, Ian? And you, Robin, if you’re still with us?

      I’ll leave it there for now: thank you.

    • Ian.

      Thank you for your comment.

      1. I certainly appreciate John’s comments, and have always thanked him for them. I certainly admire his openness, but wonder if the thrust of MY questions have been answered. Specifically:
      a. Why do I need to jump through dozens of hoops as a bookshop partner to get even a modest increase in the (significantly below industry standard) 33%, while HMV appears not to have to.
      b. Why do HMV get their own e-card encouraging my customers (and those of dozens of christian bookshops elsewhere in the country) to shop at a secular store, which has done effectively nothing to promote this CD, as demonstrated by it’s continued low profile web and in store positioning, while Christian bookshops have, in two weeks, exceeded the lifetime sales of the first WC cd, and got absolutely no recognition (in the eyes of the general population) for it.
      c. Is actively discouraging customers from shopping at Christian bookshops—I maintain that highlighting one particular retailer, and using words and phrases, intentionally or not, which imply that it will be ‘a much better shopping experience than that which you usually get’, is actively discouraging customers from shopping with us–the mark of a true partnership with Christian bookshops, or simply a marriage of convenience which they are desperate to get out of?

      I am not suggesting—it should be noted—that ant of these things are deliberate, malicious or conscious, but rather that these are the questions that their actions are leaving customers asking, which does not make for a strong and healthy partnership.

      2. As Phil says, there is a difference between saying that they did not get the 50% Pre-Release offer Christian Bookshops got, and saying that there were no preferential terms. Remember, we only get higher margins on CDs DVDs we pre-order. Then the terms roll back to 33% (or whatever partnership discount partner shops get) HMV pre-ordered (I am guessing, but based on the wording of the E-Card) zero copies, and yet still managed to work out a discount which must have been somewhere near that 50% (based on their selling price). 48%, for example, on all orders going forward, with a 100% sale-or-return and a “Drop Ship” option for web orders would still be considered preferential terms, beyond the reach of normal christian retailers, while still technically being true that they paid more per unit than those christian retailers who got 50% on their first three copies.

      I am, of course, speculating about terms they may or may not have got, but based on the information presented, we have no reason to believe that they got no preferential terms.

      3. While disputes and disagreements about interpretation may not be sorted out, does that prevent us from highlighting such disparity? Personally, I feel the RRP thing is a secondary issue, for me, I have made my bigger issues clear, but again, simply ignoring them is never going to sort any issues.

      4. Has everyone here at all times acted properly, I am sure we haven’t. There are high emotions and hurt feelings involved on both sides. I for one, apologise if anything I have said was out of line, but also stand by the fact that public discourse and correction on issues raised in public—as this originated by way of a public email, I believe this counts—Peter and Paul corrected public issues amongst believers by way of public letters, so I don’t think that simply raising issues and concerns publicly is an issue, in and of itself.

      5. The point most of us are making is not that we don’t like Kingsway, and don’t want to sell their stuff. Exactly the opposite. We do like Kingsway, we like the products they sell, and many of us partners dedicate huge chunks of our display ares to their products. We desperately wish we could sell more of them, that we would get more return on the space investments we have made in their product, but things like this, where they are actively driving customers to a retailer who is so severely undercutting us, do cost us sales, and does hurt us and our mission.

      6. We certainly have applauded Kingsway for the things they have done well in the past. We have all publicly applauded them for the commitments they made to us in establishing the partnership scheme. We all publicly applauded them when they made changes to kingswayshop.com to remove reference to the RRP and phony pre-order discount savings which never materialised. We all thanked them when they launched their trade website, worked out the kinks in their ordering and warehousing system, and streamlined their promotion/returns process.

      But if Kingsway expect to be publicly applauded for the good they do—and we are all more than happy to do so—then they must also expect to be called up when they get it wrong.

      My opinion remains that Kingsway are a good company, who we are have a good relationship with, and who’s partnership we do appreciate. However they expect a lot of us as partners, so it is not unreasonable to expect a little bit of consideration from them in return.

      • Totally well said, Luke.

        It’s extremely disappointing that John left so abruptly without attempting to address yours or Melanie’s concerns, far more important than mine given that you are his retail customers! And now that James has also left, it simply leaves us with the question: where do we go from here?

        Dare we leave it? I think not: at risk of over-quoting, but I think Eddie Olliffe has it spot on in his observation, “Somehow we have to deal with this or we will be torn apart by it” …

        I’m now attempting to pull together a summary of the discussion for a follow-on post: watch this space…

  26. I absolutely agree Ian.. and it’s such a pity that this blog even exists.. I think we just need to shut it down as it’s not doing any good.

    Phil: I know you are unlikely to post this comment as you haven’t posted my previous but please stop this as you are causing disruption.

  27. Oh and Melanie – this theory is NOT outdated and is being taught in business schools around the world…

    • Robin,

      😀 Einstein’s theory of relativity is taught across the world, in schools and in every major university, indeed it’s probably one the most famous equations known and it is definitely a scientific bedrock, but even that’s been called into question just in the last two weeks due to a changing circumstance and totally unexpected result 😉

      Kotler say’s it better than I ever will though: of http://youtu.be/tkxV9rvv5zY

      However all of that aside, thank you and indeed the other contributors to this discussion for making me really think.

      It’s often only with challenge that things become clear.

      I’d like to thank you though for making me refresh some things i’d not actively paid attention to for a while and catch up on some excellent reading (Kotler & Castlione’s Chaotics, I admit to not having paid it much attention or finished it since a train journey to and from london to go to a GBS meeting well over 12 months ago!), you’ve been better than a pint of Hieneken for that over these hot days, so my thanks indeed and again may I say I would honestly be really interested to hear of your idea’s for the trade.

      Cheers.

      Melanie

  28. I hope and pray that God will do something amazing in your life today Phil so you can stop being so angry and hostile to anyone who has a different opinion to you in order for you to be an effective witness for Him. After all… isn’t that why we are here?

    • Thank you, Robin. Would you care to indicate the points at which I have displayed hostility towards you or any other contributors here, please? My policy is to welcome anyone who complies with the site’s comments policy — if you haven’t read it, please do so before posting further; and if you have general observations to make about the blog such as your request to close it down (sorry, ain’t gonna happen), please post them on the feedback page.

      There’s a link to the feedback page in the header on every page and post for your future reference.

      Differing opinions are, as you know, always welcome here; all I ask is that those who choose to join the conversation keep their comments on topic, conduct themselves with civility and refrain from insults or personal attack. As I’ve said to John Pac, please address the topic, not the personalities.

      I’m delighted to say that the amazing thing you’ve prayed for is happening even now, as I type, with iTunes having decided to randomly select Coldplay’s “The Scientist” to play in the background: “Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard…” — truer words have rarely been sung, have they?

      And may you, too, experience God’s grace in all that you do, say and experience today.

  29. The way you have cast aspersions on the character of Kingsway and how John p runs his business I think says it all.

    Imagine if I was the owner of a large retail outlet such as HMV and I came across this blog and saw how christians interacted with each other I would be horrified, this is NOT how business is run never mind if it’s for the kingdom. Or imagine I was a journalist that uncovered the abuse in the catholic church and found this blog, I would be laughing as what a great opportunity it would be to persecute Christian further. Or imagine that I have recently been converted to christ and found this blog how ashamed I would feel.

    Either way Phil I can see how John wouldn’t want to write anymore on this blog, it does appear to be landing on deaf ears. I would again encourage you to do the right thing and speak to Kingsway directly. I do think they have a good claim against you by the things being said. Let’s hope they choose to turn the other cheek.

    I’m see Phil you will have the last say as you deem yourself to be right, just have a read of ians post above and think before you react.

    • Thank you, Robin. I have contacted John directly, as per his request. I won’t quote his response here, but given your concerns, I’ll copy you in on my reply in due course (probably tomorrow). I’ve responded to Ian’s comment above.

  30. Didn’t Kingsway release a 3CD Best of Taize set not so very long ago? Perhaps we should all spin those dics for a while and chill to the ineffable sound of the chant. Indeed perhaps HMV should be selling that set at a reasonable price to the masses – then everyone can chill (no more riots) and start singing in the true language of liturgy (Latin).

    Otherwise we seem to have strayed into the secular territory of the Clash: Guns of Brixton – ‘when they kick at your front door, how you gonna come? With your hands on your head, or the trigger of your gun?’ – which, in the right context, can be seen as a positive statement of overcoming oppression. But in relation to the above debate seems to be more an image of the way the different parties are hammering away with all guns blazing.

    And I’m not being flippant. As someone also engaged in the trade, and other aspects of ministry, I do see that it is a.) important that we proclaim the Gospel to the whole world and b.) it is vital that we do that with integrity and with support for our fellow Christians. Luke’s point re: HMV not only getting precednce on the Kingsway e-card, but Christian retailers not even getting a mention, is a key one. I think St Francis’s maxim ‘preach the Gospel, use words if necessary’ is worth noting here. How we treat others is far more important than the lyrics/melodies on a disc of worship music.

    Seriously, though, I remain to be convinced of the value of this music. Time and again it seems to me to be musically second-rate and derivative, theologically inept, feather light, fuzzy, aiming for a feelgood high. Little in the way of a challenge to our comfort zone. But what is worse, it is treated so blatantly as an ephemeral product while purporting to be dealing with the deepest of mysteries. When I’m preaching then, of course, Scripture is the rock from which all my words and thoughts will stem and against which they will be tested. But then I will often use musical examples to test and expand upon Scripture. I’ve never found worship music of any use here. But I have found Nick Cave, Spiritualized, Faithless, the Clash, Billy Holiday and others from the ‘secular’ world to be be far more theologically literate and challenging and relevant to the concerns of the world and the congregation.

    If you can take a comparison with the visual arts, I’m looking for music in liturgy that will act like Rublev’s icon of the Old Testament Trinity, or Remembrant’s ‘Return of the Prodigal Son’, or Spencer’s murals in Sandham Memorial Chapel. Art which takes you deeper into the mystery of God, draws you in to the complexity of God, thins the veil between heaven and earth. Whereas worship music, for me, is much more akin to Margaret Tarrant’s ‘Jesus Christ from Somerset’ depicting a blonde, blue-eyed Christ on the Levels, surrounded by fluffy children and animals – a saccharine, air-brushed, ultimately vacuous image of the Son of God totally ignoring the brutal reality and the eternal mystery of the God who hung upon the Cross, was tortured and died to set us free.

  31. Hi all

    I’ll be leaving this discussion now as I’ve said all I can on the matter.

    I pray that God will bless you all

    Regards

    James

    • Thanks James for adding your contribution and being willing to comment and offer insight where you could and when you could.

      God bless and catch up with you at a later point i’m sure.

    • Thank you James – you’ve been a model of openness and gracious correspondence: would that all our dialogue partners were like you!

      May the Lord bless you and all your colleagues at Kingsway.

  32. God forbid that Kingsway were to actually do their Mission and spread the kingdom message. I think it was high time that some christian retailers were to understand that the messianic vision is for the world and not to be kept in the back streets – I heartily commend Kinsway for trying to spread the Gospel any way they can!

    John the Areopagite

    • Strange but true, John: most Christian retailers are there precisely because they view their work as part of God’s mission: they exist precisely to keep a light shining, on the high streets, the back streets, in the alley ways, church halls and in the marketplace *big friendly wave to Melanie*.

      Equally strange but true: many of them, perhaps most, would prefer to have their shops in as high-profile locations as HMV; but rents for such locations are sky-high: who can afford them? Even HMV struggle, which is why they have so few branches these days (not such a big coup for Kingsway when you take that into account, is it?).

      But most strange of all: Christian retailers around the country are closing down, even in their relatively low-rent locations. Why do you suppose that is, John? My guess is that it’s because people like *you* are shopping elsewhere: you’re going for the cheapest option rather than the option that would see your money invested in Christian mission. You’re giving your money to HMV, who will do nothing to promote the Christian message that you’re so keen to see spread: they’ll simply freeload on the odd super-successful album to rake in whatever they can.

      I too applaud Kingsway for their efforts — but at the moment it’s a one-handed clap because they’re neglecting their long-term and loyal partners to celebrate their new-found lover…

    • John.

      The simple fact of the matter is that no-one is criticising Kingsway for getting their stuff out there. In HMV, Amazon, iTunes or otherwise. Many of us (and I would suggest almost everyone who is commenting here) think that it’s good.

      The thing we don’t like, however, is taking existing customers and encouraging them to shop elsewhere. Everyone receiving the email were existing Kingsway customers, primarily people who are already christians, and many of whom already buy christian music, who either signed up online, filled in contact cards at events, or responded to those cards which used to be placed in the front of CDs and DVDs.

      This did NOT hit HMV’s sizeable database, nor did it hit every iTunes user. If it did, this would be amazing news, even given the unfortunate wording.

      It hit kingsway’s.

      And as a result, in the main, it was read by people who already support Christian music. Many of these already use Christian bookshops (I know for a fact several of MY customers received it).

      It encouraged these people to stop supporting their Christian bookshops and instead to use the secular HMV store for their christian music needs, and that is what we take offence to.

      The other issue is that does making the music available at HMV really spread the gospel, if as a result Christian businesses are closed down.

      Let me propose two situations for you to consider.

      In the first, Christian publishers and suppliers like kingsway effectively abandon the christian trade in favour of the secular trade. Their reasoning is simple. The Christian trade is dying, and focusing on retailers like HMV and Amazon reaches a wider audience.

      As a result, their self-fulfilling prophecy comes to pass, the trend continues, and within the next few years, the Directory Phil manages reduces from a few hundred entries to a few dozen.

      As a result, Christians still have access to music and books, and non-christians have the possibility of stumbling across them while browsing through the self help sections of bookshops, or the blues and gospel section of HMV.

      The second option is that suppliers and publishers make a continuing push to support the Christian trade, even if it risks alienating HMV, iTunes or Amazon. Their logic is simple. Chrisitan bookshops exist primarily to support the Christians in the community, and spread the gospel to non-christians and we should invest in that.

      As a result, the trend of closures is slowed, and maybe even reverses. Christian bookshops become healthier, more vibrant and more appealing. Because of the commitment by suppliers, the bookshops become steadily more profitable, and are able to open up more branches, and move into more high profile locations. HMV, Amazon and others may kick up a stink, and may even decide not to stock the products (though that seems unlikely, if there is demand for it, and the possibility of making a profit).

      Now. Picture a seeker. Someone who is interested in the bigger questions, but unsure whether they are ready to commit to anything by crossing the threshold of a church. The kind of person who I see most days at The Hub.

      In world one, there is no christian bookshop. They are visit their local waterstones, ask about christianity, and are pointed to the world religions section, where they can buy three or four copies of the bible, alongside dozens of other “Holy Books” or the “Self Help” section, where they stumble across a Joel Osteen book, but not before picking up a hand full of other books all advocating wildly different beliefs and opinions. They ask the staff member for advise, and the best answer he is trained to give is “This one by Paul McKenna is very popular. You may have seen him advertising it on the TV recently”.

      In this world someone interested in christian music will be pointed to the “Blues and Gospel” Section, and will think “I’m really more into Rock… I’m not really into blues or gospel music… i guess there is nothing in the christian scene for me”.

      They will probably save a few pounds on the books they buy, vs the prices they would have paid in Christian bookshops, but that’s about the sum of it.

      In world two,this seeker would hopefully be able to walk into a christian bookshop in his or her town.

      They would have the choice of dozens of translations of Bibles, in hundreds of different shapes and sizes. They would have a wealth of christian teaching available, whatever background or circumstances they find themselves in, not to mention the wealth of information afforded to them by staff who have the time and knowledge to to talk with them about their needs, and pray with them about their circumstances.

      They would ask about music, and find that there are hundreds of CDs and DVDs available, in many different genres, that whatever music they like, there will be something in the christian world for them.

      They may have to journey into the backstreet to find it, but find it they hopefully will, and when they do, they will find a place where they can find out much more about the Christian faith than they likely ever would in HMV, Waterstones or at Amazon.

      So I ask you this… in which circumstance is the Gospel of Jesus Christ really more effectively preached, and the lost more effectually reached?

      Of course, we would all prefer not to have to live in an either/or world, but a and/both one. But if we do have to choose, I know which choice I would be making.

  33. There were three shops, and each shop had the opportunity to have the same goods at the same cost price. Big or small, the opportunity was the same.
    One chose to double his investment by selling it at twice the price that he paid for it. He sold a few and did indeed double his investment.
    One chose to sell his at a smaller increase. It was a risk but because of this it proved to be popular and despite making less on each item he made more overall and more people were able to enjoy the item than otherwise would have.
    One chose not to use the opportunity and do something else instead.

    All had equal opportunity so each to his own.

    • There were five shops: three as Geoff has described — thanks Geoff 🙂

      One, with no particular interest in the product except sales, chose to use its advanced online sales technology to sell digital downloads, and the product made their sales charts.

      One, a national chain store, also with no particular interest in the product except sales, chose to sell below cost price.

      These two were applauded and much publicised by the product manufacturer, leaving the first two feeling bemused…

      Equal opportunities? Each to their own indeed…

    • Lol Geoff 🙂 I like that ;D

      The important thing here, is as you have said, that potentially they all stayed alert and none of them hid their light under a bushel, let their oil run out early or wasted their God given Talents (both money and the more modern meaning of the word, abilities) by sitting around and just burying things beneath the surface,so that nothing ever happens or changes.

      Instead they invested themselves and laid up their treasure in heaven while they worked in their shops with their foundations on the rock, because after all they weren’t foolish, even though at times it felt a bit like there might be some shifting sand nearby and the occassional weed mixed in with the wheat and growing up side by side.

      But though the labourers were few in the area, the sower they had was good, and so they were hopeful that though they had seen some sadly fall to the side and be devoured, some grow quick just to wither and die, and some get choked to death by the ugly and stronger competition of the decietful desires of wealth and other things, that they would see a return on their work because they were planted on the good soil of the word and though tiny within each of them was incredible potential indeed, a bit like a mustard seed.

      Yes each according to his own and may he who has ears to hear, hear.

      Or at least I think that’s kind of how the story goes for us isn’t it 😉

    • … and it’s that final phrase that’s the problem really, isn’t it? Because “each to his own” is the world’s cry — Satan’s cry as he attempts to undermine the human race at every turn.

      But we, as Christians, are called to another way, a better way, where each of us looks not to our own interests but to others’. Until we take that on board, not just as a nice idea in the Bible but as a radical alternative in our approach to business we are indeed doomed…

      • For both Luke and Phil, you have both taken a simple observation and turned it on its head into something that it is not and spiritualised it out of all context..
        Each to his own was simply a way of saying that 3 people were given 3 equal cost opportunites with stock and each chose to use it in a different way. Nothing more and nothing less than that. We are not uni-shopkeepers. We do have some God-given intiative of our own.

        It has nothing to do with ‘the world’s cry – Satan’s cry’ and neither is it anything to do with the christian faith in any direct way. It is a simple, practical application. Time to get real I think.

        • Sometimes, Geoff, we inadvertently speak more truth than we realise at the time, as I think you have done here.

          A massive problem at the heart of the Christian book trade is precisely that it is each to their own and, as Christ’s disciples, we are called to another way, each to the others. We need not so much to ‘get real’ as to get spiritual — then we will discover true reality.

    • Unfortunately, Geoff, the Christian faith has very little to do with “Equal opportunity”.

      The Bible is chock full of words like “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine…’ and ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

      The bible doesn’t call for us to treat everyone the same, big or small, the same opportunities. No. The bible seems clear, the bible calls for us to be God’s hands and feet to a world in need. It calls for us to treat the orphans, widows, the poor and needy “Have Not” brothers and sisters by a higher standard than the “haves” of this world.

      As Phil says ‘each to his own’ is not God’s message. God’s message is thankfully much better news than that.

  34. Or how about this story. There was a man. He had the Holy Spirit living in him. He sat next to another man who also had the Holy Spirit in Him. The fist man didn’t like the way that man ran his business so he created a blog to spread lies and deceit so others wouldn’t like this man either. He posted harmful messages on various Facebook groups and didn’t give up. You see he really hated this man. Other men saw what he was doing and said it wasn’t good. But the man thought he was right and that he had the right to do it. Some men even listened to the man that was spreading lies and followed him and joined in with writing harmful comments too. The man that they hated did try and show them that they had no reason to hate him but nobody listened to him. The Holy Spirit who lived in all man was working within the country but was stopped by the hate in all of the men and by the way they were treating this man. Everyone man had fallen into sin but was saved by grace. Some of these men believe some didn’t. The man who first started spreading the lies and deceit is still continuing to do say even after being warned not to. He was unable to do the work of the Holy Spirit because he was so angry.

    Soon after all of the men died and stood before the Father and he asked them what they did with what they were given. The man who had spread the lies said ‘I had a job but this man took it away so I got angry with this man and turned others around him so I spent my whole time writing, talking and thinking about him I didn’t have time to use the gifts that you gave me. I was too angry to do what you had asked me to do. But look at how much I have done. I made other people hate him too’. The other man stood before the Father and said ‘I started a business, and it grew. I paid people to work. But people hate me for it’.

    What do you think God’s response would be to these two men?

    • If either of those two men existed, Yahoo, then I think God would invite them to look at things through their opponent’s eyes and rethink the way they deal with one another and their friends.

      Thankfully neither of them does exist, not here anyway; but we do have you, me and a host of others reading, some weeping with sadness as they see their concerns misconstrued…

      But I’ll play along with you for a moment: presumably the first man in your story is supposed to be me, and the second is supposed to be John Pac. Don’t get too excited and say to yourself, “Aha! He’s recognised himself!” — you’ve made it plain enough who you’re targeting.

      If you’d like to find out why I created this blog, please see the About page: there’s a link at the top of every page and post for future reference. It existed long before this conversation began and will, God willing, exist long after it has ended.

      As for this specific post: have you actually read the original post? My concern that Kingsway have missed an opportunity to support their Christian trade partners is genuine; and what actually triggered this post was one of those trade partners contacting me, expressing a sense of despair after receiving Kingsway’s email and discovering that HMV were selling the album at £7.99 — something they couldn’t compete with, even allowing for the maximum discount Kingsway offer on pre-release orders.

      Simple as that, Yahoo. This is, in case you hadn’t noticed, the Christian Bookshops Blog: a site for discussing issues and concerns within the Christian book trade; and Kingsway’s trading relationship with its retail partners is one of those concerns.

      There is no hate campaign directed towards John Paculabo; or if there is, it isn’t here and I’m certainly no part of it. He has my profound respect for all that he has achieved with Kingsway; and he knows that.

      I know that I am not the most tactful person in the world: I speak my mind and I make appalling jokes; but I have not spread any lies, nor have I posted any deceitful or hateful messages here, on facebook or elsewhere; and to the best of my knowledge none of the contributors to this conversation have done any such thing either. If you believe that any of us have, I invite you to indicate exactly when and where; and if your allegations should prove to be true then the offended parties have my full and unreserved apologies and I will seek reconciliation when given the opportunity. But closing the door in my face, as one person has done, denies me that opportunity. If you know the person I am referring to, please let her know that my hand remains outstretched in friendship.

      Am I angry? Certainly: when I see what appear to be unfair and improper business practices — especially from a Christian organisation — that does make me angry. I think there would be something wrong with my ethical mindset if such things didn’t make me angry; but what you, my friend, need to understand is this: my anger is at those practices and at the institutions that allow them.

      I am not angry with John. Frustrated by his bullishness, yes: I find it offensive when someone takes advantage of their status to throw their weight around as John has on almost every occasion that he has posted, in this conversation and in previous conversations; but I will not return insult for insult, and John is always welcome to return to the conversation.

      As for what God the Father will say to John and me? I hope that he will say to both of us, and to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

      Thank you for expressing your concerns: grace and peace to you.

    • … and an afterthought: neither John P nor Kingsway have anything whatsoever to do with my employment status, now or previously: please drop that notion from your thinking. If someone else suggested it to you, please also disabuse them of it.

      Thank you.

    • I think you will be hard pressed to find anyone here who HATES (that’s a very strong word) anyone at Kingsway, and certainly not John Pac.

      Most of us (I cannot speak for others, but can for myself, and am relatively confident that most here expressing concern) consider many people at Kingsway to be not only colleagues and associates, but friends.

      Our reps, people like Oli Proctor, the customer service team, people like James Batterbee and Chris Wrench (I hate to have to pick favourites, but those are the people we speak with regularly, I’m sure there are others who others work with, who are equally lovely), and yes, John Pac too, in my personal dealings have almost without fail been charming, effable, understanding and considerate of us.

      We certainly do not hate anyone personally.

      Many of us have, however, at times been hurt, and offended by some of the actions of Kingsway Communications as a whole… but as much as Mitt Romney may want to convince us otherwise… Corporations are NOT people, my friend.

      They are made up of people, certainly, and we appreciate what those people do. Sometimes, unfortunately—and I count my self as one of those who do it—people draw altogether too much of their identity from what they do, and who they work for, and far too little from our own unique identity in Christ. Unfortunately, we take those comments and questions made about the companies we run and work for far too personally, and in a way they were certainly never intended to be.

      It is especially prevalent in circles like our own because most of us are not doing this to turn a quick profit, but because we genuinely believe that we are called to it, that this is what God wants us to do for his Kingdom. In a sense, our Christian identity in Christ, is in a way tied to what we do, and so, our own actions often unintentionally cause hurt to others in a similar situation, and their actions can cause untold hurt to us.

      However, it is very important to differentiate between personal attacks on people at kingsway, or elsewhere and drawing attention to hurts and frustrations which have been caused, intentionally or not, by the actions of a company. Though, invariably those actions were taken by a person, or people, it is still not an attack on them.

      In this case, personally, The Hub (my shop) is currently in a situation where we are having to relocate from our current shop (where we have happily existed for the last 14 years, as The Hub and Wesley Owen before that) for various reasons, a major one being that we need to reduce our costs in order to survive. While we are excited about the possibilities it affords us, the reality is it is not an easy situation to find ourselves in.

      At the same time, to read an e-card like the one sent out by Kingsway for HMV feels like a kick in the stomach, from a partner who we dedicate more than 70% of our high-profile selling space to. This by no means is the same as hating John or anyone at Kingsway, but is, a real, hurtful, difficult concern for us nonetheless.

      When we are working 15+hour days both at our current location, and in the new location, in order for the move to be possible, when you’re scrambling to tell as many people as possible about the move, and trying to retain as many customers as possible, while knowing that moving on such a short time frame will mean we will lose customers anyway.

      When you’re doing all of this, and Kingsway do something like that, can you not understand why we are annoyed? Can you not see why this thing matters to us?

      It doesn’t mean that we hate Kingsway, or anyone there, and we hope that our partnership, going forward, is stronger than ever because we have taken the time to express our concerns, and work through them together, which I assure you, we are taking the time to do, both publicly and in direct discussion.

      Luke

  35. It is great to hear from you both that you have no hatred in your hearts for anyone at Kingsway however how would you feel if you are an employee at Kingsway right now. You have named John personally in many of your attacks both on your blog here, in the conversations you have with other people on other sites such as facebook. So whilst you have been hurt you must understand how much hurt you have brought upon other people, namely those that work at Kingsway for 15+ hours a day, those whose views you do not represent and the bystanders who are amazed by how Christians treat each other.

    If you do have respect for others and love them like you are called to do then I call you to show it and remove the poisonous words that you have used here. An apology would be the right thing from you as would the haunt to stop.

    I have been reminded today that the views shared on this blog by yourself Phil is not the view of the majority of the UK trade which I’m glad to hear and if I can address the crowd cheering you on it would be to say please ‘do not keep doing what you have been doing but press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called you’.

  36. THANK YOU to Luke and Melanie for their comments above indicating that John has now been in touch with them directly to address the concerns that they have raised; and, of course, thanks to John for following through on that: it’s things like this that this blog exists to facilitate, to build relationships and to remove barriers.

    Do I always get it right? Of course not. Does Kingsway always get it right? Of course not. Neither of us have ever claimed any sort of infallibility. We stumble and fall in the same way as everyone else — but what ultimately counts, I think, is how we pick up the pieces afterwards.

    As much as anything else, following Jesus is about forgiveness and reconciliation, not about getting things right first time. It’s wonderful when we do get it right first time, of course, but as Geoff has observed above, we need to ‘get real’ — and that involves getting down on our knees, in prayer, in repentance, in humility. In my job (stacking the shelves at a local supermarket) I spend a lot of time on my knees, quite literally; and I also spend a lot of time on steps, looking over the top of the shelves and the superficial dressing into the chaos behind, where cans and bottles have fallen over, where empty cases are sometimes left tipped up on end. It gives me time to think and reflect as I, again quite literally, pick up the pieces.

    Here’s one of the things I’ve learnt: there’s no point pretending that things are right when they’re not. There’s no point trying to push a tray of baked beans into a space where everything’s fallen over. It can done, of course: some people do it; but all that means is that somebody else has to come along later and clear it up. I don’t understand why other people take cans of beans from the bottom of a pile so that everything else comes tumbling down; but they do, and I have to deal with it and move on: I have to move on. I suppose I could rush around the shop pursuing colleagues and customers to demand apologies and try to browbeat them into coming back to clear things up; but I think I’d soon be out of a job if I did…

    I’m talking directly to you, now, Yahoo/Robin/Robin Hood: you’ve requested an apology. I offer you essentially the self-same apology that I’ve offered John above:

    I’ve been honest with you about my perceptions and I will continue to be honest; but I acknowledge and recognise that sometimes that approach hurts, and I apologise wholeheartedly for the pain my speaking out may have caused you and your friends/colleagues at Kingsway.

    I now invite you to join me on my knees as, together, we deal with it and move on. As I’ve said already, following Jesus is about forgiveness and reconciliation. Closing doors in people’s faces doesn’t help with that process, does it? … and harbouring resentment kinda sucks, y’know?

    Now back to my baked beans aisle: dealing with it and moving on doesn’t mean simply sweeping dented cans under the rack and pretending they’re not there. It means clearing them out, refreshing the stock. Sometimes it means reallocating shelf space, rethinking things, looking at things through our customers’ eyes, through one another’s eyes.

    As you’re no doubt aware, I’m now in the process of drawing up a summary of where we’ve got to with this conversation. My working title is “Kingsway: Discussion Summary and Unanswered Questions”. You and your friends/colleagues at Kingsway can be part of that if you wish to. Maybe, between us, we can reach the point where we’re not dealing with unanswered questions but offering practical — even radical — solutions: your call.

    Finally, for now: I know you’re keen on social media etiquette and on taking a professional approach to such things. An important part of that, of course, is complying with a blog’s comments policy. Please review this site’s comments policy before you comment further and pay particular attention to the section about the use of pseudonyms: decide which pseudonym you wish to use and be consistent with it from now on. Thank you.

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