TODAY sees the final day of trading for three branches of the former high street Christian bookshop chain, Wesley Owen: Birmingham, York (aka The Barbican Bookshop) and Kingston-upon-Thames, the latter rescued and rebranded as a CLC Bookshop when the rest of the group collapsed back in late 2009. Both Birmingham and York were already flagged as ‘now closed’ on Wesley Owen’s Our Stores page yesterday.
Apart from this post, I suspect this is a day that will go largely unremarked in the annals of the UK Christian book trade: we’ve known — or at the very least suspected — it was coming for some time, ever since Koorong, Wesley Owen’s Australian owners, announced two years ago this month that they were focusing on digital rather than physical retailing; but the hope remained for at least one physical store to help keep the brand name alive: Bulk of Wesley Owen bookshops to close (The Bookseller, 31/1/2012).
Whether or not the brand can withstand this blow remains to be seen: online shoppers can continue to support the company online at wesleyowen.com or via koorong.co.uk. If you’d rather support the few remaining bricks and mortar stores, you’ll find them sheltering under CLC’s umbrella at Bolton, Cambridge, Coventry, Guildford and Stockport; CLC’s full list of branches may be found here: Find a CLC Bookshop in the UK
Whilst much of the responsibility for this situation can be laid fairly and squarely at the feet of the company’s former owners, Biblica, and at the doors of Amazon, the reality can be summed up in two words: unfettered competition; and that, in turn, comes to down to a government that seems afraid to legislate, even when its ministers know that companies like Amazon are taking unfair advantage of tax loopholes. France, in sharp contrast, has a government that not only values its independent sector and smaller retailers but is unafraid to take on the giants:
In a bid to protect France’s independent bookshops, the French Senate on Wednesday night approved a bill that would ban online book retailers from offering free delivery.
France has long protected small booksellers. Since 1981, a law has banned discounts on new books of more than five percent of the cover price, which effectively stops large chains from engaging in aggressive price wars with their smaller rivals.
But with huge growth in online sales, especially from Amazon, the game has changed.
Traditional booksellers in France claim Amazon and other web-based retailers are subjecting them to unfair competition by offering new books with a five-percent discount as well as free shipping.
The bill passed by the Senate, which was approved by France’s lower house of parliament in 2013, will forbid companies like Amazon from shipping to France for free…
Compare that to the weak response of the UK government when members of this trade raised concerns over current copyright licensing regulations undermining viability of music sales, and the question must be asked: has the time come for the UK’s independent — and remaining chain — booksellers to join forces and press our government to introduce similar legislation here?
Because if nothing is done, if Amazon and its ilk are allowed to continue their uncontrolled proliferation, then when it comes to bookshop closures — to quote the old rockers — you ain’t seen nothing yet…
Wesley Owen: Looking Back…
- The Bookseller: All reports tagged ‘Wesley Owen’
- All UKCBD posts filed under Wesley Owen and/or tagged Former Wesley Owen Bookshops
- UKCBD Q&A: What happened to Wesley Owen?