Last updated Apr 16th 2012
WELCOME to SPCK/SSG: News, Notes and Info. This site was set up to provide a news portal and discussion forum during the rundown of the former SPCK Bookshops by the Brewer brothers. It’s now largely an archive site, but remains open for comments, discussion and occasional news items.
If you’re looking for one of the former SPCK Bookshops, try these:
- Cardiff: Churches Together Bookshop
- Chichester: St Olav’s
- Durham: Durham Cathedral Shop
- Leicester: Christian Resources
- Lincoln: Unicorn Tree Books
- Norwich: Christian Resource Centre
Contributors include Phil Groom (the blog’s founder), David Keen, Phelim McIntyre and Matt Wardman. Please contact Phil if you would like to join the team, make suggestions or have any questions about the blog’s admin or structure. All comments are welcome but please read this page before you post. Thank you.
Setting the Scene
• SPCK/SSG: My Story, by Phil Groom: Personal Statement, 7th August 2008
• Hard Questions for SPCK: Challenging SPCK, 8th August 2008
• Straight Talking from SPCK: Official Statement from SPCK, 12th August 2008
In October 2006 the former SPCK Bookshops and their associated websites were entrusted by SPCK to the Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSG), under the control of Messrs Philip and Mark Brewer. Unfortunately shops and staff alike suffered in the transition to new ownership, leading to staff departures, branch closures and uncertainty over opening times for those that remained.
In November 2007 SPCK withdrew SSG’s licence to trade under the SPCK name but throughout 2008 the name was still in use over most of the remaining shops and as of January 2009 was still being used on till receipts in at least one branch.
Reports emerging during June 2008 indicated a deepening crisis: SSG filed for bankruptcy in the USA whilst ownership and control of the shops was transferred to a new company — also registered to the Brewers — called ‘ENC Management Company’. The Durham and Chichester shops were reconstituted as independent trading companies but remained under the Brewers’ personal control.
In July 2008, Mark Brewer attempted to silence reporting on this affair by issuing “Cease and Desist” warnings and threats of legal action against several reporters including Dave Walker, Phil Groom and Clem Jackson of Christian Marketplace magazine. This backfired spectacularly, leading to an explosion of reporting and reposting of Dave Walker’s material across the blogosphere (for more about this see the Please Read page, explore the links in the News Index or read this review of The Dave Walker Reposts).
On 28th August 2008, however, the bankruptcy filing was dismissed with prejudice by the Texas Bankruptcy Courts and was described by the judge as having been submitted in bad faith: that is, as “done for a wrong or improper purpose.” (The Bookseller, 5 September 2008, Issue No. 5348, p.6). Shortly after this — on 24th September 2008 — the Brewers sold the Exeter shop for £507,000; it is now trading as a jewellery and gift store:
- Exeter: The Inside (Incomplete) Story: Part 1
- Exeter: The Inside (Incomplete) Story: Part 2
- Welcome to GemStar Jewellery and Gifts, Exeter
- Exeter: The Incomplete Story (Part 4)
- Exeter: More Missing Pieces – and Threats of Violence?
Melanie Carrol’s accounts of events surrounding the closure of the Lincoln branch give some idea of the kind of behaviour that was exhibited by the Brewers:
Many of the shop workers who were forced out of their jobs by the Brewers were supported through a series of Employment Tribunals by Usdaw, which eventually resulted in a total payout of £301,500 distributed between the 32 shop workers who were Usdaw members. Many others, however, have yet to receive any compensation for their mistreatment by the Brewers.
In April 2009 the Charity Commission seized control of SSG and appointed an Interim Manager to manage the charity’s affairs which led to the closure of the remaining shops and the sale of the company’s assets. In November 2009 creditors were invited to submit claims for monies owed; the status of any claims made has yet to be disclosed.
Notices posted here are based upon the best available information at the time of posting. With the exception of a few shops that struck out independently (such as Chichester, Leicester and Norwich), all of the former SPCK/SSG bookshops have now ceased trading.