Monthly Archives: June 2008

Meeting between ex-SPCK staff and suppliers.

In May a group of us got together at CRE just to talk and catch up after we had left the SPCK/SSG Bookshops. A number of people who were there were publishers and others who had supported us, such as Phil Groom and Dave Walker (Cartoon Church Blog). Out of the discussions came this blog and the idea of a meeting to see if there was someway the years of knowledge of the SPCK staff could be used and not wasted, as appears to be happening now.

Well we now have a time, date and venue for the meeting. The date is Wednesday 10th September. The time is 2pm. The venue is SCM-Canterbury Press Ltd, 13-17 Long Lane, London, EC1A 9PN, UK.

Please use this forum to discuss needs and agenda items.

If you can come please let me know via

Phelim McIntyre

Joy Jeynes: Please continue to pray for God’s work in Worcester

Joy Jeynes, Stephen Jeyne’s widow, has written to thank us for our prayers and asks us to continue to pray for God’s work in Worcester:

Thank you so much for all your prayers and concern for Stephen. We have been following Dave Walker’s SPCK/SSG blog for some time now, but I never thought I would be reading about my own husband in this way. Steve saw his work at the bookshop more than just a job, and he had huge compassion for ordinary people. He longed to see a Christian Centre in Worcester and he persevered with the Brewers, hoping that things would change. He was deeply saddened when his staff were sacked without pay, as others had been, and he took his own dismissal very badly. However, no-one anticipated this. Please continue to pray for God’s work in Worcester.
Joy Jeynes

Tributes to Stephen and condolences to Joy and the rest of the family continue to pour in on Dave’s post, SPCK / SSG: Tragic news from Worcester.

Joy, may you know God’s strength and peace in the difficult times you now face.


Steve Jeynes, RIP

Steve Jeynes, former manager of SPCK/SSG Worcester, has been found dead, apparently having taken his own life. Doug Chaplin, a local parish priest, wrote as follows at 5.30pm today:

Many people have been following (especially with the help of Dave Walker) the slowly unfurling disaster of the destruction of the former SPCK Bookshop chain. (See an earlier post of mine here)

Here in Worcester things have now taken a tragic turn. The local branch manager Steve Jeynes has now been found dead, apparently by his own hand. He was made redundant two weeks ago, after having survived many staff purges and highly dubious pressures to accept a new contract. 

Read more

No words can express the dismay that I (Phil Groom writing) feel at this tragic turn of events. Steve, though I never knew you, may you now rest in peace, and may your family and friends somehow find the grace and strength they need in the difficult times they now face.

Any who may wish to do so are welcome to use the comments section of this post as a Memorial Book for Steve…

Update, 3/7/2008
Peter Davies says:

Steve Jeynes’ Thanksgiving Service has been moved from All Saints’ Church to the Cathedral at 3.30pm on Monday 7th July followed by refreshments at Worcestershire County Cricket Club.

“SSG tribunal claims mount”

That’s the headline article on page 6 of today’s Bookseller, available in full online here.

The article gives a brief overview of the current situation and notes that, according to Usdaw’s Cherry Hamilton, more claims are “definitely on the way”.

The Brewers have declined to respond to repeated requests for comment from The Bookseller. Usdaw said that they also have not responded to the tribunal claims. “If a claim is undefended then the claimants automatically win so we could get a default judgment very quickly, ” said Hamilton.

Usdaw provide a snapshot of which shops are open:

Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Carlisle, Cardiff, Lincoln, London and Norwich are closed

Chester and Newcastle are closed but may open two days a week

Chichester, Durham, Hereford, Leicester (which is a franchise store), Truro and Winchester are open

Exeter and York will open two days a week

At Salisbury, all the store’s staff walked out this month, but future opening plans are unknown

At Sheffield, all staff members were dismissed in February, after which the store was reopened by agency staff. The shop apparently “looks empty” now but future plans are unknown

Worcester may open two days per week


Usdaw fights for mistreated bookshop workers

From an Usdaw Press Release dated 24 June 2008:

Shopworkers’ union, Usdaw, has submitted 15 employment tribunal claims against the Brewers, US-based brothers who have taken over a chain of UK bookshops and were seeking to impose a new contract on staff, drastically reducing their contractual rights.

The Union has over 50 members at the bookshops and is expecting that the number of employment tribunal claims will rise.

Read more

SPCK/SSG News Archives

Save the SPCKDave Walker has compiled an index of news reports and correspondence about the SPCK/SSG saga in the Church Times blog, which helpfully supplements his own Save the SPCK section. To that I’d like to add the UKCBD SPCK/SSG News Section, this site’s reports and reflections and the various reports in the Bookseller: 
SPCK | SSG | St Stephen the Great. Should probably also add this rather long and meandering thread at Ship of Fools, “SPCK” bookshops.

Taken all together that’s a huge amount of information with considerable overlap, but it leaves no one with any excuse to say they didn’t know what was going on.

One of the things we (that is, Dave, Phelim and myself: not sure whether anyone else was in on the conversation) discussed briefly at the SPCK Booksellers Get-together back in May was the idea of setting up a dedicated SPCK/SSG blog. This would take some of the pressure off Dave, especially in July when he’s going to be busy blogging and cartooning Lambeth (brilliant cartoon in today’s Church Times, btw: had me in stitches. thanks, Dave!), and will help keep a continuous spotlight on the situation, which neither Dave nor I can necessarily do with our respective blogs.

I’m quite happy to set the blog up at WordPress, although anyone reading is equally capable of doing that: WordPress really does make blogging incredibly simple. But what I can’t do is run it single-handed: I think it needs a team of three or four people, possibly more.

So, do we have any volunteers from amongst our readership? You’ll need a WordPress ID: signing up for that will take you less time than it’s taken me to type this sentence. Then you’ll need to leave a comment using your WordPress sign up email address (this will not be made public) so that you can be set up as an author/contributor. SSG/ENC moles need not apply!!

Over to you, people…

Update 27/6/2008: Originally I said ‘let me know your WordPress ID’. What I actually need is your WordPress sign up email address: just use it as normal when leaving a comment. Apologies for any confusion/misunderstanding!

30a Sincil Street, RIP

Estate Agent's Flyer for the former SPCK, Lincoln.Don’t quite know why, since as far as I remember I’ve never been there, but somehow today it struck me as unbearably sad to see the stripped-out windows of the former Sincil Street SPCK Lincoln shop in this estate agent’s flyer (zoomed in shot of the shop front further down).

I guess what struck me was the hardened finality of it as the culmination of the Brewers’ betrayal  — I can think of no other word for it — of SPCK’s trust in handing the shops over to them, of the utter failure of SSG to live up to even their own expectations.

It prompted me to look back at the October 2006 Press Release, still available on the SSG website as I write, but also available as a pdf here (200kb)

Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust and SPCK share a strong commitment to communicate the richness of the Christian Faith. Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust intend to employ a vigorous marketing strategy for the SPCK Bookshops. “People in our stressful, modern age, care deeply about spirituality and long for a deeper faith. SPCK Bookshops will offer a primary solution to these questions of faith” said Mark Brewer, Chairman of Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, in a press release accompanying the transaction.  “SPCK will continue into its fourth century with its shops as places where all people, Christian or otherwise, are welcome and given the chance to widen their spiritual horizons.”

“We are delighted to have found partners with a similarly strong vision and a determination to invest in the mission of presenting the Christian message imaginatively and effectively in an attractive environment”, commented SPCK’s new Chairman, Bishop Michael Perham in the same press release.

Under the new arrangements, SPCK Bookshops will continue to serve the broad and diverse SPCK customer base, and expanding the products that it offers those customers. Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust will also place a major emphasis in online marketing at, utilising the internet and harnessing the market power and presence of the venerable SPCK and its 308 year-long history in the U.K.

In this way we believe the Bookshops will be both maintained and strengthened, remaining broad and looking ambitiously to a growing future.

We believe that this is good news for the whole Christian community. 

If the Brewers had followed through on that initial commitment to remain broad in their outlook — “to communicate the richness of the Christian Faith”, developing the shops “as places where all people, Christian or otherwise, are welcome and given the chance to widen their spiritual horizons” — then it would, indeed, have been “good news for the whole Christian community”, then perhaps we might not have come to this present pass.

SPCK, 30a Sincil Street, LincolnAs things have emerged, however, it seems that we can only wonder, watch and weep for what has been lost.

Or is that really all we can do? Even as I write 30a Sincil Street, RIP, I am reminded that the letters RIP have more than one meaning: Resurrection in Progress! If you visit Lincoln, be sure to go a little further along Sincil Street to the Central Market where you’ll find that miracle in progress as Lincoln is Saved by a Unicorn! 

SPCK/SSG may be over and done in Lincoln, but Christian bookselling is alive and kicking: long may it continue.

Full details of Unicorn Tree Books below.

Unicorn Tree Books 
35-40 Central Market 
Sincil Street 
Lincoln LN5 7ET  


Phone: 01522 525557 
Fax: 01522 830896 


Hodgson Elkington Flyer originally downloaded from
Thanks to UTB for posting the link that led me to this on Dave Walker’s shop round up page.



SSG Uncertainty Continues (2)

Update, Friday 13th June 2008
New reports posted by the Bookseller and the Church Times today:
St Stephen the Great files for bankruptcy | Ex-SPCK shops ‘bankruptcy’

Below, my updated notice now posted alongside all SSG entries in the UK Christian Bookshops Directory. Previous version here: SSG Uncertainty Continues (1)

Any new info, please do let me and/or Dave know. The best guide to which shops are currently trading may be found on Dave’s Former SPCK shop roundup page.

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 remain.

Reports emerging during June 2008 indicate a deepening crisis: SSG has apparently filed for bankruptcy in the USA whilst ownership and control of the shops has been transferred to a new company — also registered to the Brewers — called ‘ENC Management Company’. The Durham and Chichester shops appear to have been reconstituted as independent trading companies but remain under the Brewers’ personal control.

The SPCK name is still in use over shops and online despite an online statement from SPCK (dated 12/11/2007 but since removed from the SPCK website) emphasising that they “do not own, manage or otherwise run the Bookshops”.

In view of these uncertainties, anyone considering trading with SSG, ENC Management Company or the so-called independent shops may be wise to seek legal advice first.

Latest news and comments on the situation may be found in either this site’s blog or Dave Walker’s Save the SPCK pages.

Anyone concerned by SSG’s treatment of the former SPCK booksellers and wishing to help is invited to make a donation to the UKCBD Save the SPCK Booksellers Fund.

Information posted here is based upon the best available information at the time. In particular there is no clear information available about which SSG/ENC shops are currently trading: prospective customers are strongly advised to check before visiting.

(This notice updated 12/06/2008 )

SSG Uncertainty Continues (1)

Below, the notice that I’ve been running alongside the SSG entries in the UK Christian Bookshops Directory since early April: figured I ought to preserve it for posterity. Will be updating it this evening with something that more accurately reflects the current chaos. Suggestions, anyone? Other than just “Aaaargh!” please, even if that does more or less sum things up…

The former SPCK Bookshops and their associated websites are owned and operated by the Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust(SSG), which acquired the shops from SPCK in October 2006.

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 remain, with at least one branch (Leicester) becoming independent. Previous shop descriptions, opening times and other information has therefore been removed and SSG have been invited to provide up to date details; until this is provided and independently verified, details shown here, whilst offered in good faith, may or may not be valid.

Branches reported as closed or slated for closure include Birmingham, Bristol, Canterbury, Cambridge, Cardiff, Carlisle, Lincoln, Norwich and Sheffield. Customers are strongly advised to phone ahead before visiting these or any other branches.

Although the SPCK name is still in use over the shops and online, that use is subject to ongoing legal discussions. SPCK have emphasised “that they do not own, manage or otherwise run the Bookshops” (online statement dated 12/11/2007), whilst SSG have declined to comment. In view of the uncertain legal position no link to can be provided at present. Online fulfillment is apparently being provided by St Andrew’s Bookshops: again, in view of the uncertainty, prospective customers may be wise to consider shopping elsewhere.

Anyone concerned by SSG’s treatment of the former SPCK booksellers and wishing to help is invited to make a donation to the UKCBD Save the SPCK Booksellers Fund.

Latest News
Google Warns Visitors: Beware
Updates on the situation may be found in the UKCBD News Section and in Dave Walker’s Blog.

(This notice updated 06/04/2008 )

September Meeting for ex-SPCK Booksellers

SPCK Booksellers Fund
Simply a reminder that the Save the SPCK Booksellers fund I set up last year is still open. Any ex-SPCKers in need of help, please do get in touch; anyone else, please feel welcome to contribute.

And don’t forget the existence of BTBS: The Book Trade Charity: they’re there to help. 

— Phil Groom 

Phelim McIntyre writes:

In September there will be a meeting between publishers reps and ex-SPCK staff. This is to see how, if possible, we can stop the years of knowledge from SPCK bookshops being wasted. So this meeting is not just talk, if you are able to come please think about how people can be used. Using myself as an example:

I am 36 and worked for SPCK Bookshops for 2½ years. Before that I worked for W H Smiths, ran bookstalls at conference and for a small independent Christian Bookshop. I have done the Chapter House Proof Reading and Copy Editing course and have had short stories published. Due to my age I am unable to take retirement. How can my skills be used and not wasted?

This is a serious question – the ex-staff fall into 2 categories. Those who have taken retirement and those who have had to find other jobs. Not everyone has found full time employment. It is these people who need the help. Please think about this and either come to the meeting or let me know your suggestions.

Thank you.

Phelim McIntyre (ex-assistant manager, Chichester SPCK)