Monthly Archives: June 2009

Truro Christian Bookshop: Business for Sale

Phil Groom writes:

Truro Christian Bookshop is being advertised for sale at BusinessesForSale.com, asking price £50,000:

Truro Christian Bookshop: Business for Sale

Truro Christian Bookshop: Business for Sale

Given the propensity of this sort of listing to go AWOL, I’ve converted the listing to a pdf, download/view here: Truro Christian Bookshop – Business for Sale.

The reason given for the sale is the current owner’s ill health:

I have been unwell during the course of the year and have run the bookshop without any management help. This bookshop requires a more consistent involvement than I have been able to give over the last few months. Best time to sell as we are entering the busiest period.

The business is described as having “great prospects” … which various not-so-subtle hints suggest might be improved by relocation away from the current landlords… hmmm… I wonder who they might be??

This business, a former SPCK bookshop, has traded in various forms for the last 150 years and in more recent times been aquired by a local Cornish company. Despite a downturn in the economy the business has great prospects if there are committed owners (and is probably best suited to a couple’s involement and management). Retail is more demanding than most realise and unfortunately I have been unwell over the last year and have struggled to manage the commitment on my own. There has been a need to reduce the overhead in order to reshape the future of the business and this has been quite successful, although would have probably been more successful if I had run it with a partner. We are now entering the busiest part of the year and it is the best time to take this business on. I would be more than willing to give some consultancy as part of the handover to the new owners. A separate lease would need to be negotiated with the landlord but there is also no reason why this business could not be relocated within the town to ensure a lower rental and higher profit margin – there are smaller units, and possibly cheaper units, available to let very close to the existing shop. The business has active relationships with many of the local churches who purchase church supplies and material from the bookshop.

You would be purchasing the right to the use the current name, all of the stock (we have a very fully stocked shop), equipment and consultancy to get you started. You would need to set up a limited company for yourselves (which I can help with) or should you wish to trade as sole traders this would also be an option (although I would advise against this option).

Statement from the Charity Commission in Christian Marketplace

Phil Groom writes:

The July issue of Christian Marketplace is now available, with a report on the current situation on p.6, More closures at SSG bookshops. The report includes the following statement issued by the Charity Commission on 10th June:

Concerns were raised with the Charity Commission relating to governance and internal financial controls at St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust and St Stephen the Great (both registered under charity number 1119839). We contacted the trustees with regard to the issues raised with us. On the basis both of the initial concerns raised with the Commission and of the information provided by the charity in response, on 26 September 2008 we opened a statutory enquiry under section 8 of the Charities Act 1993

On 28 April 2009, as a temporary and protective measure, the Charity Commission appointed Peter Gotham of Begbies Traynor as Interim Manager of St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust. Because this inquiry remains open and ongoing we would not be in a position to go into further detail at this time, but we intend, as is normal procedure, to publish a statement of the results of the inquiry setting out our findings once the inquiry is completed.

Remembering Steve Jeynes

Today, Saturday June 27th, marks the anniversary of the death of Steve Jeynes: Steve Jeynes, RIP. Even now, one year later, that page remains the second most visited page on this blog, a powerful testimony to the man Steve was.

I find that I can do no better than to once again post the tribute left by Trevor Gibb, Director of Worcester City Mission:

Steve will be sadly missed

Steve was one of the first people I knew in Worcester when I moved here in 1989. As the manager of Icthus Christian Bookshop he was a lively, loving man with a passion for Christ and a heart for the lost. Steve did not just work in the Icthus bookshop he served in it. He saw his work as ministry and was used by God to pray for and witness to many, many people.

He took this zeal with him to the SPCK shop and saw his role there in the same way as as he saw his role at the Icthus shop, serving God by praying and witnessing. This was Steves passion. I am in no doubt that Steve is with the Lord he loved so much in his earthly journey

Steve Supported ALL the ministries in Worcester and was also committed to supporting the local churches.

Steve will be sadly missed by those who knew him. And he would be glad to know that so many are supporting Joy and the Children in prayer and concern.

Rest in peace mate your brother and fellow worker in Christ
Trevor Gibb
Director Worcester City Mission

A respectful silence may be the most fitting response this weekend, but this page will remain open for any who wish to post further tributes in memory of Steve…

A Tale of Two Tragedies

The end of this month marks the anniversary of two tragedies.

Tomorrow, Friday June 26th, is the anniversary of this blog’s launch: Dedicated SPCK/SSG Blog. I call that a tragedy because it should never have been necessary.

The next day, Saturday June 27th, is the anniversary of Steve Jeynes’ death: Steve Jeynes, RIP. That is surely the worst tragedy of them all, and on Saturday I’ll open a page as a memorial book in Steve’s honour: please feel welcome to contribute to that. As that day approaches, however, I’d simply like to say to Joy and the family: we remember with you and share your sorrow.

Unravelling the Knots

Phil Groom writes:

Oh what a tangled web we weave
when first we set out practise to deceive…

I didn’t know the origins of that little quote but, courtesy those who’ve commented below, I do now: thank you. Corrected, it’s an even better fit for what we find ourselves facing here as the Charity Commission attempts to untangle the mess left strewn across the last two years or so by Messrs J Mark and Phil W Brewer.

Several recent comments have once again started pointing the finger of blame at SPCK and whilst I would not for one moment wish to deny SPCK’s culpability, I’m not convinced that we’ll do anyone any favours by going down that road at this stage. Please allow me to refer back to a couple of posts that addressed this side of things back in August last year:

I think Phelim McIntyre’s recent comment sums things up rather well:

SPCK are speaking, and are being sued for this – hence their silence. SPCK were not the only ones taken in by the Brewers – publshers and even some book staff said that it would be ok. When I was assistant manager at Chichester I read the SSG statement of faith on their US site and sent up warning flairs and some staff in shops around the south told me I didn’t know what I was talking about and no one can be that bad. Some even signed change of contracts when they were advised not to as they were illegal. Those who stood up, acted and spoke out to try and prevent the chaos were often in the minority. I often wonder whether I should name and shame some of those who tried to keep quiet but have decided not too as they are now in the same boat as everyone else concerning lack of justice.

Because SPCK acted and are acting about the use of the name the Brewers are attempting to sue SPCK and some of the people there for large amounts of money – we are talkign about six figure sums. Please don’t forget this.

This does not absolve SPCK from acting as much as they can but does mean that we should not get angry when they do not speak out as we would like.

As to the Charities Commission being aware whether SSG and ENC are the same thing – yes they are and unravelling such knots as the Brewers have attempted to make takes time.

So where does this leave us with the shops? Here’s how it looks to me, A-Z by location rather than from North to South or any such because, quite frankly, my geography sucks. In my world, London is South, everywhere else (including Australia) is North (except Leicester, which is Midlands, and I suppose we could make a concession for Wales and say it’s off to the West).

Links for each town are to the UKCBD listings, which I’m aware need updating. Unfortunately I always seem to have more to do than time to do it in *sigh*… other links are to reports of closures, photo-shoots where available or most recent comments, whichever seemed most appropriate whilst compiling the list. If you have more accurate or up to date info, please add it to the comments…

And to round things off, an excerpt from the January 2009 Retail Research “Who’s Gone Bust?” report (pdf, 144kb), which I discovered whilst compiling this report. A sad, succinct summary:

SPCK,  the 23-branch Church of England Bookshops,  had been acquired along with the leases at concessionary rents in 2006 by two Texan millionaires (the Brewer Brothers) who trade as SSG,  an Orthodox-Church charity. Since then it has been has been rapidly run down,  with complaints of staff ill-treatment (staff sacked by email etc) and an illiberal policy about what could be stocked. The owners attempted to close down the UK chain in 2008 by applying for personal bankruptcy in the US courts. Their bankruptcy motion was Dismissed With Prejudice (i.e. it was NBG). It is difficult to know how many stores are still left operating or what is the position regarding liabilities,  back pay,  legal liabilities, etc. Some SSG stores still trade,  but have no connection with SPCK. A poor outcome.

The Final Curtain? All shops except Durham and Chichester reported closed

Phil Groom writes:

Comments left during the last 24 hours indicate that all former SPCK shops except for Durham and Chichester have now been closed down.

As Bugs Bunny would say, “That’s all, folks!”

Watch this space…

Durham: watching, waiting…

Phil Groom writes:

I confess that I’ve been rather slow about this, but simply to let all visitors know that the Durham Petition is now formally closed. I have updated the petition text with the following introduction:

Following an announcement made by Durham Cathedral on Friday, May 1st, 2009, that “the current operators and occupiers of Durham Cathedral Shop” — ie, the Brewers — have been given one year’s notice to quit, this petition is now closed.

THANK YOU to everyone who has signed it. The story is far from over, however, and the future of the current bookshop employees remains unclear. Please keep them as well as the Dean and Chapter in your prayers as they seek a way forward that will provide justice for all concerned.

Updates will be posted on the SPCK/SSG Blog as and when new information emerges.

Although officially closed, I am leaving the petition in place as a matter of historical record. In the meantime, we watch, and wait.

To the Durham shop staff: I salute you.