Tag Archives: Authentic Media

STL UK puts up the ‘For Sale’ sign: who will buy?

IBS-STL UK Announces Plans to Sell Operations

IBS-STL UK Announces Plans to Sell Operations

Phil Groom writes:

In a press release issued earlier today, STL UK, the UK and Europe’s major distributor of Christian books and related products, have announced that their business is being put up for sale by their USA owners, Biblica. This decision comes in the wake of ongoing cashflow and stock movement difficulties faced by the organisation since an unsuccessful IT systems upgrade in October last year: combined with the current economic climate, the financial stress has become unsustainable.

This represents the biggest shake up in the Christian book trade for well over a decade, the SPCK/SSG debacle not withstanding, and not only puts STL’s 490 employees at risk of losing their jobs but also risks seriously undermining those hundreds of Christian retailers and suppliers who have become dependent upon STL for their supply chain.

I personally believe that this development does not need to be a disaster and at the weekend I put forward what I have called A Modest Proposal to Save STL UK. There are thousands of people whose livelihoods are likely to be disrupted if STL’s future is not secured: all the employees at Authentic Media and Paternoster Publishing; everyone at STL Distribution; all those working for Wesley Owen; and all the retailers and suppliers I’ve already mentioned. But if we stand together, between us I believe that we could stage a trade buy-out and take over the business as a shared ownership company.

But there is no reason why others — churches and other Christian organisations — couldn’t get involved. We have the means, if we have the will.

If you believe the idea of such a buy-out has merit, please spread the word amongst your friends and churches; if you have any other suggestions for a way forward, please speak out; and please pray for all those whose livelihoods are now under threat.

The UK Christian book trade and the church itself failed when SPCK hit hard times back in 2006. Many people’s lives were ruined and many are still picking up the pieces. It would be a tragedy beyond belief to see that failure repeated with Wesley Owen and its associated companies.

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Free Food, Free Drinks, Free Books…

and I guess I ought to mention free admission, courtesy of Speaking Volumes, sponsors and organisers of the UK Christian Book Awards. I’m referring to my day at CRE, the Christian Resources Exhibition: catching up with people, collecting catalogues, meeting publishers and authors… all in all, a day of serious networking and a lot of fun along the way. If you’re one of the many people whose paths I crossed on Wednesday and you don’t get a mention, please don’t take it as a slight: it was simply one of those days where it’s impossible to talk about everyone and everything. My thanks, however, to everyone who conspired to make it a very worthwhile visit.

I arrived just in time for the Award Presentations, being given by Adrian and Bridget Plass. Adrian and Bridget entertained us with a sketch about Anglicans and Free Churches attempting to work together and eventually discovering that the one thing they had in common was — UKCBA Winnersbut I’m not going to say because that would ruin it if ever you get to see them in action. Typically spot-on Plass humour that takes the lid off the  Church and its pretensions to leave you amused and squirming uncomfortably at the same time as you recognise some of your own follies…

And the winners, pictured here along with Paula Renouf (in the blue dress), who ably co-ordinated the whole event, and various others from the Speaking Volumes Board, are:

  • General: Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference (9780340909089, Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Biography: Richard Taylor, To Catch a Thief (9781903725573, New Wine Press)
  • Children’s/Youth: Jonathan Brant, YP’s Guide To Knowing God (9781853454073, CWR)

Congratulations to the winnersSharp-eyed readers may wonder about Philip Yancey’s gender reassignment; fear not: Philip himself couldn’t be with us, that’s a publisher’s representative accepting his award. Congratulations to all concerned, and commiserations to the runners up (not losers, please note: runners up).

Cliff's 50th Anniversary BadgeEveryone who attended was given a bag full of goodies including a selection of books, a stack of publishers’ catalogues, a couple of bookmarks (“Praise the Lord,” I hear you cry, “he’s got his bookmarks!”) and, since no Christian event can be considered complete without an appearance from the blessed St Cliff, a Cliff Richard Badge! Thank you, Lion-Hudson. I think…

Authentic Author Cafe

Next on the agenda was the Authentic Author Café, with sandwiches, fruit juice and coffee courtesy of Authentic Media and personally served by none other than STL’s Pete Barnsley. Thanks, Pete! Nick Battle told us something of his life story as recounted in Big Boys Don’t Cry (watch this space for a review), then interviewed fellow authors Chris Rogers (9781850787822, A Monkey’s Orientation), Peter Meadows (9781860245688, The Book of Y), David Cowan (9781932805727, Economic Parables: The Monetary Teachings of Jesus Christ) and Anona Coates (9781860247019, I Wish I Was).

Then came the real highlight of the day: a trip down Esher High Street to The Bear Pub to meet up with a group of SPCK’s dispossessed booksellers — Phelim McIntyre amongst others, who organised the get-together — and the ineffable Dave Walker whose blogging has kept us all up to speed on the Brewers’ misdemeanours. It was an honour and a privilege to be able to use some of the money from the UKCBD Save the SPCK Booksellers Fund to help some who came with their travel expenses: thank you to those who have contributed to that.

I had a fairly long chat with Alan Mordue (SPCK’s Sales and Marketing Director) afterwards. He assured me that SPCK have not washed their hands of the situation: it is in the hands of their solicitors. I’ll say more when I know more. In the meantime, let’s hope and pray that the forthcoming Employment Tribunals bring some justice for those whom the Brewers have treated so appallingly…

Finally: on departure from CRE, a bottle of mineral water for the journey home courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse as part of their Turn On The Tap appeal: it’s so easy for us to take water for granted here in the UK. Let’s spare some change to bring about a change in the lives of our brothers and sisters elsewhere, where water is not so simply obtained.