Tag Archives: Christian bookshop

Leicester: One Year On

Phil Groom writes:

 

This weekend marks one year since the news broke of SPCK/SSG Leicester’s independence under a new name, Christian Resources:

Congratulations to Peter Hebden and his team on making it this far: here’s wishing them every success for the future! I invited Peter to give us an update and perhaps offer some advice for anyone else seeking to strike out by themselves. He writes:

All the best stories begin with “once upon a time” and end with a “happy ending”.  

 

Once upon a time there was a Christian bookshop in Leicester trading under the name of SPCK. It was a kindly shop with lots of friends and neighbours.  Then one day there was a sudden whoosh as the wind of change blew away the cobwebs, some of the books, some of the staff, and even…….some of the traditional ways of doing things. SSGCT had arrived.

Principles and goals were challenged, even one’s raison d’être was examined and tested.  Many changes were promoted, many implemented, some refused (I hate wearing a tie). The results were of mixed value and after a year of frantic activity the whirlwind of SSGCT moved off to other shores.

What was left was renamed Christian Resources in an attempt to re-brand, broaden the stock range and concentrate on core customers. The rest of the world looked on in partial disbelief, finding it hard to accept that there may yet be a future for an independent bookshop. The future would lay in resourcing Christians with many things, the printed word accounting for perhaps only 55-60 % of sales.

We at Leicester have been fortunate to have an accommodating landlord, patient financial backers, (we thank God we did not turn to the banking system), and most importantly helpful suppliers. The landlords were able to offer accommodation with a short term ‘get out’ aspect and within a couple of weeks all the major suppliers offered credit facilities. These credit facilities were crucial in helping us to bring the stock of new books and products up to sensible trading levels. I can not stress enough the value in both financial and encouragement terms of credit facilities in those early days as we rushed headlong into Christmas.

There was much to organise in the first few weeks bearing in mind that the deal was not struck until the 15th of October, just 16 days to takeover day (and a week of that was spent on holiday in Turkey).

Here is a basic tick box list for anyone with a desire to ‘step out of line’:

  • VAT REGISTRATION
  • PAYE REGISTRATION
  • BANK ACC. Paying in & cheque books
  • CREDIT CARD facility
  • TELEPHONE/INTERNET provision
  • SOFTWARE/HARDWARE
  • SERVICES, rates, electricity etc registration
  • ACCOUNTING procedures,
    Sales & purchase ledger systems
    Credit customer notifications
  • STAFF conditions of employment/contracts, H & S.

On reflection we are greatly blessed with the encouragement received from many quarters but take note you who may consider a similar step, the bottom line is that the customer is king. This means that if one doesn’t get the price ‘right’ then that good will which abounds on the first few weeks will evaporate as quick as the morning mist in spring. I have found  even the most loyal of customers don’t hesitate to use Amazon or go direct to a publisher or wholesaler if it suits. Remember nobody owes us a living, everybody has to find the best deal for themselves, not us.

As for a happy ending, well I am sure there will be one its just that I don’t know what it is yet, but I really do feel God will have a hand in it if I can just bring myself to let Him.

Durham Cathedral Bookshop: Mark Brewer Responds

Sign the Petition
Just sign it: you know you want to. Already signed it? Talk about it. The petition remains open until the Brewers are no longer in control of the Cathedral bookshop and will be resubmitted to the Dean at each multiple of 50 signatures. Yesterday, September 23rd, we passed another milestone at 250 signatures…

Phil Groom writes:

I have mixed feelings over this. On the one hand, I’m delighted to receive confirmation that Mark Brewer has found our petition. On the other, I’m appalled by his response. Read on and I think you’ll understand the problem. He’s taken to writing to people signing it; to at least one person anyway:

Subject: RE: In memoriam
Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2008 16:25:37 -0500
From: Brewer@bplaw.com
To: jacqui smith

Dear Ms. Smith,

I’m trying really hard to understand you. You signed a petition blog to stop a Christian bookshop in Durham cathedral. Can this be right?

From the subject line, you could be forgiven for thinking that Mark is preparing an epitaph ready for the shop’s inevitable demise. The truth, unfortunately, is far more sobering than that: Mark’s enquiry about the petition is a follow-up to some earlier correspondence with Jacqui, but whilst he changed the subject, he didn’t change the subject line:

From: jacqui smith 
Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 3:57 PM
To: Mark Brewer
Subject: RE: In memoriam

Dear Mr Brewer
 
I’m trying really hard to understand you. You stopped a blog with a page dedicated to Steve Jeynes. Can this be right?
 
Jacqui

Jacqui is, of course, referring to Mark Brewer’s threat of legal action against Dave Walker, the now well known ‘Cease and Desist’ demand sent on July 22 which Dave felt left him with no option but to take down all of his SPCK related material, including the page of tributes to Steve Jeynes. Brewer’s parroting of Jacqui’s message to him seems rather like a re-run of his parroting of MadPriest’s “I am Dave Walker”. MadPriest filed that under lame. No doubt it’s supposed to be clever, but I’m filing this under outrageous (for the record, I should point out that Mark did send an earlier reply to Jacqui’s enquiry, in which he denies any responsibility for the removal of the tributes page; that, too, I find outrageous).

Mark, if you happen to be reading this, I’d like to take this opportunity to help you understand: it is not, as you put it, a petition “to stop a Christian bookshop in Durham cathedral” — it is, rather, a petition to save the Christian bookshop in Durham Cathedral, to rescue it from those who are ruining it. From you, Mark, and your brother, Philip. If that’s not clear enough for you, perhaps the following quote from justflyingkites will do the trick. It’s a little blunt, unfortunately, but it expresses exactly how an increasing number of people are feeling:

Mark Brewer can you get it into your skull that people are mad at you because of what you have done to Christian Bookselling. Stop looking for somebody else to blame. You have refused to take advice from booksellers in your shops. You insist on knowing what everyone needs and when shoppers leave in their droves you find somebody else to blame.

As I said yesterday, Mark, it really is time to call it day. But if you won’t listen to me or to those commenting here, please listen to the voices of the prospective customers you’re alienating in Durham. More than 250 people have signed the petition now. These comments are from two of the most recent signatories:

As a tutor at Cranmer Hall, Durham for the past ten years I have relied on the Cathedral bookshop to supply good quality texts for myself and our students. I am deeply saddened by the loss of this resource and by the treatment of the staff. I wish to support the Chapter in moving speedily to a positve resolution.

— Revd Dr Gavin Wakefield, 23rd Sept 2008

As a P/T Anglican ordinand doing the MATM course, now in my third year, I have been greatly distressed by the marked deterioration in the stock held by the Durham Cathedral Bookshop over the past year. As a result I have been buying many books through Amazon which, in the past, I would have bought in the Bookshop.

— Dr Caroline Friswell, 23rd Sept 2008