Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Licence for the SPCK name is withdrawn from the bookshops

May I draw your attention to two comments that have been left on my site today:

Pax Vobiscum:

So, SPCK's AGM came and went with nary a murmur. The usual suspects in the Governing Body got away without censure on their appalling decision to hand over £6million worth of assets to be systematically stripped by the brothers Brewer. Several shops have declared UDI, including the brightest and best star in the firmament. SPCK has agreed not to continue with the license for the name and those shops where SSG does not hold the freehold stand a good chance of fading into distant memory. Meanwhile, those shops where SSG does hold the freehold could be in for a very interesting time indeed. It is enough to make you weep into your incense-infused orthodox coffee, served in a an agate cup hand-carved by nuns in Texas.

Let us hope that the shops that go independent can build a good, workable model to keep resourcing their communities - we must support them where we can. Meanwhile, prayers and cheery words for all the staff who are left.


Come Wednesday, when the current license expires, they will no longer be able to use the SPCK name on their shops. What name they do trade under remains to be seen - I withhold offering suitable suggestions!! The Brewers have managed to systematically strip the leading Christian bookshops of their reputation, their standing, the respect they held amongst clergy, laity and the wider Christian publishing and retail trade, as well as completely destroying the morale of, or losing altogether, the highly experienced and dedicated staff who have built up the reputation However, the blame cannot be placed entirely on the shoulders of the Brewers. Those within SPCK who took the original decision to hand over their assets to a group of unknowns are also to blame.

Mark Brewer did not get his wish to be elected to SPCK at their AGM, in fact I am told the motion was not even put. Furthermore, I am told Simon Kingston and Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester, have both withdrawn from acting as trustees to SSG. Such was the Bishop of Gloucester's assurance 12 months ago that he would serve as a trustee to ensure SSG maintained the reputation of the bookshops. Did not Pilate wash his hands?

A meeting the week before last between 4 of the staff, Mark Brewer and ACAS resulted in, you will not be surprised to hear, nothing constructive. The following Monday, the shops represented by those 4 members of staff had their e-mail disconnected. Suppliers have been told under no circumstances are they to send stock to certain named shops (not that they would do until outstanding bills were paid) two of which are in the process of, or have, negotiated a buyout. Presumably the fate of the remaining shops will be revealed within a matter of weeks, if not days.

Please note that I have no means of verifying the accuracy of every detail of these comments, but I am drawing attention to them as they are both by people who know a great deal more than I do.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

SPCK boss steps in to run the Exeter shop

SPCK boss Phil Brewer is running the Exeter SPCK shop himself, according to this report in the Exeter Express and Echo website. This is, if you remember, all to do with the fact that the staff all walked out as they were being made to sign contracts that some staff members have described as 'unsignable'. See the 'Save the SPCK' category on this blog for the whole story over the last year or two.

I know that one or two journalists have been finding it difficult to contact Mr Brewer, the boss of SPCK. Well, here is your chance. Phone up the Exeter shop with an enquiry about the latest brands of incense and it looks as if you might get to speak to the man himself. Actually, you would do well to vary your initial enquiry subjects a bit. Some of you could ask about palm crosses or bulk orders of 'Two ways to live'.

Update: Ruth Gledhill has posted. See also a very interesting comment from (I assume) an insiders perspective by 'Pax Vobiscum' on her previous post.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

The staff of SPCK Exeter resign

From the Express and Echo in Exeter:
One of Exeter's oldest shops is facing upheaval after all its staff resigned in a row over new contracts. All seven employees with the SPCK bookshop, in Catherine Street, handed in their notice and are due to work their last day on Saturday.

Of course this won't be news to you if you have been following the comments thread from my last SPCK post where Neil posted the same thing yesterday. I don't know whether other shops are facing a similar situation.

Other SPCK news:
• In Christian Marketplace an article 'Concern rising over SPCK bookshops' which quotes the Church Times article 'SPCK shop staff voice concerns about their future'.
• The Truro shop is apparently closing 'next week' according to a commenter, but I only have second hand knowledge about this.
• Sadly it is not proving possible to order items from certain well-known Christian publishers in certain SPCK branches. I've no idea how widespread this problem is.

The future looks uncertain. In the meantime the best we can do is heed the advice of Richard, a former SPCK bookshop manager who posted in the last comments thread:
Please pray for my former colleagues, especially those still working in the bookshops, and please support them any way you can - cream cakes are always welcome.

Update: Western Morning News - Shop staff resign in contracts row