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This is a single-category page bringing together archived reports about the ongoing SPCK/SSG saga.
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SPCK/SSG News Archive (Most recent first)
Google Warns Visitors: Beware spckonline.com (Wednesday, April 2, 2008)
Betrayed by the Brewers: Lies, Damned Lies and St Stephen the Great? (Wednesday, February 6, 2008)
SSG Bookshops "truly still in business" - Philip Brewer (Friday, January 11, 2008)
St Stephen the Not-So-Great? (Wednesday, January 2, 2008)
Fund Launched to Support SPCK Booksellers (Wednesday, November 7, 2007)
Farewell to SPCK Bookshops? (Friday, November 2, 2007)
Salvation Turns Sour at SPCK... (Wednesday, May 23, 2007; updated 15/10/2007)
Future Secured for SPCK Newcastle? (Saturday, June 24, 2006)
Save the SPCK! (Saturday, May 6, 2006)
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 spckonline.com 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.
In some of our locations for the good of the overall chain, we have had to take the decision of cost-cutting. We have temporarily closed Canterbury and Cambridge and intend to reopen both after re-fitting and re-stocking these shops. We have other locations slated either for reduced operating hours, temporary closure or permanent closure.
Those other locations, according to Dave Walker's blog, include Lincoln, Norwich and Sheffield, with staff at the affected branches being unceremoniously dismissed by email. The UKCBD Save the SPCK Booksellers Fund is still open to receive contributions from anyone who wishes to help provide financial assistance to those who have been so shamefully treated by SSG — and those so treated are welcome to apply for help.
Coming less than a month after their insistence that all was well this announcement from Mark Brewer makes a complete mockery of both his own and Philip Brewer's previous assertions, reported below on 11/01/2008.
The previous advice given by this site to phone ahead to check opening times before visiting was removed in good faith at Philip Brewer's request upon his personal assurance that this was unnecessary as all branches were opening as normal. That faith, it seems, was as misplaced as that of SPCK in handing the shops over to SSG in the first place. Advice to phone ahead has now been reinstated for all SSG entries.
Bizarrely, having requested that the alleged "misinformation" about opening times and shop closures be removed from this site, SSG have still failed to supply any up to date information to replace it. This latest development has ensured that any such information that may be provided is likely to be regarded with extreme scepticism and will require independent verification. The trust of SPCK, its booksellers and, indeed, the entire Christian book trade seems to have been comprehensively betrayed by the Brewers, with the only winners being St Andrew's Bookshops apparently trading with the Brewers by the back door to provide their website fulfillment services.
There are lies, damned lies and statistics: have the Brewers, like statisticians, simply revealed aspects of the truth that were previously hidden from view, or have they been as disingenuous in their dealings with this site as they seem to have been with SPCK's former staff? That, gentle reader, is for you to decide.
From: Phil Groom
Subject: Re: https://www.christianbookshops.org.uk/town_t.htm
Date: 11 January 2008
To: Philip Brewer
Thank you for your enquiry and comments: it's good to hear from you and I appreciate you taking the time to express your concerns. It's also encouraging to know that you remain upbeat about your trading in such challenging times.
The generic notice now in place across your directory entries is based on the best information currently available. It does not, of course, state that you are not open for trading: rather, it states that "opening times, stock availability and levels of customer service appear to be in a state of flux and may not be as expected: prospective customers would therefore be wise to phone ahead before visiting." If you would prefer prospective customers not to phone ahead then I will gladly change the notice to that effect: please do let me know.
As per my message to Mark, my invitation for you to provide up to date information about your shops remains open: a complete list of branch addresses, a brief description of each shop, opening times, contact names and numbers along with an indication of the stock range and services provided by each branch will enable me to recompile your entries and bring them up to date. Immediately below this message you will find a bookshop registration form: if you return branch details (one copy per branch, please) in that format this will speed up the data entry and ensure that your entries are presented consistently across the site.
If reports from elsewhere continue to indicate that actual shop opening times are not as stated by you then, of course, the qualifier will remain in place.
I'd also be grateful if you could clarify the situation regarding your continued use of the SPCK name, both over the shops and in your online trading as spckonline.com in view of the fact that SPCK appear to have withdrawn your licence for its use. Whilst I am normally happy to include links to websites, I would draw the line at linking to a domain that is being used innappropriately.
Once again, as per my reply to Mark, I am copying this message to other colleagues in the Christian book trade for reference, and, in the interests of public information, I will also include it in a further report in the UKCBD News Section.
I take this opportunity to wish you every success in your ongoing service to the UK's Christian community, and look forward to hearing from you again when you are ready to submit up to date information.
Assuring you of my prayers,
From: Philip Brewer
Subject: FW: https://www.christianbookshops.org.uk/town_t.htm
Date: 9 January 2008
To: Phil Groom
Dear Mr. Groom,
Your remarks in the email sent to Mark Brewer do not seem to make a huge amount of sense. I am only interested to know what your reference for closed shops is and how you can continue to make claims that we are not open for trading. We surely are, and in fact have added a bookshop trading to two new locations. This is not a debate. You assert we are closing shops, which we have not done. Therefore, it is completely inaccurate and a disservice to not only your readers, but our staff who loyally serve daily those people that wade through this kind of misinformation to find that we are truly still in business, serving a complete line of books, gifts and requisites as we have since we acquired the bookshops and it continues from before we acquired same.
Philip W Brewer
Orthodox Church Mission Fund
Saint Stephen the Great Trust
From: Phil Groom
Date: 4 January 2008
To: Mark Brewer
Subject: Re: https://www.christianbookshops.org.uk/town_t.htm
Thank you for your enquiry and observations: it's good to hear from you at long last, although I'm sorry to hear that my previous messages requesting up to date information about the shops do not appear to have reached you. Copies of those messages are appended below (beneath your message) for your reference, and my invitation to provide up to date information about your shops remains open.
I wonder if there may be a problem with your mail server or email forwarding? I'm aware that a number of others involved in the Christian book trade have also received no replies to their emails. I am therefore copying them in on this message for reference; I am sure they will be pleased to know that you can in fact be contacted.
I appreciate your concern about the two paragraphs that you quote; to the best of my knowledge, however, this summary statement accurately reflects the ongoing situation of the shops, contra your assertion that it is "completely wrong". Nonetheless I have included the full text of your email in a report in the site's news section and have appended a link to that at the end of the more general statement (as you have no doubt noticed, the paragraphs you cite are not specific to the Truro shop but are generic, featured on all SSG/SPCK directory entries, hence the disclaimer in the second paragraph: "information about the shops shown here may or may not be valid.").
I look forward to hearing from you again in due course.
Assuring you of my prayers,
Then there's The Society of St Stephen the Great (SSG). The new owners of Christian bookselling chain SPCK managed to alienate many staff in their bid to change the identity of a venerable chain. And the founders of Fopp who managed to run a brilliant business aground. (The Bookseller, 21/28 December 2007, p.21)But perhaps SPCK should share in the vilification for handing their business over to an organisation that has shown itself to be a rather disingenuous partner at best? In the same issue (News: Briefs, p.7) the magazine reports:
The transfer of the bookshop business of SPCK to St Stephen the Great last year cost the company £5.9m. In accounts for the year to end-April 2007, SPCK reported a deficit of £6.46m for the period, compared to a £1.03m deficit for the previous trading period. This deficit included the one-off £5.9m cost of passing control of the bookshops to SSG.How different might the situation have been if those assets had been transferred to branch based management teams with instructions to go it alone: would we have seen the tenacity shown by the former Leicester branch mirrored across the country? It's a very sad reflection on a Christian organisation that, as in business elsewhere, it's those at the bottom of the pile — in this case the booksellers — who find themselves facing the worst of the fallout and forced out of their jobs by what Richard Greatrex, a former SPCK employee, describes as "most unbusiness-like and unchristian ways" of running the business (BBC Sunday Programme: Comments; also cited by Dave Walker).
Dear Sir;* Updated information to replace the allegedly "unhelpful and incorrect comments" has yet to be provided.
I write to request that you kindly remove the following from your website which I was most shocked and disappointed to read when perusing it today:Unfortunately the shops have suffered under their new management to the point where many staff have felt unable to work under the new regime and have left. Some shops have apparently closed down; of those remaining, opening times, stock availability and levels of customer service are in a state of flux and may not be as expected: prospective customers would therefore be wise to phone ahead before visiting.This information is completely wrong. I totally disagree that the shops have not suffered under Saint Stephen the Great. Whether or not you feel otherwise, the facts are strongly to the contrary: the Truro shop and all the 22 other shops SSG acquired in 2006 have continued to be in operation and their trading is thriving - especially considering negative comments such as on this webpage!
Previous shop descriptions have been removed and SSG have been invited to provide up to date details; they have not yet responded: information about the shops shown here may or may not be valid. Updates on the situation will be posted in UKCBD News Section as and when information becomes available.
Another fact: had SSG not agreed to take them over on November 1, 2006, Truro and the other 22 shops formerly owned by SPCK would have "suffered" closure by the end of 2006.
I am unaware of being contacted to "provide up to date details." I can assure you that the Truro shop is open and is going to remain open including after December 24 when our manager puts in his last day of service. The hours of operation are not in flux, as he can attest (he is after all the manager).
So, please do remove these two unhelpful and incorrect comments.*
J. Mark Brewer
Chairman and CEO
Saint Stephen the Great LLC
(Message dated 17th December 2007)
We will combine the stock from both shops during the week beginning 26th June. We will then need to put the entire book stock onto the SPCK stock control and computer system, this will commence the week beginning 3rd July. We ask for your understanding over this period, we are doing all we can to ensure as little disruption as possible will effect the high standard of service we offer to you. SPCK Newcastle