I’ve not really kept tabs on the SPCK saga, but it appears to be going from bad to worse. For one thing they are [no longer using the name SPCK Bookshops->http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=46788]. Staff are fleeing at an impressive rate and the trust which now owns the chain – the St Stephen the Great Trust – is not talking to anyone. Clem Jackson at Christian Marketplace, for example, has been trying to get a comment out of them for months, to no avail. When they do emerge it tends to be simply to burn bridges with other organisations, as listed in this [intriguing post about the SSG’s argument with the Church Times->http://www.metacatholic.co.uk/2007/11/the-spck-saga-and-texan-orthodoxy/].
What do we make of all this? Well, it might simply be proof of what I have heard from another source; that the shops were in such a commercial meltdown that they could not be salvaged. Or it might be that the new owners have so thoroughly alienated the staff that they have brought about their own downfall. Or it might be that the idea was never to save the bookshops at all, but to asset-strip the chain. I don’t know.
What I do know is that this wall of silence serves nobody. And it’s not enhanced by the fact that [the website of the bookshops is unavailable->www.spckbookshops.org] and, at the moment, even [the website of the St Stephen the Great Trust->http://www.ststephentrust.org.uk/] is ‘down for maintenance’.
Of course, the fundamental issue here, which I sense, is not really being addressed in the news stories, is why the chain needed saving in the first place. Which is because they weren’t selling enough books. This might be because they didn’t have a good enough stock or they didn’t work hard enough at their trade; or it might be because people stopped buying their books at the bookshop. The moral of the lesson is this: if you’ve got a great bookshop near you, spend your money in it. And if you run a bookshop, Christian or otherwise, make it the best bookshop it can possibly be.