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Thursday, 30 April 2009

BA CBG AGM - Steve Mitchell

We’ve just hosted the Annual General Meeting of the Christian Group of the Booksellers Association in Carlisle. Sounds a little stuffy…no way! It was a real privilege to host 25 retailers and 3 representatives from the BA. We spent Tuesday afternoon giving them a guided tour of our facility in Carlisle, from marketing to customer services, the offices and through to the warehouse.

It was really helpful for our folk in Carlisle to meet and spend a little time with booksellers, particularly in customer services, where both booksellers and our team, who talk regularly on the phone, could now meet in person. We were able to take questions about how things now work here, listen to booksellers talking about their experiences with us, responding to their queries and understanding more their needs. We were able to show the changes that have been made over the last couple of years.

We took everyone through the warehouses to show the pick, pack & ship process, and managed not to lose anyone!

After a reception hosted by Authentic Media, we then had a really good evening with bestselling author G.P. Taylor, who talked about the power of books, his own writing and life as a vicar, author, policeman & exorcist. He really encouraged us about the importance of books and of booksellers and left us inspired to connect not just with our Christian communities but the wider world; his books, including the hugely popular Shadowmancer. If you ever get to meet him, ask him to tell you the story of the fox, the milkman and his underwear!
The following morning was the official part of the event with the Annual General meeting. Mark Clifford of Sarum Books in Salisbury re-elected to be Chairman of the Group.

There was a discussion on the trade, with a good number of stores being encouraged by sales, some finding life hard, but all really committed to their ministries. It reminded me yet again of the passion and sacrifice that people make to be involved in Christian Bookselling.

We then had a session where I presented the latest on our IT situation, stock & service levels. Booksellers fed back their experiences and issues. We had good dialogue about what retailers wanted us to concentrate on, and respond to and we were able to explain about some of the problems we are working through and how they are being solved. The booksellers were very direct with us, very clear on their issues, and constructive in their thoughts. I really appreciated their input. We’ll blog further about how we’re addressing these issues.

Finally we said good bye to John Parke, who has served the booktrade for over 30 years in the Booksellers Association. Mark Clifford said “John has been a great friend to the Christian booktrade, and to many of us as individuals”, he is a unique man and will be truly missed. Les Bingham who has known John for many years presented him with 2 gifts from the antiquarian bookshop in Wesley Owen York to commemorate his work and passions.

We were grateful to Meryl Halls & Sharon Down from BA for joining us, but in particular to the booksellers who took 2 days out of their busy lives to be part of the wider community of Christian Bookselling. It was for us really valuable time and we really appreciated being allowed to host the event.

Warm Regards

IBS-STL Announcement Update

Following my recent communication regarding the internal restructuring I have made within IBS-STL U.K., I would like further update you on Malcolm Stockdale’s future.

After 7 years as Managing Director of Wesley Owen, Malcolm Stockdale is leaving IBS-STL U.K. to set up a new charity focussed on building new types of relationship with churches and para-church organisations. This means he will be working closely with ministries and publishers of both physical and digital product to make their resources available to new customers.

IBS-STL U.K. will serve this new charity with a one-stop, pick, pack and dispatch operation and in this respect the new charity will be in the same category as other trade customers.

We wish Malcolm every success with this new venture, which I am confident he will approach with his customary energy and creativity. He will be greatly missed as he leaves Wesley Owen: I am grateful his service to IBS-STL U.K.

Yours in Christ,

Keith Danby

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Message from Keith Danby

Dear Customer,

Since resuming leadership responsibility for IBS-STL UK three months ago, I have had opportunity to meet with customers, suppliers and many of our staff team, which has given me a fuller understanding of the events of 2008, and the challenges and opportunities that face IBS-STL UK in particular, and our trade in general.

There is no doubt that 2008 was a difficult year for IBS-STL UK. In common with most other organisations, we were adversely affected by the economic downturn, which is likely to continue throughout much of the current year and beyond. The effect of the downturn was compounded by the difficulties we encountered with the implementation of the new computer system in October, which did not go as smoothly as we would have liked and, indeed, caused problems for our suppliers and customers. Once again I apologise for the frustration experienced during this time and the disruption to business.

However, I believe the investment we have made over recent years in our infrastructure - additional bulk warehousing space and our new IT system - will deliver a stable platform for future growth and more efficient operations when we emerge from the present recession. We have made significant improvements in our service levels, however, there are still issues to be resolved with the new IT system. I can give assurance that the resolution of outstanding issues is a high priority for us, and all available resources are being employed to address these issues.

I can also re-assure you that IBS-STL UK has benefited from being part of a wider global family, and that resources have been used to ensure our financial base remains secure, enabling us to maximise opportunities to benefit the Christian Retail trade in the UK and overseas.

For these reasons, I am convinced that IBS-STL has a significant role to play in the life of the Christian Retail and Charity sector in the UK and, from conversations that I have had with retailers; I believe the trade recognises the need for IBS-STL UK to operate efficiently and effectively in serving the needs of publishers and retailers alike.

One of the important issues I have been giving considerable thought to since returning to the CEO role, is in the area of organisational structure. It is even more important in these challenging economic times that we adopt a structure that will enable us to respond best to opportunities as they arise, and that customers, suppliers and our people understand how best to relate to our organisation. I believe we have many talented and experienced managers in our organisation, people who have served on both sides of the counter and have an in depth understanding of our industry. Even though these longstanding industry leaders have had a really tough few months, they remain determined and motivated to serve our trade. I have, however, taken the opportunity to streamline the Senior Management team, so that I have six direct reports; each with responsibility for key activities as follows:

1. David Young, General Manager and Director of HR. As I will be overseas for up to 50% of my time, carrying out my responsibilities as Global CEO for the wider IBS-STL worldwide activities, I have asked David to co-ordinate day to day operations in the UK, and to liaise closely with me to ensure I am kept informed of key issues. David has been with the ministry for the last 18 years, thinks strategically, and has a thorough knowledge of all aspects of our operations.

2. Steve Apted joined last summer to carry out a review of our existing supply chain activities across the global organisation. He has subsequently been appointed Director of Supply Chain and Distribution for the UK. Steve has over 25 years’ experience in this field. Product availability is a key requirement for customers, and the reporting tools within SAP allows a thorough review of this area to take place to ensure we optimise our stock holdings. Steve will have responsibility for Buying, Data, Account Management, Warehouse and Customer Services. Andy Moraitis, Chief Buyer, and Gary Dewhurst, Senior Account Manager, will report directly to Steve. June Archer, Customer Services Manager, Neil McLeod, Warehouse Manager, and Andrew Walker, Data Manager, will report to Mick Goodman, Director of Operations, who in turn will report to Steve Apted.

3. Andrew Clyde, Director of IT. Andrew has been involved in the ministry since 1997. He is an outstanding business analyst and, although his main role is now to head up the IT team in North America, he has returned to the UK for the next financial year, and he will lead the IT team here and seek to resolve our integration issues. As well as assuming responsibility for all strategic and operational issues within IT, Andrew will oversee the SAP Development work.

4. Ric Jaques, Director of Finance. Ric is another longstanding servant of the UK ministry, having joined in 1993, and he will continue to have overall responsibility for financial reporting, managing the charity’s cash flow and charity law governance issues

5. Steve Mitchell in the role of Director of UK Retail Trade. Steve joined the organisation in 2001 having managed an independent retail store for a number of years. He has been responsible for Wesley Owen Stores for the last seven years. His new role will now draw together all UK retail functions, which comprise Wesley Owen, the CBC trade, business development, marketing and category management. The category management role includes analysing sales data with the aim of helping retailers grow their businesses through a better understanding of demand for product. Mark Hurley, in the key role of Business Development Director, who has been asked to focus his efforts on developing new business initiatives, Pete Barnsley, Marketing Director, Richard McChesney, National Retail Development Manager, Ruth Wallis, Wesley Owen Operations Manager, Rachel Franklin and Janet Crooks-Jones, Category Managers, will all report to Steve and form part of his retail facing team.

6. Gareth Russell, MD of Authentic. Gareth will continue to lead Authentic Media having joined the organisation in 2003 as A&R Manager, before moving for wider role and experience as Commercial Director in STL OM Books India. He is passionate about Christian Media resources, and he is keen to see the Christian products get wider exposure in multi-channels in the UK.

There is one further change taking place within the management structure of IBS-STL UK. After seven years as Managing Director, Malcolm Stockdale is moving out of Wesley Owen to pioneer a new role. He has always been a keen advocate of internet trading and building new types of relationships with churches and para-church organisations, so he is heading up a new joint venture project in which IBS-STL UK will partner with a Christian web company to bring these opportunities together. Malcolm will serve as Managing Director and still be part of the wider IBS-STL UK family and I am sure he will bring energy and creativity to this new role.

I can assure you that this management team is fully committed to serving the interests of IBS-STL UK, our suppliers, stakeholders and the Christian Retail trade, and I trust together we can work hard to build our business together.

With warm Christian greetings.

Keith Danby

Monday, 6 April 2009

Backorder Lists

Dear Customer,
Over the course of the last week we have re-introduced the printing of full backorder lists on our invoices. We recognise that it has taken much longer than we would have liked, however we did want to resolve a number of issues relating to backorders first. We still have a few minor changes to make and it’s worth mentioning the following:

  • The list is headed: Backorder list including any above which in fact is not the case and the text will change to Backorder list excluding any above. In other words the list will not repeat the list of backorders already printed under the heading: Items not supplied backordered where indicated.
  • The sequence is currently order by order starting with the oldest first. We are exploring the option to change to ISBN sequence, which would automatically group the same product together on the list.
  • We have been supplying backorder lists in excel by request, through customer services as a one off for stores. We will continue do so, but we are not able to automate this service in the short to medium term.
  • The interval between lists will normally be 16 days.

If you have any questions about this please contact our customer service team in the normal way.

Warm Regards

STL Blog Team.