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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


Manna House Perth said...

Thanks to Steve, Richard and rest of STL staff for a very encouraging CB AGM. It was good to see round STL and meet staff we only speak to. It was also heartening to be told "sorry" and then look at ways we can go forward together.
Derek Everett Manna House Perth.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Steve. Have cross-posted your opening paragraphs and linked across to the full report.

Really sorry I couldn't be there. Look forward to seeing how things move forward from here.

Geoff said...

Hi Steve and STL
Thank you to all at STL for your generous hosting of the BA meeting and accomodation at the Premier Inn. This was a very interesting two days and gave a unique insight into the intricies of such a huge operation. It was good to meet all the friendly staff and to see why things are done in certain ways - and why.
Thanks as well for being open to questions.
The product presentations were excellent and the evening with G P Taylor very helpful and informative. The goodie bags were generous bonus so please convey thanks to Authentic and Tyndale.
Thanks too for Eleanor for her organisation and to Richard for his lift to the station.

Geoff, Maranatha

GLO Bookshop said...

Steve, many thanks for the hospitality shown to us over the last two days. This was much appreciated, and a useful opportunity to meet up and chat with other retailers. The tour was a reminder again of the scale of your operations at Carlisle.... it does put my problem with one line or one box into perspective.....!

Thank you, too, for the honesty shown in discussing the various issues you continue to face. I wish STL well as you continue to sort them out- for all our benefit.

GLO Bookshop said...

One of the issues raised at this AGM was the problem of a 'global' problem arising (say with no discount being applied to a product), but every single shop then having to spend time composing an email or phone to rectify- and STL customer services having to receive 200 emails/phone calls about the same issue.

The response was that it was coverage of a global response via (say) email would be patchy at best and possibly too late to be of any use.

However, I do think this should be looked at with some urgency. A similar/related problem has arisen this morning.

Like a lot of shops, I rely (look forward even!) to receiving my despatch confirmation email in the morning, assuring me that those customer orders are now winging their way towards me, and I can look forward to happy, smiling customers and full shelves.....

Alas, several times recently, I understand the email confirmations haven't gone for some reason. And this morning, I've no confirmation email. So what is the problem? I can't afford to wait in case the order does not arrive- it may be that the order has got lost in SAP.... Only way to find out is to join the queue of shops phoning up Customer Services to find out where their confirmations email are...

If there is a 'global' problem, could a brief 'global email' not be sent to the shops on the 'Email Exchange' system? How many shops does this cover? Would it not be worth developing the coverage of this by offering this as a service?

BTW- this could also be used to cover the point raised at the AGM about 'core' stock coming back into the warehouse that we are never told about. CLC do a simple, monthly WORD based list that would be useful model to follow.