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Kingsway: dishonest discounts or fair practice? June 5, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Christian Book Trade.
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Over on my Christian Bookshops Blog we’re having a prolonged discussion about the price of Christian music and, in particular, Kingsway’s CD pricing policy.

Kingsway, a subsidiary of the USA based David C Cook group, have adopted a policy of setting an RRP (Recommended Retail Price) for their CDs which they then undercut, usually by about 20% but often by significantly more, without ever having actually charged the RRP themselves. The new ‘Very Best of Graham Kendrick’ album is a typical example — Our price £11.99, RRP £14.99 — highlighted in this post:

Kingsway Polls: Because the questions won't go away...

Kingsway Polls: Because the questions won’t go away…

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been having a lively discussion about Kingsway’s practice of offering “discounts” at kingswayshop.com by comparing their own prices to their own RRPs, typified in this screenshot of the new Very Best of Graham Kendrick album: … Read More

Any company advertising their own products on the basis of “Our price £X, RRP £Y” when they themselves have set the RRP is, I think, operating in a grey area at best, if they’re not actually being downright dishonest — and for a supposedly Christian company to engage in this sort of practice strikes me as doubly disappointing.

The Government’s Pricing practices guide: guidance for traders on good practice in giving information about prices (pdf, 422kb | Google Docs ‘Quick View’) sets out some general principles designed to help protect consumers from unfair trading practices. Whilst the guidance is not comprehensive, at least two sections seem relevant:

1.2 Comparisons with the trader’s own previous price

1.2.3 (a) A price used as a basis for comparison should have been your most recent price available for 28 consecutive days or more;

Kingsway, of course, are not claiming that their RRPs are a ‘previous price’ so it could be argued that the specific guidance of 1.2.3 (a) does not apply. But if the RRP has never been charged, is it not a purely fictional device? We move on, then, to consider the guidance on RRPs:

1.6 Comparisons with “Recommended Retail Price” or similar

1.6.1 You should not use a recommended retail price, or similar, as a basis of comparison which is not genuine, or if it differs significantly from the price at which the product is generally sold.

1.6.2 You should not use an RRP or similar for goods that only you supply.

Given that Kingsway’s RRP’s are not charged by Kingsway themselves but are only used in their dealings with other traders, any claim that those RRPs are genuine seems disingenuous at best; and given that Kingsway are the sole suppliers of Kingsway products — even when made available through other traders — then, with the best will in the world, I’m finding it difficult to see this as anything but a con. The ‘discount’ seems to be nothing more than bait to draw people in, the RRP a hook to hang it from.

I’m posting this here because I’d like some feedback from those outside the trade: how do you as a music buyer — the prospective end ‘consumer’ of  Kingsway products — feel about this? Is what Kingsway are doing here fair game in a tough marketplace, is it a con or is it something else entirely?

Any members of the trade are still very welcome to join the conversation here, of course; and anyone outside the trade is welcome to join the discussions over there too:

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Almost Nearly Famous January 18, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Christian Book Trade.
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The Times, Saturday 16 Jan 2010 - The call goes out to keep Jesus on the High Street

The call goes out to keep Jesus on the High Street

It’s true: I’m almost nearly famous. Quoted in no less a paper than Saturday’s Times, p.100, in an article about the state of the UK Christian book trade, The call goes out to keep Jesus on the High Street:

Phil Groom writes a blog on the future of the Christian bookshop. He runs one himself at the London School of Theology which, despite having a guaranteed customer base, is still struggling. He believes the only future is for shops to be run in partnership with local churches as community hubs.

“Shops have got to be much more than just bookshops. They have to be destinations for community,” he says.

“We could ham up the guilt for Christians or local churches to get them to support us, but that would only work for so long. They have to realise that they need to work more closely with shops if they want to keep them.”

The article gives a good overview of the state of the trade just over two weeks into a new decade, looking back briefly at the SPCK/SSG bookshops debacle, then in more detail at the current crisis facing the branches of Wesley Owen left out in the cold when IBS-STL UK went into administration:

An online petition is hoping to save a store in Edinburgh, and in South Woodford, London, pledges of £31,000 have already been received to keep the shop open.

The manager of Wesley Owen in South Woodford, Dominic Stinchcombe, is in no doubt that even if his supporters can find the other £30,000, the trade as a whole faces a bleak future without radical action.

“If it was just keeping the bookshop going I wouldn’t bother,” he says, “but it’s the Christian ministry side of it. Many people use us as a kind of church. We are here Monday to Saturday. It might be new Christians moving into the area, or someone at the end of their tether who doesn’t know where to turn. We listen and pray with them all if they ask for it.”

Stinchcombe’s campaign has been lifted by direct support from the pulpit of local churches. The Rev Steve Clark, vicar of St Andrew’s with All Saints, issued a rallying cry during his Sunday sermon for people to support the “ministry” of the South Woodford shop near by.

“It’s not just a shop,” says Clark. “Often you can walk in and find staff praying with somebody. I wasn’t asking people to feel guilty about not using the bookshop, just asking them if they would like to support the vision. And the next day the first person walked in and laid down £1,000.”

People in the trade talk a lot about their shops as a ministry and a Christian presence on the high street. But the hard facts are that, like every other bookshop, Christian booksellers have been hit by the power of Amazon.

Stinchcombe insists that Christians will soon realise what they are missing: “You might be able to buy your books on the internet, but you can’t buy ministry on the internet.”

What we can find on the internet, of course, is an ability to campaign, connect and co-operate via blogs, facebook and twitter: Amazon might have cornered the online marketplace, but they haven’t captured the human spirit; and it’s that spirit — together with God’s Spirit — that drives us on.

You’ll find the petition to save the Edinburgh branch here: Save Wesley Owen Edinburgh; go on, sign it; and keep an eye on their facebook page for latest news.

More reflections on the trade’s future over on t’other blog: A Future and a Hope for the UK’s Christian Bookshops and The Future Shape of Christian Bookselling.

Christian Bookshops Blog: Wesley Owen Pages

Christian Marketplace January 9, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Christian Book Trade.
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Figured it was about time I profiled some of my articles in Christian Marketplace magazine, but rather than a one-off post, I’ve given them a dedicated page: hit the Christian Marketplace tab above if you want to be bored more than usual. I’ll update the page as and when more of my articles find their way online…

If you’re in the UK and you run a church bookstall or are in church leadership, you can sign up for a year’s free postal subscription; anyone can sign up to the digital edition free of charge. So what are you waiting for? Get over there and sign up today!

Christian Marketplace - Subscribe Today!

Christian Marketplace - Subscribe Today!

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