Christian Retailing

IBS-STL UK up for sale Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Thursday, 19 November 2009 03:35 PM America/New_York

The Christian retail industry in the U.K. was rocked this week with the announcement that its dominant player, IBS-STL UK, was up for sale.

The charity is looking for a buyer for its publishing, distribution and retail divisions after what it called "a succession of financial problems," including the failed implementation of a new computer system, were compounded by the economic downturn.

IBS-STL UK's 40-strong Wesley Owen Books and Music chain is the largest in the country, while its STL Distribution is the leading distributor there, with some publishers using it exclusively. Its Authentic Media division publishes books and music.

Founded in 1962, IBS-STL UK had grown to be a major charity, with revenues of around $50 million for the latest full financial year. Almost 500 people are employed across its three divisions.

Keith Danby, the charity's former CEO who became global president of parent organization Biblica and returned to the U.K. from the U.S. earlier this year to lead efforts to save the operation, said that the charity's future could be decided within the next few weeks. Inquiries had come from North America, Asia-Pacific and Germany, as well as domestically, he told Christian Retailing.

"Given the severe financial and operational strains we have experienced, the board of trustees and management team believe a sale or exit from all or parts of certain operations is a prudent and necessary step," Danby said in an official statement. The planned sale of the U.K. operations would not affect Biblica's other global operations, he added.

Phil Groom, manager of the bookstore at the London School of Theology and Web master of the U.K. Christian Bookstore Directory listing more than 500 Christian stores across the country, said that IBS-STL UK had become "a vital link in the Christian supply chain." Its collapse "would not spell the end of Christian retailing in the U.K., but would present enormous logistical challenges," he added.