Christian booksellers SPCK and Wesley Owen in merger talks

<p>In a move that echoes the secular bookselling business, christian booksellers SPCK and Wesley Owen are in talks about combining their bookshop chains. The companies said that discussions were at an early stage, but stated that the move would create a retail network with the "strength and resources necessary to survive on high streets in the UK for the foreseeable future", citing "secular pressures within society, escalating operating costs and other challenges". A combined chain would consist of 68 shops.</p><p>Clive Wright, chairman of SPCK's Governing Body said: "Combining the retail operations of our organisations would provide the opportunity to harness the respective strengths of two leaders in the Christian marketplace. Although there are a number of issues which need to be addressed, both trustee boards consider that this is a unique opportunity which would enable us to sustain and enhance the service we provide to our customers throughout the country."</p><p>Guy McDonnell, chairman of Wesley Owen's parent STL, said: "We are very serious about our calling of 'Advancing the Christian faith through retailing'. It is our aspiration that by collaborating with SPCK Bookshops we will see valuable Christian resources have wider distribution and a greater impact. This is also an important statement about two leading Christian organisations working together to serve our customers better."</p><p>Founded in 1698, SPCK is the second largest Christian bookseller in the UK with 24 stores in England and one in Wales. The Wesley Owen brand was launched in 1993 following the acquisition of the Church of Scotland Bookshop chain. The group is now the market leader with 44 stores in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Publishing and Grant Making operations of SPCK would not be affected by these discussions.</p>