Living Oasis decline "extremely regrettable" - BA

Living Oasis decline "extremely regrettable" - BA

Christian bookselling chain Living Oasis has admitted only one of its branches is making any profit as it culled another shop last week, reducing its total number of stores from 19 to four in just four months.

Living Oasis Cheltenham shut up shop last Friday (8th July), becoming the chain’s fifth closure in four weeks. Ray George, the chain’s owner, said only the Harrogate branch is making money. On average the recently closed stores were losing £2,000–£4,000 a month, which George said was ­unsustainable.

George’s intention when he bought the 19 former Wesley Owen bookshops through his Nationwide Christian Trust company was to move their premises and incorporate a coffee shop and a community space in “phase two” of the chain’s development, which he hopes to implement in the Liver­pool and Leeds branches. To achieve this, George needed the support of churches and the local community, but stores were closing where support was lacking.

Eddie Olliffe, former Wesley Owen m.d. who now works for Christian publisher and trainer CWR, said: “I think the model was flawed—to rely on financial support from the church community I think was naïve, because churches themselves are struggling and perhaps do not have the resources or the vision.”

Meryl Halls, head of membership at the Booksellers Association, said the store closures were “extremely regrettable” and that the Christian bookselling market had been in a state of “controlled flux” since the collapse of ­distributor STL. She added: “It seems likely that these aftershocks are still part of that ­shake-down.”­