Popular town café and bookshop under threat

JPCT 140313 S13120009x Christian Bookshop and cafe. Horsham -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 140313 S13120009x Christian Bookshop and cafe. Horsham -photo by Steve Cobb

The future of one of the county’s last Christian bookshops in Horsham is under threat of closure due to ongoing competition with the internet.

The Centre café and bookshop in South Street, Horsham, which sells greetings cards and gifts as well as a wide selection of Bibles and Christian books, could close within a year if it does not find a way of adapting its business to survive the tough market conditions.

The survival of bookstalls in Burgess Hill, Littlehampton, East Grinstead, Haywards Heath and Crawley, where Christian bookshops have closed, also depends on the future of The Centre, which supplies them with stock.

Manager Doug Fletcher said: “We have been open here since 1995 and in the first few years we made quite a good surplus. We were able to make money and support other town charities such as the Debt Advice Service and Oasis Pregnancy Support.

“In recent years the trading has not been enough to pay all expenses and have had to dip into reserves. We’ve got less than a year unless we can turn things around.”

Around 17 Horsham and Broadbridge Heath churches helped set up The Centre and are still involved as trustees or partners. Doug said the overwhelming feeling from them is ‘encouragement to stay open’.

“It’s not just a café and bookshop. We had a guy in this morning who desperately needed accommodation and we were able to direct him to Ark.

“People come in just wanting a listening ear and to pray with them. It’s very much a pastoral side of the church in the middle of the town, however it’s got to be viable and that’s the challenge.”

“The café is quite over-crowded. The main problem is book sales. One of the suggestions is to extend the café upstairs and bring some of the books, gifts and cards downstairs.”

He is encouraging people to pop in and see what they have to offer - or lose a valuable support in the community.