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Archive for April, 2010

Waterbrook Offers a Free First Chapter Download

In preparation for Tuesday’s release of Radical by David Platt, Waterbrook-Multomah is networking through social media such as WordPress and Facebook, to invite readers to download a free chapter of the book.

Instead of sending out review copies, the company, no doubt aware of recent blogger traffic jams at Thomas Nelson, is instead inviting social media pagemasters to download chapter one of the book, review it, and then in turn invite their readers/followers to get a free download of a companion booklet, being sold in packages of ten, titled The Radical Question. They will also be presented with a chance to download the first chapter of the larger work.

For booksellers who want a peek at the book and the marketing program, the free first chapter is available here.    The free download of the booklet is available here.

Now you know everything except what the book is all about.   Here’s the publisher marketing:

It’s easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said his followers would actually live, what their new lifestyle would actually look like. They would, he said, leave behind security, money, convenience, even family for him. They would abandon everything for the gospel. They would take up their crosses daily…

BUT WHO DO YOU KNOW WHO LIVES LIKE THAT? DO YOU?

In Radical, David Platt challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. He shows what Jesus actually said about being his disciple–then invites you to believe and obey what you have heard. And he tells the dramatic story of what is happening as a “successful” suburban church decides to get serious about the gospel according to Jesus.

Finally, he urges you to join in The Radical Experiment –a one-year journey in authentic discipleship that will transform how you live in a world that desperately needs the Good News Jesus came to bring.

Finally here’s an author video clip:

Alarm System Pays for Itself

Smaller to medium sized Christian bookstores sometimes have a relaxed attitude when it comes to building security.   It’s often an attitude shared by smaller to medium sized Churches, that is, until they have a break-in and their insurance company forces them to do something to secure their premises.

“Who would want to steal Christian books?”   That’s the usual line.   But probably there’s more interest in stealing computers, cash registers, or just plain vandalism.   Furthermore popular crossover music artists, even Veggie Tales DVDs, can be sold at pawn shops and converted to cash that is often needed to buy drugs or alcohol.

One of our stores had a motion-sensor but it was too sensitive.   We’d reached our limit with police calls and weren’t about to start paying for false alarms.

Still, I can’t imagine a store without:

  1. Door sensor activation — Employees have 40 seconds to log in their PIN to prevent the main alarm from going off.   It also provides a record of whether or not employees arrived on time, if they left early, or were in the store during unusual times.   (You usually have to request this information, but it’s available without charge.)
  2. Monitored smoke alarm.   What good is a smoke alarm going off ten minutes after someone left the building if nobody is there to hear it?
  3. Glass break sensor.  This works on air pressure and goes off immediately if someone tries to smash through the main store windows or even a door window.
  4. Police/Ambulance/Fire call buttons.  Most alarm systems have these on the main keypad panel as an added bonus.   Some of the police call buttons operate on a silent alarm, so the person causing a disturbance or attempting a robbery may not realize that police have been called.

These measures of security are offset by a discount from your insurance company.   Make sure they are made aware of existing systems or systems you install.  After those discounts are applied, the peace of mind the alarm system brings comes free of charge.

In our store the challenge has always involved having an “on call” person who can come if there is an alarm.   I have issues with expecting female staff — always our majority of our sales associates — to get up and respond to such a call in the middle of the night.   Especially in winter.   (And what if there was no such alarm; someone was just luring an employee to meet them in a remote retail district at some odd hour?)

I had a couple of employee spouses who were willing to be that person, but that’s awkward since they don’t really work for us, and would have to borrow the key from their wife.

The main challenge involves the fact that of the 20 or so staff we’ve hired since we alarmed our locations, very few have actually lived in the town where the stores are located.

But other than this, I would never consider not having an alarm system in the stores.

The Float is Sinking

Have you noticed that more and more customers are using an electronic form of payment?   Chances are that means you no longer need to carry a gigantic change float in your cash register, especially if it means someone has to count a lot of unrolled coins first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Also, check your insurance policy.   Cash is usually an exclusion.  Another reason to keep the float low and get deposits to the bank each evening.

Another solution that has worked well for us is to use a secondary float that can be used to prop up the main float, but doesn’t have to be balanced each day.  That way you can keep the main float lower.

Categories: Uncategorized

Keep Inventory in Balance

I’m not a morning person.   But there’s one person in our industry for whom I’m always prepared to do a breakfast meeting.    I might even remember some of it by noon the same day, if I’m awake enough.

After doing so on Tuesday, what I did remember, hours later, was a short discussion we had about bargain books.

Our business survived the first decade of this century by connecting with about ten different suppliers of remainders, overstock and hurt books.   Some of them are names you know and others you might never have heard of.   It made what we do possible in some smaller markets.

The key for us has been to not go overboard on this.    To continue to track the 100 – 200 bestselling titles alongside tracking bargain opportunities.    To make sure that neither the bargain section or the frontlist new releases dominates the other.    To handpick bargain books that meet frontlist needs and requests.

In our discussion it was suggested that perhaps some stores have been seduced by low costs and potentally greater margins.   Here’s two pieces of advice that have helped us:

  • Always consider the possibility that you’re buying someone else’s junk.  That’s extreme, but it helps put things into perspective.  At the very least, think of it as you’re purchasing some publisher’s problem, and now it has become your problem.
  • For Canadian stores especially, remember that the bargain books issue is the same as the lower-dollar pricing issue.   You sell a $6 book to someone who might have paid $26 for the same type of content, and you’ve put yourself in a much tighter position when it comes to paying rent, salaries, utilities, insurance, etc.

For some of you, it may be that in weighing all your options, you don’t want to go down this road.

Categories: Uncategorized

Video Sale Risks Legal Action

Many Christian bookstores decided to take a pass on the movie version of Ted Dekker’s House, but stores selling the DVD could be in legal trouble if they sell it to someone who is underage.

A film’s “R” rating in theaters becomes its rating for video sales as well.   So depending on where you live and how strictly sales are being policed in your jurisdiction, you probably shouldn’t sell it without asking for identification.

But there’s more at issue here.   Nobody is looking for this type of movie content to turn up in a Christian bookstore, but your local law enforcement wouldn’t hesitate to act on a complaint.

And the complaint could just be an issue of someone setting you up.   My advice:  Stay away from movies with “R” ratings and video games with “M” ratings.   They have no place in Christian stores, especially if the sale of a single unit comes back to bite you.

Categories: Uncategorized

Some Ontario Stores Could Open Next Family Day

If the City of Toronto goes ahead with plans to allow retail stores to open on statutory holidays, it’s almost certain that other municipalities could follow their lead, which means Family Day — the new stat holiday largely disliked by retailers — could be a regular business day for some Christian bookstores.

While Christian stores aren’t likely to open on Good Friday or Christmas Day — just as they don’t open on Sundays — an American style New Year’s Day sale or Labour Day sale is not out of the question.   Canada Day also becomes a more remote possibility, though Thanksgiving seems unlikely.

There are two serious cost issues here:

  • It takes a significant advertising budget and some great loss-leader merchandise to really “hype” the day; especially when customers are accustomed to holiday closings;
  • It’s still a stat holiday:  Staff would need to be paid time-and-a-half or double time.

Still, it’s not out of the question.   Retailers need to remember that store openings on such holidays fall under municipal jurisdiction.   You need to be certain that the opening is permitted where you live.

The final vote at Toronto city council is scheduled to come up on either May 11th or 12th.

Liz Curtis Higgs 6-Hour Event for Women

Here’s a link to some local publicity for a coming event in Fort Wayne, IN — no foreign place for Liz Curtis Higgs who was once a DJ in Indianapolis.

This is what is called “good press.”  It  promotes an event, it promotes an author, it tells some of the author’s personal testimony, it promotes a book, it gives a precis of the book’s content.   Win-Win-Win-Win-Win.

If you’ve got an event coming up in your city or town, this is a model for what a reporter’s finished story could look like.   If you know the value local events like this have on author visibility — not to mention encouragement to the Christian community in general — this is an event you might want to see happen where you live.

Start reading the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette story here.

Not Always Right

It’s been fourteen months since we stole borrowed something from NotAlwaysRight.com; a funny website history of customer interactions gone awry.   Here’s another one from the bookstore category:

A-B-C, Easy As D-U-H

Bookstore | Massachusetts, USA

Customer: “Hey, can you help me find this book?”

Me: “Sure.”

(He holds up a piece of paper with the title and author of a book on it. I find it on the shelves and hand it to him.)

Customer: “Thanks! How’d you do that so fast?”

Me: “Well, I’ve worked here awhile, and the books are all in alphabetical order by author’s name.”

Customer: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Alphabetical order. Like the alphabet song? You know, A’s before B’s?”

(He looks confused, but then widens his eyes.)

Customer: “The letters actually go in that order? I thought that song was just to remember them all!”

…Maybe some of you have something to contribute to them?

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Christian Bookstore and Educational Store Merge

It helps to know that they were owned by the same people; a couple with the poetic names Christopher and Christine Santalucia.     Learning Works and Christian Light Bookstore merged into a single building and in the process added a café.

The 7,000 square-foot facility now employs 14 people.

Read the story in the Williamsport, PA Sun Gazette.

BTW, there’s also an excellent example of an educational store merged with a Christian bookstore in Lansing, Michigan; where there is obviously a strong homeschool market.  (I think it’s called Gift and Bible on W. Saginaw, but their webpage was down.   Huge store.)

Categories: Uncategorized

Brouwer Wins Gospel Juno Award

Thanks to all of you who have contacted me reminding me to say something about Matt Brouwer’s Juno award in the Gospel/Contemporary Christian category.

For our U.S. readers, the Junos are our equivalent of the Grammy awards.  It’s been interesting to see Brouwer’s publicity south of the border on this.   (Other nominees were Janelle, FM Static, Thousand Foot Krutch and multiple-previous-winner Steve Bell.)

Here in Canada, four albums are currently available from David C. Cook:

  • Imagerial
  • Unlearning
  • Where’s Our Revolution (re-issue)
  • The B-Sides Recording, Volume 1

To learn more about Matt, click here (turn speakers on).


First Communion Customers Defined

The confirmation or first communion shopper is often:

  • Someone who has never been in your store before
  • Has arrived not really knowing what they are looking for
  • Really isn’t interested in your recommendations
  • Already bought a card somewhere else
  • Has no intention of ever returning to your store

That cynicism (or reality!) aside, the FC or Confirmation customer represents a tremendous ministry opportunity, especially if you get them one-at-a-time when you’re free enough to engage conversation.   It is perhaps, the only chance you’ll get –

  • to plant a seed
  • to remind them of the essence of the gospel
  • to share your own church experience possibly inviting them to your church if they don’t have one, or to a special event
  • to recommend a book that many people are reading or that they might enjoy
  • to make them feel comfortable enough in the store that they do come back again

Bottom line:  Frustrating as it can be, it’s your moment to let your store and all that contains really shine.  It’s our test of how much we really love people in the community at large.  For that five to fifteen minutes they are on your turf. What are you going to do with the opportunity you’ve been given?

Categories: Uncategorized

The Cats Are All Away

It’s a quiet day online today, as a good many Canadian retailers are experiencing the Foundation Distributing (FDI) annual warehouse event.

With the exception of this year, I’ve been invited to these events annually — they are actually a continuation of the annual warehouse sales at R. G. Mitchell, where the FDI founders worked previously — but as a dealer set us straight this week, I’ve just realized I didn’t fully understand how this event works.

Basically, buyers from FDI’s major accounts are flown in from various places across the country and given accommodation and are presented with an opportunity to roam the warehouse and place a stock order.

But one of the main draws is that all year long FDI collects publisher overstock, remainders and hurt books which store buyers physically remove from displays and fill up shopping carts with everything from giftware to books to Bibles.    (For weeks now, FDI staffers have been separating some nice leather Bibles from their boxes for this event, but that’s another story.)

At the same time, not-so-major-account Ontario stores within driving distance also are invited to the event which fills out the numbers a bit more, and creates more of a buying frenzy.

It’s well organized; you get to meet dealers from other stores; and they serve a nice lunch.

At least, that’s how I thought it worked.

This week a dealer set us straight.

The one-day event that we know as “A Day in the Country” is actually a two-day event which presumably operates under another name for the chosen few.   It actually started yesterday.   I have absolutely no idea what happens the first day.   We’re told that no one has prior access to the large collection of remainders and overstock, though in the past, by the time we’ve arrived — as early as 8:30 AM on the Wednesday — there are already huge boxes of product which have been pre-selected by those major accounts.

So it’s really a two-tiered event.

Not exactly.

Last year, we attended the second day — the only one we’re invited to — when presumably we were picking through what was left of the bargain product, only to have a FDI staffer tell us that we were “not eligible” to purchase the three dozen NLT Bibles we’d selected.   He then removed them from our shopping cart.

Suddenly it was appearing to be a three-tiered event, and we were on the lowest tier.   Sigh!

An hour later, I happened to meet one of the principals of FDI and mentioned that this was rather humiliating, and he walked me back to that area and told me there was no such restriction.

There were still about twelve of the Bibles left, we did in fact get them, and months later customers started returning them.   They have serious binding issues.   (I’m looking for a source for the glue used by book binders, if anyone knows.)

Bottom line:  We attended this event for many years and really enjoyed ourselves, enjoyed the company of other dealers, got some good bargains for our store and had a nice lunch.    But last year, we decided to leave before the lunch began.   We were made very conscious of the fact we were in the bottom tier of accounts shopping the sale.

But that doesn’t mean that anyone should assume that this is an industry that will ever stop giving the big guys a break.   The bargain inventory at Book Depot for example, has already been pre-shopped by some key accounts who are tipped off about “sorting days” for key publisher product  before the leftover product is posted online.   Others receive advance lists of product before it is announced online.

One Christian book dealer described it to me this way, “The owners are Dutch and we’re Dutch and we work together.”   Guess I was born in the wrong country.

No one likes to attend a party they weren’t invited to, and no Christian bookstore owner should ever be made to feel second rate. And nobody should ever have to suffer the humiliation of having merchandise removed from a cart (physical or online) because they don’t meet eligibility requirements.

Frankly, I honestly believe it takes more “smarts” to operate a Christian bookstore in a smaller market than it does in a major metropolis, where the sheer volume of people passing through helps to cover all your mistakes.

To those of you who were flown in for the event, I’m sure you got some deals and had a good time.   Much has been given to you.  Enjoy it.  Be grateful.  It is not so for some of us.


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