Canada Post Rotating Strikes Impact Stores in a Variety of Ways

While this picture appeared on CBC-TV’s The National last night, Diane Buckner described it as “the biggest delivery backlog Canada Post has ever seen. Over 400 tractor-trailer loads at this Toronto processing plant and hundreds more in Vancouver and Montreal. Every truck is loaded with about 2,500 parcels.” [Click here to watch.]

Job action by the employees at Canada Post can affect stores like yours and mine in various ways.

  • Stores which ship orders, but aren’t doing enough business to have an account or daily picks up from a courier company (Purolator, CanPar, UPS, FedEx, Loomis, etc.)

These stores must find new avenues for shipping. If there’s a UPS Store or a Staples in your town, they usually have OTC (Over the Counter) couriers available.

  • Stores which do their own importing from small suppliers

If you order direct from U.S. authors or curriculum companies or giftware companies not represented here by the majors (Harper, Parasource, FDI, Word Alive) then your parcels are probably one of the thousands and thousands sitting a transport truck awaiting sorting. The backlog is apparently quite huge.

  • Stores which use direct-mail marketing.

This was the trigger for today’s article; a situation brought to my attention from a newsletter sent out to customers by Jaret Voce at Agape Christian Marketplace in North Toronto.

Well over a week ago we mailed out our Christmas Catalogue and 2 Day Sale flyer, which is happening this Friday & Saturday. Such mailings are a significant expense, which means we have a lot of people who like to visit our store.

Typically our members begin receiving the mailing the day after it’s sent. However, with the rotating strikes currently hitting Canada Post, it sounds like no one has received their catalogue and flyer yet.

It’s scary to think we’ve put a large amount of money into promoting a big sale event, and many of our members may not know about it.

He’s probably not the only one in this position. Of course, he can honour the pricing into the following week, and he probably will, but that doesn’t solve the problem where many will look at the flyer and think, “I guess I missed it;” or worse, “It’s too bad these people don’t know to send these out earlier.” (This is why getting sign-ups for Facebook and email newsletters is so important; the two can operate in tandem in situations like this.)

He ends by asking for prayer. I think we all — people in each of the situations described above — could use some!

Online-only Addendum:

After writing this I realized there is a fourth category:

  • Stores waiting to receive payments from churches and organizations which have accounts with the store. (Or waiting to mail payments.)

It appears like the job action by Canada Post has been more specifically targeting parcels — at least that’s the part of the story that’s newsworthy in an online shopping world, but in some parts of the country all mail is being held up.

…Is there a silver lining? Could this job action drive customers to your store who might have made online purchases?

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Dove Winners

We’re a whole month late this year, but here are the winners of the 2018 Dove Awards in categories I thought would be of special interest to readers here. You can read the list of nominees at this link, and the full list of winners in 40 categories at this link. Tauren Wells (pictured at right) won the most, with four awards. Since most of you know his song “Hills and Valleys” I’ve included a different one above from the same album.

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Snow Days Are “No Days” For Retail

As a child, I had to walk only about 6 houses east and there was a gateway to my elementary school. When I entered Junior High the school had an incredibly large catchment area which stretched over one of Toronto’s major streets, but even there, everybody walked. When I got to High School the catchment area was even greater, only a few students took public transit but there was still no formal school busing.

Where we live now, even in the suburban neighborhoods within the town, busing is quite common so when those buses are cancelled two things happen. First of all, the kids that would normally be on the bus stay home. Secondly many of the other kids argue that if the bus kids don’t have to go to school, they shouldn’t have to go either.

Needless to say this eliminates a lot of potential customers who are housebound if the kids are home from school.

The same thing happens on PA days. Yes, there are a few parents who load the kids in the car and bring them to the store. But for the most part I’ve lost a lot of shoppers that day.

What makes the snow days worse however is that it sends a message to everyone, whether they have kids or not, that the weather outside is frightful and the roads are terrible, when often that is not the case.

I’m glad that Canadians in general aren’t like their American counterparts when it comes to driving in treacherous weather. Generally speaking we do the sensible thing and stay off the roads if the conditions are a risk to safety. That’s not the case today but I know many of my customers have hunkered down and are afraid to step out of their suburban enclaves.

We are left with a day to simply change displays and call customers who have orders that haven’t been picked up and pray for better business tomorrow.

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Managing Backorders

This man has a deliverance ministry.

Heather Fleming at the Canadian Bible Society store in Toronto wrote yesterday about a topic that’s important but often overlooked: Backorder shipment charges.

This morning I received a shipping notification for a parcel which had “slipped through” the great system I have set up with Parasource. Two copies of a backordered fiction title had released separately:

         2.00  EA   9780764218170                $10.00  EA          $19.99 
                     The Bride of Ivy Green
                    Freight                                           $9.71 
                     >> 0 @ 0/1
                               Subtotal                              $29.70 

As you can see, the freight charge is nearly the cost of one of the books. It leaves a net margin of only 25.7%.

Heather wanted to alert us to a situation involving Oxford University Press (OUP). I use OUP only rarely and there may be people here who don’t have an account with them at all, but for the Bible Society, it becomes more important.

She wrote,

My latest order from Oxford University Press came with a shipping charge, which I have now confirmed is a policy that is new in the last few weeks. Previously they sent out their trade orders free freight. We don’t order a lot from them, mainly certain specialty Bibles in the King James or New Revised Standard Versions, and a lot of the titles we stock from them are Import To Order (ITO).

Because they do not at this time have a way of setting a minimum shipment size threshold or a flag for holding all back orders to consolidate with the following order, to avoid getting a lot of tiny (and expensive) back order shipments as the ITO titles come in I am now asking them to ship all of our orders complete. This will cause delays in getting the items that are not ITO but I can’t think of a better solution at the moment.

She’s right; “Ship Complete” is a mixed blessing. It delays product for customers which was in stock. Sometimes, if an item is on reprint, the delay can be considerable. Overall however, I think the long-term viability of the store has to take precedence. You can’t be throwing money away on freight charges or you won’t be in business very long.

In our little market, money is tight. Here’s how we control backorders:

HarperCollins: Since everything is free freight anyway, it’s their problem if they want to bleed money creating separate invoices and shipments. (If you’re part of the “Green” movement; Harper is an environmental disaster in progress.) The topic of freight charges for Canada has been discussed there in the past. They would have to completely revamp their system to approach something even close to addressing the concerns Heather mentioned above.

Foundation: I can’t speak to this from personal experience because, living nearby, we’re designated as a “pick up” account, but it strikes me that FDI’s system of consolidated invoicing puts them in the best position of any supplier we have to ship responsibly. Perhaps some of you can leave a comment letting me know who that works for you, and we can incorporate it in the main article.

Parasource: I have a $400 minimum shipping threshold. (That’s net, before taxes.) It works well for us. When there are problems — as noted above — they issue the necessary credits. If, as happened last Christmas, the shipment is substantial but still below $400 net, I complain but offer to meet them halfway.

WordAlive: This is a 100% backorder-manageable environment. Once you’ve started a cart, you can then release shippable product into that cart. Freight is 3% (of net) with a minimum order of $250. You can log in and check what is available to ship without starting a cart. You can then cancel a backorder if needed. Once  you get the hang of it, it’s the most user-friendly in terms of controlling the order status of backordered titles, and with so many of their products being “Extended Catalog Items” you want those controls in place.

Sperling: I really only use them about once a year, but we usually come up with a hybrid of “Ship Complete” and “Cancel Backorders” depending on when they expect their next shipment. 

Canadian Bible Society: The point is moot as their own publications are almost always in stock. We usually pick up or find a friend who’s going to Toronto.

Random House: Same situation as HarperCollins.

Hachette Book Group: Same situation as HarperCollins.

Ingram: Flat rate shipping means it doesn’t matter what goes out when.

Again, failing to manage freight costs will erode profits. At the end of the year, many of us are working an overall 3-6% profit margin. You don’t want to negatively impact that with excessive freight costs.

Also — and this is important — your bookkeeper can’t merely be paying the invoices. They need to be checking this constantly. We’ll often make a notation of the shipping percentage on the invoice, and I’ve asked to be told about any charges which are more than 8%.

Finally, if you’re on the West Coast, with so many Ontario suppliers this is all doubly important to you.

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Publishing News from the Wider Market

When I want to catch up on what’s happening in the broader world of publishing, I can do no better than to check out Tim Underwood’s Twitter account. Some of you know Tim personally from his work with Graf-Martin Communications.

This weekend I scored the ultimate hat-trick! Three consecutive Tweets that I think are worth sharing. Each of the stories showing are live links; click anywhere in the bottom box of each to read them.

I’m always watching for cracks in the Amazon fortress; not because I’m delusional that the company is just going to go away tomorrow, but because its system is loaded with vulnerabilities. I really do question its sustainability.

So needless to say, a story like this was right up my alley. Every frustrated Amazon customer is potentially a return customer to your store.

This story, in various forms, has been widely disseminated over the last ten days or so. The real competition is and always has been people reading information off screens, not people reading books from screens.

However, if the print business is $4B and the e-book business is $0.7B, it’s still significant. Again, don’t be in denial and think this alternative media will disappear overnight.

There were a few things in this story I found fascinating, not the least of which was the vision of the largest bookstore chain in the USA being owned by one in the UK.

On a more personal level, it was the idea of a smaller store taking over a larger one, which is exactly what my own store did in 2001; buying a store twice our size. (Or so we thought; some sales figures may have been misrepresented, but that’s water under the bridge.)

In the meantime, as B&N struggles, independent bookstores are doing very well. (See the e-book story for that sidebar.)

Remember, you can create a Twitter account just for the purpose of following Tim as well as some of your favorite publishers and authors. You never need to Tweet anything, and it’s not an obnoxious social media platform like Twitter. They won’t hound you with suggestions and prompts. (See the links on the right hand column of this blog for some suggestions.)

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More Free Graphics

Currently in reprint. No new copies expected from Hachette until the 2nd week of December.

Our bestselling booklet; sometimes it’s helpful to remind customers that we carry these things.

Loved is currently a “Golden” title at HarperCollins, so expect delays associated with monitored stock. After we did this graphic I realized the background is simply too strong; too distracting.  I should have backed it off to about 70% before adding the book images. Live and learn! On the other hand, primary colours indicate a children’s title.

Baker did this; they are the very best at creating images stores need.

I don’t get the washed out photo image, but I’m not a graphic designer. Does make the cover stand out, though.

Timely, in light of Eugene’s passing. Only 421px, as it was produced to use here for an article last week.

I think we found this on the FB of another store. If it was yours, let me know so I can give you credit!

There are still some people who don’t know this story. I added a border to this, as FB tends to re-edit things with white borders which can result in blurry images.

This one is 595px. Room to edit if you want to remove the hashtags and add local store name and pricing. Sometimes the availability of these graphics will cause me to buy one or two copies of a book I’d previously passed on.

A little late, I’ll grant you, but you can still add it this weekend to make a point. Also 595px if you want to add your store name at the bottom in white lettering.

A rare more traditional, hard-sell image from Thomas Nelson.

Hastily produced from an online contest thing Tyndale was running.

It was already a bright red album cover. I just made it brighter and redder.

Finally, a Barbour title that I only heard about 2 minutes before posting this. This particular genre is hot right now.

  • If you use any of these, send me a link. We really need to see that you value this service.
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The Books Francine Rivers Regrets Writing

Earlier today, an article on the Premier Christianity website in the UK an article caught my attention: 5 Christian authors who regret books they’ve written. I’m going to guess the trigger for the article was the one covered first, I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. (As we reported earlier, Harris has asked for it, all its related products, and two titles which followed in its wake to be pulled from the market.)

The others were William Powell, author of The Anarchist Cookbook; Lewis Carrol, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Francine Rivers; and Frank Peretti, co-author of House.

The latter author’s writeup notes:

By the time the R-Rated US film was released, Frank says he had ‘totally separated’ himself from both the book and movie.

“I didn’t want anything to do with either one. I’d rather go for a deeper topic, and for me more meaningful rather than all the excessive violence and darkness. It gave me the creeps!”

With Francine Rivers however, the article conveniently linked to an interview with her also published this week at Premier Christianity — she’s in Wimbledon for a large Christian publishing trade show — Francine Rivers: The author of Redeeming Love reveals what drives her work.

The first article noted:

Francine refers to her pre-conversion works as being “BC” (before Christ) and has taken proactive steps to ensure they can’t be reprinted.

while the second provides some backstory:

After graduating with a degree in English and journalism she began her writing career as a reporter. It wasn’t until her in-laws lent her some romance novels that she realised her true calling was to write fiction. In the decade that followed the publication of her first novel in 1976, Francine found success in the general market through her steamy historical novels.

On a more positive note, Redeeming Love is still her favourite of all her titles, but the hardest book to write was Atonement Child. Why? You’ll need to read the article.

♦ Related: We posted this in August 2011, when Redeeming Love was celebrating its 20th anniversary:

Oshawa, Ontario Store Launches Online Ordering

Opting not to go with Book Manager, Durham Christian Books has launched its own independent online ordering site at The store, now located in Oshawa (about 30 minutes east of Toronto) recently relocated from Bowmanville, Ontario and had promised that they would develop their own website from scratch.

The site is very impressive! As you browse Bibles, bestsellers and new releases, a video screen opens in the lower right corner playing music videos, movie trailers and book trailers. The videos don’t miss a beat as you navigate from page to page. I would expect it also keeps people on the site longer.

Right now, backlist product is rather hit-and-miss. I chose to look for three Canadian authors. Only one had product listed and that one was missing the more recent of the two. I expect there is still much more to be uploaded to the database. Also, a search for Beverly Lewis prioritized the children’s titles for which I expect the demand is much softer than the Amish titles. However the results were accurate and fast.

Most of the product was discounted 25%. I was unable to find shipping cost information. I’m sure this is still a work in progress.

Congratulations to Jason and Meredith on a classy website.

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Congratulations, Mark and Monica

Congratulations to Mark Hildebrand (HarperCollins Christian Publishing Canada) and Monica Sendel who were married on October 20th.

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We Need a New Demographic

November 2, 2018 1 comment

I am sorry for not posting more here this week. This has been a tough week — October was a tough month — in my own store.

Basically, I have come to realize that I have lost my love for my customers.

There. I said it.

My customers aren’t necessary old; although by definition, the average customer in many stores like ours is a 76-year-old woman with blue hair.

But they’re stuck in the past.

They want books which have been out of print for decades.

They want CDs of “the old hymns” in a style that simply doesn’t exist.

They tie me up talking about a book which we actually do carry, and then when I think I’ve made the sale, they say things like, “I think I’ll borrow my son’s copy.”

They do not trust my judgment that they would like a particular author.

They come in just to buy a $3 card.

They admit they forget what books they own…

…This month we announced that in 2019 we’re scaling back our opening time to 11:00 AM. The wage costs for the extra hours are not as significant as the message we hope it sends.

We’re not made of money.

You can’t have this level of inventory and service in a smaller town and expect it to always be there if you don’t support it.

You can’t go on when the largest Evangelical church in the town refuses to buy from you because “stewardship is more important than local ministry.”

…Like I said, it’s been a tough month. I’m prepared to keep trying to keep this thing going, but I need genuine encouragement and I don’t get that from too many customers.


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Promoting the Bible on Television, circa 1984

“C’mon, America; discover The Book!”

This 60-second television commercial spot features all your favorites from the 1980s including: Glen Campbell, Lisa Welchel, Jason Bateman, Nell Carter, Michael Gross, Charlene Tilton, and more. Can you help us name the other stars?

The Book was a popular edition of The Living Bible (TLB), which preceded today’s New Living Translation (NLT). “The Book” format originated with the publisher of the TLB, Tyndale House and the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN).

Thanks to Relevant Magazine for discovering this gem!




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Munce Marketing Group Announces International Retail Show

Two people sent this to me, so even thought it’s been on the Canadian Christian Retail Insights page and also at Christian Retailing, I thought I would include it here if you missed it.

Munce Marketing has announced a larger scale, international version of its regional Christian Product Expo (CPE) trade shows, to be called Christian Products Expo International which will run from Sun, Aug 25th at 9am to Tue, Aug 27th at 2pm at Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The conference room at the center can hold up to 3,500 people. Bob Munce told Christian Retailing that “…during the latest CPE, some top executives and company owners from the publishing, gift, music, services and distributor side of the industry asked him what he would need to take on this new responsibility and volunteered their support.”

Site of the new trade show

Meanwhile, CBA’s trade show will continue as usual; the two shows will be about a half hour apart in distance and about six weeks apart in timing, with CBA’s taking place  at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday through Wednesday, July 8-11.

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