The “Christian Book” Department of Michael’s Arts and Crafts Stores

I was a little surprised yesterday when walking through the Belleville location of Michael’s to see that they actually had a Christian book department.

At first my eyes caught the lower shelf. Colouring Bibles and adult colouring books. Okay. I get that. Though NIV and NLT Bibles in Michael’s was something my brain needed an extra few seconds to process.

But then as I was walking away, I noticed the upper shelf. Jesus Calling. Books related to the movie FireproofBattlefield of the Mind. In other words, product from HarperCollins and Foundation and Parasource and Word Alive.

And much of it discounted below what Christian stores can sell it for.

Are they doing this because of the large Christian presence in Hobby Lobby? The two chains are very similar. But this is also competition for the remaining Christian bookstores; in fact just by posting this here, when Google finds this I will inevitably be sending them customers.

In the top picture, note that the Bibles are not surviving in this environment. The dust jacket of the one on the left is badly torn and the shrink-wrap is off the Aspire Bibles on the right.

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Loonie Making Gains Against American Dollar

In the 90 days since April 20th, the Canadian dollar (CAD) has been trending upwards, which means the U.S. dollar (USD) is costing us less, even as conversion rates from Canadian distributors remain fixed. The Forex graph below shows the cost of the USD falling from above 1.37 in early May to an even 1.26 on Wednesday.

Will conversion rates for books change soon? Often suppliers are quick to raise rates when our dollar is on its way down, but when the situation reverses, argue that inventories were purchased at the higher cost.

We reached out yesterday to one distributor who is using 1.4000 who did not respond.

Over a year ago when stores were using STL, invoices were paid at the current rate, but with Word Alive “replacing” STL for many stores, the Canadian prices are fixed, making it impossible to take advantage of the present situation.

However, in this discussion, be careful what you wish for. The lower USD devalues much of your current inventory and also encourages your exchange-rate-savvy customers to buy online. Furthermore, some of the larger bankruptcies and closings in this country happened when the CAD was doing extremely well.

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One Author Dominated Christian Fiction in Central Europe

Most of the familiar Christian writers I encountered in Germany and Czech Republic were non-fiction authors. The one exception was Wm. Paul Young. In Prague The Shack was everywhere, but there also seemed to be strong representation for Crossroads and especially the new title, Eve. All were stacked high in multiple copies. In Germany we saw a theatre running The Shack or as it’s called there, Die Hütte. It’s one thing to know the foreign book market exists, but it’s another thing to interact directly with the product in its home territory.


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You Never Know Who is Asking for a Book Recommendation

Let’s pretend I walk into your store and ask, “Do you have a good book on the atonement?” What would you recommend?

From an article on Welsh preacher Martin Lloyd-Jones:

…His biographer writes that when he was a young man in the late 1920s Lloyd-Jones preached one night at a church in South Wales. Following the service, a retired minister pulled the young preacher aside and challenged him with a gentle but stinging critique. Lloyd-Jones never forgot his words:  

“…the Cross and the work of Christ appear to have little place in your preaching.”

…So, what did he do? What would you do? Dismiss the critic? Ignore the challenge? By God’s grace, Lloyd-Jones did neither. He didn’t take it personal but he did take it serious.

Lloyd-Jones never went to seminary, but he had a hunger to learn and grow in his understanding of theology. He went to his favorite bookstore and asked for the two standard books on the Atonement. He denied himself food and sleep until he finished both volumes. It concerned his wife, who thought “the doctor” was ill.

But he was far from sick. Lloyd-Jones would emerge from his study a new man with a more complete and healthy understanding of his life, ministry and preaching…

You never know the value of having something on your shelves that can revolutionize someone’s life or ministry.

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Chasing Christian Book Titles in Central Europe

We’re back from Europe. Woke up this morning in Prague. Over the next few days we’ll show you some books that were in general market bookstores there. They take their Christian books seriously, there isn’t any fluff. Gave me lots to think about regarding the books we will stock moving forward. Here’s a look at a couple of Lee Strobel books, Case for Christ and Case for a Creator in Czech was in one store. Case for Faith turned up in several stores.

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Meeting Requests for Donations

Bookstore owners are constantly asked to put up posters, donate merchandise, or otherwise get behind locally based Christian ministry projects. We have about twelve parachurch organizations in our community, and we both personally and as a bookstore endorse ten of these. When we’re asked to donate to broader community programs we explain that our particular mandate is to church-based or church-related organizations; that the population at large will give to the more popular causes, but only church people will give to causes that identify boldly as Christian-centered.

Some days we feel if anyone needs a fund raising banquet or a tag day it’s us. We regularly support things where the ministry staff receive — no exaggeration — eight to ten times in salary what we’re drawing from the bookstore.

We try to use a complex formula consisting of questions like:

(a) How widely known is the organization?
(b) How great and urgent is the need?
(c) Who else is on board?
(d) How able is the constituency benefiting by this able to help themselves or secure their own support? 

How do you deal with requests like these?

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Why Not Try a Book?

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Being Made to Jump Through the Hoops

Every once in awhile you learn a new word. Recently it was hidebound. Basically, it means rule-bound, though offers these:

  • oriented toward or confined to the past; extremely conservative
  • restricted by petty rules, a conservative attitude, etc

Many of our suppliers treat retailers like children. You have to jump through the hoops or you don’t get dessert. One Canadian supplier launched over a decade ago with something like this: “Our policies: We have no policy except common sense.” Years later, they had created more bureaucracy than anyone else we dealt with.

But as retailers, we can do this also. If our exchange policies are as tightly controlled as some of our suppliers’ return policies; or if every tiny custom order requires a massive deposit; then our stores can’t be what they are meant to be: A place of grace.

So the comic from Chuckle Brothers seemed appropriate. The store exists on both sides of the international date line. The item is on sale for one day only, but not on the side with the checkout. “Sorry,” the clerk says, “That sale ended yesterday.” When is a sale not a sale?

After the initial laugh, we have to ask ourselves if some of our customers perceive our store that way.

  • Do we have unnecessary policies that could be eliminated and replaced with common sense?
  • Can we maintain policies to fall back on in difficult circumstances, but let the rule of grace dictate the corporate culture and spiritual atmosphere of our stores?
  • Do we need to give our institutional, church, and bulk-purchase accounts some power of arrangement; the flexibility necessary so they can get what they really need?
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Psalm 127 (sort of): Unless the Lord Builds the Bookstore

 1 Unless the LORD builds the bookstore,
the sales associates labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the business,
the displays and advertising are in vain.

Eventually it comes down to God’s involvement, and God’s Spirit moving in what we do.  The ministry is only possible when the business is sound, but the business will only be viable when real ministry is taking place.  In my opinion, anyway.

I stopped short of continuing to the next verse:

2 It is vain to open before 9:00 AM
and stay open after 6:00…

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Reviewers are a Blend of Insiders and Consumers

They get Advance Reader Copies just like you do, but at the heart of it, they are more like our customers than like industry people. Bloggers are encouraged by various publishers to be totally honest about the books, even if they don’t like them.

One of the best sites is Book Look Bloggers, hosted by HarperCollins Christian Publications. They feature some glowing reviews on the home page, but the link to the reviews will show you the good, the bad and the ugly opinions on various titles, just by clicking on the book cover.

See what the bloggers had to say about your best-selling titles as well as ones you haven’t yet stocked.

Link to Book Look Bloggers Reviews pages.

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Word Alive Graphics

These were thrown together in just minutes. Feel free to borrow. Sized <500px for Facebook.

Brownlow Journals

Heartfelt Plaques

If you have homemade graphics you’d like to share with other stores, send them and we’ll post them here.

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Publisher’s Weekly on the Latest ICRS

UNITE 2017, the trade show formerly known as the International Christian Retailing Show (ICRS) hosted annually by the The Association for Christian Retail (CBA), took place in Cincinnati, OH from June 27-30, drawing publishers, retailers, literary agents, authors, and more.

In recent years, the Christian retailing show has struggled to maintain its position as a must-attend event for the industry, but it continues to provide a rare opportunity for publishers to meet face-to-face with retailers, distributors, and authors.

“The show is absolutely trying to reposition itself; it’s an unenviable position to be in. They are scrambling like we all are in publishing,” said Dave Hill, executive director of sales and marketing at Kregel. “But it has remained a constant for international buyers, and it’s a fantastic meeting place that unites people in the industry.” …

…continue reading, Mixed Reviews of Repositioned Christian Retailing Show

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