Article Highlights Blessings and Challenges for Canadian Christian Bookstores

We have a saying here that when America sneezes, Canada catches a cold. In entertainment, sports, finance, and also faith, Canadians have one eye on the domestic landscape, and one eye on our large neighbor to the south.

Christian Retailing Magazine approached me this summer about doing an article for them on their International page. While I’ve always tried to be concise, it’s difficult to compress some of the unique aspects of Canadian Christian bookstores into 830 words, so for that reason and also to keep the story positive, we focused mostly on the advantages of having access to international paper editions (called ITPEs) and the efficiency of consolidating book orders through just four core suppliers: HarperCollins, Parasource, Foundation and Word Alive.

When it comes to ITPEs, I did my usual journalistic duty and contacted a couple of people for quotations, but because this was a column and not an article they wanted something that looked more like an opinion piece, so here’s a couple of paragraphs that had to be reworked in the final version:

Pat Chown is a partner in Foundation Distributing and notes, “We work with Tyndale on each hardcover title based on the potential and try to develop market based pricing as best we can. Where there is sufficient interest and volume an ITPE will get done for Canada and other non-US Markets. Each title is distinct and no one formula works for all. Tyndale is very interested in doing all possible to develop markets for their authors outside of the U.S.  We have worked on market based pricing for a number of key products with Crossway, Barbour, Broadstreet and others.  Sometimes economy of scale doesn’t justify an ITPE but discount will be used to feature and develop a title or series in other ways.”

It’s the same at Parasource Distribution, where National Trade Sales Manager Martin Smith acknowledged the many ITPEs from Baker Book Group and added, “Broadman and Holman just started releasing ITPE editions. They started with mostly backlist titles, but did do Awaken by Priscilla Shirer as an ITPE.”

Consider that the director’s cut of the article! Unfortunately, the contract doesn’t allow me to reprint it here, but you’ll find it in the December/January issue on page 24.

The article also focused on having to be constantly dealing in two monetary currencies: Canadian and American, and the differences in population between the two countries.

Canada’s population is quite different from the U.S. in terms of ethnicity, spending patterns and religion. As a percentage, there are almost twice as many Roman Catholics in Canada versus the U.S. and religious pluralism in Canada means wider acceptance of peripheral spiritual movements. There is less Christian media saturation, and therefore less awareness of key authors, musicians and films. Our second language is French, not Spanish, and Christian products en français are harder to find and often more expensive. Furthermore, Quebec French is often quite different from what’s spoken in Paris; there were actually two French editions of The Shack. Spending is more restrained; Canadians keep their hands in their pockets more than their U.S. counterparts. And while it’s said that 25% of all U.S. churches have a Sunday morning attendance of 100 or less, in Canada the statistic quoted is usually 50%…

…Geography is also a challenge for stores at either end of a country which covers six time zones; an issue which means inventory and special orders take longer to arrive and shipping charges which are higher. Word Alive (Anchor) is currently using a fixed percentage for shipping, as are many giftware companies; with HarperCollins shipping is still free.

There was one sentence only that dealt with the challenge of distributors selling direct to individuals and churches. I know that’s a burning issue for some Canadian stores, and I wanted to reference it, but was also trying to give a positive tone to the piece as a whole. I know some stores will see the piece and wish I’d given that more attention.

I think the challenge there is that when you’re dealing with economies of scale much more acutely in a small market, you’re going to be more sensitive to what your suppliers are doing in terms of their own marketing. I’m also sure there is pressure from U.S. publishers for distributors here to be doing more.

The article is not being posted online; it’s only in the print edition; and again I’m contractually bound not to publish it here beyond the brief excerpts above. Watch for your copy in the mail, and if you are not receiving it — it’s free for stores — go to ChristianRetailing.com/subscribe.

 

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Crux Books in Toronto Closes

Crux Books was located on the campus of the University of Toronto in Wycliffe College and served the theological community of the university as well as the academic and scholarly community at large. The Toronto School of Theology (TST) consists of:

•Wycliffe College
•Trinity College
•Emmanuel College
•Knox College
•St. Michael’s College

December 2nd was the last regular day of business and the store is now in process of packing up what was probably one of the most unique collections in a retail Christian bookstore in Canada, not to mention a huge repository of used books. On the website they posted, “It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that after twenty years in operation, we announce the closing of Crux Books.”

The store opened in 1999 and in 2009, we reported on the death of founder Pat Paas.

Crux Books had some rare volumes and at this point we don’t know where that inventory is being sent. The market for some of their titles is quite limited, and would even be a stretch for bookstores at Regent College in Vancouver or Tyndale College and Seminary in Toronto. Libraries, such as the one at Redeemer University College in Hamilton (which we toured last year) would be ideal but their shelves are already packed with similar items and budgets are limited.

Four of the five TST colleges listed above also have their own libraries.

This was a one-of-a-kind store that simply can’t be replaced. The inventory was curated over two decades and contained product not usually seen elsewhere.

 

 

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Miracles Christian Bookstore in Halifax to Close

In May, 2015 we wrote about the downsizing of Miracles Christian Bookstore in Halifax. Yesterday we learned that the store will be closing.

The following was posted on the store Facebook page:

To all of our amazing customers

We have had an amazing 10 year journey with Miracles Christian store…

…We have had ups and downs as we learned the industry, and had lots of help from some great sales reps over the years. We made lots of mistakes and have had some successes too. It has been an honor to serve you all for these number of years. We never would have made it here without your support and prayers.

But just like the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end”, and we have to make a change. We will be closing Miracles Christian Store…

…Until then we have just gotten thousands of dollars of Bibles and books in for Christmas gift giving, with more on their way…

…Your support has meant so much to us and  the connections that we have made will never be forgotten

Heidi & Doug

 

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When a Book Defined a Movement

When students of religious history speak of The Charismatic Movement of the 1970s, they are often quick to mention that the release of one particular book, They Speak With Other Tongues by John and Elizabeth Sherrill was a defining moment in that movement’s history. Last week CBA reported,

John Sherrill, author and founder of Chosen Books, died on Dec. 2 at age 94. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were two of the four founders of Chosen Books with Len and Catherine Marshall LeSourd.

Together the Sherrills also coauthored, The Cross and the Switchblade (with Dave Wilkerson), The Hiding Place (with Corrie Ten Boom) and God’s Smuggler (with Brother Andrew) among other titles.

Today, Chosen Books is part of Baker Book Group, though the company did not issue a press release. A personal tribute from Charisma House’s Steve Strang appeared yesterday at Charisma News.

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Women’s Night Brings in $5,000 in 2½ Hours

by Marja Fledderus,
Manager, Family Christian Bookstore, Burlington

We had a fun time recently hosting a Ladies’ Night at Family Christian Bookstore. We have been looking for ways to boost business and to continue to build great relationships with our customers. We thought a ladies’ night in early November would be a simple and effective idea. Our initial approach was to decide on a date, decide on what we wanted to do, and then to advertise. We picked early November: after Remembrance Day, but before the Christmas rush. We decided that quality refreshments were a must. We invited a live musician (one of our customers). And then we focused on promotion. We advertised in the following ways:

  • We created an image (see below) that would be design for the entire advertising campaign.
  • We used this image in the following ways:
    • a bag stuffer at cash: just a business card sized card to pop into each bag – focused mainly on female shoppers.
    • a Facebook “event” notification, which we boosted locally for a total cost of $17.95.
    • as part of our twice monthly emails that we send to our customers on our mailing list – we included it in 3 separate emails.
    • printed into poster sized images which we hung in our store in key places

I feel the best promotion we did, though, was training staff to “talk it up.” Giving staff phrases to use, and conveying the overall excitement to them creates a buzz that pays off in huge ways. They are at the front lines, after all, talking to customers daily. The spiel we gave staff went something like:

“We are having an exclusive after hours shopping evening for Ladies coming up. We’re going to have live music, refreshments, and great deals – plus it’s going to be such a fun atmosphere! Bring friends or whoever you like – ladies only. No guys and no kids!”

Words like “exclusive” and “after hours” sound corny and overused, but the really do work in creating excitement and a sense of being valued. We used the same words in our Facebook event, in our emails, and on our signs so that the message was loud and clear: exclusive, women only, after hours, fun.

Our results for the evening: 75 women signed up, 150 women attended, we did just over $5000,00 of sales in 2.5 hours. We also had a great time: the atmosphere was warm and friendly, the refreshments were delicious, our live musician was acoustic and added wonderful ambiance. It was a fantastic night, and a great start to our season.


This is a trade blog for retail industry owners, managers and associates. However, if a search engine brought you here because you’re looking for a Christian bookstore, the store is located at 750 Guelph Line in Burlington:

Website:  familychristian.ca

Meet the Man Who Caused the Closing of Many Independent Bookstores

December 1, 2017 2 comments

A 1999 interview with Jeff Bezos of Amazon on 60 minutes:

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Print Music Category Overlooked Victim of Technology

When you think of the impact technology has had on traditional Christian bookstores, you probably think of the major culprits (eBooks and music downloading) or the recent culprits (in Canada, the PureFlix movie streaming service, promoted heavily on 100 Huntley.)

It’s easy to forget the volume many of us were doing with print music, particularly sales of worship resources to church worship teams and individual musicians. The Hosanna-Integrity songbooks, pictured above, were a small part of a larger array of merchandise many of us carried, along with the Maranatha! Praise and Worship Collections. (Remember the beige book, the purple book and the red book? People are still looking for those.)

Then along came CCLI. My wife leads worship in several different contexts and when she needs a song, she can simply download print music, even choosing the key signature in which it will print. Today most churches have a CCLI licenses which allow multiple users (i.e. various worship musicians and leaders) to access their vast database from home.

Another subcategory of print music was hymnbooks. The margins were small, the freight costs were high, but there was volume.

Today, hymnbooks are sold one-at-a-time. They are rapidly on their way to becoming relics.

Then there were the “easy play” Christian keyboard books for beginning pianists. Graded books offered increasing levels of difficulty and many Christian piano teachers worked their students through a series of eight to ten different books.

Sadly, there’s no piano in the parlour. To say that differently, home entertainment systems with big screens have replaced the piano in the family rooms and living rooms of the nation.  Even musical instrument stores are loathe to carry too many electronic keyboards because the margins are so much higher on guitars and other string instruments.

We recently sold our entire songbook inventory to a musical instruments dealer in a town about 40 minutes away. We took a huge loss, but it was not a difficult decision as he was willing to take everything. As a musician, it hurt to see this chapter in our bookstore end, but with Christmas coming I have about a half-dozen books if anyone is desperate. And we also have hymnbooks, but we mark them up to incorporate a full trade margin. People are happy to get their hands on them, so the price is not an issue.

Contemporary Christian Grammy Nominees Announced

These award nominees were posted earlier today at Grammy.com. The winners will be announced on January 28th on the 60th Anniversary Grammy Awards show on CBS-TV, but not all (or sometimes none) of the Gospel/CCM awards are presented in the telecast. In total there are five award categories for Gospel, Roots and Contemporary Christian. See them all at this link.

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A Book for Christians in the Margins

I promised we would return to take another look at this book. Official street date is tomorrow. I’m guessing about 50% (or more) of your customers sometimes feel like they just don’t fit in at church. For whatever reason.

Show them this book! (I had a lot of fun doing this review!)


I could probably give you a number of reasons why Brant Hansen shouldn’t have a book with W Publishing, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, let alone two books.1 He’s not a pastor. Not a professor. Not someone who’s made it in the field of sports or business or entertainment and coincidentally happens to be a Christian.

He’s a radio announcer.

That’s it. But Blessed are the Misfits, his second major book release confirms what listeners to The Brant Hansen Show2 and The Brant and Sherri Oddcast podcast3 have known all along: There’s a heck a lot of us out there who feel we just don’t fit in.

The subtitle of the book — which appears above the title, meaning it’s actually a surtitle4 — is Great News for Believers Who are Introverts, Spiritual Strugglers, or Just Feel Like They’re Missing Something.5 Insert deep breath here.

Brant not only sees himself as a misfit, but he’s even been diagnosed with a few things just to make it official. The radio show and podcast contain frequent announcements to new listeners that the show may take some time to figure out.6

Brant’s life story would make a book like this interesting enough; but the fact he also does the requisite research, includes Bible quotations and writes well simply adds to the appeal.

I see myself and others I know quite well in the pages of this book. People

• who are introverts
• who deal with social anxiety; mental health issues
• who are diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (or something similar)
• who feel they are failures
• who are lonely
• whose personality type is melancholy
• who feel they are just different; they don’t see the world like everyone else does

As I wrapped up the final pages of the book, I thought of a song recorded eons ago by The Altar Boys, a Christian band.

To all the hearts who have been broken;
To all the dreamers with abandoned dreams;
To everyone in need of a friend;
You are loved, You are loved.
To all the rebels wounded in battle;
To all the rockers that have lost that beat;
To all the users all used up now;
You are loved, You are loved.7

Henri Nouwen has called the capital-C Church “the community of the broken.”8 When you think of the misfits at your local church, take some time to also look in the mirror. I see myself repeatedly in these pages.9

Have you ever been to a concert only to find out that the performer is also an official representative of Compassion, Inc., or some other similar charity and you feel like you’ve been ambushed somehow?10 Brant is actually a spokesperson for CURE International; which means there are frequent references to CURE hospitals doing amazing things for kids whose situations looked hopeless.

Personally, I like my books to be books and my charity appeals to be charity appeals; but trust me, you wouldn’t want this book without the CURE stories.11 They are a part of who Brant is, and therefore they deserve the space they get to act as mind-stretching illustrations of the points made in various chapters.

The solution to feeling excluded? This is important because Brant is not speaking to solutions here so much as he’s saying to his fellow-misfits, “You’re not alone.” His personal revelations of classic awkwardness aren’t enumerated here as self-deprecation, but rather I see Brant in the pages of this book as a positive role model for people who feel they just don’t fit. There is very wide swath of people covered in this book. He comes alongside people who are hurting.

That we are also Christians makes the struggle all the more complex in one way, but our identification with Jesus also means that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.”12

We need to remember that Jesus was a misfit, too.


1 Click here for my review of Unoffendable, click here for a sample segment.
2 Link to Brant’s website. The show may have a different music mix in different markets.
3 Specific link to the podcast. Warning: Sherri’s laughter is infectious.
4 This is the type of distraction Brant lives for.
5 Spellcheck wants to change Strugglers to Stragglers which might work as well.
6 As true as this is, the part about “listener uniforms” should be taken with a grain of salt.
7 Listen to the song at this link.
8 I can’t prove this is an actual quotation, but Nouwen did say that we are all “wounded healers.”
9 The title of this review, We Have Met the Misfits and They is Us is a reference to the Pogo comic strip.
10 Like that time you’re friend invited you over for the evening, and it was actually an Amway meeting.
11 Learn more at cure.org
12 Hebrews 4:15 NIV
13 There is no corresponding sentence to this footnote. Brant actually only uses one footnote in the book and then in typical ADD fashion, abandons the form.

Thanks to Kimberley at HarperCollins Christian Publishing for an advance copy of Brant Hansen’s book.


Review bonus: The Misfits Tour! (They should pay us for including this.)

Date City Info
11/27/17 West Palm Beach, FL Journey Church
11/28/17 Vero Beach, FL Christian FM
12/2/17 Hagerstown, MD Word FM
1/4/18 Lynchburg, VA The Journey
1/5/18 Louisville, KY WAY FM
1/6/18 Cincinnati, OH Star 93.3
1/11/18 Hazel Green, AL WAY FM
1/12/18 Tallahassee, FL WAY FM
1/13/18 Panama City, FL WAY FM
1/18/18 Indianapolis, IN Shine FM
1/19/18 Chicago, IL Shine FM
1/20/18 Ft. Wayne, IN Star
1/25/18 Riverside, CA KSGN
1/26/18 Bakersfield, CA KDUV
1/27/18 Visalia, CA KDUV

By the way, does anyone else think it strange that an introvert wants to go on tour where everybody will be looking at him?

Bible Anthropomorphisms

These were posted on Twitter on the weekend. I thought the second line in the ESV characterization was a bit optimistic, and the NIV’s write-up a tad pessimistic. Great premise, though.

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My Article for [][][][][][] Magazine

November 25, 2017 1 comment

This appeared at Thinking Out Loud today under the title:

When Christians Presume Upon Your Good Nature

The article which appeared here on the weekend is currently being suspended as the story has taken a rather pleasant and unexpected turn which is hopefully leading to resolution.  I don’t usually pull back on stories — if it happened, it happened — but in the spirit I sensed coming through several emails this morning from two different people,  I don’t wish to leave negative publicity online. The party concerned did not request this; I’m doing this of my own accord. 

 

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Good Books Lives Up To Its Name

Last Thursday I was able to take in two bookstores in one afternoon that are serving customers in the western part of the Greater Toronto Area. I mentioned Burlington last week; my second stop was Good Books in Oakville. I had seen the store several times in its downtown location, but this was my first connection since they moved north, closer to the 403/QEW.

And it was Mary Chester’s birthday! (I looked around for cake, but must have missed it.)

This store serves a slightly different clientele than Burlington. The tagline on their website is “A Christian Bookstore for All Denominations;” and though I hadn’t seen the website before my visit, we did discuss the difference in Roman Catholic merchandise between the two stores I saw that day. The store in my earlier visit offers nothing in the way of rosaries or medals or books about saints, etc.  Good Books is dominated — as is Christian publishing as a whole — by products of interest to Evangelicals and Charismatics, but they do carry a number of gift items catering to the Catholic market. They certainly live up to their motto.

But then there were the books. As someone who has a store of my own and has extra time on his hands to study catalogues, there’s little out there I’m not aware of. But here I was scanning the shelves and seeing about ten books I wanted to read. (I really wish I had the type of market where I could profitably carry some of these.)

For our picture (above) we took another shot (as we did in Burlington) of the gift section. Gift departments fascinate me because even though we carry many of the same books giftware can be quite different from store to store.

If any consumers are reading this trade blog because a search engine is helping you to find a store in the Mississauga / Oakville / Burlington area, Good Books is located at 588 Kerr Street in Oakville somewhat midway between the Dorval and Trafalgar 403 exits.

 

 

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