Angel Christian Supplies in Surrey Closing Next Month

This was sourced at The Light Magazine, a monthly Christian periodical distributed through 800 churches in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Angel Christian Supplies, one of the last few brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores left in the Lower Mainland is set to close its doors for good this April…

“It was just time,” says long-time store employee, Paige. She has worked there almost since the very beginning and currently has more history with the iconic store than anyone else on staff. It seems that things just came together to form a sign that pointed in the direction of ending an era. It starts with owner Ted Hilton. Hilton also owned the mall in which Angel Christian Supplies is located. The area was in need of a good Christian book and supplies store two decades ago, and Hilton filled that need in a space in his mall.

Fast forward twenty-plus years, and Hilton has now been retired for several years. Part of his exit plan was selling the mall, although the bookstore continued to operate under the experienced hand of Paige and current manager, Serena.

Then Serena went back to school and cut back her hours at the store. Paige took up many of those duties, but she, too, was looking to retire. Then the mall’s new owners decided to make other plans for the property. They chose not to renew the store’s lease. It seemed, then, with everyone with a stake in the business looking to make some significant life changes, circumstances came together in what people of faith often call “a God thing.” Although the shop won’t be closed permanently until late April, staff are already taking inventory of stock, planning for a closing-out sale and, as Paige put it, “trying to find new homes for all this stuff!” Although the staff are ready to move on to the next chapter in their lives, the ending will still be bittersweet. It will also be the end of an era for those who live in the Surrey neighborhood where the store has been a fixture since the late 1990’s…

~from The Light Magazine; story by Jenny Schweyer



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Telling a Product’s Story (When Supplier’s Won’t)

Something from DEXSA caught my eye when scrolling through listings at the Anchor/Word Alive site. “What’s a reactive mug?” I asked my wife. A little research later, I decided this might be a fun product to order. Basically, I learned that:

Reactive Mugs change colour when hot liquid is added. They are dishwasher safe, however, for best results and to maintain image quality, we highly recommend hand washing this product. Reactive mugs are microwave safe, however, the design may fade over time due to the heat exposure from the extreme heat of the microwave.

So far, so good. I decided to try one each of five designs. After all, mugs are our #1 bestselling gift item.

When they arrived, I had to quickly open the boxes to look for damage. Somehow they made it, but I have never seen fragile gift product shipped in such flimsy boxes.

The next thing I noticed was there was nothing to explain to the customers what they were. Nothing on the box. Nothing on the mug. Just a standard stock number and barcode sticker on the bottom, with no reference to microwaves or dishwashers.

I contacted DEXSA and asked if they could send me a .pdf or some HTML from which I could make an instore sign. I copied Anchor/Word Alive in on the correspondence.

Nobody wrote back.

Suppliers don’t give a rip about answering these types of letters, as long as they’ve got your money. Sorry, but that’s just a fact. I’ve had a price dispute going on with Anchor/Word Alive for months now. They’re taking product and double converting the U.S. dollar exchange. Why else would $11.99 US books be $19.99? On that one, Destiny Image did not answer and Word Alive did not answer. Again.

I think the person who knows how to issue credit notes quit and nobody else knows how to do it. Furthermore, they’ve never fixed the price. Other Canadian accounts are being cheated like I was. Customers are being overcharged. (For reference, it’s 9781929371914, The Torch and The Sword by Rick Joyner, but there are other examples.)

Anyway, we came up with the solution below. We can’t stand there and hand-sell every one of these, so some type of shelf-talker is in order. In the absence of that, we improvise.

I can’t say, “I’d never order these again;” because eventually you run out of sources of merchandise. I think the expression is, ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face.’ We just have to accept the fact that at the customer service level is horrible in this industry and suppliers are pushing out product as cheaply as they can manufacture it to meet the demands of volume buyers like Wal-Mart.

Answering correspondence would add to their costs.



Report Card: A Self-Evaluation for Store Owners and Managers

In the course of any given week, we each wear many different hats. Here’s a look at some. This article is open if you think anything significant needs to be added. Please share this with your staff and people at other stores who might miss this. Send them this short-link:

A Self-Evaluation for Store Owners and Managers


Sales Assistance – Owners and managers can’t stay locked in back rooms. We need to be experiencing customer contact and also model for our employees how to serve and sell.

Customer Service – Problem solving responsibilities fall to us. We need to have fair policies in place, but also know our stores are supposed to be places of grace, so we know when to make exceptions.

Human Resources – More than just hiring and firing, it’s scheduling, setting wage rates and adjusting wage rates due to merit and in the interest of employee retention. In a Christian environment it can also mean caring for the spiritual nurture of staff in our care.

Buying – One of our most important functions. It may involve setting min/max levels for core stock, adding new releases, but also evaluating the sales performance of key departments and setting their overall inventory levels. Meeting with sales reps is time consuming but provides valuable input on new lines, and opportunity to send feedback with them to publishers.

Purchasing – This means overseeing all of the component supplies and services which keep the store running; from getting tissue for the restroom to choosing an electrician.

Physical Plant Maintenance – From sweeping to vacuuming to spreading salt on the sidewalk outside; you may not actually do this yourself, but you need to see that it gets done. Includes everything from safety checks of fixtures to setting heating and air conditioning levels to getting the garbage bins emptied. Also involves sensitivity to potential liability issues.

Merchandising – What’s the first thing people see when they walk in? Changing displays, end-caps and even shelving arrangements is necessary. One manual says the overall colour scheme should be changed every two years, though that’s rather daunting. Front-and-center displays should be changed every quarter, at the very least.

Marketing – This is basically anything that’s happening outside the store to draw people inside. Includes social media such as the store website, store Facebook, store Twitter, store blog and store email newsletters. Next is flyers; choosing them and doing the buying for them. Then there’s the often overlooked store window. (A drawback in our industry because books fade in sunlight; usually our windows contain giftware. Also, publishers no longer provide as many posters and window clings.) Finally there’s advertising in print and online newspapers and on Christian radio.

Outreach – This involves setting up book tables (or arranging stock consignments when it’s not practical to send staff) and also having a presence at community events. It can also include donating prizes for fundraisers, especially with churches and Christian organizations which do business with the store. If you have the gift of speaking, it might also involve speaking to a church group about your store or about recent books. (You might also want to visit some local churches on a Sunday morning periodically, or after each pastoral change.)

Financial – This involves working with the accountant or bookkeeper to monitor bank balances, oversee sales reports, make remittances to governments and suppliers and generally insure the store is hitting the numbers needed in order for the business not to be stressed financially. In periods of crisis, it may lead to some tough decisions as to who gets paid and who needs to wait.

Standards – Increasingly businesses are needing to devote some time and attention to WSIB and provincial standards, seeing that mandatory notices and policies are posted in staff rooms, that staff have completed basic safety training modules, etc. This also includes things like insuring exterior signage conforms to municipal standards, etc.

Product Knowledge – With an exhaustive list of things like this to do, when you do you get time to read? Ultimately, the stores that succeed are owned or managed by readers; people who love books and authors and want to share that passion with customers. If we lose that, we’ve lost a lot.

Christian Growth – More often than not, we can’t take our customers and staff past the level where we are ourselves. It’s therefore incumbent upon us to not let our own spiritual growth and formation get lost in the weeds of administrating and giving leadership to a small Christian organization. And prayer… lots of prayer.


A Wrinkle in Time v. The Shack: Both Faced Rejection by Christians

Let’s face it, the church doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to art. Decades ago, I heard Larry Norman say that the church tends to be in an imitative mode, but not necessarily an innovative mode. We’ll copy the world — often many years later — when it’s doing something successful, but those who think outside the box are usually ostracized.

This goes double when it comes to the literary genre of fiction.

My day began early today, reading an article on my phone from the Salt Lake Tribune (written for The Washington Post) by Sarah Pulliam Bailey titled Publishers rejected her, Christians attacked her: The deep faith of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ author Madeleine L’Engle. There’s been renewed interest in the book because of the movie, which opened yesterday in most markets. I have neither read the book nor seen the movie, though now my curiosity level is high.

The book along with other writing by the same author has been sold in many Christian bookstores for decades.

In the article — carefully researched — she doesn’t mention The Shack. That’s not her purpose. But to me the similarities were leaping off the page.

  • rejected by 26 publishers (Shack: 20)
  • greatest criticism from conservative Christians
  • immense popularity nonetheless
  • authors desire to express a deep faith through (L’Engle: “If I’ve ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it, This is my psalm of praise to life, my stand for life against death.”
  • some of the greatest attacks came from people in the Reformed tradition
  • accused of univeralism
  • made into mainstream market movie enjoying greater acceptance by non-Christians

At the outset of the article one reads, “While L’Engle considered herself a devout Christian, and sprinkled the book with scriptural references, she was accused of promoting witchcraft.”

I’m sure she found that as encouraging as Paul Young did when faced with similar charges over The Shack.

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When Your Store is Invisible

The local Metroland paper did this full page cover piece with a full page inside.

They featured two stores, one in Port Hope and one in Cobourg.  I know them. Nice stores. Nice people.

But tonight I posted the picture on Facebook and said that as someone who has been paid as a journalist, it would have been normal to see something in a sidebar like “Other local independent bookstores include…” and then a mention of a store that sells primarily used books (but has been inPort Hope for a long, long time) and ourselves (23 years in Cobourg.)

Would have been nice. Would have been helpful.

Maybe one of my customers will write a letter or something. Right now I just feel invisible.

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Previous Industry Shakeups: Trade Paperbacks in the 1950s

Industry shakeups are nothing new. My wife subscribes to Shorpy a website which offers classic, high definition photographs. She forwarded this one to me:

Circa 1940: In an effort to generate more foot traffic in his Chicago camera store, my grandfather Edwin Shutan dedicated a section to a book rental library and hired a staff librarian, Miss Michaels (shown). Edwin charged just 10 cents for three days with no deposit or membership required. His library was immaculate and well-stocked with all the latest titles from authors such as Thornton Wilder, Alexander Woollcott and Lloyd C. Douglas, to name a few. View full size.

If you click to zoom in on the picture, you’re immediately reminded of the days before trade paperbacks; every book in the scene is hardcover.

That got me thinking about the trade paperbacks that now form the backbone of most of our stores. The website Mental Floss looked at this 4 years ago:

…If paperbacks were going to succeed in America, they would need a new model. De Graff, for his part, was well acquainted with the economics of books. He knew that printing costs were high because volumes were low—an average hardcover print run of 10,000 might cost 40 cents per copy. With only 500 bookstores in the U.S., most located in major cities, low demand was baked into the equation.

In the U.K., things were different. There, four years prior, Penguin Books founder Allen Lane had started publishing popular titles with paper bindings and distributed them in train stations and department stores. In his first year of operation, Lane sold more than three million “mass-market” paperbacks.

Quantity was key. De Graff knew that if he could print 100,000 paperbound books, production costs would plummet to 10 cents per copy. But it would be impossible for Pocket Books to turn a profit if it couldn’t reach hundreds of thousands of readers. And that would never happen as long as de Graff relied solely on bookstores for distribution. So de Graff devised a plan to get his books into places where books weren’t traditionally sold. His twist? Using magazine distributors to place Pocket Books in newsstands, subway stations, drugstores, and other outlets to reach the underserved suburban and rural populace…

[I’ve left a huge gap in the story here, you’ll need to click the link]

…Literary authors and critics weren’t the only ones turning up their noses at paperbacks. Bookstore owners, for the most part, refused to stock them, and students at most schools and universities still used hardcover texts.

Enter the “trade paperback.” Publishers had been unsuccessfully experimenting with larger-sized paperbacks since the 1940s, but it wasn’t until Doubleday’s Jason Epstein introduced Anchor Books trade paperbacks in 1953 that the idea caught fire. The idea arose from Epstein’s own college experience. “The writers we had discovered in college were either out of print or available only in expensive hardcover editions,” he wrote in Book Business. Instead of reprinting last year’s hardcover bestsellers and classics, Epstein envisioned a line of “upscale paperbacks” handpicked for their literary merit from publishers’ deep backlists.

Anchor’s trade paperbacks were larger and more durable than mass-market paperbacks and were an instant hit with high schools and colleges. Their attractive covers, illustrated by fine artists such as Edward Gorey, immediately distinguished them from the grittier pulp paperbacks, and they appealed to a more “intellectual” market. As a result, they found a nice middle ground in price. Epstein’s paperbacks had small print runs of about 20,000 and sold for 65 cents to $1.25 when mass-market paperbacks were still going for 25 to 50 cents. Trade paperbacks also opened doors to bookstores. Within 10 years, 85 percent of bookstores carried the handsome volumes.

In 1960, revenues from paperbacks of all shapes and sizes finally surpassed those from hardcover sales…

Click here for the full article.

I also looked at a 200-page, highly-annotated .pdf copy of a 2007 sociological research paper (thesis) Where Did All These Books Come From? The Publishing Industry and American Intellectual Life by Maro N. Asadoorian.

In 1953, Anchor Books was founded, and many consider this the true starting point for trade paperback publishing (Bonn 1995, 267)… “[I]it was during this time [the 1950s] that paperbacks began to sell in very large quantities, eroding somewhat the big sales of hardbound novels” (Hackett 1975, 116). Though the paperback industry faced some challenges during the late 1940s and early 1950s regarding overproduction and clogged distribution channels (Bonn 1995, 265), the industry grew in both size and power as the Age of Acquisitions drew near. In 1957, Publishers Weekly started a separate bestsellers list or paperbacks, and later separated mass market from trade paperbacks (Hackett 1975, 121). In 1968, “trade paperbacks became a feature of the Model Bookshop” at ABA conventions (Grannis 1975, 96) and throughout the 1970s and 1980s paperback houses published more and more original titles (Bonn 1995, 267). As we will see, this growth in paperback publishing was a huge turning point in the direction and attitude of the industry as a whole. As early as the end of World War II it was clear that “most people understood that a large part of the future lay in paperbacks” (Tebbel 1987, 408).  [pp. 87-88]

So who were the winners and who were losers?

The trade paperback impacted hardcover sales — and related author royalties and bookstore margins — but the increased volume meant many more books were being sold. Mass market (pocket) books were great if large volumes could be assured, but the trade paperback offered a safe middle ground for both original works and reprints.

I suspect that then, as now, certain categories responded to the changes differently. Even today we see a much higher percentage of hardcover cookbooks than we find with hardcover young adult fiction.

One thing is certain in publishing: It’s never a unchanging landscape. As with the music business, technology is always the sidebar to every story; almost always the reason for every sweeping trend.

Living Waters Move from Linwood (ON) to Elmira (ON) Finally Approved

The long anticipated move of Living Waters Christian Bookstore from Linwood, ON to Elmira, ON has finally been greenlighted this week by the Township of Woolwich.

Officially listed on their website as Living Waters Book and Toy Store, the store is truly unique among Christian bookstores in Canada for the broad range of additional merchandise it carries; everything from school supplies to trampolines. Steve Kannon at The Observer Extra (a supplement to the Elmira Observer) reported this week:

…Currently based in Linwood, the company wants to consolidate its offices, warehouse space and a retail store under one roof. Now it has the needed official plan amendment and zoning change on the property at 122 Church St. W.

The size of the operation and the non-retail component make a typical core area location, such as downtown Elmira, ill-suited for the company’s needs, noted manager of planning John Scarfone in a report presented to council Tuesday night.

“On the surface, it may be concluded that the type of retail operation and merchandise being sold by Living Waters should logically be directed to Elmira’s Core Area in keeping with that area’s planned function. However, upon additional consideration, Living Waters’ existing, unique and specialized retail, warehouse, distribution and wholesale operations as well as the nature and scale of the proposed business envisioned for the Church Street property, may mean that the service commercial designation may be a more appropriate location,” reads his report.

Although existing zoning on the property already allows some retail, it doesn’t cover the range proposed by Living Waters in keeping with its four retail locations, which includes books/reading material, indoor and outdoor games, Bibles and religious material, kitchenware and gift items, among others…

…Since its launch in 2004 in Linwood, Living Waters has expanded to four locations, with a booming online business and a wholesale operation that provides material to some 100 retailers. It has now outgrown its original home…

Read the full story at this link

…Although I haven’t seen this store, one of my sales reps says it’s a must-visit if you’re ever in the area; especially when some stores may be considering merchandise diversification as a necessary means to long term survival and sustainability .

Media for New Brian Stiller Book

We presented a rundown of the book here a few days ago. Here’s an image for your store Facebook page, website or newsletter.

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Where Would Canadian Christian Stores Stand in a Trade War with the U.S.?

President Trump’s announcement midday today that the U.S. will introduce new tariffs on aluminum and steel has a huge impact on Canada, especially cities such as Hamilton, Ontario which is still called “Steeltown” and although many of the manufacturing plants are gone is still heavily involved in steel production.

CBC-TV’s The National mentions the possibility of a full blown trade war between the two countries. Does it matter to you and me?

The bottom line is that Christian bookstores are largely dependent on American product, even more so than our secular bookstore counterparts. Yes, we carry and promote Canadian authors — I counted 70 in my store most recently — but the actual dollars going through the cash register are largely representing books, CDs, DVDs, and giftware made in the U.S.A. Furthermore, even products like children’s board books, Bibles and the balance of giftware which is made offshore are nonetheless routed through American distributors.

While books enjoy a privileged status because of their cultural value, a trade war would mean Canada could introduce retaliatory duties and tariffs. Many of us remember the days of importation of products which were subject to additional charges which changed their net cost and thereby meant higher retail prices. Could Free Trade as we know it be a thing of the past? …

…I well know the ethics which are supposed to guide us as Christian business people — certainly what Jesus spoke of in The Sermon on the Mount — but when I hear about the U.S. introducing these tariffs, I get angry; it makes me want to guide my store long-term in a direction that is less dependent on U.S. merchandise.

But then what would we sell? Canadian giftware is out there, but you have to dig a little deeper to source it or work more closely with local crafters and artisans. Canadian authors simply don’t have the same name recognition, despite the best efforts of media like 100 Huntley Street so customers still walk through the doors seeking the same U.S. superstar writers.

It’s something that hopefully we won’t need to think about, but remember, the landscape is never static; it’s always changing.

Have you ever tracked how dependent your store is on merchandise originating in the United States?

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Brian Stiller’s New Book, In His Own Words

by Brian Stiller

It all started in Jerusalem, the home place of Christian witness. It then moved out into Asia and Europe, and in time elsewhere, but Europe continued for centuries to be the center of gravity. But then, in the twentieth century, the witness of Jesus broke out in new ways. It spread down through Africa, and a renewed form of faith infused Latin America and took hold in Asia. That center of gravity that once hovered over Jerusalem shifted westward, then south, with it now being around Timbuktu.

Today in every corner of the world, to over two billion people, Jesus has gone global.

Each book has a story. This one began years ago as I traveled, working with colleagues internationally, speaking at churches and staff conferences in various parts of the world. But it particularly took hold of me when in 2011, after stepping down as a university and seminary president, I was invited to immerse my life in the Christian community as global ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance.

Be it in my home country of Canada or in visiting abroad, I was asked to speak on what I was seeing globally. In study and research, reflection, conversation, and observation, I saw particular forces (or as I note, drivers) at work, growing and reshaping the church. I tested these with missiologists, seeking to fairly and accurately identify what is at work today in our global Christian community.

Many factors impinge on and free up the gospel witness. Much has been written, as is indicated in the bibliography. My interest was to get to the heart of the drivers creating such remarkable growth. As Patrick Johnstone has noted about this period, “Evangelical Christianity grew at a rate faster than any other world religion or global religious movement.”1 In 1960, Evangelicals numbered just under 90 million, and by 2010 that had reached close to 600 million. I wanted to find out who and what they were. I also wanted to see what, within my lifetime, has engaged and continues to engage the reshaping of the church to which I belonged.

My life has been lived in the convictions and practices of an Evangelical community. Raised in the home of a Pentecostal church leader, after university—and for more than fifty years—I served in various Evangelical ministries, all the while building friendships and partnerships with Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and mainline Protestants. However, I know best this Christian communion. In general, my writing concerns itself with the Evangelical world, although occasionally statistics will encompass the entire Christian community.

A number of labels are used to describe this Christian world of “Evangelicals.” I include Pentecostals, as their history and theology is family in the Evangelical community. In some cases, to give emphasis, I use terms such as Evangelical/Pentecostal, or Evangelicals and Pentecostals, as in some countries, Pentecostals make up more than half of Evangelicals.

The shifting force of faith, in a world most often described in materialistic and commercial terms, is a factor that no longer can be denied, be it by a country leader, academic, or social observer. Each year, as more and more people in the Global South embrace Christian faith, the center of density of Christian populations pushes further south, leaving the real (and emblematic) city of Timbuktu toward places never before imagined.


Canada’s Brian C. Stiller is former President of Youth for Christ Canada, former President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada former President of Tyndale University College and Seminary and is now Global Ambassador, The World Evangelical Alliance.

978-0-8308-4527-9 | 248 page paperback | IVP Web-page & Reviews | in Canada: Parasource Distribution

Author’s blog and source for this article: Dispatches From the Global Village

The Quest for Product Diversification

I’ve seen these before but they are an interesting lesson in marketing. Indigo’s “Reading Socks” are first and foremost a lesson in product base diversification.  It’s a fun add-on. Not sure how it performs for them, but worth a try.

Second, it’s a lesson in originating your own brand name product. They are sourcing and then packaging this under their own name, not someone else’s label. No doubt the margin is better than average. This isn’t always easy in a single, independent store, but occasionally we will repackage merchandise — often through changing quantities or re-purposing a product sourced in the general market — and slap our own label on it.

Third and finally, it shows how hungry booksellers are for sales. We’re always looking at ways to increase sales in our own store though we’re limited by space. Many of you offer coffee and pastries in a corner of your store which can accomplish the same thing. Some of you have simply included a wide variety of books beyond those normally associated with Christian stores. These items can increase the bottom line and make it possible to stay viable in the long term and fulfill your commitment to the higher purpose of your store.

Photo: Aaron Wilkinson

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A Billy Bibliography

This is from the Billy Graham page at Wikipedia. How many of these do you remember?

  • Calling Youth to Christ (1947)
  • America’s Hour of Decision (1951)
  • I Saw Your Sons at War (1953)
  • Peace with God (1953, 1984)
  • Freedom from the Seven Deadly Sins (1955)
  • The Secret of Happiness (1955, 1985)
  • Billy Graham Talks to Teenagers (1958)
  • My Answer (1960)
  • Billy Graham Answers Your Questions (1960)
  • World Aflame (1965)
  • The Challenge (1969)
  • The Jesus Generation (1971)
  • Angels: God’s Secret Agents (1975, 1985)
  • How to Be Born Again (1977)
  • The Holy Spirit (1978)
  • Evangelist to the World (1979)
  • Till Armageddon (1981)
  • Approaching Hoofbeats (1983)
  • A Biblical Standard for Evangelists (1984)
  • Unto the Hills (1986)
  • Facing Death and the Life After (1987)
  • Answers to Life’s Problems (1988)
  • Hope for the Troubled Heart (1991)
  • Storm Warning (1992)
  • Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (1997, 2007)
  • Hope for Each Day (2002)
  • The Key to Personal Peace (2003)
  • Living in God’s Love: The New York Crusade (2005)
  • The Journey: How to Live by Faith in an Uncertain World (2006)
  • Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well (2011)
  • The Heaven Answer Book (2012)
  • The Reason for My Hope: Salvation (2013)
  • Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond the Now (2015)

The entry noted that, “In the 1970s, for instance, The Jesus Generation sold 200,000 copies in the first two weeks after publication; Angels: God’s Secret Agents had sales of a million copies within 90 days after release; How to Be Born Again was said to have made publishing history with its first printing of 800,000 copies.”


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