Name Tags: Yay or Nay?

Does your store have staff name tags?

This is something we haven’t done. It’s a small store. It’s a small staff.

Lately I’ve been thinking about this. We serve a lot of regional customers who don’t know us. They might benefit by putting a name to the face.

I’ve also made a point of introducing myself at some point in the conversation, “My name’s Paul; I’m the store owner.”

I also find that customers want to know a little about the people serving. We’re putting our music and speaking schedule on tomorrow’s newsletter so people will know what my wife and I are up to.

That also confuses people. The primary employee — she’s visible more than I am — isn’t my wife. I suppose a first-and-last-name tag would clear that up, though some employees we hired over the years probably would prefer not to have that level of identification.

So…does your staff use them?

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Student Editions Build on Familiar Titles

This week in our store we’re featuring books with “Student Edition” in the title. These are not all of them, just some that were grabbed to make a quick display.  Many of our authors create student editions of their books for middle school or high school kids to better understand the concept of their bestsellers.

I split the shelf for this to render better on Facebook; left to right:

  • Mark Batterson (he has 3 others, all done with his son Parker),
  • Haley DiMarco (actually all her books are student editions; I’m not sure how this ended up on the shelf!),
  • Kyle Idleman (4 titles available),
  • Joyce Meyer (Battlefield for Teens, book spine is facing out, I should have swapped it out with Haley for the picture we posted on our store Facebook; not surprising there’s also a kids edition of Battlefield),
  • Lee Strobel (a total of six titles available and those same six titles also have a kids edition),
  • Lysa TerKeurst, and
  • Scot McKnight.

Not showing are

  • Christine Caine,
  • Max Lucado (he’s done 14, not all are in print)
  • The Story Bible, and
  • 3 titles by Mark Hall of Casting Crowns.

Great summer reading idea for the teen guy or girl in your customer’s family of sphere of influence.

The advantage of student editions is that these are editions of books with which adult readers are already quite familiar. Out of all the Christian books published for young adults, I would guess these probably represent about 2%, 3% or perhaps 4% at most.

Did I miss any?


Toronto’s Faith Culture Store Moving to an Unknown Location

A number of people have mentioned Faith Culture and we haven’t reported anything here because nothing concrete has been posted to the store website or Facebook page.

What we’ve been told by several people is that the team was unable to reach a deal with their landlord moving forward, and that unsold inventory was being boxed up and put in storage pending a solution.

(Anyone knowing more on good authority is welcome to contact us.)

Faith Culture was formed nearly a decade ago out of the closing of the Toronto R. G. Mitchell Family Books store. It was originally run by Castle Quay Publishing’s Larry Willard until a severe automobile accident several years ago forced him to step back. Several years ago the store was rebranded as a Christian store and event centre, with a wide variety of activities taking place each month.

The city of Scarborough — the easternmost city comprising Metro Toronto — is currently served by a Catholic book and supply store and a handful of Christian stores having a focus on the Asian community. The nearest Christian bookstore within the city limits would be Cornerstone at Yonge and Finch.

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A Book Every Store Should Purchase for Its Own Use

This week we were truly blessed when a former customer, now living on the other side of the continent, gifted us with a copy of Best Bible Books: New Testament Resources by John Glynn with contributions from 4 other writers; published just weeks ago by Kregel Academic.

On a book-by-book basis, it lists the books it consider best resources and the books which are better resources and the ones which are simply good, as well as, at the end of each Biblical book’s section recommending additional books on other subjects which arise out of those texts. (The good/better/best ranking is done as each title arises alphabetically; one needs to read through the listings carefully.)

More than just a recommended list, it offers an informed rundown of the approach the author takes in each; followed by the format and usability.

It’s important to state that the books do not all receive glowing recommendations; there are some tough criticisms here which means no pastor, professor or student will end up with a resource which differed from their expectations.

Many of us in Christian retail often find ourselves out of our depth when dealing with customers seeking scholarly and academic resources. We want to be an authoritative source of this type of information, but the customer is usually better informed than we are.

Again, to be clear, this is a resource that each staff member should spend at least ten minutes gaining overall familiarity with, and then it should be kept behind the counter. When a customer asks for a good book on Galatians, you turn to that section and pass the book to the customer.

Many of the recommended books are from mainstream sources, though retailers will encounter some esoteric publishers. Page counts are given but not U.S. list prices. There are some expensive titles to be sure, and Canadian stores also need to consider short discounts when establishing a domestic price to offer the customer if there is no distributor here.

Publisher marketing:

There are thousands of excellent resources in the field of New Testament studies. But which tools are best for sermon preparation, topical study, research, or classroom study? In Best Bible Books, the authors review and recommend hundreds of books, saving pastors, students, and scholars time, effort, and money.

Glynn and Burer examine commentaries on every book of the New Testament, describing their approach, format, and usability; they then rank them on a scale of good, better, and best. Other chapters survey special studies for each New Testament book as well as books in related disciplines such as historical background, language resources, and hermeneutics. Also included are helpful chapters on building a must-have personal library, and identifying books that comprise the ultimate New Testament commentary collection. This is an indispensable resource for any serious student of the Bible.

Additional sections include recommended resources on general New Testament background, Jewish context, Jesus in the Gospels, and commentary series themselves.

To repeat, this is a book your store gives itself. Keep it handy. We’re hoping to use ours to answer many questions we could never answer previously.

Paperback | 336 pages | 9780825443985 | $27.99 US | $37.79 CDN (Parasource; phone order only; not on B2B)

Canadian Merchants Being Duped by Non-Official Indian Status Cards

CBC News is reporting tonight that an identification card from the Confederation of Aboriginal People of Canada is being presented to major retailers as if it were a Indian Status Band Identification card. The report comes at the beginning of the second half hour of the newscast.

This is a sample of the card you should NOT be accepting. Look for the word Confederation in the upper left.  The more familiar cards entitle the bearer to provincial tax exemption; everyone pays the 5% GST unless you the merchant personally deliver the merchandise to reservation land.

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Ontario Conservatives 2019 Minimum Wage Cancellation: Good News and Bad News

A year ago we used this CBC News graphic to show the proposed difference in Ontario minimum wages. On Thursday, the province elected a Progressive Conservative government which vows to cancel the final stage of the increase, from $14 per hour to $15 per hour originally scheduled for January 1st, 2019.

It might be hard to envision anything bad about the promise by newly-elected Ontario Conservatives to cancel the second stage of the province’s minimum wage law, but hear me out.

In January the minimum went from $11.60 per hour to $14.00 per hour. All at once. Some retailers took a big hit from this. Staffing levels and store hours were put under the microscope.

In our case, our primary employees have been with us for a long time. Our system is set up so that employees receive a merit increase every 6th paycheque (i.e. every 12 weeks) of 1%, ending each year with an average 4.3% increase (which is better than some union contracts.)

So our employees were above $14 per hour when the change happened. (We had to accelerate the 1% increases for one employee, but she was deserving.)

However, for 2018, we took a look at the dollar amount each employee had been above the minimum before the change on January 1st, 2018, and where they stood now. (We chose to do dollar amounts, and not percentages, which would have been more costly to consider.)

Additionally though, we also looked at where they need to be on January 1st, 2019 relative to where they had been on December 31st, 2017.

We decided the only way to accomplish this was with a series of accelerated increases every 6th paycheque, not just 1%.

So our employees have been on a trajectory to enter 2019 with a wage rate that exceeds the minimum that was to have taken effect on January 1, 2019.

That was the plan.

But the cancellation announced by Doug Ford’s incoming government in the past few days means we need to revisit our carefully designed plans. (One employee has already suggested we’re paying her too much.) It also means that over all, we’re currently paying a little on the high side, something we can ill afford to do in a small town market.

It’s difficult to make plans. You can plan for an increase, but then, almost halfway through the year as we are, it’s hard to adjust for an increase that’s not happening, short of freezing the recurring increases.

For those of you in Ontario with part time student staff, I suppose this is a win; and it is for us as well, but not being able to foresee this was disturbing. Our goal was to ease into the increase, but for those of you whose stores pay rock bottom minimum, this would work out quite well, I guess.

For the record, our employees also get a 10% discount on store merchandise and an annual Christmas dinner for employees and their spouses or guests. I’d be curious to know how that compares at your store.

Flashback – One Year Ago – Miminum Wage Increase Will Be Hardship for Christian Stores

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Supplier Again Undercuts Stores with Massive Discount

Canadian Christian retailers are finding their DVD department is becoming a flashpoint for much angst, frustration and difficult pricing decisions.

After being the target of much anger from retailers over its direct sales, Parasource has done it again offering more than 50% off a forthcoming movie release. There’s certainly no interest in making friends with customers in its trade division with this discount on the movie I Can Only Imagine. For as little as a single copy, the DVD is $19.88 and the DVD/Blu-Ray combo is $24.96 when purchased at their consumer website.

At first, we were tipped off on this because of a newsletter sent Friday to churches and ministry leaders. But closer examination showed that the offer is available to anyone. As of 11:00 AM EDT, the company had 325 copies in stock, a quantity that should easily sell through at wholesale, so this retail move isn’t exactly panic selling.

Rather, it’s an admission that the suggested retail price on this item is completely meaningless. As we reported Monday, American CBA stores have been offered a lower list price of only $17.99:

The price on Paul: Apostle of Christ was also higher than we’ve seen before, at $35.99 CDN. This comes at a time when many consumers have walked away from physical DVDs completely, opting to stream movies on demand on services such as Netflix. If anything, one would have expected to see lower, not higher DVD pricing.

The problem comes when stores start having to radically discount DVD product each time. That results in a erosion of profit, the return on investment (ROI) making stores less viable or sustainable over time. Presently, some stores are following the logic which states: Better to just make a few dollars in order to generate store traffic which might drive other purchases.

Hopefully, that strategy is proved correct.


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Facebook Paid Advertising Fails to Deliver

Following some advice from a comment at Christian Retail Insights Group, I decided to spring for an inexpensive advertisement in support of the I Can Only Imagine DVD, releasing Tuesday.

We’ve done this once before and decided to set a geographical limit of 40 km from an point north of store (because the map Facebook draws is a circle, and with Lake Ontario, using our store as the centre point didn’t make much sense. It also eliminates the interactions we did have last time with people in Niagara Falls who didn’t know where Cobourg was.)(Update: This time it was Wisconsin.)

We chose a demographic starting at age 24, since anyone younger than this have eschewed DVDs at this point.

We were promised a minimum of 470 placements with a possible maximum of about 2,100. (I don’t remember the exact high number but it was at least that.) The key of course, is their use of the word “up to” and I would have been happy just to have 470 receive our announcement.

But for the second time in a row, Facebook didn’t deliver. Just hours before the promotion ended we were still stalled in the low 200s and of course there’s nothing we could do to change this. Then it crept up a little higher, and with minutes left, they were claiming the number below, which they say ended with a reach of 305 people

I can get 305 people any day, just by strongly encouraging my customers to share a particular post.

Facebook took our money, and all communications with them come from a “no-reply” address, so there’s no appeal.

This was the second try, and at this point: Never again.

I’m glad it works for some people. It doesn’t work for us.

Number of orders for the movie = zero.

Number of other types of inquiries from people hearing about us for the first time = zero.

Number of phone interactions resulting from the promotion = zero.

Categories: Uncategorized

Burlington’s Christian Store Revisits General Market Books

Anyone who has dabbled in remainder books has probably seen great titles on offer which lie outside the Christian marketplace but represent genuine value to customers and wondered, “What if…”

The staff at Family Christian in Burlington, Ontario recognized the potential in some of those bargain titles and in the Fall of 2015 opened Froogal, just a few doors away from their own store.  We looked at that store opening in this article. Sadly, months later, in January 2017 they decided to halt the experiment and cut their losses. We reported on that in this article.

Then, this month, they announced that Froogal was back, stating,

“…we have created a “Froogal” section in the basement of The Family Christian Bookstore. The same great selection of baby and children’s books, craft books, puzzle books and activity books that you know and love is now located at 750 Guelph Line, just up the road!”

There’s also a link to their online inventory, powered by BookManager.

For those who loved the Family Christian bargain basement just the way it was, this may cut into one of their favourite places, but bargain book shoppers often read beyond the limits of religious publishing, and with children’s picture books and reference works all located in the same building, they might just decide it’s more of a win than a loss.

Furthermore, the owners are coming into this wiser by virtue of their first experiment. We certainly wish them the best in this iteration of Froogal, and we’ll be watching to see if this could be a model for other Christian stores which have some unexploited space to spare.

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Things to Know About the Longest Running Bible Bestseller: The KJV

I have never been a reader of history books, be they Canadian or American history, or even world history. The middle and high schools I attended were the product of experimental education theories, and I actually have no history credits in high school itself, and my middle school history notes would fill about 16 notebook pages. As a result I have a reading deficiency which fortunately does not extend to fiction or biography, but does impair my knowledge of church history.

God's SecretariesSo five years ago when I picked up the book God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible a 2005 HarperCollins title by Adam Nicholson, I didn’t realize I was going to finish it, or I might have made more notes. Still there are few things I remember the next morning worth noting, especially given the strange Bibliolatry which surrounds this version in the 21st century.

The Translators were highly motivated by the prestige the project would bring. Climbing the ecclesiastical ladder was as important then as now, and also brought with it political ramifications to more than a few of them. Being a Translator (always spelled with a capital T) meant being part of an exclusive echelon of pastors and theological professors. Like today’s megachurch pastors, they were religious superstars.

Politics guided certain aspects of the translation and what did — or in this case what mostly didn’t — get included in marginal notes.

The Christian community included several different streams. Although the Translators were ostensibly working for the state church, the Church of England, it was against a backdrop which included Roman Catholics and Puritans.

The King, for all his failings, was astute theologically. There was more Biblical literacy back then, and the King was capable of engaging a variety of Bible themes. When was the last time you heard Queen Elizabeth discuss doctrine? Perhaps today advisors to the monarch encourage keeping a safe distance from topics that could be divisive.

However, once it was initiated, the King distanced himself from the day to day workings of the project. There is no evidence that the King interfered once the work was underway.

There is no hint of inspiration included in the mandate given to the Translators. This is important because today there are some marginal groups that use the KJV exclusively and insist that the translation team rested on an inspiration that was secondary or even equal to the original Biblical writers. “There is no hint of inspiration, or even of prayerfulness, no idea that the Translators are to be in the right frame of mind. [Instead] There are exact directions, state orders, not literary or theological suggestions…This is a job to be done…” (p.72)

While literacy increased greatly in the 17th century,priority was given to how the Bible sounded when spoken aloud, not how it communicated when read quietly to oneself. They prized ornamental language, however this had one drawback…

The King James Bible was considered outdated on the day it was published. We often complain about the older language of the KJV being difficult to follow, but from day one the same complaint was heard; the Bible was considered to be using language that was already 60-70 years out of date.

The preface to the original KJV doesn’t quote itself. It’s interesting that there are references in the preface to verses from other translations. In one spot, this affected the verse numbering system used, which means the citation referred to in the introduction is very difficult to find in the Bible it is introducing. It is as though the translation team did not have confidence in the product on offer, a fact confirmed by the following…

Many of the Translators continued to preach from existing versions after completion of the project. Initial acceptance of the project was minimal to say the least.

Nonetheless, the King James Bible was considered a great achievement for both the 17th century church and the nation itself. “…It is easy to see it as England’s equivalent to the great baroque cathedral it never built…”

The King James edition of the Bible was published containing the Apocrypha. I know this is old news to some of you, but it’s interesting to mention it again in light of who currently most uses and reveres the KJV today.

The Translators did not view the KJV as guided by the principles of formal correspondence. They would be very surprised to see the current classification of their work among formal equivalence translations since their goal was dynamic equivalence. What we call formal equivalence was a Puritan value they were seeking to avoid.

The King James Bible of 1611 was, depending on who you ask, about 80% identical to the Tyndale Bible. Although the Lutheran pastor was unable to finish his Old Testament, and worked in exile and was eventually martyred, it’s clear the Translators held William Tyndale’s work in high esteem as they drafted the KJV.

Because of the original KJV was consider an update of an existing work, there is nothing of what we would call today “Library of Congress Publication Data.” This means there isn’t an official record of its publication since it was considered an update of an existing work. Today, that’s almost — but not quite — like saying the book wouldn’t have been assigned an ISBN.

The authority of scripture did not negate the need to work out the details of ordinary living. “The difference came in deciding on the lawfulness of religious behavior and belief that were not mentioned in the Bible. If something wasn’t mentioned, did that mean God had no view on it? Or if it wasn’t mentioned, did that mean that God did not approve of it?” (p. 123)

Would the Translators be surprised to see their edition still on bookstore shelves today? Yes and no. I think they would be surprised to see the extreme cult following that has surrounded it, especially among those who claim that salvation cannot be found in any other translation.

It’s also doubtful that those same KJV-Only leaders would be aware of the history I just finished reading. The story frequently refers to Lancelot Andrewes (yes, it’s spelled correctly), director of The First Westminster Company (one of six translation teams) who ought then to be revered as a saint by those who hold the KJV in such high esteem. But how many of those who claim the King James edition’s exclusivity have ever heard his name? Perhaps the truth would get in the way of the agenda.

The beauty and majesty of the KJV are unique. It has served us well enough for 407 years. But the particular translation was never intended to be venerated.

What Other Stores are Buying

Back when we lived in Toronto, I would often find myself waiting for something at the end of the wholesale picking line at R. G. Mitchell Family Books and I would walk up and down the conveyor belt looking at the books in the totes for other stores. It was never a disappointing experience, and it was often, in those pre-internet times, the first exposure I had to some titles.

I view the overnight updates sales reports from Spring Arbor the same way.

To access these through your Ingram account, use the “Browse” tab, and from the pull-down menu select “bestsellers” and then choose “Spring Arbor Top 100.” In addition to what’s below you’ll see images, format and date of publication. You can then rearrange the list to sort by price or release date

It can be quite a mixed-up list. Remember also that many U.S. Christian stores sell to home-schoolers. Here’s the one from today, posting sales activity from yesterday:

Rank Product Name Contributor EAN/
Product Code
Supplier SRP
1 Number the Stars (English) Lowry, Lois 9780547577098
Houghton Mifflin $7.99
2 100 Days to Brave: Devotions for Unlocking Your Most Courageous Self (English) Downs, Annie F 9780310089629
Zondervan $16.99
3 Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (Classic Seuss) (English) Dr Seuss 9780679805274
Random House Books for Young Readers $18.99
4 The Quest – Study Journal: An Excursion Toward Intimacy with God (English) Moore, Beth 9781462766604
Lifeway Church Resources $21.00
5 The Power of Faith: Entering Into the Fullness of God’s Possibilities (Reissue, Faith to Live by (Rep) (English) Prince, Derek 9781641230223
Whitaker House $12.99
6 The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts (English) Chapman, Gary 9780802412706
Northfield Publishing $15.99
7 Goodnight Moon (English) Brown, Margaret Wise 9780694003617
HarperFestival $8.99
8 Saint Joseph Medium Size Bible-NABRE (New American Bible Revised) (English) Catholic Book Publishing Co 9780899429502
Catholic Book Publishing Corp $9.75
9 Bible Highlighters (Set of 6) (English) Peter Pauper Press, Inc 9781441324733
Peter Pauper Press $7.99
10 Through Death to Life (REV): Preparing to Celebrate the Funeral Mass (English) Champlin, Joseph M 9781594712838
Ave Maria Press $4.95
11 Facing Codependence (English) Mellody, Pia 9780062505897
HarperOne $16.99
12 Jesus Calling for Graduates (Jesus Calling(r)) (English) Young, Sarah 9780718087418
Thomas Nelson $15.99
13 I’ll Push You: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair (English) Gray, Patrick 9781496421708
Tyndale House Publishers $15.99
14 Text Bible-NASB (English) Foundation Publication Inc 9781885217721
Foundation Publications $6.99
15 Mama Dip’s Kitchen (English) Council, Mildred 9780807847909
University of North Carolina Press $21.00
16 The Book of Hope (English) Tyndale 9780842333665
Tyndale House Publishers $0.99
17 God Calling (Inspirational Library (Paperback)) (English) Russell, A J 9781557481108
Barbour Publishing $5.99
18 Santa Biblia-NVI-Economica (Spanish) Nueva Version Internacional 9780829760231
Vida Publishers $2.99
19 The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise (English) Sarah, Cardinal Robert 9781621641919
Ignatius Press $18.95
20 Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People (English) Goff, Bob 9780718078133
Thomas Nelson $16.99
21 The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships (English) Stabile, Suzanne 9780830846429
IVP Books $24.00
22 Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again (English) Evans, Rachel Held 9780718022310
Thomas Nelson $16.99
23 Brave New World (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) (English) Huxley, Aldous 9780060850524
Harper Perennial $15.99
24 God’s Creative Power for Healing (English) Capps, Charles 9780982032008
Capps Publishing $1.99
25 None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) (English) Wilkin, Jen 9781433549830
Crossway Books $12.99


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Movie’s Price Cut Not Applicable to Canadian Stores

You have to envy our U.S. brothers and sisters who waited for and got this deal from Anchor Distributors. Even at the highest conversion formula around right now — 1.4000 x US — the price would be just a bit over $24.99.

But try the speedy number, 152668, in your Anchor/WA search and you’re still at $35.99. Exactly double.

I’m deliberately not naming the movie in the above graphic because I don’t want to drive search engine traffic to this story, but just between us, it does all seem a bit unfair. Even with the short discount (30%) showing on the Canadian site, if they rounded down to $24.99 you’d be looking at a cost price of $17.49 for buying as few as a single copy. With the 10-plus extra discount, you’d be at $16.24 net.

Was Provident Distribution planning a CBA offer all along that our Canadian supplier simply missed out on?

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