Archive for August, 2008

Magazines – Great Product Line or Grand Nuisance?

Some of our topics will arise from things in the comments section of other posts.

Today’s topic is magazines. Good idea, or bad idea? Do they sell other products, or take “readers” away from books? If you didn’t know what they were, would you want to accept a product that had only a 30-day shelf life? What are the real costs after returning covers? Do you always get your returns in on time? Do you glance at them yourself to be aware of trends, authors and products?

We’re thankful for the initial reaction to this blog, but we’d like to involve many more people. If you know of a Christian retailer who didn’t hear about this site, be sure to let them know. We’re also interested in hearing from retired owners and store staff.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Challenge of Finding Good Staff

First of all, thanks to those of you who have sent direct e-mails and posted comments over the last 48 hours. We might be on to something here.

The subject of staff came up in the comments section. During the last 13 years, we’ve employed 37 people in Lindsay, Cobourg and Brockville, Ontario. (We no longer are in Lindsay.) In almost every case, almost from the beginning, we’ve employed the following questionnaire instead of a regular application form. This has worked REALLY WELL for us.

Let me know what you think, or perhaps you have something that works EVEN BETTER!

Searchlight Pre-Interview Questionnaire

(1) We hire mostly from our customer base. So….read any good books lately? What are some recent or classic Christian titles that mean a lot to you?

(2) What other Christian bookstores have you enjoyed shopping at?

(3) We sell a variety of styles of music. How do you feel about selling a Christian rock CD to a teenager with facial piercings and purple hair?

(4) What are your feelings about the variety of Bible translations on the market? Would you be open to selling the various types we carry?

(5) Do you own or have you used Bible reference materials such as a Concordance or Bible Dictionary?

(6) If someone walked in and ask you to, would you be comfortable praying with someone in the store?

(7) If the cash register fails, are you comfortable completing a transaction manually in a sales books, with different rates of tax?

(8) Skill-testing question re. the above: If books are subject to 6% GST, and CDs are subject to 6% GST and 8% PST, and there is no tax at all on gift certificates, what is the total sale amount on the following: a $20 book, a $20 CD and a $20 Gift Certificate?

(9) We refer people to a variety of local churches depending on their story. Are you familiar with the worship patterns of a few different denominations and comfortable recommending a church to someone even if it’s not your personal first choice?

(10) Since our staff are basically, “working for peanuts” do you feel a sense of calling to this type of ministry that would override financial considerations?

(11) While human rights legislation prevents limiting applicants on the basis of faith, is there anything in your personal faith journey that you feel would be helpful for us to know, given the nature of the store and its customers, or part of your own faith story you wish to tell?

Categories: Uncategorized

The Last Shall Be First

Now that you’re here, you need to know this is a “blog page” which means that the article at the top of the page is actually the most recent thing posted, and to go to the “beginning” you actually need to scroll down to the bottom and start there to catch up on what’s been posted.  If a new discussion topic (called a ‘thread’ in some blogs and forums) is introduced, it will appear at the TOP, and the other articles (called “posts”) get moved further down.

Remember, the main reason this page has been set up is for YOUR comments.  The more you contribute to this, the better it will be.

So right now, scroll down to the bottom of this page, and start reading the articles working your way up.   Don’t actually read the articles backwards, that would be silly.

Categories: Uncategorized

CMC Closing (gasp!)

Like everybody else in business, you probably wet your finger and then hold it up to see which way the wind is blowing. What do you when one of your primary suppliers suddenly announces they are going to cease to exist as an autonomous distributor?

What do they know about the future of compact disc and DVD retail that the rest of us don’t? And isn’t the DVD part of the market actually in a growth cycle right now? And why not do this in January, isn’t Christmas just around the corner?

I’m sure the news was no surprise to some but left others shaking their heads. Click below on the word “comments” next to the word “uncategorized”  to make your views heard to other retailers, or anyone else who happens to wander by this blog page.

How will this impact Christian music sales in your store?

Rearrange the letters CMC and you get CCM. This month coincidentally marks the final print edition of what was once the largest paid circulation Christian magazine.

Categories: Uncategorized


When the price of everything you sell is going down, but the price of everything else (including your costs and wage rates) is going up, it means you’re in a deflationary industry.

When the Canadian dollar reached (and exceeded) par with the U.S. dollar, Canadian booksellers — whose prices are always somewhat indexed to the U.S. list price — had reason to panic.   The cost of books was down, but each sale was yielding less and less return, while the effort needed to make the sale was the same.   Some thought people would just buy more books, but that didn’t always happen.

How do you deal with being part of a deflationary industry?   Are you aware of it?   Have you done the math?

Now the Canadian dollar is falling.   It’s hard not to have mixed feelings about that.   Is this a good thing for us?   For the customer?   Is there a bigger picture to all this?

Click on the word “comments” and give us your version of Economics 101.   Remember, just a few years ago a $12.99 U.S. book was $21.50 Canadian.   Today that same book is around $14.50.   That’s seven less dollars per book sale going through the cash register.   That’s got to hurt, right?

Categories: Uncategorized

Nobody Understands Me…

Do you ever feel like an odd duck when you go to church? You’re in ministry, but not in the sense that pastors, counselors and missionaries are. You’re working hard for little return, but some people think you’re making big bucks off the gospel. You’re kind of interested in getting to know the guy at church who manages the Home Depot and the woman who has a chain of clothing stores, but you’re experience of retail is just so different from theirs. You’re an expert on different strains of theology, can use a concordance or Bible dictionary with your eyes closed, and have experience dealing with people from umpteen different denominations, but nobody ever thinks of you as the go-to person when they have some deep questions. You have a four-drawer filing cabinet filled with glossy catalogs, but you’re rarely asked to recommend a specific resource for a specific church project.

Okay, maybe that’s just me. But how does what you do relate to what everybody else does?

And what about calling? Did you once feel called to be in the Christian bookstore biz? Do you still?

Click on the word “comments” — under this paragraph — and write your heart out. You can make up a name; as long as the comment is worth something we’ll use it. But if you’re from a store and want to identify it, go ahead.

Categories: Uncategorized

Bookstore Owners Sometimes Just Need To Talk

This is the 5th webpage for which I have responsibility, so there aren’t going to be a lot of posts to this blog. But I do know that here in Canada, changes to our industry are coming fast and furious and it’s really hard to keep up. It’s also hard to find someone to talk to who really knows and really understands the unique features of our commercial ministries.

So by putting this blog up, and leaving the comments section open, I’m hoping that those who want to talk can talk, and those who want to rant can rant, and those who have questions can ask them.

This is intended as a forum for CANADIAN Christian Bookstore OWNERS and STAFF, but if you’re reading this from the USA or the UK, or you’re just a big huge fan of Christian books; feel free to chime in, but identify yourself as such. Stores which want to can SIGN their comments, or you can just use your username, or you can create something anonymous. Feel free to come back to the discussion often; and feel free to post comments to various discussions at the same time.

Where it asks for your URL, if you’re not a blogger, you can use your store website instead; just use it in the form beginning http://

Each time something new develops, we’ll create a new post to start a new discussion thread, but feel free to keep the older discussion subjects alive, too.

This first entry is also set up as a “page” that exists outside of the blog chronology.

Paul Wilkinson is the owner of Searchlight Books in Brockville and Cobourg, Ontario; and has been in the Christian Book & Music biz for 33 years, approx ten in mail order/direct sales, ten in wholesale, and thirteen in retail.

Categories: Uncategorized