Home > Uncategorized > One Year Anniversary of R. G. Mitchell Bankruptcy

One Year Anniversary of R. G. Mitchell Bankruptcy

September 15, 2009

R. G. MitchellIt didn’t shake the world like September 11th, 2001; but September 15th, 2008 left some Canadian Christian retailers remembering where they were when they heard the news.

Following the bankruptcy of Blessings — the largest chain in the country — and the closure of CMC — the largest Christian music distributor in Canada — came the sudden closing of both R. G. Mitchell wholesale and the eight stores of Mitchell Family Books.   Around the same time came word the largest individual store in the country, Christian Publications in Calgary, would close its doors and those of two of its three satellite locations.

mitchell logoThe Mitchell situation sent U.S. publishers scrambling to find new distribution arrangements while at the same time reeling from losses that would never be recovered, many of them six-figure losses and one which was seven figures; and at the same time dealing with a domestic economy that was in deep recession.    It also left many people who had lived and breathed the Christian book industry out of work, only a handful of whom found employment in other facets of Christian book retail and distribution.

The liquidation process took about eighteen weeks and while some retailers were able to take advantage of the situation, others either could not or chose not to.    In addition to publishers, all types of companies and individuals contracted to do business with RGM also took a loss; though oddly, many of the smaller suppliers to the Canadian industry were not on the receiver’s list because RGM’s retail stores didn’t do business with them.

Only one of the former Mitchell Family Books retail stores performs the same function today, re-christened as Michael’s Family Books in Pickering.   But many feel the new Faith Family Books in Scarborough is a resurrection of the MFB flagship store in Willowdale, albeit with an entirely different retail philosophy.    The western part of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has been the hardest hit, as events took place in an economic climate that wasn’t conducive to retail startup.

This writer was offered the Kingston store by the receiver, but the facility was just too large to maintain business viability in shifting times.   Currently, the entire city of Kingston is served by a small outlet with a history of sales to the liturgical church market.

The publishers who struck new arrangements tended to do so along doctrinal lines.   It wasn’t surprising to see Baker/Bethany go to David C. Cook where Bethany had been before, along with doctrinally conservative Moody, Kregel and Broadman.   Westminster JohnKnox Press and Abingdon are a good fit for historically Lutheran Augsburg-Fortress Canada who traded Concordia with Foundation’s Multnomah/Waterbrook.    Foundation picked up Harvest House, NavPress, Tyndale and Gospel Light; but both they and Cook jettisoned smaller lines in order to take on these larger ones.

HarperCollins Canada appeared to sit on the sidelines watching the whole thing unfold from a distance, even though they have a history of negotiating beyond the U.S. Collins family, and have what sometimes appears to be infinite warehouse capacity.

Thomas Nelson decided to go it alone, servicing the Canadian market the way STL and Ingram do, with direct shipping from Nashville.   TNI took the greatest hit on the RGM closure and probably once so bitten, is now twice shy.

Some say that the division of the old RGM product lines leaves us with a healthier, more balanced wholesale market in Canada.   Others miss the streamlining of one-stop shopping that existed before — forgetting of course that Foundation and Cook and Augsburg already had other important lines.

There is no doubt however that the current situation leaves Cook as the dominant player in the Canadian market, but that was fairly well decided on September 1st, 2008 with the CMC acquisition.

Canadian retailers:  What are your thoughts one year later?

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  1. I.M. Disollusioned
    December 12, 2011 at 2:26 am

    All I can remember about this company is GREED. They pursued a retail operation which, IMHO, effectively finally led to the demise of the Evangelical Publishers bookstore, thus leaving downtown Toronto with no Christian bookstore at all; they effectively took the business away from Today’s Christian Bookstore – a long-time customer and supporter of theirs – when they opened their new warehouse book store, and they utilized the extra discount they got as distributors to crowd the GTA with their own new bookstore chain, having essentially killed off all of the independents in a ruthless pursuit of their own profit. Then they went down and left a gaping hole in the market – and Toronto with no Christian literature testimony in large areas of the city, having helped to extinguish it. I was close to those events. The original Mr. Mitchell would never, IMHO, have so savaged the independent Christian bookstores which had supported him – mission simply got replaced by hard-headed, hard-hearted business here, in my opinion, and this was the inevitable result.

    • paulthinkingoutloud
      December 12, 2011 at 7:58 am

      I remember Today’s Christian Bookstore well; but years later, I did a quick history of stores in the GTA at the time and we counted twenty two (22) which were affected by the RGM retail chain over a six year period, including Richmond Hill, Markham, Stouffville, three in Willowdale, and the ones you mention.

      As long as we’re listing the seven deadly sins, I would have picked pride over greed for a number of reasons.

      And I agree, Gordon Mitchell was a man of highest integrity and was part of a generation that viewed business ethics differently than most do today.

  2. Doreen
    June 25, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    I find it quite interesting that people are so quick to judge and this is no exception here. Obviously the previous commenters did not know the family and the underlying situation that caused the bankruptcy of RGM. I do and know that pride and greed was never evident or present but many unfortunate circumstances lead to the demise of the company which were totally out of the control of the family. Be careful people as Paul says in 1 Corinthians…….Be Careful!!!

  3. June 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    I would love to know the process by which someone finds this particular blog post, given that it was written nearly three years ago.

    I disagreed with the first comment, I don’t think the owners and management could be characterized as greedy. So I tossed off prideful as an alternative simply because the company tended to do things up with pomp and excess, in an industry where the statistical majority of accounts were modest mom-and-pop operations. I could give examples of this, but would prefer not to open old wounds.

    I think it’s time to close comments on this particular article, and put the subject to rest. It’s now four years later and everyone has moved on.

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