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Archive for April, 2013

Christian Music Industry Faces Critical Album Title Shortage

Audio Adrenaline Eddie Kirkland

Since Eddie got there first, we’ll give him a free song spin here.  After the second chorus, the bridge always reminds me of Coldplay.

Canadian Chart Underscores Music Sales Volativity

I don’t want to be an alarmist, but the May 2013 page at YourMusicZone.com currently consists of only 13 items, and two of those are in Spanish and two are instructional DVD/ROMs. Hey guys, I need product to sell. I need product to attract customers into my store. That leaves us with two DVDs and seven albums, two of which are “best-of”s and one of which is the new Amy Grant.

Yes, Amy Grant is back. Of course so is Bryan Duncan, but he doesn’t have a major label deal. Not yet. So he’s fundraising a la Kickstarter at indiegogo.

What got me going on this was sitting in my car today with nothing to read but the last two music charts from the M&M (music and media) division of David. C. Cook Canada. Eighteen albums disappeared from last month’s chart. Several of the ones that replaced them were chart re-entries of older titles, a few were new.  That’s one third of the chart turning over every month, which shows the volatility of the contemporary Christian music market. You can use the chart to check inventory or plan new purchasing, but it’s possible 30% of the titles won’t appear there 30 days from now.

Such are the times.  But hey, Amy Grant is back. That oughta count for something — usher in a new age of music department prosperity, perhaps? Then again, maybe not with the new generation of music buyers, be they wholesale or retail.

We’ll have to check next month’s chart.

>>> Elsewhere this week in music news, EMI Gospel announces a joint partnership with Motown.

Thomas Nelson Integreation into HarperCollins Canada Happens Monday

No, this isn't a valid logo, we just like having fun with it.

No, this isn’t a valid logo, we just like having fun with it.

The long anticipated merger of database information and physical stock between HarperCollins Canada and Thomas Nelson product happens on Monday, April 29th.  Called the “Go Live” date by HCC staff, it brings to an end Thomas Nelson direct shipments to Canadian retailers, and ends the involvement of Canada Direct Group who have looked after sales and marketing of TNI product for several years.  It also puts Zondervan and Thomas Nelson product into a single order and combined shipments.  Product released on designated ship days enjoys free freight, and freight costs from TNI have been a major issue for some retailers over past years.  Import-to-order titles are released for shipment as available.

Full catalogues for upcoming product of both TNI and ZDV product are available at this link at abovethetreeline.com

And The Juno Goes To… The City Harmonic

City Harmonic Christian Music Juno 2013

For our U.S. readers, The Junos are Canada’s equivalent of the Grammy Awards.  

The City Harmonic Website.

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Eric Metaxas: The Accidental Biographer

To hear him tell it, Eric Metaxas was as surprised as anyone at the success of his William Wilberforce biography, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery and his epic-length Deitrict Bonhoeffer follow up with Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, which clocked in at 608 pages.

7 Men And the Secret of Their Greatness - Eric MetaxasThis time around he offers a sampler of stories in Seven Men and the Secret of their Greatness. He draws on material from the earlier books for two of the sections, and the seventh is someone with whom he worked personally; which leaves us with this lineup: George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, John Paul II, and Charles Colson,

While I’m not a sports guy, I’ve mentioned here a few weeks ago that the Jackie Robinson chapter was my favorite, and the timing vis-a-vis the 42 movie works out well. It also typifies Metaxas’ desire to bring us new elements, and new backstory. He’s anticipating the question, “Can you tell me something I haven’t heard before?’

There is literally something for everyone here: Sports, politics, Catholic interest, U.S. History, etc., and with Father’s Day coming up, this is a title I can highly recommend. If 608 pages is too much reading some men, this one is only 256 pages, but is a book to be measured by its depth, not its length.

The book releases next week from Thomas Nelson in hardcover in the U.S., elsewhere in ITPE.

Footprints Adding Second Store in North Peterborough

I thought we’d end the week with something very positive. In an environment where it seems all we hear about are store closures, Footprints, which has been operating in Lindsay, Ontario for several years is about to add a second location in the north end of Peterborough, which has been without a store for more than a year. 

The Lindsay store is a small but two-level location in a busy plaza jam-packed with merchandise, with a high profile given to giftware and wall decor. Owner Pat Henderson is an insurance professional who employs a number of part-time staff who know their customers well.

We wish her and her staff the best in the new location.

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Will there be a Resurrection of the Christian Bookstores from the Dead?

Guest post by Larry Willard – This article appeared earlier this month in the Toronto Christian Business Directory; used by permission of the author.

Larry WillardFor the past five years I have been speaking about the great Christian bookstore Tsunami and how you and I unintentionally helped the demise of hundreds of loyal, well-established Christian bookstores in Canada and the USA without even trying. You have heard how bricks and mortar bookstores were just another example of the 8 track tape whose time had passed and death was inevitable. But many are beginning to doubt that is accurate and I hear more confessions that people miss the whole array of products and services that they offered and wish they could help to bring them back. And though I am not a prophet, I want to risk saying that I still see a need for some of those lost services and I believe the brick and mortar bookstore is in the midst of going through a metamorphosis and some will soon come out of their cocoon resurrected as “a better creature than ever.”

I always insisted that my contribution (and no doubt yours) was unintended and so we are innocent of their death. I always went to local bookstore but like you, all I wanted was a “good deal” for my hard-earned dollars so I increasingly went to the lowest bidder. As my mother used to remind me, “A penny saved is a penny earned! (Oh dear…seeing what has happened to the penny, I guess we’ll have to modernize that adage as well). So I was following her wise counsel” I didn’t expect there would be such a consequence to my saving “a few cents here” and “a few dollars there!” But it happened. And that “lowest-cost” mindset eventually killed the local Christian establishment.

There is nothing sinful about being frugal and trying to get the best deal whenever we buy something but there is a “bigger picture” we need to be aware of as we make our choices. The personal benefits of “always getting the best deal,” regardless of the overall impact, leads people to unwittingly cooperate in the decimation of local establishments, what ever their services, and in the end, what does it profit us if we gain a few dollars and lose our jobs and institutions as a result. What if my own job were next as a result of this mindset?

We Christians are different than a worldly community or local burger joint. We are a family with a particular mission and a unified focus that has an eternal outcome. We need to support each other above “just making a profit.” Christian institutions need our support if they are to continue to offer the full array of resources and services that our community has benefited from over the years. They just can not survive the continuous erosion of sales diverted to “on-line” or “big box” lowest price-discount retailers. The bookstores and other providers need those sales to sustain their models. They offer more than just books that someone can get anywhere. They offer a specialty that could be lost if we are not thoughtful.

Now, people are beginning to notice the value of their local Christian store as they try buying a good Christian book at one of the large secular bookstores of our country. Except for a few top titles there is scant selection and little depth. These are bookstores that place the Bible, the Koran and a number of new-age titles in the same section and label it “Spiritual Enlightenment.” Try finding a good “serious” book at these stores. Try sending a new Christian there to pick up a book to help them in their spiritual development. Nothing replaces the vast selection of the traditional dedicated Christian bookstore or the staff that use years of knowledge and wisdom to suggest just “the right title.”

And, on-line shopping can not replace taking a book in your hand and running through the pages before you buy it. Looking at several titles on a topic and deciding if the content is solid before buying it. It’s harder to do that on-line. It’s hard to even see what the selection options are on-line. And most good books are not even available at the larger secular chains and finding them on-line requires you to know what the title is when you start.

Do you now own a lot of books that turned out not to be what they looked like in the on-line photo? Were the real costs of online purchases, with the hefty freight costs, and foreign exchange rates not a great deal after all?

Yes, local Christian bookstores needed to go through a metamorphosis. I think they will have to look more like a Christian Chapters with their gifts, books, music café and more. They must make the customer experience exciting and as inexpensive as possible. Our new stores must be more like communities where people come to have coffee with friends and then do some quick shopping. The selection of gifts, cards, movies, music and books must be better than ever. They need a lot more Canadian authors and artists and they need to be changing to meet a customer’s newest needs all the time. So it is not for the faint-hearted.

But above all…they need Christians to help them survive. How terrible if one day there wasn’t a place to browse for the latest releases without scanning mounds of web pages for an hour. Everyone wants a good deal. We shop for the best price and shake down a sales rep if we think we can. I am not recommending that you forget about getting a good or fair deal and just pay anything to keep your Christian retailer in business. I just ask that you give them a chance or the next tsunami for that industry is just around the corner.

Sometimes there is a greater “good” we serve when we pay a few cents more and sustain the service of the “touch and feel” local Christian retailer. If all of us practice the “best deal” model in everything we purchase, one day we also may find ourselves out of a job because someone wanted to save a dime or dollar. I still have high hopes that there will be the resurrection of the Christian Bookstore to become a new, exciting and sustainable entity. I hope that is true of many Christian service providers.

Larry Willard is an owner of both Christian retail and Christian publishing concerns, Faith Family Books in Toronto and Castle Quay Books respectively.

Blogs are Third Largest Influence in Book Purchasing

Book Sales Influencers - Technorati Study

Found this at a website you should bookmark, Marketing Christian Books, where it appeared with commentary as Do Blogs Influence Purchasing Decisions?  The survey of online influences originates with Technorati. 

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Book Cover Doesn’t Make Olympics Connection

Raising The Bar - ZondervanSometimes Canadian booksellers glaze over when they see the U.S. flag or the Capitol building or an American eagle on the cover of a new release. But this time around, I am convinced that even in the American market, the publisher erred in not using the Olympic flag instead. In a world where fame often lasts only 15-minutes, you want to make an immediate connection who the person is — 2012 Olympics gymnastics gold-medalist Gabrielle Douglas — on the cover. Agree or disagree? Perhaps there were licensing issues with the Olympic logo.

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Turned Down an Offer to Play Myself in a Live Show

Several weeks ago I again got offered the chance to play myself — mild mannered Christian bookstore owner from the not-so-big city — in a live show. The event was staged at a large Christian products warehouse, and people like myself, running frantically back-and-forth between the stacks of books and the free coffee basically are used to create what’s called in marketing a buying frenzy.

For this event to work, you need warm bodies, and the more bodies you have, the more your ten or twelve key accounts — on who the event hinges — will purchase.  The payoff: You get to take home some  (but not all) of the same stuff the big guys are buying; though you don’t get the free offset product they get for their airfare and hotel.  Mind you, I’m not sure how much free product would be involved when I live only 11 km. away from the warehouse in question.

Right now, having just closed one of our stores, we should be hosting such an event.  I just don’t need one more book, though hanging out with a couple of booksellers I’ve known for years might have been nice.

Instead, we did what we often do when this event is held. We drove to Toronto and spent an hour hanging out in the religious section at Chapters.  It was our own little customized industry event. And we got to play ourselves.

Cornerstone: Serving North Toronto

Many readers here are familiar with Toronto’s two largest stores, Faith Family Books in Scarborough and Speelman’s Book House in Etobicoke; as well as the Bible store at the Canadian Bible Society in North York.  But Toronto has had another store for seven years which we had not seen ourselves until this weekend.

Cornerstone Bookshop is located on Finch Avenue West, just a few short blocks from Yonge Street. The store isn’t as large as the Toronto stores mentioned above, but has ample stock in its card, gift, music, book and Bible departments.  The giftware in the window included some attractive pieces at medium price points, and in the Bible section, I noticed a couple of compact large print editions from Broadman I hadn’t seen before. There was a generous assortment of Universal posters, and in keeping with Toronto’s character, a selection of books and Bibles in Arabic. The store carries the Legacy line of greeting cards along with Dayspring.  A flyer at the checkout promotes the upcoming 72-Hour Sale from Foundation Distribution.

Since the original article appeared here, Cornerstone now uses the BookManager platform for online ordering.*

Their biggest challenge is parking, but going just one block further east, we found a side street offering parking on both sides.

This is a store I would have no problem recommending. They don’t have everything in stock, but are committed to serving their customers. If someone needed something to give as a gift, there is no reason to leave empty-handed.

We tried to include a photo here but there isn’t one on the store website and Google Street View was extremely uncooperative…

*Updated December, 2014

Just for Receivers, Shipment Check-in-ers and Pricers

I realized recently that in five years, we’ve never done a post here just for the people who check in, receive, and/or price shipments from suppliers. So I thought we’d do something just for you, in the form of a contest.

We want to know which of you in the next 60 days gets the longest continuous sheet of packing paper filler from David C. Cook Canada. Take a picture of one which measures (a) the length of your store, (b) a kilometre, or (c) a full mile.  (The last two could get tricky from a photographic standpoint. You can just describe them.)

About a year ago I had taken home one and was feeding it as kindling into an already burning fireplace at home and didn’t realize as I started that the sheet had no ending.  Fortunately I was able to rip it mid-feed.

Conversely, if you have any other interesting receiving stories…

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