Archive for June, 2013

Faith Toronto to Add Upscale Clothing Line

Toronto’s big box Christian bookstore, Faith Family Books in Scarborough is about to embark on an unprecedented retail experiment worth watching. Staff have begun clearing approx. 800 square feet in a front corner of the store for a line of women’s clothing, and this isn’t the Christian apparel you’re accustomed to seeing at Christian retail.

Rather, this is high fashion of the type sold by a well known New York City retailer but without the Broadway or 34th Avenue prices.  Faith partner Kern Kalideen shared with us on Wednesday that moving forward, the plan is to then expand to include a children’s clothing line.

Historically, some Christian bookstores have often operated with dual functions — the list is quite long — but this is the first we’ve heard of anyone opening an upscale fashion boutique in this type of environment. The retail centre where the store is located already houses a large Winners department store and is thereby already a fashion destination.

Kern shared their beliefs that in addition to generating extra revenue from existing space, increased traffic will also benefit the book, Bible, music, DVD and giftware departments.

We’ll check back once the new clothing department is in place.


Background Music at the Store

The CD player in our store is mediocre at best, but the built-in AM/FM receiver is useless, unless of course the station is broadcasting next door. I think our unit is filled with all manner of electrical wiring in the ceiling left over from the days it was the CFMX-FM studio.

But then last summer, a radio station did start broadcasting almost next door and it was a Christian radio station at that. We put up a welcome on our changeable letters sign by the street, and kept local people informed through our Facebook page and blog and through an email dedicated to sharing their broadcast schedule.

On the issue of actually playing the station in the store, I might have been seen as less than fully supportive. There are good reasons for playing the station all day, and good reasons not to. 

Five reasons not to play local Christian radio in the store:

  1. There is a lot of talking, which makes it hard to talk.
  2. Sometimes we have no idea what music they are playing
  3. Some of the music is only available on iTunes
  4. There is the risk of customers hearing advertising for competitors; that would be awkward
  5. News and commercials are a distraction from store browsing

Five reasons to play local Christian radio.

  1. We want to be supportive of local ministry
  2. We want to be in touch with events in our community
  3. We want to know what music they are playing if customers ask
  4. Other than the WOW CDs, we don’t have options for music variety
  5. We want to lead by example in encouraging others to listen

Store owners, managers and staff: Let me know how you achieve balance on this in your market. Do any of you use streaming audio from stations in other markets like K-LOVE or WAY-FM?

Categories: Uncategorized

Canadian Dollar Hits 18-Month Low

In an industry which requires Canadian booksellers to take an interest in the daily currency trading of the Canadian dollar, retailers and distributors here faced a dollar which was trading in 95-cent territory as of Friday’s close, representing an 18-month low.

Literary agents demand that authors receive royalties which treat Canada and the U.S. as a single market, but Christian retailers are denied both the discounts and promotional pricing (i.e. supersaver pricing) offered to their U.S. counterparts. It’s a one-sided arrangement by publishers whereby Canada is a foreign territory where it suits their purposes, but a 51st State where it suits other purposes.

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Randy Alcorn’s Heaven in Comic Book Form

Although the title is Eternity, there’s no mistaking that when Heaven author Randy Alcorn writes about the afterlife, his view of ‘new earth’ overshadows some of our Sunday School notions of an ‘up there,’ ‘out there’ heaven. If only those ideas hadn’t been so drilled into us at an early age, right? Well, this could be the solution. Though the publisher blurb says the focus is on the story of The Rich Man and Lazarus, the comic book format could appeal to younger readers, though the $16.99 US SRP means not every kid will get to see the 120-page paperback.

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

Eternity - Randy Alcorn - Graphic NovelLEESBURG — While still a small segment of the Christian publishing world, Biblically-inspired graphic novels and comics are increasing in popularity with major publishers such as Thomas Nelson and Zondervan launching entire lines to address the growing demand.

It’s the market Kingstone Comics, an imprint of Leesburg’s Kingstone Media Group, is tapping into.

With each Kingstone release, founder and CEO Art Ayris said the universality of comics becomes increasingly evident. The latest release is the graphic novel “Eternity” by writer Randy Alcorn…

…Family Christian Stores and LifeWay Christian Stores carry Kingstone Products, which are also available through top Comic apps including ComiXology, iVerse Media as well as the Kingstone Comics app on iPads and Droid devices.

The company is focused on the release of “Eternity” as well as the 12-volume Kingstone Bible project, which is expected to be the most complete graphic adaption of the Bible ever done, releasing in 2014.

“We’re producing the volumes as fast as we can — the artistry is incredible” said Ayris. “The stuff we have coming out will make peoples’ eyes pop.”

Rosemarie Dowell

Available to trade bookstores at Spring Arbor and Send the Light | 9781936164257

Store Owner Commands Robber to Leave in Jesus’ Name

Christian Book Shop Talk does not necessarily endorse this technique, and probably neither does your local police service; but I would be interested in your comments.

Click here to watch the 2-minute video.

Categories: Uncategorized

Word Guild Presents 2013 Awards

You know you’re in Canada when it takes 15 minutes of hunting online to find out who won the national Christian literary awards. Finally I took to Facebook and discovered the link to the story which was not at all apparent on their website. The headline was: Christian Sex Book Walks Away With Top Writing Award.  And why not? Sex sells.

word guildMississauga, Ont. – The Word Awards, the 25th annual writing awards for Canadian writers and editors who are Christian, was a celebration of words, but also a celebration of the gifts God has given to Christian writers and editors, said Denise Rumble, Managing Director, The Word Guild.

The Word Awards, held on June 12, honoured the work of 28 writers in book and article categories for work published in 2012.

It was a book about Christian sex that walked away with a $5,000 literary award. Sheila Wray Gregoire of Belleville, Ont. won the Grace Irwin Prize for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (Zondervan), a book written for married women.

Ray Wiseman, who headed the Grace Irwin judging team, said “An intimate and often detailed guide for young women, but a must-read for all married persons and those planning marriage. Well done, Sheila, for daring to write a ‘how-to’ book that ministers to a crying need in the church.”

“Do you know how strange it is to be the Christian sex lady?” laughed Gregoire, as she accepted the award – Canada’s largest literary prize for writers who are Christian, given in honour of the late author, classics scholar and ordained minister Grace Lilian Irwin.

I don’t want to be the Grinch here but if these awards are meant to encourage Canadian writers, hasn’t someone who landed a contract with Zondervan already won a major prize?  Just sayin’.

The article continues:

Winners for all awards of the gala evening were chosen from among 285 competing entries from across Canada and beyond – 146 books and 139 shorter pieces, primarily articles that ranged from longer features to book reviews. Canadian songsmith Steve Bell of Winnipeg won The Word Award for best lyrics for “Oracles” (Signpost Music).

Work published in Faith Today magazine featured prominently in the evening, with writers winning in the categories of Profile/Human Interest, (Richard Erlendson of Calgary for “The Life of Peter Penner”); Long Feature (Karen Stiller of Port Perry, Ont, for “Hemorrhaging Faith: Why They’re Leaving); and Short Feature (Bill Fledderus of Hamilton, Ont. and Karen Stiller for “Canadian Women are International Leaders”).

Several authors made repeated trips to the podium to collect awards recognizing their work. Lawrence Brice of Port Rowan, Ont., took home the top prize in the Instructional Book and Apologetics/Evangelism categories for Confident Faith: In a World That Wants to Believe (Deep River Books). Margaret Terry of Burlington, Ont., won for her book Dear Deb: A Woman With Cancer, A Friend With Secrets and the Letters That Became Their Miracle (Thomas Nelson) in both the General Market and Life Stories categories.

Echoing the experience of many who attended the event with family and friends, Jordan Hageman of Mississauga, Ont. – and winner of The Word Award for best blog series – said, “I was a closet writer for many years. I looked for like-minded people and I found The Word Guild.”

Jayne E. Self of Orangeville, Ont., who won for best book in the Novel – Suspense category for Death of a Highland Heavyweight, captured the celebratory and encouraging mood of the evening when she said, “It’s such a pleasure to be in the company of so many amazing writers.”

Many of the finalists and guests at the celebration, along with others from across Canada, are meeting from June 13-15 at the 29th annual Write! Canada conference in Guelph – Canada’s largest conference for writers who are Christian.

The Word Guild is a national association of writers and editors who are Christian. (

We decided to reproduce the whole article here because apart from Facebook, it was impossible to find. But if you wish to read at source, or send the link to a friend, or post it on your store website, click here.

To anyone at The Word Guild reading this: All of the original links in your story could not be preserved here because they were rejected by a filtering system at WordPress — something that has NEVER happened in six years of writing approximately 7,000 posts on four major blogs. Fixing your seriously messed up  online presence should be Priority One in the post-awards month.

Website Offers Exhaustive ISBN Searching

online book search tool

What if the ISBN that your customer is seeking is legitimate, but the publication exists outside the book trade? Book Manager is great when an item is in the database of its member publishers, but what if it’s ancient, or foreign, or just obscure?

ISBNdb is “…a database of books providing on-line and remote research tools for individuals, book stores, librarians, scientists, etc. Taking data from hundreds of libraries across the world ISBNdb is a unique tool you won’t find anywhere else.” The db in the name is reminiscent of other db (database) sites such as the popular IMDB for movies.

This is a search tool that I guaranty will come in handy.

Categories: Uncategorized

TD Canada Trust: A Litany of Fee Increases

Just when we were settled in to some reduced costs resulting from the closing of one of our locations, TD Canada Trust is messing around with the service plan fees charged to small business accounts. I guess there is no point in having all those bureaucrats if they don’t show their worth by re-drafting policies and increasing profits.

Our $29.95 service plan is being bundled with larger ones, and jumps to $37 on August 1st. That’s a 23.4% increase. That is, if we stay with TD. We’ve been telling anyone who will listen — on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. — about the fee increase and are asking our fellow business owners who use community credit unions how that is working for them.

My feeling is that if I pull my business current account, other business I do with TD will follow, including personal savings accounts and family GICs as they come up for renewal. Banks are making obscene profits already and this hit on the smallest of small businesses is completely unjustified.

Our industry is in survival mode, and you have to do what you have to do to survive. Maybe TD should have reconsidered the timing on this one.

Changing Business Banking Providers

If you’ve just about used up your existing supply of cheques, then it’s just a matter of choosing a month-end target date — just a few days before the 30th or 31st — and making sure that existing cheques in the system have been issued early enough to be cleared. Then you simply redirect your POS terminal to your new account, and notify any suppliers or utilities who automatically debit your business account. Not complicated.

If a credit union isn’t an option where you live, I know that a few years ago one of the banks — CIBC or Royal — was offering small business packages where your needs are considered with greater empathy.

TD Canada Trust will certainly see this. We know that because we posted something on Twitter on Sunday — not a business day — and within minutes the bank had (a) followed me on Twitter, (b) posted a generic “let us know how we can help” message, and (c) then unfollowed me on Twitter. Apparently the customer retention people work around the clock and on weekends to do damage control. Unfortunately, they are completely powerless to fix this, nor do they care if lower tier business customers migrate elsewhere.

Related: Today at Thinking Out Loud there’s a story about a different kind of big business indifference to the little guy. An oil and gas company rips off an Amish farmer in Ohio knowing full well that the Amish don’t take people to court. Whatever happened to corporate ethics?

Books That Don’t Preach to the Choir

One of my constant rants is that so few books are written for the purpose of giving to non-Christians. It’s seasoned and even veteran Christians who shop in Christian bookstores and their online equivalent. Our needs are completely different than those of seekers and skeptics; often the very people who need our resources most but with whom we have so little contact.

So I was quite pleased to hear this morning about the blog Books for Evangelism. Maybe there are more books than I thought. While admittedly a consumer-oriented site — and an Amazon referrer that many of us would be uncomfortable giving out — you should nonetheless bookmark the page for use when customers are looking for something worthy of giving to a recent or longtime contact with whom they have been having faith conversations.

Right now there are only three months’ worth of entries, so it would be easy to sit down with staff and compare these recommendations to what you have in stock. Some of the titles are eBook only. If anyone wants to compile a list, we’ll post it here.

Visit Books for Evangelism.

Retailer to Charge Visitors a “Browsing Fee”

Merchant Charging Browsing FeeAlthough this story takes place outside of our industry, in the area where I live there were no doubt many suppertime conversations about a front-page newspaper story wherein a local merchant in downtown Cobourg, Ontario proposes to start charging a $2.00 browsing fee.

We couldn’t find a dedicated link to this story, but here’s how the first part of it appeared as accessed 6/6/13, the day it appeared at Northumberland Today:

COBOURG — Most stores that have loyalty programs rely on a card.

For Paper Lace in downtown Cobourg, the buyer rewards program involves charging admission to the store in what owner Manfred Schumann termed an exciting new concept that has big rewards for people who make purchases.

Simply put, you pay $2 to browse. But you get that back, and potentially much more, when you make a purchase.

Since April 1, Paper Lace has begun charging the $2 on a voluntary basis. As of July 2, Schumann said, it will be a firm store policy.

Though browsers who don’t buy anything don’t get their money back, Schumann said, purchasers come out ahead.

“We apply the $2 to your purchase, up to $10, so you get full value for your $2. For purchases over $10, the 20% kicks in — because $2 is 20% of $10, so that’s how we arrived at that. If it’s a $500 purchase, you get 20% off.”

Schumann sees it as a reward for regular customers’ loyalty.

“Instead of giving specials and dollars-off to people who are coming in for the first time, we reward people who shop regularly. Our average purchases are such that those customers will benefit from it. Those who come in for the first time and don’t buy anything, they don’t get any of the benefit. They have to buy something to get the benefit,” he said.

“It reverses the cycle of trying to get new customers with specials and making regular customers pay full price, which I have always found obnoxious. Why would I, as a regular customer, pay full price when a newcomer gets a deal?”

Paper Lace is a longtime giftware and greeting card store in the town. Schumann, who owns the store, ran for Mayor in the last municipal election. He always has a fresh and sometimes unique take on civic issues and retail trends.

Over dinner, my wife and I discussed the possibility of giving $2.00 to people who would come to our store. But only briefly.

The article continued:

…Schumann has found the new set-up increases traffic to the store, and says he’s getting a fantastic response.

“Everybody just loves it. We tell them about it, that this discount costs you $2, and ask if they want it. They say sure and we ring in the $2, and then we ring in their purchases one at a time with 20% off each one. The savings accumulate to the point that they are very happy.”

With a potential 20% discount, he has seen customers put back items in favour of more expensive selections and show more willingness to buy larger items

“It has increased business, which I intended it to do,” he said.

It’s not an unknown concept. Some clothing stores have been known to charge $2 for browsers to offset the growing numbers of customers who try on fashions, decide what they like, then go home and order them online.

The green flyers available at the Paper Lace cash register explain the finer points — $2 is charged per “buying group,” be that an individual or a family, for example…

In a personal exchange, Schumann shared with me, “I believe in tailor-made solutions to individual problems rather than rejigging off-the-shelf ones. This is tailor-made for us to address issues we’ve come to see as hurting our business in general.”

Categories: Uncategorized

“Excuse Me, Where’s The Theography Section?”

Jesus A TheographyReviewers like to cover the latest releases, but I had been trying to get my hands on this one for several months and was thwarted at every turn.  So even though it’s uncool to look at product six months old, I ran this on Monday at Thinking Out Loud. I really love this book and hope it continues to find an audience…

There are two things that are immediately striking about the book Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (Thomas Nelson, 2012). The first is the sheer scope of the work. While some books clearly are the product of a two week writing break, others earn to be called a “labor of love,” or earn the phrase, “represents the culmination of a lifetime of ministry.” This book fits into the latter camp and is the product of two authors who have spent untold hours in deep study of God’s word.

As a reviewer who prizes “rich text;” this is one of the richest books I have ever read, and any critical remarks I might make should be seen in the light of what is generally my highest recommendation. Truth be told, I have read about two thirds of this book out loud with my oldest son. While it slowed the reading time, it allowed me to process the material more fully, at the rate of half-a-chapter per night. It also enhanced my appreciation of the final chapters which I read normally. Jesus is definitely a book that delivers your money’s worth. You can’t read this book and not have a clearer picture of the Bible’s grand narrative.

The second thing that is immediately striking is the word theography in the title. The idea is that in trying to present the over-arching story of the Bible, most things printed are biography moving, as the authors say, “from womb to tomb.” The idea here is to look at Christ before and after the incarnation. This is an ambitious goal, and the two chapters most representative of this ambition were the only ones that disappointed, though I am continually interested in accessing books which deal with Christ before the manger — the pre-incarnate Christ — and deal with what the second person of the Trinity was doing before that Bethlehem morning. Ditto Christ’s present activity seated at the right hand of God.

This is a small matter however in a book where each page is full of illuminations, and in particular comparison passages where one aspect of what the writers call The First Testament is unmistakably linked to another in The Second Testament. Sometimes the insights simply involve a different way of expressing a familiar dichotomy; thus Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial is referenced as “Judas’ kiss and Peter’s kiss-off.”

There is also a trade off between the benefit of having two people craft the book who are already established and respected authors, and the tendency of the book to repeat itself in many places. Perhaps readers like me simply need to have some truths drilled in a little deeper.

The sixteen chapters of Jesus: A Theography break down the Christ story into chronological sections emphasizing the spiritual significance of every aspect of His life and ministry. This is truly a book like no other. I’ve seen some dissent online concerning the use of selective Bible translations to make a certain point fit, but we followed up in various texts from the various footnotes — there are 1,835 of them — and don’t feel that any verses were overly stretched to make a point. The authors have also gone out of their way to make dogmatic statements on any theological point which is contentious, making this a book for all Christian readers.

…To someone who mostly reads Christian fiction, I suspect that all doctrinal books look alike, but Jesus: A Theography is a volume like no other. This definitely fits in my top ten list of books I would want to be stranded on an island with. While not every reader will agree with every point this is definitely a book worth owning, underlining and filling with bookmarks.

An excerpt from the book appears here at Christianity 201.

Jesus: A Theography is a book I truly wanted to read. When no review copy was forthcoming by the publisher after several requests, I purchased this copy with real money. Thomas Nelson, you owe me one!

Review of Gods at War Video Curriculum

Gods at War Video CurriculumThe Gods at War video curriculum is a six-week, interactive, DVD-driven Bible study for small groups that can be offered in a 90-minute weekly format, or if the group is time-constrained, in a 60-minute weekly format. The video clips themselves run 22 – 30 minutes. The curriculum is based on Idleman’s sophomore book with Zondervan by the same title, though the curriculum offers its own Follower’s Journal which retails for $9.99 US. Although some will want to read the book, the journal is considered the primary group member product associated with the DVDs.

The Gods at War video teaching series is one of five major DVD-based church resources released from City on a Hill Productions to feature Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky; however unlike the Not a Fan and H20 group studies. This one is different in that it abandons the cinematic style that had him teaching on location and doesn’t have any scripted vignettes. Instead, the teaching is interspersed with documentary style interviews with five individuals who have wrestled with various ‘gods’ in their past: Pleasure, love, money, power and self.

One of those interviews is with the late Chuck Colson, and that, as the saying goes was worth the price of admission. It’s a story about the lust for power that everyone needs to hear, not just Americans. But two of the interviews are with individuals, a woman and man respectively, who wrestled with same sex attraction and sexual addition and infidelity. For that reason, I suspect the DVD series may be a little to edgy for more conservative churches and/or certain teen groups. However, those portrayals are real, and honest, and probably a best fit for generating conversation in home study groups. The intention is that for discussion, men and women would split up into separate groups.

The curriculum package retails for $59.99 US and contains a sample of the 208-page Gods at War Combat Journal — also available separately — which was written by Southeast’s Ross Brodfuehrer and offers two phases of processing the video material; as well as a 44 page leaders guide with discussion questions. The DVD also offers a 15-minute message from Kyle to group leaders with tips on managing discussion in a small group format, which should be required viewing for people using any DVD curriculum to lead a Bible study.

The curriculum kit should not be confused with the Pastor’s Kit which retails for $29.99, not reviewed here, which is for pastors who want to teach through a six-week series on Sunday mornings and contains much shorter video clips.

With the Not a Fan book and video series still riding high on national sales charts, many churches looking for something else may want to move on to Gods at War. The book covers similar themes to Pete Wilson’s Empty Promises and Timothy Keller’s Counterfeit Gods, but the video series is more distinct. While I missed the movie treatment of previous City on a Hill series — I referred to H20 as Alpha Course meets Nooma — I think this series has to potential to promote life change even among those of us who would never think that idolatry is a factor in our lives, even if its expression in our lives is more subtle than those in the featured interviews.


This is adapted from a consumer review of the product appearing Tuesday at Thinking Out Loud.