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A Taxing Challenge

Our store is located in a province which has the HST, the Harmonized Sales Tax which includes both provincial and federal tax components. However, because books are not subject to the provincial tax*, and also because we sell non-book items, our transaction summary at the end of the day shows amounts in two columns, Tax 1 and Tax 2.

Two weekends ago we did a book table at a women’s conference, and although we brought some CDs, some boxed cards, and some jewelry items, we did not have a lot of activity in the Tax 2 column. These women were serious book buyers and it was very fulfilling to think of the various resources we sold that day going into homes, workplaces, neighbourhoods and extended families.

In contrast, I had a day at the store the following week in which there wasn’t a single transaction that day that didn’t have a Tax 2 component. I’m glad that we were able to help people get those Bible cases, DVDs, CDs, highlighters, picture frames, and those little $1 (US) packages of tissue that got really popular after we left them on the counter.

But our purpose is to sell books and Bibles, though I’ve learned that getting those hardcore readers at a conference is a lot easier than attracting them to the store on a daily basis.  Turning non-book customers into readers is a challenge, but it’s something we somewhat hint at when they’re checking out. And turning fiction readers into buyers of serious Bible study material or parenting resources can also be challenging, but again, it’s something we aim for.

I think some customers are genuinely scared of getting into our doctrinal or reference books. They’re happy buying mugs and plaques and boxed cards, but don’t dare suggest they might like to try one of our bestselling entry-level Christian books like Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman or Grave Robber by Mark Batterson.

But dare we must. We’re there to sell books and to raise the spiritual temperature of our customers. And we’re going to keep trying.

*Despite the provincial exemption, books are still subject to the federal or GST portion of harmonized tax. This makes Canada one of a very small number of nations that taxes literacy.


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