Scott’s Parable Manager Jim Pearson on the State of the Industry
This article appeared in the May issue of City Light News, a long-running Christian newspaper based in Calgary, Alberta. Jim Pearson is President and Manager of Scott’s Parable in Red Deer. One of the things that really got to me — though I probably knew this all along — was the section I’ve underlined in the first paragraph:
There has been much discussion lately regarding the disappearance of so many Christian Bookstores from our retail landscape. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I have had the privilege of being a Christian bookseller for close to 30 years now and have been involved in three of the most successful companies in the industry here in Canada. When I started selling books back in the 80’s there were over 400 Christian bookstores operating in Canada. Now, and that number is changing daily it seems, there are less than 150. There are major cities in Canada with no Christian Book Store. Where did they all go?
On big box stores selling Christian books:
When a customer can be out purchasing groceries and see an item we sell at the store, even without the price difference, the convenience again wins out over loyalty, resulting in, you guessed it – less customer traffic.
On the pace of life in general:
We are a society on the move like never before. Facebook, internet blogs, YouTube and the hectic pace at which we live all compete for the time we might have previously spent reading. Over the years here at Scott’s Parable we have put on concerts, programs, Pastor’s events, ladies nights out and a host of other events geared to increase customer traffic. Some have been successful but the overwhelming tendency is for these events to be too easily dismissed by an already over scheduled customer.
How these and other factors combine to work against us:
All that being said the future for bookselling can look very bleak. Even Chapters and Indigo seem to have gotten the message that they had better supplement their book sales. It seems to me that close to 50 per cent of their product mix has transitioned to non-book items. At Scott’s Parable we saw this trend a number of years ago and started supplementing our regular stock with the addition of some general market giftware. We looked at our average customer (female, 35 to 55) and went shopping for product that would appeal to them without compromising our mission of being a Christ honouring business. Scarves, slippers, kitchenware, candles, flavored Olive Oils and Vinegars and home décor that doesn’t have a Bible verse on it has helped us reach out to a wider customer base and stay viable. In business the old adage is that to increase sales you have to sell more to your existing customers or go out and find new customers. In my opinion the future, if there is to be one for Christian booksellers, is to transition into more of a secular gift store that still promotes Christian books, Bibles and what’s left of Christian music. This kind of store would appeal to the larger gift buying customer base while not offending what’s left of the existing albeit much smaller Christian customer base.
On the future of Scott’s Parable:
Like Christian Publications before us, we have made this decision to cease operations while we are still in a position to honour Christ and our commitments to our staff, suppliers and landlord. August 29th of this year will be the day we close our doors. It has been our great joy to be able to serve the Alberta marketplace for so many years and as I reflect back on all my years of bookselling I can truly say that God has used our efforts, and those of our fellow booksellers to greatly enrich the lives of our community.
The full article is a .pdf file. Link to City Light News, and then scroll to page five.