Archive for January, 2016

Christian Stores on Losing End of Latest MWS Album

January 31, 2016 1 comment

MWS Cracker Barrell HymnsOnce again, an album that Christian stores might have been able to use to help stay afloat has been released as a custom premium sales item, restricted to a single retailer. In this case, the artist is Michael W. Smith and the vendor is the chain of Cracker Barrel restaurants. I guess every artist has their price.

As New Release Today reports, “The physical album is available exclusively in Cracker Barrel stores nationwide and all digital outlets.” The album has a powerful lineup of 16 songs.

When was the last time we had an exclusive?  Forgive me, Michael if I’m less than enthusiastic the next time our sales rep comes calling with a CBA project by you.

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The Triumph of the Used Bookstore

A few days ago author Scot McKnight noted this December article on his blog Jesus Creed; written by Michael Rosenwald in the Washington Post. Click here to read the full article, a short excerpt is below.

Used bookstores, with their quintessential quirkiness, eclectic inventory and cheap prices, find themselves in the catbird seat as the pendulum eases back toward print. In many cities, that’s a de facto position: They’re the only book outlets left.

While there are no industry statistics on used-book sales, many stores that survived the initial digital carnage say their sales are rising.

“It gets better and better every year,” said Susan Burwell, the co-owner of Reston’s Used Book Shop, the only used-bookstore left for an intellectually diverse Northern Virginia city of nearly 60,000 people.

Riverby Books D.C., a used-bookstore on Capitol Hill, closed last year after owner Steve Cymrot was hit by a truck and killed. His son Paul reopened the store in the fall — and didn’t hesitate. “The business side of it never gave us a moment’s pause,” he said. “We’ve never had better business.”

And it’s a business with good economics. Used bookstores can beat Amazon and other online booksellers on price, offering shoppers both a browsing experience and a money-saving one. Also, profit margins on used books are better than new ones — so good that many indies are adding used sections.

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Steven Furtick Returns

Regardless of whether or not your store has stocked Sun Stand Still, Greater, or Crash the Chatterbox, this is a particular endearing book trailer, especially if you’ve ever been in a position where you felt woefully inadequate to a particular task, but have seen that God can use you anyway. No word on whether the WaterBrook/Multnomah release, scheduled for early March will allow Canada to access the International Trade Paper Edition, but with a $19.99 hardcover U.S. list, this could get priced out of the market in Canada at current exchange rates. Canadian Christian market trade distribution is through Augsburg-Fortress Canada.

(Un)Qualified: How God Uses Broken People to Do Big Things 9781601424594

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Paper Books Soar: Portland

KATU, channel 2 in Portland proclaimed earlier this month:

Book sales soar in 2015: ‘People want to get away from screens’

… Annie Bloom’s Books … store manager Will Peters said … “A lot of people scribble in the margins. I turn down the pages. If you don’t like it, some people even throw it across the room which you probably couldn’t do with a device,” said Peters…

…”The thing that I’ve consistently heard back is that people want to get away from screens on their own time and that’s one way to do it,” he said…

Many culture watchers feel that societal changes tend to move from west to east; that trends in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Portland are indicative of what people in the heartland or east coast can expect. This is just one of many reports circulating that paper books are experiencing a resurgence.  

Similar trends are being noted in the UK. Back in October the website Quartz announced:

Throw away your Kindles: Paper books are making something of a comeback

Could the e-book revolution be coming to a screeching halt? Paper books are making a comeback, albeit rather slowly.

Britain’s largest bookseller, Waterstones, announced it would stop selling Amazon’s Kindle e-readers—sales have been “pitiful,” said James Daunt, the managing director of the retailer—and will instead be filling their display space with physical books.

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Many VBS Crafts Suitable for General Sales

You don’t necessarily have to order a particular publisher’s VBS kits in order to take advantage of some of the ancillary products available. Craft items like the one below — screenshot from Send the Light, but also available at Foundation — are an example of something that could prove useful to Sunday School, mid-week KidMin programs, or even homeschool groups. There are sometimes great deals in August, too; when surplus VBS-related product goes on sale. Remember, this is a pack of twelve, which lets churches stretch their budgets.

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HarperOne Launches HarperElixer

While some of these titles may be a tough sell in the more Evangelically-oriented Christian bookstore market, here’s the 411 on a new imprint from the other religious division at HarperCollins from a newly-created website.

Harper ElixerWelcome to HarperElixir, a new line of books from HarperOne. If you are a seeker, you are in the right place.

HarperElixir books, handpicked with purpose and intent, are selected specially for you—those who are spiritual, magical, compassionate, and curious, those who want to find truth, meaning, miracles, discover the mysteries, and answer the call to go deeper and to find answers to fundamental questions: What is my purpose? Where am I going? How can I have more meaning in my life and relationships?

The HarperElixir team is dedicated to publishing books that celebrate the essence of the human spirit from ancient wisdom to modern life; that explore the wonders of the universe within and without, and that offer new pathways for healing and transformation.

The website suggests that initial offerings will fall into one of three categories: Religion/Spirituality, Health and Business.

Bargain Shopping in a Dollar-Weary Environment

Canadian and U.S. dollar coinsLast night on CBC National News, we learned that projections are for the Canadian dollar’s free-fall against its U.S. counterpart to continue for some time. This means rising prices on books, especially. What can a Canadian Christian retailer do to continue to offer good value to their customer? Here are some suggestions:

  • Books with pre-printed Canadian pricing. Generally speaking, there are still some great deals to be had within the families of publishers owned by major U.S. corporations such as Simon & Schuster (Cook), Waterbrook (Augsburg), FaithWords (Word Alive), Love Inspired (Harlequin) and of course Nelson/Zondervan (HarperCollins) which has a mixture of pre-printed Canadian prices, and some which float with the dollar, but are usually lower than the current exchange rate.
  • Flyer specials. Foundation has introduced their 2016 marketing program this week. You can opt in on flyers and thereby purchase stock not only for the sale period but have inventory on hand beyond that date for additional margin.
  • Remainders. They’re getting harder and harder to find, but even for those of us who can’t buy skids, there are still some excellent deals if you’re quick.
  • Music. Throughout the last six months of price increases, music prices have so far stayed constant.
  • Budget Music and Video. A category onto itself, budget ($8.99 and under) titles are always out there. Download the Excel file from the Cook B2B website and then re-sort the entire list by price.
  • Ominbus. Yeah, they’re heavy books to hold, but 3-in-1 titles represent a great deal for your customers, especially in fiction; though Regal Books have some non-fiction 3-in-1 titles as well.
  • Boxed Sets. These have been subject to price increases, but with some publishers — not all — there is some value in splitting up the sets.
  • Your own inventory. Based on the lower price you paid, you can reduce your own stock that isn’t moving, especially if the return window has already passed. Speaking from the perspective of an outlet store, we are also our own remainder source.
  • Asking other dealers. One store’s buying disaster may be a blessing in your market. We get titles all the time that should have worked but didn’t, even though we know they have done well nationally. Make a list and email it to store owners within driving distance. Ask them for their list. Buy, sell, or just horse-trade product retail-dollar for retail-dollar with no money changing hands.
  • That one title you want to feature. Even if it’s not in an upcoming flyer, focus on a single title you think you can do well with, and then ask your supplier for extra points if you buy a dozen or more and agree to promote the title in store newsletters and social media.
  • Local authors and musicians. All this summer our #1 and #3 titles were from authors unique to our geographic area. One deal was direct with the author, and the other was made possible with some help from David C. Cook.
  • SuperSavers. This one is complicated because sometimes the SuperSaver (yellow-stickered) pricing available in the U.S. isn’t available here, and getting the deal involves the gray-market process called buying around. So technically, you never read this one here!
  • Summer fiction. This is a term we use in our store for fiction series (i.e. Colleen Coble, et al) that get re-issued (usually in summer) at promotional pricing. Some of this seems to happening all year now, and Zondervan and Nelson are re-introducing mass-market paperbacks. 
  • Giftware. Much of what some gift companies are offering was acquired offshore and/or paid for in the summer. Prices are still good value, though you can check by searching UPC codes online and comparing to the U.S.

That’s just a few ideas. Can you think of any I’ve missed?

If you have an email address for other stores you think would benefit from this, email them the link to this article:

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You

January 13, 2016 1 comment

We featured this story on the Wednesday Link List today at Thinking Out Loud, but thought we’d share it here, too. Publishers Weekly noted six religious titles that are coming to the big screen.  Click here to read the story at source, with book images and more details.

  • The Masked Saint – from a 2009 book not distributed in Canada, this was featured on the cover of The Christian Herald, a Christian newspaper distributed throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Releasing this month.
  • Miracles from Heaven – based on a 2014 near-death-experience inspirational title by Christy Wilson Beam from Hachette. Book releases late February, March release for the film.
  • God’s Not Dead 2 – Based on Rice Broock’s Man, Myth, Messiah: Answering History’s Greatest Question releasing from Thomas Nelson on March 1st, one month before the movie’s April 1st release.
  • Same Kind of Different as Me – Based on the 2006 Thomas Nelson book of the same name by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. End of April release.
  • Silence – Based on a 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo, you’ll have to click through to see the connection here to IVP. May release.
  • Ben Hur – The August, 2016 release of this story features actors Morgan Freeman and Jack Huston and ties in with a book reissue from Tyndale.


An Alternative to 1.4000 Price Conversion

Not that long ago, I was doing U.S. price conversions at 1.1000; in other words adding 10%. In the summer I might have been doing 1.2000 as the Canadian dollar started to show signs of its present decline. Let’s imagine that one of my regular customers — we’ll call him Carl — wanted to order a Bible that sells for $40 U.S.

The Bible wasn’t available domestically, so I ordered it through one of the three major Christian distributors and received a 40% discount. That means that without factoring in freight costs, I paid $24 U.S. or at 20%, $28.80, CDN. Again, using 20%, I priced the Bible at $50 CDN.

That means my gross profit margin on the Bible was $21.20 CDN.

Today, with some suppliers claiming they are being forced to change the conversion rate to 1.4000 or 40% — a notion we have challenged repeatedly on this blog — that means the same Bible is now $56 CDN.

But what if I decide to limit my profit to the $21.20 of the summer? At trade discount, my cost would still be $24 U.S. which now works out to $33.60; I add the $21.20 and come up with $54.80. I can round that to $54.99 and now the Bible is only $1 cheaper (plus I don’t actually know what the rate is going to be when I actually pay the invoice, not to mention the 2.75% the bank is going to charge for the conversion.)

Carl is probably not going to notice the $1 discount and I could use the extra $1 at a slow time of the year. However, it raises the point that list prices are suggested list prices. The present situation with the dollar allows some great margins to exist, and the potential profit has risen greatly over the past few months.

It also allows you to be flexible. I go back to Carl and I say, ‘Look, I know you really like this Bible and it’s not the first time you’ve bought one, so you’re giving these away, right? How would you like to get three of them at once and pay only $49.99 each?’

Now I’m back to the selling price from a year ago, but without using the calculator this time, I know that a healthy margin is there and I can do this and generate some badly needed sales at a slower time of year.

Carl gets a deal, a deal personalized for him. It’s not in a flyer, but it’s in a virtual ‘Carl catalogue’ which he probably likes better than a hundred titles he’s not interested in. And that’s the whole point: At higher list prices, a greater gross margin exists that you can play with. 

But I can also work this both ways, I can go to my supplier and say, ‘Carl buys a lot of these, I know it’s only 4 Bibles;’ [I’ve decided to buy an extra keep one in stock if I can get a good deal] ‘but can you give me a few extra discount points?’ 

I know of two suppliers who will listen — although they might laugh because it’s only 4 copies in this example — and two suppliers who won’t budge. But to date there is no law against asking.


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Foreign Market Books Often Have Different Titles

Tim Keller PsalmsThis is the book by Timothy Keller that we know as The Songs of Jesus, at least I’m pretty sure it is. Books in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and other countries often have different covers and sometimes different names, but I mention this one because My Rock, My Refuge is currently in the Top Ten at Eden Books and someone is sure to ask for it in Canada under its alternative title.

Any advertising you see embedded in this blog post does not originate with Thinking Out Loud or Christian Book Shop Talk

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If I Lived Closer, I’d Apply for This in a Heartbeat

I’d love to be a wholesale buyer; I think I’d do well, too. However, from the full job description for this, they’re looking as much at the materials handling part of the work as they are the selecting of quantities to order, which is no doubt partially determined through the marketing department. Besides, they probably have an algorithm that determines inventory minimums and maximums, and I tend to work on instinct! (Ironic since as I’m writing this I’m in a Twitter exchange with an author whose book is going to be distributed by DCC in Canada and we’re discussing inventory levels.)

Purchasing Product Manager
David C Cook Distribution CanadaParis, ON

David C Cook Distribution Canada has a great opportunity for a person with Purchasing/Buying experience.
The Purchaser/Product Manager will maintain supply of merchandise by studying needs, preferences and maintaining inventory in computer operations system.

This person needs to demonstrate good analytical skills, be very organized, and be able to multi task and work under some degree of stress and pressure to meet deadlines and process work efficiently to meet customer expectations.

Main Position Responsibilities:

  • Purchase merchandise in a timely fashion, process receiving documentation – reconciling any discrepancies, deal with damages, and verify pricing & discounts.
  • Maintain inventory in system, entering new product info, discontinuing products, changing and updating pricing, and updating release dates.
  • Prepare and process returns to suppliers including customs documentation.
  • Follow up on outstanding purchase orders and provide feedback to Customer Service in response to customer inquiries.
  • Work as a proactive team member of purchasing/product management department

Position Requirements:
Formal Education: College diploma or degree in Business Administration, supply Chain Management, Purchasing Management or similar program preferred.

Previous Work Experience: Preferred minimum 1 – 2 years purchasing/buying experience

Technical Knowledge: Microsoft Office, with working ability to create and maintain Excel spreadsheets.

Special Qualification: Interest in, knowledge of, and/or passion for both the Church & the Christian Marketplace.

Our Mission: To equip the church with Christ-centered resources for making and teaching disciples who obediently transform today’s generations .

Job Type: Full-time

New Credit Card Charges Coming in Spring

Today we received notice from our merchant services provider about various new charges being introduced, many on different dates in April, and one in August. Most involved MasterCard.

There are going to be premium charges for flash sales (what we call ‘tap’ sales) as well as handful of charges for “card not present” transactions, including the processing of the security numbers on the back of the cards. 

The provider is suggesting you can call to get the acceptance of tap sales disabled on your point of sale processor. (But didn’t you pay a little more on your monthly rental of the machine itself to have that capacity?)

But here’s where it gets really disturbing: There are going to be charges for failed transactions as well as successful ones involving those security numbers. You do the processing, the transaction is declined, but you’re still charged.

There are also charges for credit verification. In other words, certain types of inquiries — I think this is going to hit restaurants and motels especially hard — where you are verifying the card but not completing a finalized transaction.

Heard enough? There’s more. Many of the new charges are going to be in U.S. dollars. Why? Because they can.

Ever wonder how all those MasterCard providers can issue all those customer reward points and give away all that stuff? It’s more easily understood when you realize how much the merchants are covering all this, and will be covering it even more in the years to come.

That 40-inch television your customer has in the living room? You paid for part of it.

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