Archive for September, 2016

“Priceless” Isn’t Always a Good Thing

Other than inventory, shelving, a POS machine and a cash register, I can’t think of a piece of equipment more vital than pricing guns; especially in the Canadian Christian publishing market where we need to convert prices from U.S. to Canadian on the majority of our titles; not to mention music, giftware, jewelry, Bible cases and DVDs.

We’ve written before about the Contact line of price guns, but the contact information (no pun intended) has changed. The company has a new name, Shiny Canada, and our good friend Robert — who is also my favorite worship team guitarist — can direct you to one of his nearby distributors for faster service.

I’ve known people — and had employees — who got confused between cost prices and retail prices; but here in Canada the complexity doubles because we basically work in two different currencies. Probably well over 95% of everything we sell originates in the United States, and while some publishers are establishing Canadian retail prices, re-pricing product is a fact of daily retail life north of the 49th, and the clicking of price guns is like background music in our main store.

We actually keep four price guns loaded at all times, and by comparison, our store is very small:

  • a two-line, white label gun for regular price product, date codes and additional special codes when needed
  • a two-line, red label gun with original list price on top, sale price on the bottom and room for a date code in the upper right
  • a one-line, white label gun for small items where the large price tag would be too intrusive on the product and date codes don’t matter
  • a one-line, white label gun with no pricing, just a constantly increasing number that is applied to giftware pieces and the boxes that match up to them

For more than two decades, we’ve always used the Contact line of price guns. If you don’t have one (or four!) Robert Steen at Shiny Canada can set you up with the distributor closest to you. I believe a two-line starter kit is a must-have for even the very smallest store. If you’re using hand-written stickers or your price gun has reached the point where you can’t tell a ‘3’ from an ‘8’ or a ‘2’ from a ‘7,’ then make today the day to upgrade. 

Nothing is worse than the customer having to ask for the price, because each one represents several who didn’t ask. Make sure your price points are well labeled on all your product.



121 McMaster Avenue
Ajax, ON  Canada    L1S 2E6
PH: 866-801-3565 or 905-686-4004
FAX: 800-313-8661 or 905-426-2235

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Former Thomas Nelson CEO Signs with Baker Books

This was somewhat buried — in the 6th paragraph — in Publisher’s Weekly’s monthly list of Religion book signings.

Hyatt Signs a Triple with Baker

Baker Books’ editor Chad Allen closed a three-book deal with Michael Hyatt, former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson. Releasing in spring 2018, spring 2019, and spring 2020, the three yet-to-be-titled books will focus on personal development and productivity—topics Hyatt has explored on his blog, podcast, and in his online courses…

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The Lord’s Prayer for Booksellers


Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name

For us, I think this means remembering that God is holy and what we’re doing is serious business. Working in an around Christian products all week might cause us to trivialize or minimize the importance of our mission and the message we bring to our communities. The things of God can become too familiar. We need to focus our attention heavenward more often.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven

We are part of God’s overarching plan and as we join in what God is doing we will see that he wants his will to be done individually in the people we serve, and collectively in our cities and towns. How is God’s will done in heaven? He just speaks and its happens. We should be that obedient to his voice.

Give us this day our daily bread

This is the prayer many of pray most often. These are tough times for bookstores in general, and more so for Christian bookstores as interest in faith, God and the church seems to be waning. We ask God to help us meet our needs so that we can pay our suppliers, our employees, our rent, and our utilities on time.

And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us

We all get hurt. Sometimes in a Christian retail sense this can involve a supplier who let us down, or a customer who never picked up an order. We need to forgive. Also, sometimes we fail to operate our stores by the highest Christian ethics and our actions can hurt others or do damage to Christ’s cause. We need to be forgiven.

And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil

We occupy a position of Christian leadership in our communities, and Christian leaders are subject to many temptations and can be the target of many attacks. We need ask for God’s help as we endeavour to guard our steps, our eyes and our hearts.

For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory
Forever and ever, Amen

It’s his kingdom, not ours. We easily forget that. And it is eternal. It extends beyond the life of our stores. And it is his power that enables us. And it is for his glory that we do what we do. Amen.


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The Interconnected World of Christian Media and Why When They Hurt, We Hurt

September 26, 2016 2 comments

A friend asks you what you work at. You might say, “I’m in the Christian bookstore business.” Or you might say, “I work in Christian Publishing.”

But we’re also dependent on — as they depend on us — the world of Christian periodicals and websites (they review the books and music we sell), Christian television (they interview our authors), Christian radio (they play the music we carry) and Christian concert promotion (they bring the artists to our cities, or one nearby). We also help them by carrying their magazines, referring people to their websites, promoting their TV shows, directing people to local Christian radio, and putting up posters and selling tickets for Christian concerts.

But when people in one of those industries are hurting, we hurt, too.

A case in point is the cancellation of the Newsboys concert last week in Toronto.

  • This sends a signal to other US Christian bands that Canada might not be worth the hassle.
  • It sends a bad signal to Christian kids, depending on what they hear. They might feel their favourite artist did something bad, or it might engender a dislike for the Canadian government.
  • It impacts the Christian concert promoter and all the ancillary organizations that stood to benefit from the concert. In the Toronto area, it probably affects some CD sales at stores like ours.
  • It means a few thousand kids didn’t get the spiritual benefit from the concert, perhaps definitely this represents a few first-time commitments to Christ that never happened.

Anyway, if you missed this, here’s what we ran last week at Thinking Out Loud, which includes a link to the April cancellation, and the full statement by the band…

The Newsboys Shut Out of Canada for the Second Time


Back in April, we reported on the cancellation of The Newsboys concert in Toronto, Canada.

This week, lightning struck twice in the same place, despite the due diligence done by the band. Should Christian bands simply forget about trying to get into Canada? I don’t want to be sensationalist, but it makes you wonder what the backlash from this might be as the word spreads. Here’s the announcement this time around; this time sharing the full text of what the band wrote, posted at the promoter’s website:

September 21, 2016

Dear Toronto Newsboys fans,

It is with our deepest regrets that we have been forced to announce the cancellation of our Toronto concert tomorrow, Thursday Sept. 22nd. This cancellation is a direct result of the Canadian Border authorities blatant disregard for the policies and procedures of legally crossing the border, and we feel an explanation to our fans is in order.

As you may know, in April we attempted to cross the border to perform for you at Church on the Queensway. This crossing was just like the 5 other times we have crossed since 2009. We worked for weeks in advance of our arrival to provide all the necessary paperwork to make the crossing as smooth as possible. As we attempted our initial entry, Michael was told that he had a 9-year old traffic violation on his record and because of it, they were not going to allow him entry. We were told that he would need to take the appropriate steps to fix this issue, and as such, we were forced to postpone the show a few months while we sorted it out.

This shocked us, as we have been to Canada to perform for you several times prior, and not once was this issue raised. Regardless, as we are instructed Biblically, we respected the authorities’ decision and immediately hired attorney’s in the US and Canada to work to resolve this issue, and we rescheduled the concert for our fall tour. After 3 months and hundreds of hours, and an extensive financial investment, the lawyers were confident that Michael had done all he was asked and so yesterday, Michael flew to Toronto to attempt re-entry, this time with an 80-page document supporting his request for clearance. Michael even went 48 hours earlier so he would have plenty of time to present his case. Unfortunately, the border agents refused to accept his explanations, and once again denied him entrance, this time without even an adequate explanation of the denial.

To say we are shocked beyond belief is an understatement, and we are extremely disappointed in the agent’s decision. Obviously the agents have the serious task of protecting your nation, and we respect that, but the decisions of these two agents was made unilaterally and without merit, going against the stated laws and regulations that our attorneys were instructed to follow. It is extremely disheartening to spend all the time and resources we did, only to have it come down to how the agent “feels” and decides.

Ultimately, we are most disappointed that we will not be allowed to come share our songs and our ministry with our fans, but as we are reminded in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We may never know the true reasons behind this decision, but we do know God has a plan for all of us, and we rest assured in the love He has for His children. We will continue to vigorously work to clear this issue so that one day we can return and celebrate with you, but we feel until this is 100% cleared up, it is only right to refund your ticket purchases.

Thank you for your understanding and may God be with each and every one of you!


Michael, Duncan, Jeff and Jody

This time around, there is no mention of a future concert. The promoter, Premiere Productions had nothing about the cancellation on their blog.

As a Canadian, this totally infuriates me. All over, “a 9-year old traffic violation.” This band is an international Christian ministry with a solid reputation. Were other forces at work here? What does this say to Christian kids in Canada about their government?

Much of what happened may have been at the whim of one border employee. Thousands of kids were impacted. Is it worth sending the article link to your MP? A thing like this gets no mainstream press.

It shouldn’t have happened the first time.

It shouldn’t have happened twice.



Cook Canada New Name Revealed


David C. Cook Canada has a new name and a new logo. The company is becoming Parasource Marketing and Distribution. The name was revealed to staff yesterday at a luncheon held at the headquarters in Paris, Ontario and announced to wholesale accounts in an email released just after midnight.

The name change became necessary after the Canadian management group purchased the company from David C. Cook in the U.S. earlier in the year, along with buying Augsburg-Fortress Canada. 

Parasource becomes the leading independent distributor in Canada for Christian books, Christian music and media, Christian education curriculum, and Christian greeting cards.

Press release:

(Paris, Ontario, Canada) – Greg Tombs, President and Hardy Willms, Chief Financial Officer of David C Cook Distribution Canada and Augsburg Fortress Canada, are pleased to announce the new name for their company effective September 23, 2016:  Parasource Marketing and Distribution Ltd.

Tombs and Willms engaged with branding and design experts, Riordon Design, in Oakville, Ontario, to conduct extensive research and consultation with both customers and suppliers to understand the way in which both Cook and Augsburg Canada were perceived in the Christian marketplace.

“Research clearly showed that we were perceived as a service driven organization which supported our customers with both product knowledge and ministry understanding, coupled with the ability to warehouse and deliver product efficiently and effectively. This lead us to our new name which is made up of two words – “para”, meaning ‘to come along side’ in the sense of service, assistance and help as well as “source” as a convenient and efficient one-stop shop for Christian resource product in Canada,” Tombs said.

Parasource’s tag line is, “Serving Canada’s Christian Community”.

“Through strong relationships with both our publisher suppliers and our trade and direct customer base, we ensure that the Canadian church is serviced by Canadians who understand our unique culture and makeup of the Canadian Christian Marketplace and Church,” said Tombs.

Parasource represents over 25 major Christian book and curriculum publishers, over 35 Christian music and media labels, 8 Christian card and gift suppliers and over 17 Christian resource suppliers.

Parasource services and supplies the Christian retail trade stores in Canada through our trade sales and marketing team, the Canadian General Market, and has direct and exclusive supplier agreements with multiple Christian denominations in Canada. In addition, Parasource extensively services and supplies ministry and learning resources directly to churches and para-church organizations in Canada with our experienced church resource consultant group.  Parasource is present at numerous denominational and special focus ministry events each year. Launching later this fall, the new website, will also directly serve the church and Christian consumer markets in Canada.

With their extensive contact lists of people in Christian ministry in Canada, Parasource will also be further developing their marketing services to Christian content developers in the publishing, music and media market spaces.

The Email We Always Want to Send, but Never Do

I sent this out to a few pastor friends yesterday. You’ve probably experienced the same frustration…

The Email We Always Want to Send, but Never Do

Dear Customer,

I’m sorry that the particular item you were looking for is no longer in print. We all have know what it’s like to have a favourite promise book to send someone going through a hard time; a special devotional we like to give to a student; a great Bible to present to a couple getting married, and an inspirational book that’s good encouragement for a new mom. We do provide feedback to publishers where possible, and fight to keep some great titles in print. But sometimes an item published in 1979 is just…well…old, and it’s time to take it out of the catalogue.

But I’m even more sorry that you won’t allow our staff to suggest a comparable resource. There is nothing harder for us than to see a customer walk out the door empty-handed knowing that it’s extremely unlikely they’ll find the item elsewhere. It will truly be a needle in a haystack to find even a used copy. Please don’t shoot the messenger, either; we want you to connect with what’s needed, but it’s difficult when you’re stuck on one particular title.

We try to be sensitive to your situation, and we’re aware of what we stock, but also what we can bring in quickly from our partner distributors. There are some great books being written by a new generation of authors. Not all of them will last forever, but we hope you’ll allow us to consider something new. Among our staff we have a variety of churches in our backgrounds and can choose something that will be a good fit.


Your Bookstore staff.

How Pastors Can Help:

Please assure your parishioners that we have their best interests at heart, and we’re not driven by profit motive. Tell them that they can trust us to come up with something comparable, and that we’ll work with them to find a good fit for their context.

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Parents Willing to Make the Investment

christian-books-for-kidsYesterday I spent about an hour with a customer looking for print resources for her three children. I wasn’t particularly busy with other work, and I even spent some time on the floor of the children’s section hanging out with two of her kids. (Hopefully that wasn’t too creepy; these days you never know.)

I was really impressed with the care she took to find the right items, even phoning her husband at one point to talk about a devotional title. It was refreshing — and increasingly rare — to see a parent willing to drive about 40 minutes and then take an hour to choose, and then make a $100 investment in the spiritual nurture of their children. I really wish I had more customers like her.

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New Identity for David C. Cook Canada Coming This Week

cookLogo200x60On March 1st we reported that David C. Cook Canada, the largest Christian product distributor in the country, had been purchased by its senior management team. The very same day, we also reported that the same management group had purchased Augsburg Fortress Canada.

Under the terms of the first sale, Cook in the U.S. required that the Canadian operations undergo a change of name, as we reported on July 6th. We’ve been told that by the end of the week that will be announced, though some key people in the company still have no idea what it is.  (Feel free to use the comments section to guess.)

Cook’s website was shut down for maintenance all weekend, and we’ve been told to expect a revamped site early in 2017. Hopefully it will contain a search field on each and every page, and the ability to sort results by price or author or discount, or even do a search within results. When it first opened, we reported on October 22, 2009, we reviewed it and wrote, “I find nothing here to criticize.” (Parts of that review were even posted on the website of the company which did the design.) But in seven years of ordering from various suppliers online, expectations have changed, users expect more functionality, the B2B site at Cook is often plodding, and certainly the time is right to offer something better.

So, back to that name change. Any guesses?


Eight Years Ago: The R. G. Mitchell Meltdown




As a supplement to the September 16th story we announced that Augsburg-Fortress had picked up Westminster John Knox and Abingdon. Here’s how other trade lines fared in the weeks that followed; use the archives tabs to find the stories.

September 24: Baker Books Declares Open Market in Canada
September 26: Foundation Confirms Distribution for NavPress and Gospel Light
September 30: STL Announces Consolidated Shipping and Brokerage
October 6: Thomas Nelson Soliciting Canadian Stores Directly
October 10: Tyndale Assigns Canadian Distribution to Foundation
October 17: Harvest House Signs with Foundation Distributing
October 21: David C. Cook Cooks Up Drop-Ship Deal with Baker
October 28: Baker Books Locks in with David C. Cook
November 6: David C. Cook Confirms Moody and Kregel Trade Lines; Jettisons Others
November 12: David C. Cook Confirms Broadman & Holman Distribution
November 12: Upper Room Books Signs with Augsburg Fortress



The Changing Christian Distributor Market in the U.S.

September 15, 2016 2 comments

Publisher’s Weekly writer Emma Koonse has done an excellent job documenting the closing of Christian distributors over the years such as Riverside, Appalachain Bible Supply and Send the Light Distribution in a piece appearing yesterday.

To read the full article click this link. Here are some highlights:

  • Christian Book Services, Larry Carpenter’s company, is now using Ingram for fulfillment, and was owed $52,000 by Send the Light.
  • Three Christian bookstores have opened since December, 2015, but 27 have closed.
  • New Day Distributors, originally a music company now has 60 publisher vendors.
  • Midpoint Trade Books* in New York City has picked up “10 – 15” of Send the Light’s publishing clients.

midpoint-trade-books*Midpoint was a new name to me, so I investigated. Their Christian products division is Covenant Media Resources which includes authors Danny Silk (Bethel Church/Jesus Culture) and John Bevere (Messenger International) among its clients.

In doing some follow up research from Emma’s article, I couldn’t help but notice that landing pages for Midpoint and Covenant stress their services to publishers, but I couldn’t find anything stating how a U.S. bookstore would open an account, or even see anything resembling a complete database.  The pages were directed at attracting publishers, not soliciting bookstore accounts.

The New Day credit application makes no allowance for Canadian accounts. This again is a reminder of how accounts north of the 49th Parallel were spoiled by Send the Light with door-to-door, pre-brokered shipments.



How Much Catholic Merchandise Does Your Store Carry?


Unless you’re working in a Catholic Bookstore environment — and this is true of a few of our readers — the Christian supply store is dominated by Evangelicals and Evangelical publications. Still, we want to able to service a larger market and not alienate our Roman Catholic customers with a smug, “We don’t carry that;” type of attitude.

Here are some things we do and do not carry in our store. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on these.

  • Rosaries — We have at least 20 in stock at any given time and about 50 in peak seasons. They are kept behind the counter, however.
  • Catholic Bibles — We have about 20 in stock including the NAB, NRSV with Apocrypha, Jerusalem Bible, etc.
  • Crucifixes — These aren’t featured on our “cross wall” but are kept on display on a lower shelf with Confirmation and First Communion merchandise. Ideally about ten in stock at any given time. Years ago we discovered our Baptist customers were easily offended by them, so we went low-key. 
  • Books of Saints — We have a few and sometimes non-Catholics will buy them for their church history value.
  • Crucifix Jewelry — Probably about 5% of our fine jewelry which features a cross contains a design which has the corpus.
  • Missals — We’ll order these. There are so many ISBNs we ask the customer to let us know exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Medals — We have a few left from a purchase of inventory from a Catholic store which closed. We’re willing to do orders. Not really worth stocking, though costs would be minimal.
  • St. Joseph Statues — No stock, no ordering. This real estate superstition has no place in our store, and nothing to do with Christianity.
  • Angel Statues — We carry a few from Innovative Home, but they aren’t moving like they once did.
  • Scapulars — Only asked for one for the first time in 20 years last month. Fortunately there is a Catholic store in Oshawa and several in Toronto we can refer to.
  • Visor Clips — We got a few from a liquidator during the winter. Most sold, but I doubt we’ll reorder. Besides, I’m never clear if St. Christopher is in or out. (I think he’s back in.)

So what did I leave out?

How does your store compare with mine?


Upper Photo: File picture we had of Broughtons in Toronto from a previous article.
Lower Photo: You buy the statue, bury it upside down (yes) in the backyard and your house will sell.