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Good News: Two Stores Not Closing

After years of reporting on the closing of stores and also the attempts to reopen Christian retail in markets where stores have closed, it’s exciting to note that in two recent cases, people have stepped up to continue the vision of two existing stores, purchasing the business, inventory and fixtures.

British Columbia: The Nails

First, after Rae-Anne Guedes at The Nails Christian Bookstore in southeast British Columbia reported on January 6th that there was still no buyer, on January 19th she posted this:

A day later she posted:

I am so excited that an amazing couple has decided to keep the Christian Bookstore running in Cranbrook. Sitting in the store this morning it seems crazy to think I only have 5 and a half weeks left here. 40 DAYS!

Ontario: Durham Christian Bookstore

On Thursday, I dropped in on Bill and Sharon VanDerHerberg at Durham Christian Bookstore in Bowmanville, Ontario. This store is about the closest store to our own, and customers had reported that the store was closing, but again: Good News! They have found a buyer who will shadow Sharon in the store throughout February with a change of ownership taking place in early March. The store opened in 1989 and celebrated 25 years in 2014.

 

 

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Categories: Uncategorized

OM Ships Announces Remainder Sales to Canadian Retailers

Logos Hope (Wikipedia)

Three weeks ago we covered the closing of Books4Eternity, a remainder wholesale business based in Manitoba. At that time Autumn Youngs stated that the business would be assumed by OM Ships. We requested information on what the protocols would be for stores wishing to order and received this answer from Sherri Goodnight, Director of Sales:

Due to Books4Eternity closing, OM Ships International will now be working directly with Canadian customers. If customers would like to receive our lists, please contact Sue Eldridge at 641-648-2900 or sue.eldridge [at] gbaships.org. All orders will be shipped by UPS and OM Ships will be offering ½ free freight (includes prepaid freight, customs and taxes) on orders over $100 net! Customers will not have to worry about customs clearance and taxes! OM Ships will handle all this for them!

For those who don’t know the history of Operation Mobilization’s floating literature ministry — a good time to mention that for 2½ years my brother-in-law served as a marine engineer with them in the late 1980s, along with his wife — we were also given some background to share with you:

OM Ships International is the organization behind Logos Hope. The Ship Ministry began in 1970 as part of the global Christian training and outreach movement, OM International. Since then OM’s ships have visited 480 different ports in 151 countries and territories and welcomed over 46 million visitors on board.

Our goal is to share knowledge, help and hope with people of the world. We do this by supplying vital literature resources, encouraging cross-cultural understanding, training young people for more effective life and service, providing needed relief, and sharing a message of hope in God wherever there is opportunity.

In order for the Ship Ministry to supply the literature resources to the thousands of visitors who daily come on board Logos Hope, there is a Ministry Center in Florence, South Carolina where pallets with boxes and boxes of literature resources come in that need to be sorted, repacked and made ready to send to the ship and wholesale customers throughout the world.

Many of these remainders are donated by publishers, and in addition to supplying the ship, are made available to retailers in the U.S. and Canada at reduced prices. For many years this service (known to some of you then as OM Lit) had been provided in conjunction with STL Distributors. In an international context, especially in more sensitive countries, not all titles donated by American publishers work as well on the ships, so your purchases really do help out the ministry.

Note Re. ½-free shipping: Stores need to remember that the relationship between weight and total invoice costs is different when working with remainders. Shipping charges may seem high to those of you who haven’t purchased bargain books from the U.S. previously.


Wikipedia Entry on MV Logos Hope ship:

MV Logos Hope is operated by the German Christian charitable organization GBA Ships e.V (Gute Bücher für Alle, English: Good Books for All)…

…Twice as big as any previous ship operated by the organization, the ship was completely refitted over a period of 5 years. Logos Hope provides a better quality of life for crew as well as a wider range of activities for visitors and guests. The newly created Logos Hope Experience (which is situated on a deck that was installed into the original ferry’s car area) holds up to 800 visitors at any time, with capacity to host an additional 500 in the Hope Theatre and Logos Lounge. This publicly accessible deck offers visitors an introduction to the vessel and the organization, a book fair featuring over 5,000 different titles of educational and Christian books, a visual presentation called the Journey of Life, which is based on the story of the “Prodigal Son”, and the International Cafe.

The all volunteer crew and staff of 400 people, represent over 60 different countries. Unlike the crew during her original use as a car ferry, crew and staff normally join the organization to live on board for two years as volunteers.

Link to om.org; the official OM website.

 

Shortening the Distance Between the Sales Floor and Management

As a long-time observer of this industry, I’ve been asked many times over the past decade about store closings, probably a key barometer as to the health of our industry. On those occasions, I’ve often remarked that in some regions, it’s been the large market stores which have taken the greatest hits. The major cities lose key stores while many small(er) town stores seem to limp along as always.

I was thinking of that in light of the Sears closings this weekend. Again, a massive chain that some employees felt put too much distance between upper management and what was being discussed on the sales floor. (See the Toronto Star interviews with staff published Saturday.)

We must be listening to our customers.

Before writing this, I completed an order with one of several remainder sources we use. It wasn’t anything special, and there weren’t any key titles I was after. Instead it was a topping up. We had a slow year, so I don’t need to top up anything necessarily. However, without exception, each of the 30 lines on that order was based on some interaction we’ve had with customers. One or two of this, one or two of that, but all of it entirely launched with feedback and inquiries from shoppers; many of which make us aware of where we’re either missing or light on product sub-categories.

Here’s the sum of this:

I believe every customer conversation produces fruit for store buyers.

Buyers, owners and managers: Let your sales staff be your eyes and ears. You need to know what’s being requested. You need to avoid the isolation which comes with having an office. Maybe that’s why the small(er) town stores survive, because there is no upper management; owners are serving customers themselves.

If those buying the product aren’t on the sales floor, they need to keep their office door open so that sales associates can stick their heads in the door and say,

  • A woman was just asking if we’re ever getting ________ back in.
  • We just had a phone call wondering if we carry books by ________ .
  • Did you know we only have ___ copies of the ____ translation in stock right now?
  • I just unpacked a shipment from _________ and immediately sold two copies of _______, I think we’re out already!
  • On Sunday at all three services at ________ church, the pastor recommended that everyone get _______ .
  • I just did a look-up and confirmed that ________ is going to be going out of print; it’s one of our bestsellers; can we get more right away?
  • A customer just walked in talking about a new song Christian stations are playing by ________ .           …etc.

That type of interaction is gold. It’s on the same level of why major retailers are willing to invest or pay to get customer preferences and profiles.

You want your staff to collect email addresses, right? Well, it’s winter; it’s a slow time; get them to start collecting something else! Train them as spies! Get them to gather information in the field and bring it back into command central where it can be decoded into valuable purchasing decisions.

Sound like warfare? It is!

 

The Human Right by Rice Broocks Ties in to God’s Not Dead 3 Movie

A new book from Rice Broocks, author of Man, Myth, Messiah, God’s Not Dead and The Purple Book is releasing February 20th from W Publishing (an imprint of Thomas Nelson) and will be promoted at the end of the movie God’s Not Dead 3: A Light in Darkness which releases Easter weekend.

Publisher marketing:

A different kind of evangelism book.

Just as the author’s book, God’s Not Dead, laid out the logical reasoning for God’s existence, and Man Myth Messiah established the existence and identity of Jesus Christ, now Rice Broocks brings a definitive book on the logical necessity to make the proclamation of the Gospel our highest priority. In fact, it is actually the ultimate justice issue and therefore the most important of all human rights. Consciously or subconsciously, many now believe that demonstrating tolerance is more important than truthFundamentally, the right to know the truth is even greater than the freedom to believe. Because Jesus Christ is the Truth, then humanity shouldn’t be denied the right to hear about Him, make their own decision, and then have the freedom to tell others.

Canadian Stores: There is an ITPE schedule for this title.

While we’re sharing trailers, here’s a peek at the movie:

 

Graduation Gift Sets Now Undated

Last year, for the class of 2017, Zondervan changed up its graduation packs for guys and girls — or as they say, for him or her — by introducing The Story Devotional in place of the pocket edition of the updated My Utmost for His Highest.

This year, for the class of 2018, there’s no mention of the class of 2018. The undated packaging means retailers can purchase the product with greater confidence, knowing it won’t be quickly out of date.

The product combo pack retails for only $19.99 US / $24.99 CDN.

For Him 9780310448105
For Her 9780310448136


Publisher marketing:

The Graduation Gift, Bible Pack includes:

  • NIV Compact Thinline Bible featuring:
    • The complete text of the accurate, readable, and clear New International Version (NIV), making God’s Word easily accessible for today’s graduate
    • Extra-thin size, measuring less than one inch thick
    • Double-column format
    • Words of Christ in red
    • 7.3-point print size
    • Exclusive NIV Comfort Print®
    • Attractive Leathersoft™ cover
  • The Story Devotional—365 daily Scripture readings connecting young people more deeply to God’s plan for their lives and helping them see their life and purpose in a whole new light—as part of God’s epic story.

Give a gift of lasting value to the graduate in your life.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Baker Book Group Takes Double Hit in Andy Savage Controversy

First there was this announcement on Monday,

and then there was this announcement on Wednesday,

The former (Bethany House) was scheduled for mid-summer, but the latter (Baker) was due out in just five weeks from now and had endorsements from Andy Stanley and Bob Goff. To the best of our knowledge this was the first major book release for both authors and coincidentally both authors’ scheduled books were with the same publishing group.

Savage was undoubtedly the Christian newsmaker of the past seven days; if you’re unfamiliar with the story check out the first seven links on this list.

Categories: Uncategorized

Meeting Amazon Head On

This is a continuation of yesterday’s article, a copy of the infographic as promised. It was sourced at The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ilsr.org) with this note: “Please feel free to re-post and distribute this widely!” For a higher resolution version, click this link.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Price Matching Amazon

Below is an amended version of some suggestions offered in a longer article at CBA Online. I didn’t want to steal the entire piece, so I encourage you to read it there, including the full introduction.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em; right? Some of you are immediately thinking that if you start cutting prices you won’t survive. I would argue that if you don’t respond you won’t survive. We can’t pretend what we jokingly refer to in our store as “the A-word” doesn’t exist. Perhaps instead of worrying about our stores “showrooming” for them, we should see them as “creating awareness” of products for us.

Click the title below to read the article in its original form, with the full introduction.

How to Make Amazon Price-Matching Work for You

 

  • …Sue Smith, store manager of Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and current CBA chair: Don’t send away empty-handed a customer who is standing right there. “I always say to my team that it’s not about the transaction in front of you,” she explains. “It’s about the next one, and the next one, creating an experience where you are inviting them to come back again.”
  • Erik Ernstrom, manager of business intelligence at Parable, agrees that trying to price match is vital, without giving away the farm. Plus, he notes, making a sale even at a discount provides the opportunity to sell something else such as a case and highlighters for a Bible purchase.
  • “Take a 50 cent hit and upsell,” agrees [Christian Supply’s Zach] Wallington. “That’s something Amazon won’t do.” It’s also part of the appeal of the Get It Local program to suppliers…
  • When it comes to showrooming—when in-store shoppers use their phones to price match online deals—Baker Book House’s staff is encouraged to engage shoppers who are on their phones by asking if they can help and telling them that the store can match anything they might find.
  • One independent retailer who found he couldn’t price match an online Bible deal “shifted gears and discussed Bible cases, tabs, and other stuff, which she did purchase from me,” he says…
  • “You have to play the game,” says Smith. “Call the publishers and see if you can get a discount.” Many times suppliers are willing to work with stores as much as they can because of the potential additional in-store sales.”
  • An additional card that indies can play against Amazon is the community buy-local one. If you have a good relationship with a local church, Ernstrom says, you might be able to point out that your store not only supports it by resourcing its members, but sometimes indirectly employing them and making it possible for them to tithe.
  • Good merchandising is another effective anti-Amazon strategy because it can counter the perception that the online retailer is cheaper on everything. Actually, it’s usually only the top 150 or so frontlist items, notes Wallington.
  • “You always have to have things on sale; if everything is full price you’ll never win,” says Ernstrom. “You have to have sales throughout the store—every section, every endcap. If they get the impression everything is full price, they’re going to think they can get it cheaper somewhere else.”

Read “To Price-Match Amazon or Not to Price-Match:” Part 1 in the December issue of Christian MARKET, and Part 2 in the January issue.

The one thing I would hasten to add to this is:

  • Amazon has no built-in spiritual discernment. There are no filters; no vetting of what might be included in their religious, inspirational or Christian categories. It would be relatively simple for a customer who is just browsing to end up with Mormon or New Age content. (We recently had a case where a book ended up in a church library for just that reason: No discernment.)

and also:

  • The Christian store offers the opportunity to physically examine the product before purchase.
  • Your store offers simple over-the-counter returns or exchanges in the case of duplicate gifts, product not desired, or factory defects in printing or CD/DVD manufacturing.
  • Christian store associates can offer better informed suggestions of other products the customer might appreciate; rather than the “other customers also bought” generated by an algorithm.
  • Conversely, as we get to know our customers well, we can warn customers off titles which are not as suitable to their doctrinal position as something else might be.
  • Whether it’s on sale, or even full price, we don’t change prices every hour. There is a measure of price stability in our stores.
  • We’re customers of the products we sell. We read the books, we listen to the music, we watch the movies. We’re better informed. Many of us have had our lives changed by Christian books and music.
  • You never know who’ll you meet at the Christian bookstore. It’s a social gathering place, not like the isolation of purchasing online.
  • We support local events by creating awareness; we hang posters for church events; we sell tickets for Christian concerts; we donate prizes for Christian fundraisers.
  • Our profits are poured back into Christian causes. Our employees give to their local church and provide volunteer help or lead small groups.
  • We support and display books by local and regional authors.
  • We have products that online vendors simply don’t carry.
  • We refer people in the broader community to local churches, and refer Christians for Christian counseling.

We have a lot to offer. I would suggest that owners and managers go through both lists above at your next staff huddle, so that everyone is on point and passionate about what we can offer. You may even wish to post this list; there’s a store website version of many of these points that some of you have used. I don’t know which store I ‘borrowed’ it from, but it’s on mine and I’ll post it here if enough people ask.


The graphic at the beginning of this article is part of an infographic that is available for free distribution from the Institute for Local Self Reliance. I’ll post the full infographic here tomorrow, but if you want to jump the gun, click this link.

Tim Challies’ 5 Most Ridiculous Books to Ever Become Christian Best Sellers

Oakville, Ontario blogger Tim Challies has a large following among those in the New Reformed movement. When I first saw this 12-minute video, posted mid-December, I found myself wanting to write a long explanation of how, as booksellers, we are conscious of the objections people have to certain types of writing and are processing our responses to some titles long before the wider Christian populace even know the books exist.

But while I wanted to address each of the five books covered here and why my own store does or does not carry them, I decided instead to simply present this without comment. Tim Challies is a fellow-Canadian and I suspect that many of us who are booksellers will agree with more of this than disagree. What matters is how each of us individually responds to titles containing things that are problematic while some of our best and most loyal customers are asking why the titles are not stocked, or not visible.

Also, although Tim is a Calvinist, I consider him a little more balanced than some; I think all he’s doing here is presenting what his particular audience wants to see.

The Things People Assume About Christian Stores

Something a little different for the last business day of 2017…

It’s been awhile since we last visited the bookstore stories at the website NotAlwaysRight.com. If you think we’re making this one up, you can read it at this link. This story took place somewhere in Pennsylvania.

(A lady calls into our bookstore. We are a private, Christian, non-profit organization. She wants to know about circumcision and any materials pertaining to that subject. I am confused as to why she wants it.)

Lady: “Hi, do you guys have any books on circumcision?”

Me: “Uh… no. That is mainly a Jewish practice, started in the Old Testament by Abraham and his family as a holy covenant with God.”

Lady: “That’s fascinating! Well, my nephew has just been born and the family was talking about it, and I didn’t know what it was. Every time I ask they avoid the subject with me.”

(After explaining to her what it was and why people did it, I told her that the practice today is done by a trained professional called the Mohel or by a medical professional.)

Lady: “So, it’s not as bad as it sounds! So do you think I could do it on my boyfriend? Here he is now!”

(Her boyfriend apparently walked into the room. She proceeded to check his penis to see if he was circumcised and tell me the gory details over the phone.)

Lady: “Can it be done with some scissors?”

Me: “Um… no… you would have to go to the hospital for that.”

Lady: “But you said it was not that bad!”

Me: “Yes, but if it’s not done right you can seriously hurt your boyfriend.”

Lady: “Oh. But Abraham did it with a knife!”

Me: “That was a long time ago and I’m sure he had divine intervention to help him!”

 

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Boxed Christmas Cards: Up or Down in Your Store?

Years ago there was a movie titled, What if They Gave a War and No One Came.” Periodically, I think of that title when a major event in our store just isn’t happening.

Boxed Christmas Cards moved much slower this year, but there was still the 40% sale for Boxing Week to help us at least move the product. In past years, there would be people milling about the doors waiting for us to open so they could have first pick.

This year, nothing. All day. We didn’t sell a single box of reduced Christmas cards from opening to closing.

For us, the boxed cards are not our raison d’être. Those customers are not necessarily regulars. It’s not part of our core business. But the sales of boxed cards make it possible for us to do all the things that we do, all the other months of the year. Although we sell more books in June and July, we see more cash flow in December.

Is it the higher cost of postage stamps in Canada? Is it a generational thing where printed cards are being replaced by electronic communication?

How were boxed card sales in your store this season?

Categories: Uncategorized

Books 4 Eternity Closing

Lost in the busyness of my pre-Christmas email was a December 20th announcement from Autumn Youngs at Books 4 Eternity.

You have been my extended family and friends!  I have been so blessed to be in a Christian industry for the last 19 years.  It is now time for us to move on to other things.  Scott & I have decided to close Books 4 Eternity.  We will sincerely miss you!

Sherri Goodknight is the sales manager for OM Ships who we have had the honor of distributing for these last 6 years…I know you will be in good hands!

Books 4 Eternity was a Canadian Christian book remainder wholesale source for Canadian retailers. Books could be purchased from sales lists individually, or you could purchase an entire skid. Some of you knew the business under the name Solomon’s Porch. In 2011 we reported on a fire which burned the the business to the ground. With help from suppliers, Autumn and Scott rebuilt the business where it continued to serve Canadian retail accounts for another six years.

We wish them all the best moving forward.

 

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