Posts Tagged ‘Christian bookstores in Canada’

The Government of Canada’s Solution for Bookstore Competitiveness

For several months there has been talk about the “Support for Booksellers” component of the Government of Canada’s Canada Book Fund. The idea was to create funding to help booksellers expand their online book sales this season and next season. The funding, announced November 9th totaled $12 million, and went to 177 small chains and independent stores and three large chains, representing a total of 467 brick-and-mortar stores. Chapters/Indigo with 178 locations received $3.5 million and a large Quebec-based chain, Librairie Renaud-Bray, received just under $1.9 million.

Christian stores, not so much. As in almost not at all. One business, Kennedy’s Parable Christian Bookstores, with locations in Red Deer, Saskatoon and Kelowna received — wait for it — a grand total of $1,000, the smallest amount available. No other Christian stores received anything. (For a link to the full list of stores click here.)

And that, my friends, is the Government of Canada’s solution to our inability to stay competitive against the giant behemoth that starts with the letter “A,” the one which has put thousands and thousands of stores out of business in North America.

Meanwhile in France, last month the government there imposed a minimum shipping charge of €3 (3 Euros or about $4.15 Canadian) for book shipments which applies to all vendors, including the behemoth’s France counterpart. It is expected this puts independent stores in that country on a more even footing.

On behalf of the 60-or-so Christian stores in Canada that got nothing, I think I prefer France’s solution much better.

Christian Book and Record Celebrates 50 Years

Edmonton’s Christian Book and Record celebrated 50 years of serving the Alberta city with an in-store celebration on Saturday, September 17th. The store is located in a strip mall, and customers lined up across the length of the mall waiting for the opening, entertained by radio hosts from 105.9 Shine FM. Guests also enjoyed an outdoor tent with coffee, doughnuts and popcorn, while the inside was adorned with a retro theme featuring record albums hanging from the ceiling.

There are pictures on their Facebook page, where they also wrote,

We were absolutely blown away by your support during our 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday. Staff who’ve been with us for 15, 20, and 30+ years had never seen such a turnout! We are truly blessed with the best customers and we cannot thank you enough for your overwhelming support and kindness.

To our valued customers, our hardworking staff, our esteemed alumni, our supportive Plaza 82 neighbours and partners at 105.9 ShineFM, our beloved families, and our faithful God, thank you for 50 years.

We’ve loved serving the Edmonton area for the last 50 years and carrying on Douwe & Joan Postma’s legacy. It truly has been God’s great faithfulness that has carried us through these 50 years.

The store is currently owned by Carolyn and Darcy Doorten and anniversary sale specials will continue through October.

A former staff member wrote:

My favourite part was seeing a lot of familiar (staff and faithful customer) smiling faces! It brought a tear to my eye to see Douwe and Joan’s legacy being carried on; what a testament to God’s faithfulness! Thank you for your Christian service and for being like family while I was away from mine during my university years

A customer wrote:

The atmosphere… It certainly felt like a party with all of the decor and swag and treats and draws… We are proud to have you in our community and are thankful to have a place that loves Jesus and shelves books that we can thumb through!!

Congratulations to all who have served there faithfully for 50 years on a job well done.

Living Waters Move from Linwood (ON) to Elmira (ON) Finally Approved

The long anticipated move of Living Waters Christian Bookstore from Linwood, ON to Elmira, ON has finally been greenlighted this week by the Township of Woolwich.

Officially listed on their website as Living Waters Book and Toy Store, the store is truly unique among Christian bookstores in Canada for the broad range of additional merchandise it carries; everything from school supplies to trampolines. Steve Kannon at The Observer Extra (a supplement to the Elmira Observer) reported this week:

…Currently based in Linwood, the company wants to consolidate its offices, warehouse space and a retail store under one roof. Now it has the needed official plan amendment and zoning change on the property at 122 Church St. W.

The size of the operation and the non-retail component make a typical core area location, such as downtown Elmira, ill-suited for the company’s needs, noted manager of planning John Scarfone in a report presented to council Tuesday night.

“On the surface, it may be concluded that the type of retail operation and merchandise being sold by Living Waters should logically be directed to Elmira’s Core Area in keeping with that area’s planned function. However, upon additional consideration, Living Waters’ existing, unique and specialized retail, warehouse, distribution and wholesale operations as well as the nature and scale of the proposed business envisioned for the Church Street property, may mean that the service commercial designation may be a more appropriate location,” reads his report.

Although existing zoning on the property already allows some retail, it doesn’t cover the range proposed by Living Waters in keeping with its four retail locations, which includes books/reading material, indoor and outdoor games, Bibles and religious material, kitchenware and gift items, among others…

…Since its launch in 2004 in Linwood, Living Waters has expanded to four locations, with a booming online business and a wholesale operation that provides material to some 100 retailers. It has now outgrown its original home…

Read the full story at this link

…Although I haven’t seen this store, one of my sales reps says it’s a must-visit if you’re ever in the area; especially when some stores may be considering merchandise diversification as a necessary means to long term survival and sustainability .

Cherub’s Cupboard: Durham Region’s Catholic Supply Store


At the eastern end of the Greater Toronto Area is Oshawa, home to General Motors with a population of approximately 150,000. Yesterday I had a few minutes to visit Cherub’s Cupboard, a store located in the central business core on (appropriately) Centre Street.  Owners Ted and Sandra Hickey have faithfully operated this store on the main floor of a converted house for 26 years.

The store isn’t a Christian bookstore in the sense that books do not dominate the inventory as they might with other retailers in this category, in fact the selection of books and Bibles is really quite small. But this is made up for with a huge selection of giftware, greeting cards, statuary and not surprisingly, a huge selection of rosaries.

The staff associate working yesterday, Noelle, shared with me that the store’s proximity to the region’s hospital results in people picking up gifts to take with them to patients. I realized later that other than the picture below I hadn’t taken any other pics in the store, so I had my wife drive by again and we took the above picture in the middle of rush hour traffic. As the window lights suggest, the store is very bright — almost all of the picture frames for baptism, confirmation and first communion are white in colour — and this presents a shopping environment where everything is clearly visible even though the shelves are packed.

Their website, is a splash page that provides basic location and contact information. Also, as I found out too late, there is free parking behind the store!

I liked this item below — not sure if it’s for sale — and took a quick picture. I’m sure it’s the motto of many of you who work in this industry:


The picture on the website, taken from across the road shows the exterior better than my picture:



Blessings Ceases Operations in BC and Alberta: Four Stores Close

January 22, 2015 1 comment

Confirming what we have been aware of four a couple of weeks, Mark Hutchinson, President of Blessings released the following statement to us this morning, confirming the closure of all four stores:

Blessings Christian MarketplaceFor the past several years, Blessings has run at a continual financial deficit, with the losses in the past two years running into the six figure range.  To continue further after this fashion would simply be poor stewardship.  It is with a very heavy heart that we have begun the pursuit of amicably and honorably winding up our operations, being left with no other alternative course.

Our Edmonton retail location saw its last customers on Saturday, January 10th and our Langley retail location served until close of business on Thursday, January 15th.  Our Calgary location closed in 23rd and  our Chilliwack  on January 31. We  served with tremendous spirit and dedication until  the end.

We would like to extend a heartfelt and sincere thanks to the hosts of faithful customers who have graced our stores with their patronage over the years.

Blessings was at one time a national chain with 23 stores stretching from the Maritimes to the west coast. A restructuring early in 2008 left the company focused on its four stores in Alberta and BC. The announcement means that only a few days into 2015, two stores in Alberta have closed and one has announced an intention to close; all in major market areas.

Time to be Honest with Customers?

February 3, 2014 4 comments

Sometimes you want to tell your customers how it’s going, and sometimes you’re better not to say anything. How do you strike the balance? In the past we’ve seen what we thought was genuine communications play out like a game of broken telephone:

  • we said, “We don’t want to think about closing;”
  • which was read as “They’re thinking about closing;”
  • which got passed on as “They’re shutting down;”
  • which ends up with a customer dropping in months later saying, “This is wild! We heard you had closed.”

So one hates to be preemptive, but there is a need to be honest with customers. That was the spirit of a letter Faith Family Books in Toronto sent out to its customers two weeks ago on January 20th:

I would not normally ask for your help but this time I must make an exception. We felt that if we were not open and honest with all of you about our current needs, and then something happened to us that “was shocking,” you might wonder why we didn’t ask our community for help. So let me explain why we are asking for your support and your prayers.

Like any of the bookstores and retail businesses that depend on strong Christmas sales that allow for their survival the rest of the year, we find ourselves in a difficult circumstance that many find themselves in.

Our normal sales in December account for 25% of yearly sales and 90% of all profits for the year so it is a vital period. It is common for a store’s major sales to come during the 2-3 weekends just before Christmas and then through Boxing Day. This year, in the 2 weeks leading up to Christmas, we had a major snow storm on one key weekend, an ice storm the weekend before Christmas and then an arctic freeze (Polar Vortex) ever since. The ice storm brought our sales to a full stop for a solid week while people waited for their power to come back on. As Toronto experienced the worst weather of any December in decades our “life-saving sales period” was lost and resulted in significant financial losses for Faith Family Books.

As we enter the lean days of winter where many businesses find themselves not able to survive, we are in need of the support of all our faithful customers more than ever to keep us open…

At my own store, things weren’t on the same scale financially, but to us the need was just as acute. On December 28th we wrote:

From day one… more than 18 years ago, people have always wanted to know “how it’s going.” …[I]t thrilled me back then when people, in a figurative sense, “took ownership” of the place. A handful of anonymous people over the years have taken this one step further and provided us with short term financing. It’s nice to know that people are invested with us in seeing the capital-C Church having some visibility in the larger marketplace.

Normally we pay [our operating loan] off completely the second week in December and start the year with a zero balance. The key word is normally.

Although we’re current with all our suppliers, our landlord, and our employees, we’re down about $11,000 from where we’d normally be at this time.  Having daily sales in the four week lead-up to Christmas … higher would have minimized this, and again normally, that’s what we expected.

…People who operate retail businesses are always lamenting lack of activity, even when things are great. But the thing that grieved me most this Christmas was the downturn in Bible sales, both for adults and for children. The inventory level we committed to back in September seemed conservative at the time, but we have stacks and stacks of Bibles left over this year.

Another area which was disturbing was in our Children’s books department. I can’t think of anything better for a kid than to curl up with a good book, but many of today’s parents find it easier to place the child in front of a screen with a DVD or video game. This trend ought to be causing all kinds of red lights to appear on your dashboard…

The letter to Faith customers concluded:

There are many ways you can help us continue to be a centre that provides resources that Christians and churches need to grow in their faith. If you have not visited our store for a long time please come and see our great new product selection. You can tell a friend about us or bring one in to browse around. You can hold off on that “on-line order” and instead let us meet your needs. If you are a pastor, please remind your congregation that Christian stores like us depend on them.  Our customers are essential as we forge ahead…

We concluded in a similar way:

…I will keep fighting for its existence as long as it remains viable, because I see the positive results first-hand. I hope that some of you will want to join us in this mission, and even though the formal season of gift-giving is now past, consider ways you can place a Christian book or music CD or a Bible in the path of a neighbour, co-worker, friend, extended-family member, or even a stranger.

I should add here that I am aware of at least one person who was very critical of Faith’s approach — that was how I heard about the letter — and that I had to spend 20 minutes defending ourselves to a customer for our own letter. But I think that in our particular type of ministry, you have to be straightforward with your customers.

I believe the times call for us to be totally transparent.