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Posts Tagged ‘Christian bookstores’

Christian Booksellers Market Books and Promote Doctrines

“With the purchase of as few as twelve copies, you get an extra 8% discount, a poster for your store window, an in-store shelf-header and an extra copy for you or your staff or for a giveaway. Plus, all copies are returnable after nine months.”

Sounds like a great deal doesn’t it?

You can just hear bookstore owners, or maybe yourself, saying, “Okay, I’ll take twelve copies.”

But I haven’t told you what the book is, have I?

If it’s an end-times book, which eschatological model does the author follow? If it’s a book on marriage, where do the authors stand on the role of women in the church and home? If it’s about engaging the culture, does the author envision Christians being active in the public square, or distancing ourselves because we are citizens of another kingdom? If it’s about the first handful of chapters in Genesis, does the writer take it literally or see it as allegorical?

Meanwhile, the books arrive and the copies, with their in-store shelf header and window cling are given store space front and centre. Face it, retailer, you are now endorsing this book and in so doing, you are promoting its viewpoint or core doctrine.

And in giving it that front-of-store end-cap, it means that other books aren’t appearing as prominently. The marketing materials and extra discount assured that the title received prime real estate.

I had to find an image for this article that didn’t reflect any particular titles we carry, hence this one, found on Reddit.

So who do you want to promote?

We have enough reasons right now to curtail visibility of certain authors, so I don’t need to give you more. We also don’t want to completely censor every viewpoint on marriage, the book of Revelation, immigration, and gun control which disagrees with our own. We want there to be room for pacifists and just-war theorists alike. As booksellers, we should want to create room for discussion.

We also don’t want to automatically be suspicious of extra discounts. Honestly, my store survives on extra margin points and/or free shipping.

But we don’t want to be investing our money in things with which we passionately disagree. We might have a few authors we don’t like, but we would rather place them on a lower shelf past the store’s halfway mark than to give them the coveted end-cap when customers walk in the door.

We also don’t have the time spend on hours of research. Ultimately, we have to trust the doorkeepers of major Christian brands — Baker, Tyndale, D.C. Cook, Harvest, etc. — to do what’s right.

However, I think we need to know what we’re promoting, and we need to know that by giving certain titles and authors prime space, we are in fact promoting viewpoints which will affect the spiritual formation of our customers.

We also need to recognize that the vibe our store gives off is noted by customers in ways we can’t imagine, and that each product choice reflects the spiritual atmosphere which shoppers perceive.

We’re advocating for theological positions whether we like it or not, and while we’re not all theologians, scholars or academics; we need to endeavour to make the best choices we can.


This article was written in a relative vacuum, and does not reflect any particular current promotions on offer of which I’m not aware.

End of an Era: LifeWay to Close All 170 Retail Stores

Breaking Story

On January 6th, 2018 the iconic James Draper Tower of the LifeWay complex in downtown Nashville was demolished. Thursday’s announcement of the closing of the retail chain sends even bigger shock waves. [Source: Tennessean – see below]

Religion News Service reported:

LifeWay Christian Resources announced Wednesday (March 20) it will close all 170 of its brick-and-mortar stores this year.

That comes as LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, shifts its resources online.

Local news media The Tennessean reported:

The company plans to shift to a digital strategy as consumers increasingly rely on online shopping, a challenge that retailers face nationally. LifeWay resources, such as online Bible studies and worship plans, will be offered at LifeWay.com, through the LifeWay Customer Service Center and through its network of church partners

“LifeWay is fortunate to have a robust publishing, events and church services business. Our retail strategy for the future will be a greater focus on digital channels, which are experiencing strong growth,” [CEO Brad] Waggoner said. “LifeWay is moving into a new era with a strategic digital focus that will prepare us for the future and allow us to better serve our customers.”

At LifeWay’s Facts and Trends website, more details:

…The timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. LifeWay expects all brick-and-mortar stores to close by the end of the year…

…In one month, LifeWay interacts with five times as many people through its digital environments as it does through LifeWay stores…

Unlike the 2017 closing of another Christian retail chain, Family Christian Stores, this is not a receivership. The FCS closing affected over 3,000 employees and also devastated publishers, music companies and giftware suppliers who were also sent reeling with the closing of Send the Light, a large wholesale distributor. FCS closed 240 stores in comparison to LifeWay’s current 170. In contrast, the website for Parable explains that, “Parable Christian Stores are locally owned and operated franchise stores run by people who desire to resource their community with Christian products.”

But there is no doubt the LifeWay decision will have an impact on authors, musicians, and a host of other creatives who make the products that Christian bookstores sell. It will also have ripple-effect repercussions on everything from how Christian products are marketed and promoted to Christian music concert tours. 

But not every author, musician, or film producer is affected as the RNS story reminded us that many had their products outright banned by the chain:

[Rachel Held] Evans said Wednesday that she doesn’t rejoice over any bookstore closing and she is mindful that LifeWay’s closing means many people will lose their jobs.

But, she said, “for too long Lifeway’s fundamentalist standards have loomed over Christian publishing, stifling the creativity and honesty of writers of faith.

“I hope this news reinforces to writers, editors, and marketers across the industry that we don’t have to conform to Southern Baptist doctrine and culture to sell books. Readers are hungry for literature that embraces the complexity, nuance, and ragged edges of real-life faith and for bookshelves that reflect the diversity of the Church.”

Other people on Twitter responding to the closure didn’t share Evans’ compassion and were outright gleeful that the chain, long known for its restrictive practices was shutting down. “News we can celebrate;” said one, while @SBCExplainer, an official SBC account, countered with, “[L]et’s band together to dispel any notions that LifeWay is ‘going under’. LifeWay will continue to be the largest Christian resources provider in the world.”

As the story broke in local markets where the company has locations, several reports indicated that store management knew their closing date was coming at the end of May. SBCExplainer also noted that campus bookstores operated by LifeWay at seminaries would also be closing. Also included in the closing is the new flagship store built less than a year ago in the new LifeWay building after the first property was sold and demolished. (See photo above.)

More information was being posted on the store’s FAQ page.

[Last updated 8:42 AM 3.21]

This is developing story; check back for updates.

 

Bill Reimer on the Regent College Bookstore

If he shall not lose his reward who gives a cup of cold water to his thirsty neighbor, what will not be the reward of those who by putting good books into the hands of those neighbours, open to them the fountains of eternal life? – Thomas a Kempis

Earlier this year, at a celebration of Bill Reimer’s 65th birthday, Loren Wilkinson noted,

“For over a quarter of a century, Bill has done his best to make available, to a steadily growing public, books that explore every facet of the Christian belief that the incarnation of the Creator God in Jesus is an essential guide to living in and understanding our increasingly complex world.”

A former Regent College student sent us this article which appeared in the Regent College Bookstore Blog. I’ve shortened it slightly on the one hand, but on the other, I’ve reiterated the quotation which appears above since it deserves to be posted somewhere in all our stores. (Under the circumstances, we had to steal the picture as well!)

Click the title below to read in its entirety:

Theology’s Last (book)Stand?

For 29 years I have worked in the back corner at my desk on the floor of the Regent College Bookstore, surrounded by volumes of biblical studies and commentaries. We have 272 linear feet devoted to biblical studies and 120 feet to theology. Additional footage is devoted to a broad range of Christian studies: poetry, literature, history, biography and of course a good selection of bibles; even 40 feet for CS Lewis and friends. If you have traveled this continent or been abroad then you know that there are literally only a handful of theological bookstores that remain…

How has bookselling changed people often ask me? I once wrote a blog about this … Since then the world of bookselling has changed forever. In some ways books have become more accessible in remote places. But much has been lost.

Here are a few of few of my observations from back in 2005:

  • Regent Bookstore remains one of the few stores in the world, on a public university campus, that sells a wide selection of books in the area of Christian Studies.
  • Regent Bookstore is non-profit and is owned and operated by Regent College. All proceeds go towards the operation of Regent College programs.
  • Regent Bookstore is an employment centre for Regent students and their spouses.
  • Regent Bookstore sponsors lectures by authors and speakers.

All of these observations still apply to Regent Bookstore in 2018. We remain on the UBC campus and have regular customers who are agnostics or atheists but they tend to like this place even though as a religious institution there is an invisible barrier around it in the eyes of many…

The store began in the early 1970s. The 1960s and 1970s saw a renaissance of Christian book publishing.

It is not surprising that Regent College sprang up during this time. Klaus Bockmuehl, late professor of theology at Regent, writing out of this period commented:

The printed word remains also today an ideal tool of Christian proclamation facing a powerful spirit of secularism and Godlessness: it may well again prove a sling of David for a giant doomed to destruction.

Maybe this sounds a bit grandiose today but those were the days when there was a battle for “truth.” Klaus ended his essay on books by retrieving the words of Thomas a Kempis, written 700 years before:

If he shall not lose his reward who gives a cup of cold water to his thirsty neighbor, what will not be the reward of those who by putting good books into the hands of those neighbours, open to them the fountains of eternal life?

This is a collective challenge to the Church. Many bookstores have survived by “crowd sourcing”. Thus far Regent Bookstore has not needed a fundraising campaign in order to continue on. You enable us to exist by buying books for your edification. Consider buying a book, reading it, and then passing it on to a friend. Finally, if you live afield then consider supporting us by purchasing downloads of Regent lectures at regentaudio.com. **

 


*Quotation source: Celebrating Bill Reimer, Regent website.
**Now through November 30th the site is offering free audio in honour of Eugene Peterson.

Celebrating 20 Years of WOW The Hits

Wow Hits 2016Christian bookstore shoppers have made this item a staple for two decades now, and in many of them, it is the top selling CD of the year overall. The WOW CDs were patterned after the NOW CDs which were sold in the general market. The idea behind the compilations was to present the best available songs, but without the label restrictions usually associated with CD samplers. To accomplish this, The WOW Partnership was created involving the major Christian record companies. Additionally, bonus cuts allowed the participating companies to introduce newer artists.

The CD series has its own page on Wikipedia:

WOW is a series of annual compilation albums featuring contemporary Christian music. The birth of the WOW record project can be traced Grant Cunningham, A&R Director at Sparrow Records. In November of 1994 Grant made a business trip to EMI Limited in London, at the time was the parent company of Sparrow Records where he noticed that several British record labels were issuing an annual CD of top-rated songs, known as the NOW series, containing collections of pop songs. Grant brought the idea back to Sparrow. Sparrow executives suggested a similar project be developed for Christian pop music and Grant was assigned the task of getting the project off the ground. The WOW franchise represents the most successful collections of Christian music ever issued.

Released in late 1995, “WOW 1996” was the first in the WOW series and the first recording put together by the three major Christian record companies of the time: Word Records (now Word Entertainment), Sparrow Records (now part of EMI Christian Music Group), and Reunion Records (now part of Sony’s Provident Label Group). Still today, after each submitting label agrees to a reduced master royalty, the final decision on the tracks to be included is made by committee. Production, marketing, and distribution for the “WOW Hits” series is handled by EMI Christian Music Group.

Wow Worship LimeThe Wikipedia page has two more paragraphs, one of which I added this morning dealing with the huge popularity of the more recent WOW Worship series. That series began in the fall of 1999 and are named by the color of the cover, possibly in a nod to the timelessness of some worship songs. There have also been hymn collections and Christmas collections, and in the U.S. the WOW Gospel series highlights the best of urban and mass gospel choir-inspired music.

With WOW Hits 2016 due to release mid-September, I found it interesting that one writer has already suggested ten songs that didn’t make the cut. (If you’re looking for some tunes to listen to, he has the videos embedded in that post.) Furthermore, just to show what a coveted prize getting on the Wow complications is, Josh Andre also offers twenty songs that he feels should be considered for WOW 2017. Somebody takes this really seriously!

These albums always make a great gift. For the the recipient, they represent an instant commercial-free playlist, especially for people who live on the fringes of Christian radio reception or are completely foreign to the contemporary Christian music genre. The 2-CD sets are now usually made available in both a regular and deluxe edition, the latter containing more bonus cuts, but the standard minimum is usually 30 songs, making this a great bargain.

Happy Birthday to WOW!

 

Bookstore Analogies

This is the third time around for one of my favorite items on this blog. Feel free to print this for your staff room or employee bulletin board:

  • The Christian bookstore is like a supply depot in a war. And once in awhile, like David, employees find themselves on the front lines of the battle.
  • The Christian bookstore employee is like a bartender. People have issues and questions and want a place to talk and someone to listen.
  • The Christian bookstore employee is like a pharmacist. Like pharmacists in the UK, sometimes store staff are the ones to make the diagnosis and suggest something that might help.
  • The Christian bookstore is like a welcome center for people new to your community, or people seeking a faith connection for the first time. It is the gateway to the next section of their journey.
  • The Christian bookstore is a melting pot. People from a variety of denominations sharing an element of their spiritual life in one room, often at one time. The church without walls, without labels, the way God sees it.

Ingram/Spring Arbor Effectively Terminates Accounts of Hundreds of Smaller Stores

I missed it by $448 net. Less than 10%. A target I didn’t even know I was supposed to aiming for.

Last night I found out the hard way that my store was one of the ones that didn’t buy $5,000 from Ingram last year. $4,552 was close, but no cigar.

The company has removed all accounts falling below this annual purchase rate to a 30% max. short discount on book product. But they’ve done it such a way that stores are unlikely to take the steps to remedy the situation; effectively terminating those accounts, albeit perhaps over a long, drawn-out period of time.

First here’s the letter that went out, that I certainly did not receive:

ingramDear Ingram Customer,

As with any business, Ingram must closely monitor our expenses and make adjustments when needed so we can continue to provide the speed, accuracy, and support that you’ve come to expect. Sometimes, as our costs decrease, we have been able to pass that savings on to our customers. For example, we were recently able to lower our fuel surcharge to $1.75 per shipment due to a drop in the cost of diesel fuel.

However, to cover increased freight and operating costs, we’ve found it necessary to explore and evaluate our discount structure. Effective Monday, June 15, 2015, all accounts that fell below $5,000 in sales in 2014 will have a new discount structure of 30% on all regular discount items. Please note, this discount applies only to regular discount titles, regardless of quantities purchased or order method. All other items such as video, short, audio, etc., will continue to be discounted as they have been. Also, Ingram does review each customer’s account sales annually and offers volume discounts based on net annual purchases.

We truly value your continued business and appreciate your understanding in this matter. Please contact your Ingram sales representative or call Customer Care at 800-937-8200 or 615-793-5000, ext. 27652 if you have questions about this new discount structure.

Sincerely,

Ingram Content Group

So here’s the situation we find ourselves in:

1. There was no warning. The letter went out on June 8th to take effect on June 15th. This shows the low view they have of their customers.

2. There was no way to remedy the situation. The period the numbers were based on was January 1, 2014 to December 31st, 2014. For nearly six months we had failed to meet a target we didn’t know existed.

3. Offering to buy the difference to pull this year’s balance up is futile because that product would all ship at a short discount.

4. The situation is confirmed as irrevocable; there is no room for appeal, even for those of us who missed by less than 10%.

Reading the letter, we have to wonder if the company is simply squeezed because of their deals with companies like Chapters. Doing that volume of fulfillment on small orders where customers are getting free freight means someone is taking a big hit. I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to guess a similar deal exists with Amazon.

As I wrote my sales rep last night — a sales rep I didn’t even know existed until last night — it really hurts to get dumped:

We’ve been a customer of yours for a long, long time. We go back to the days of inputting orders on Telxon units and placing the big plastic suction cup over the phone. We go back to the days when Spring Arbor acquired Gospelrama and got into music and video for the first time. If we had known that we were $448 short, we would have simply bought that amount in December. Times were tough. We were watching inventory carefully. Now, six months later, it comes back to haunt us.

If anyone at Ingram sees this, they will deny that they are actually terminating any accounts. Tonight I placed an iPage order for five items for which I had taken deposits or prepayments. Some of these were non-book items which went through at 35%; one was a short 20% discount item anyway.

For the Christian stores, Send the Light simply offers a better option, with their willingness to include giftware and church supply items, and their vast homeschool catalogue. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of small publishers that Send the Light doesn’t deal with presently; plus their listings on even major publishers like Tyndale are selective, not exhaustive.

There are going to be orders we are simply going to have to start turning down. I can’t make up the Ingram difference for this year when I can buy the items 10% cheaper from Send the Light. And even if something came along where I needed a good volume of a shorter discount item, any return to regular customer status might not apply until June 15 of 2016.

Our account with Ingram is terminal, but I’m going to keep it on life support until they decide I’m not even worth that.

For people wanting to open stores in small markets — and I know some of you are checking out this blog on a regular basis — don’t consider Ingram/Spring Arbor as an option.

For those of you who are self-published authors — who also are regular readers here — find a way to get your book positioned with Send the Light or Anchor Distributors.

Common Word Bookstore Reinventing the Christian Retail Paradigm

Common Word Bookstore

The official announcement on the store’s website only tells part of the story:

On January 5, 2015 the Resource Centre and CMU’s Bookstore officially became CommonWord Bookstore and Resource Centre, a new collaboration between Mennonite Church Canada and Canadian Mennonite University. All of our collective resources – for sale, loan and download – remain available here and through our new physical location at 2299 Grant Avenue in Winnipeg. This merger with CMU Bookstore expands our services to include retail products, extended hours of operation and residence in a beautiful public venue. We look forward to continuing to serve you!

An article in the Winnipeg Free Press fills in more:

The common word at a new Christian bookstore and lending library in southwest Winnipeg might be co-operation. Or synergy. Or maybe even ecumenical.

“From the same counter, you can borrow, you can buy, you can ask questions,” explains Arlyn Friesen Epp, one of the managers of CommonWord, located on the campus of Canadian Mennonite University.

The bookstore-library [held] a grand opening… on Saturday, Feb. 7, just weeks after Friesen Epp moved his collection of 7,000 books and DVDs from the offices of Mennonite Church Canada to the new building at 2299 Grant Ave.

CommonWord is located inside Marpeck Commons, which also houses a coffee shop and the university library, and is linked to the southern part of the campus by a skywalk over Grant Avenue.

The not-for-profit venture combines an academic bookstore, giftware, fair-trade items such as coffee and olive oil from Ten Thousand Villages and a denominational resource centre of books, DVDs, online videos, podcasts and other electronic resources.

But the whole story? I sense this is something you’d need to experience to understand it. In many ways, it rewrites the playbook on what constitutes Christian resource retail…

And your store may have a Facebook page, but you probably don’t post this sort of thing very often:

Common Word FB

But yes, there are books:

Common Word FB2

The Free Press article continues:

Materials from the lending library, owned and operated by Mennonite Church Canada, sit in the middle of the spacious store, with catalogue stickers indicating the items are for loan, not for sale. Borrowers from within the denomination access the materials for free, and other users can pay a yearly membership of $30 or one-time borrowing fee of $7.

The library section includes Anabaptist publications, as well as worship resources and educational materials.

With a visible location, and easy parking west of the building, Friesen Epp expects more walk-in customers of all denominational stripes coming to browse, borrow or buy.

The Anabaptist resources referred to are described as the “Largest curated collection of Anabaptist books and resources in Canada – for loan, sale and download.”   The website boasts:

It doesn’t matter if you’re on Vancouver Island or in Petitcodiac, New Brunswick.  You don’t have to be a pastor or church council chair.  You don’t even have to be Mennonite.  We think there’s something here for just about everybody.

We’re here for you – sifting and sorting, putting the best resources forward, available to personally respond to your query. Whether you’re planning a worship service, looking for a small group study or gift idea, or simply seeking personal inspiration, we’ll help point you in the right direction.

Buy, borrow, download, consult or link – it’s all easily done from this location.

The last word belongs to the university president as quoted in the Free Press article

The $14.4-million building, which opened for the winter semester, was designed to be a hub for university students and the broader community, says president Cheryl Pauls.

“We didn’t want to build only a library, but we wanted to build a public gathering place.”

 Common Word partners with Ten Thousand VillagesCommon Word Bookstore partners with Ten Thousand Villages

 



Any advertising you see below this point does not originate with Christian Book Shop Talk

Adventist Book Centre

Remnant Study Bible
Other than a small Catholic gift and book store, the Adventist Book Centre is currently the only Christian bookstore in the city of Oshawa, so yesterday I decided to pay a visit. The store is spacious, the staff are plentiful and friendly and there is a reading area with soft chairs that ought to be the envy of every bookstore on the planet.  The store is located on a large campus that includes the denomination’s college, headquarters, and shares a building with the It Is Written media ministry. Parking is the handiest I’ve seen anywhere, directly at the door.

The store is obviously stuck with trying to fill the gap and I would suspect they are placing special orders for many things they might not normally stock. But for unsuspecting shoppers who don’t know the nuances of Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) distinctives, things could get confusing.

In many of the aisles, the signage is clear that the books in that section are promoting SDA doctrine. In other sections, such as marriage/parenting, familiar titles are shelved with ones released through various SDA publishing imprints such as Pacific Press.

Included in that, I noticed a customized version of Steve Wohlberg’s End Time Delusions with only three chapters. The SDA church doesn’t buy into rapture doctrine, but neither to some of my customers, and I would love to get my hands on this $6.59 (CDN) edition of a book I currently sell for $19.50.

andrews-study-bibleMore striking however are the customized NKJV and KJV Bibles from Thomas Nelson, including the Andrews Study Bible, which originates from Andrews University; and the Remnant Study Bible which is based on the teachings of SDA founder Ellen White. These are obviously sold exclusively through SDA outlets, as a quick check this morning showed neither available through Send the Light or Spring Arbor. However, the bookstore also had NLT Bibles.

Probably equally striking to some observers would be the general absence of a fiction section. There were a few titles on a library cart marked Buy-1-Get-1-Free, but otherwise fiction in the store was sparse.

The music and media section however most closely resembled anything seen in other Christian bookstores in North America, and if you toured the store you’d also notice more general overlap between this store and your store in the children’s section. There was also several racks of Dayspring cards, but very little giftware.

Finally, if you go through a small door in the very back corner of the store you end up in the food warehouse.  SDA people follow a Levitical diet, but many are vegetarian and as the clerk explained to me, the “health message” of the SDA attracts many people, not unlike perhaps the music attracts many to your church.

Oshawa very much deserves a full Christian bookstore. With no way for customers to easily discern what is SDA literature and what is general, mainstream Christian literature, the situation in this city, as helpful as it seems, would certainly confuse some people.

Immanuel: Christian Bookstore in the West Bank

It’s been running for five years.

A Christian bookstore in Bethlehem.   No, not Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; the Bethlehem.     A store which some days gives away more Bibles than it sells.

This store is worthy of your reading of the article.   Be sure to click through to the second page as well.

Here’s a prayer request for today:

Without people’s prayers the bookshop won’t stay open. Pray for us, for protection, for finances, because this bookshop needs about $20,000 a year to run. Pray for us as we travel to Egypt, pray for the salvation of people and pray that when people enter here they can feel the Lord Jesus.

Anglican Bishop Affirms Christian Book Stores

As reported by Phil Groom in the U.K. Christian Bookshops Blog, an Anglican bishop has given a major boost to Christian retail outlets:

WRITING IN THE CHURCH TIMES last Friday, 10 Sept 2010, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, has issued a challenge to churches to wake up to the importance of reading Christian books and supporting Christian bookshops.

Acknowledging the inevitability of change with the growth of online sales, the Bishop nonetheless remains convinced that bookshops have a part to play in the church’s strategic thinking:

The disappearance of Christian books from the High Street [i.e. Main Street] makes them seem esoteric and cult-like. We want people to select from a range of available titles, not just go online to buy the one that has got through to popular consciousness. We want people to browse, explore, and be attracted to alternative titles.

What, then, is the answer? Reading champions:

The key, of course, is finding someone, or preferably a team of people, with real enthusiasm to lead this ministry of reading, with permission to badger the incumbent. [i.e. the current pastor.  Translation: the Bishop is sanctioning those involved to do whatever it takes to encourage the local rector or pastor to bring this ministry to the forefront.] They could keep up with reviews of new books through websites such as www.thegoodbookstall.org.uk.

They could also encourage us to buy from Christian bookshops rather than online, and give us a lead in praying for those shops and their unobtrusive ministry. They could be reading champions for an increasingly literate Church. As so often, under God, the answer lies in our hands.

Here in North America, one manifestation that might work well is “twinning” the church with the nearest Christian bookstore in the community, just as many churches are “twinned” with congregations in the third world.

Years ago, in a church my wife and I attended, every fourth Sunday, in the time normally devoted to a soloist doing “special music” there would be a book review of a recent Christian release.  About half of the books were in the Church library, but half were not.

Certainly raising the local store as a prayer concern is something that is easily accomplished.

However, some store owners or managers are reluctant to ask local congregations for prayer. That needs to change. Our stores should be regularly on the prayer lists of like-minded local churches.

  • The full Church Times story is only available to subscribers.
  • Emphasis in first quotation added.

Canadian Bookstores: Taxed Out of Existence

The book industry in general, and the Christian book industry in particular has enough perils around the world, but in Canada these are compounded by a government mindset that places a huge burden on small business.

Here in Ontario, in addition to having a minimum wage that is 41% higher than the U.S. federal minimum wage; employers must also pay a matching contribution to the employees’ deductions for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) and with EI the employers’ share is even higher.   A new proposal would raise the employee’s share by 15 cents per $100 and the employer’s share by 21 cents per $100.

Today, from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business — an organization I urge all bookstores in Canada to join — we learn that EI premiums are on the rise…

The Globe and Mail just confirmed what we’ve been saying for months – Employment Insurance (EI) premiums are set to rise by the maximum allowable level starting January 1, 2011.

In the next few days, the EI board will publicly make its recommendation for an 8.7% increase and Cabinet will only have a few short weeks to accept or change it.

This means that we have little time to change the minds of MPs in Ottawa…

We have no plans to cease our efforts to notify all Canadians of this unfair payroll tax burden and will continue to speak – loudly – on behalf small business owners… Our goal is to make Ottawa stop and change the direction.

We’ve been tracking a number of the announcements made by federal and provincial governments here in the last three years, and there has not been a single policy change that has been pro-business. Rather, each is another nail in the coffin.

You have to really, really, really, really, really, be sure of your calling to want to continue promoting Christian literature using a retail business model in this country. Or anything else.   It’s no wonder the home-business or online-business model is taking off while traditional retail outlets are shuttering their windows.

If this passes, one possible response to a 8.7% increase is to cut the hours of higher wage-earning employees and use more casual, part time help.

To read the Globe & Mail article in question, click here.


The Culture of “No”

It is said among experts that one of the things that puts off customers in a retail environment is “no” signs.   Yet we’ve all seen them and we all have a few:

  • No Smoking
  • No Food and Drink in the Store
  • No public restroom facilities
  • No solicitation
  • No cash or credit card refunds
  • No exchanges without receipt
  • No exchange on CDs unless defective
  • No $100 bills accepted
  • No exchanges on sale merchandise
  • No exchanges after 14 days
  • No orders without deposit
  • No children to be left unattended

We all have to have policies, and in many jurisdictions you can’t enforce a policy that’s not posted or on the customer’s receipt.   Or both.   But you don’t want to fall into the situation where “no” is simply the default answer for everything.

Some companies — and many churches — have that corporate culture.   As a business, we notice it among our various wholesale suppliers.   All of them are basically doing the same thing, but with a continuum or spectrum of corporate cultures a mile long.

And they tend to attract birds of a feather.

Years ago, at a CBA event in Winnipeg, Canada, a couple of us watched as the sales force — about six guys — from one particular company returned to the exhibit area after lunch.    We turned to each other and basically said the same thing:  We wouldn’t know where to find a bunch of guys like that no matter how hard we tried.

We were part of a different corporate culture.   A culture where flexibility and “power of arrangement” were normative.   Where we tried to have a culture of “yes.”    Where the glass was half full, not half empty.   Where the customer mattered.

And yet, having said all this, it’s so easy to recognize this in our suppliers and yet have a “no” culture in our stores.    Just like the man in the story Jesus told in Matthew 18: 23ff we have an ideal of grace and mercy when it comes to how we get treated, but then we turn around and treat our customers in a manner lacking grace.

Which brings us full circle.   On signs, or otherwise, how much of your store’s corporate culture is a culture of “no?” Or to put it another way; are there more things that your customers can do, or are there more things they can’t?

Nuts and bolts department:  What is your store policy when a customer breaks something in your giftware department?   The rule of thumb traditionally was, “If you break it you bought it.”  What about a staff member who accidentally does the same?