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Posts Tagged ‘Christian retail’

Christian Book Shop Talk Enters Year 10

After a week off, we’re back just in time to celebrate the 9th Birthday of this blog. After blogging at e4God and USAToday, I came to WordPress and actually started seven blogs, all within the space of several months. This is one of three which is still regularly updated with new content.

It’s been great to connect with all of you in this forum. I don’t get to trade shows so this is my only opportunity to start conversations, which customers in my store will tell you is something I love doing. Those of us who own, manage or staff Christian bookstores walk a rather unique road which has all the drama of owning a business, all the glitter of the entertainment industry (with books, movies and music) and all the importance of ministry calling.

Canadian readers continue to dominate the stats (unlike my other two blogs) at 58%, but the U.S. is gaining at 37%. Moving forward you may see articles where I explain how things work here and you’ll wonder why I’m doing that since everyone here already knows, but I want to also be able to represent us to the larger readership, which includes executives and international sales directors of American publishing houses.

I also want to take a moment to thank the people at various Canadian distributors who share information beyond what I could expect to hear as a retailer, especially given the size of my own store’s market. I appreciate having a better understanding of what takes place behind the scenes, even if it’s followed by, “But you can’t blog what I just told you.” Sigh!

So Happy Birthday to Us. Thanks to all of you who drop in periodically, subscribe, leave comments, or contact me directly with both joys and sorrows.

This blog is available to all of you who wish to write longer-form articles than what you’re able to say in other forums, and hardly anything posted here has ever been deleted, so the material stays accessible for a longer time frame. Or feel free to pick a month and go back and see what was occurring and what issues were important 3 years ago, or 5 years ago or 7 years ago. If it’s something where you need to be anonymous that’s fine, as along as I can authenticate that it came from someone in the industry.

Finally, if you see an article in other media that you think stores should read, let me know so that we can run an excerpt with a link.

~Paul Wilkinson

 

 

 

 

 

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Mainstream Bookstore Notes “Thousandfold” Increase in Bible Sales Over 15 Years

The Saturday print edition of The Toronto Star profiled Squibb’s Stationers in Weston Village noting “it’s Toronto’s self-proclaimed oldest bookstore.” The article by reporter Jackie Hong coincided with the stores 90th anniversary.

Toward the end of the article…

Besides building friendships with customers, [co-owner Suri] Weinberg-Linsky said she’s been able to see trends come and go over the years, many of them unexpected — fountain pens have become a hot commodity again, no one buys ledgers anymore and Harry Potter’s popularity still shows no signs of slowing down — but the most perplexing relates to the explosion of sales for one book in particular.

“In the last 15 or so years, Bible sales have increased probably a thousandfold,” Weinberg-Linsky said. “We don’t go one day without selling at least one Bible . . . Honestly, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you why.”

From our perspective this is interesting on several fronts. First it confirms our observation, supported by anecdotal evidence, that stores like Chapters in Canada and Barnes and Noble in the U.S. are increasingly becoming the default Christian bookstores, especially as such stores close in many markets. B&N has always had a good handle on what “Religion – Christianity” books to stock, but Chapters was always hit-and-miss until about two years ago when their core inventory in this category seemed to undergo positive transformation.

Second however, it raises concerns that, much like shopping online, the customer is not afforded the benefit of experienced sales help in what is a very personal purchase. Most mainstream store associates can’t articulate the nuances of differences between the NLT, ESV or CEB translations, let alone describe the features in various devotional or study editions. Of course this places the onus on us to make sure that even casual part-time staff are well trained in this area. I’m happy that Squibb’s is seeing these sales, but I hope that each Bible is a ‘good fit’ for the intended recipient. Christian bookstores also need to encourage first-time Bible buyers to get in touch by email if there’s anything about their Bible they’re not understanding, and also see if they are connected to a local church or home fellowship.

Finally, on a more positive note, the experience of Squibb’s in Toronto shows that the Bible is very much in demand. In my own small-town store, we easily have about 800 units of Bible product representing at least 550 SKUs. It would be really tempting — especially with shelf space at a premium — to sit back and rest on our existing inventory, but we are always topping up products which make connections with customers. Currently, that includes the value lines of NLT, NIV and Message Bibles and just about anything that’s giant print.

Rating My Four Key Suppliers

Allow me to say at the outset, this is entirely subjective. Your experience may be different, and if it is, feel free to respond in the comments section.

Order Turnaround

  1. Word Alive (especially considering the U.S. origin)
  2. Parasource (I hate abusing the rush service, but it really helps and they never ask questions)
  3. Foundation (some orders take several days to process, but if we really need it rushed, they come through)
  4. HarperCollins (a factor of geography more than anything)

Conversion on U.S. Dollar

  1. HarperCollins (as low as 1.25 on some items right now)
  2. Parasource (especially w/ respect to Baker/Bethany House)
  3. Foundation
  4. Word Alive

Everyday Discounts or Help With Special Orders

  1. HarperCollins (but we buy non-returnable)
  2. Parasource (always willing to work with us, even when the church is asking us for help but they’re order isn’t exactly huge)
  3. Word Alive (at least with respect to special Canadian pricing on selected items)
  4. Foundation

Invoicing and Statements

  1. Foundation (consolidation of orders on a single invoice just makes sense)
  2. Parasource (2nd, but see next category)
  3. HarperCollins (separate packing lists and statements are a bit of an environmental disaster; not to mention the postage mailing the invoices from Pennsylvania)
  4. Word Alive (impossible to figure out sometimes)

Online Accounting

  1. Parasource (it urgently needs an upgrade on the search side, but it’s the best we have for this category;  the online statements and invoices make it a clear #1)
  2. we don’t use this function from other suppliers if such exists

Fill Rates

  1. HarperCollins (a bit of a no-brainer since the warehouse and the printer are one)
  2. Parasource (impressive considering the learning curve since the Augsburg acquisition)
  3. Word Alive (rated 3rd because the database is so limited; too many “extended catalog” items)
  4. Foundation (running just a tad too lean for our liking)

Condition of Merchandise; Accuracy of Picking

  1. Parasource, Foundation, Word Alive all tied (computers eliminate errors in the pick/check/pack/ship process)
  2. HarperCollins (you never know what you’ll find inside the box)

Special Discount Offers

  1. Foundation (telesales; at least one email per day, but they all get opened)
  2. Parasource (the current restock offer is an example of deals which are equitable for all accounts)
  3. HarperCollins (those quarterly extra 3% offers have low minimums and can be split among many orders)
  4. Word Alive (none offered)

Product Line Awareness

  1. HarperCollins (for stores like ours, they have 3 lines – HarperOne, Zondervan and Nelson – it’s always been the same; plus we always get a complete sales presentation for each cycle)
  2. Parasource (didn’t hear about Destiny Image, and the gift lines come and go, but overall we know their product range; really miss print catalogues, though)
  3. Foundation (a basic core list of publishers is represented but there’s also a rotating list of extras including overstock from Book Depot which often duplicates HarperCollins titles; new release order forms are often lacking author info)
  4. Word Alive (this rating could change as their new online “New Releases” section has been fixed and is now working properly)

Website/Social Media Marketing Support

  • This category includes HTML support for Facebook and store home pages. Everything we receive we get from the Twitter feeds of the individual publishers; not from the Canadian distributors

Blog Support

  • We sometimes link my personal blog in our customer newsletters, social media or even the website. The number one thing we’re looking for is book excerpts we can quote or link to. Very difficult to find however when it comes to review copies for the blog or sample copies for the store:
  1. Parasource and Harper Collins tied for # 1. (Both companies always willing to provide review copies for the blog if requested; and those manuscript editions are great collector’s items and make us feel special… In 17 years I’ve only ever received three things from Foundation, the book How to Smell Like God which I didn’t read, a used copy of The Gospel of John board game, and a defective copy of the ESV Study Bible which I received basically because I heard everybody was getting one and I shamelessly begged)

Doesn’t Market to Our Church Customers

  1. Word Alive (at least not to our knowledge; Charismatic and Pentecostal churches, maybe)
  2. HarperCollins (true they’re part of Your Church Zone and have that Church Source program but we’re not seeing much direct impact)
  3. Parasource (only rated 3rd here because I know this is a major issue for other stores where they’re concerned)
  4. Foundation (in the past they would refer VBS and curriculum inquiries to the nearest stores including ours, but they kinda invade our territory every summer when they do a 6-week book shop at the Pentecostal Camp that totally misses what that market requires.)

Sales Reps

  1. For us, a total tie for #1 between Mark Hildebrand at HarperCollins and Norm Robertson at Parasource; each of whom I would happily call friends (and they’re listed that way only because it’s alphabetical!)

 

 

Post 2,000 at Christian Book Shop Talk!

state-of-the-bookstore

This is my 2,000th article here at Christian Book Shop Talk. That’s a lot of comings and goings of publishers, distributors, stores and sales reps. A lot of new policies and ways of doing business to consider. A lot of ups and downs for the Canadian dollar. Perhaps mostly, a lot of rants and raves! I thought today, in honor of the occasion I’d share with you a thing I just posted to our store Facebook page. I don’t do this sort of thing often, but some customers have a sense of ownership and are often asking, “How’s the store doing?” I can give them sales numbers if they really need them, but I also like to share my heart for our street-front ministry.

This approach, and the content of what follows is not without controversy. I know some of you would not do this with your customers. I accept that. But it’s something that’s been brewing for a long time that I needed to share with my store community. Your store newsletter or Facebook page may just contain hours and sale items. Decide what approach works best for you.

-•–•- State of the Bookstore Address -•–•-

sotuEach year, the President of the United States gives a State of the Union address to a joint session of the Senate and Congress. Today I want to do something similar for our bookstore family.

Christian bookstores tend to reflect the character of the person who owns them as well as key staff and managers. Because I’ve always worked for Christian organizations (100 Huntley Street, Inter-Varsity Canada, Canadian Bible Society, Muskoka Woods, Cobourg Alliance Church, Northumberland Christian School, etc.) for me, Christian service has never been a Sunday thing or a one-week-per-night thing. I am somewhat immersed in mission. I’ve always been passionate and perhaps even a bit intense about things like Christian service, the Bible, spiritual authenticity, spiritual maturity and simply knowing Jesus.

For me, it matters to know the full arc of the Bible’s story. It matters to know how to present this to outsiders and overcome their objections. It matters to know the rules for proper Biblical interpretation. It matters to know the stories of those spiritual pioneers who went before us and the biographies of those contemporary saints who serve us today. It matters to know what Christian experts say about the standards for marriage and parenting and extended family life. It matters to better understand the nuances of my brothers and sisters in other tribes of the broader church. It matters to be able to access the tools which help us dig deeper into God’s Word. It matters to be able to discern practical application of the scriptures in our neighbourhoods and workplaces. It matters to know the words and melodies of the songs used to sing praises to God both today and in times past. It matters to have a window into what God is doing in the Church around the world. It matters to have the materials to communicate the Christ story to our children, teens and young adults.

That’s a lot of ‘matters.’ But honestly, some days I feel like I’m the only one. There are times like I feel like that nobody else gives a care in the world for these things.

Increasingly, we have days that are greatly dominated by non-book transactions. Don’t get me wrong, the mugs and the movies and the T-shirts and the jewelry and the cards help pay the bills. But I wonder sometimes if it’s true that I’m ‘the only one’ as noted above or if I should just take a cue from our friends at Chapters/Indigo and just remove vast sections of the books in order to spread out the giftware?

For me, the books matter. We have over 1,000 items in our store which would be considered Bibles in one form or another. If that’s true of Bibles, I can’t imagine how many books we have. However, having this great choice is useless if people don’t take the time to browse. Having an awesome selection is ineffective if people only want to read material by some fringe teacher they saw on a late night Christian TV channel. Having a selection of books at all is ill-advised if all your customers are buying is non-book commodities.

Sales were up slightly in November. It’s important that you know that. I’m not writing from a standpoint of financial discouragement. It’s about our mission. It’s about enhancing the Christian lives of the constituency we serve. That’s why we’re there.

If you’re a regular reader — and perhaps you had to be to read this today — obviously this isn’t directed at you.

If you’re a shopper for non-book things, we do still need you. However, I hope you’ll consider diving into a good book. I hope you’ll consider developing what BIll Hybels calls a “chair time.” If you’re a parent, I hope you’ll model reading for your children.

My wish for you this Christmas is that you’ll have a favorite Christian author and a favorite Christian book category.

Eleventh Hour Plan Gives Red Deer’s Parable Store New Life

September 29, 2015 1 comment

As reported in the October, 2015 issue of Calgary’s City Light News*

by Doris Fleck

Scott’s Parable Christian Store will continue its legacy in Red Deer with new owners and a new name in time for Christmas shopping.

Previously Canada’s largest Christian retail outlet, an eleventh hour plan to open a scaled-down version of the store was engineered in late August.

Manager Jim Pearson explained the new owners of the 15,000-square-foot building in Gasoline Alley didn’t require the entire facility for their Tae Kwan Do studio. The front 6,000 square feet remained available.

New Parable Red Deer manager Vanessa Anderson Photo: Peter Fleck, City Light News

New Parable Red Deer manager Vanessa Anderson
Photo: Peter Fleck, City Light News
 

So Pearson contacted the Kennedy family who bought the Parable store in Saskatoon and encouraged them to team up with Assistant Manager Vanessa Anderson.

Within 24 hours, the Kennedys agreed to form a partnership with Anderson. As soon as Scott’s closes on October 3, renovations will begin with the goal of launching the new Kennedy’s Parable Christian Store in early November.

“I am ecstatic. I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” Anderson explained. “I’ve been working here for 13 years, and I’ve been Jim’s assistant manager for the last two.’’

As the announcement was made during a special “service of gratitude” at Scott’s on August 29, Anderson said, “Literally in the last three days everything has come together.”

…Although the store will be able to keep the front entrance, cash register area and storage space immediately upstairs, new washrooms and a shipping/ receiving room will have to be added. Anderson will have her office above the checkout counter and is already ordering inventory.

…“All the staff that are still here, about 10 of them, will be coming on board with me… God is so good. Everything is going so smoothly.” Anderson said that as store manager she will continue many of the things Pearson implemented, including daily devotions with the staff. “My goal is to carry on with what has worked,” Anderson explained. “I give a lot of credit to Jim too because he has been coaching me for 13 years.”

Former store owners Gerry & Jan Scott gave Anderson their blessing and she said, “That meant a lot. Learning under Jim and working with the Scott’s, that’s priceless to me.”

…Located along the main traffic corridor between Calgary and Edmonton, the majority of customers have come from the provinces two largest cities. “It will continue to be Alberta’s Christian bookstore,” Pearson said. “People have been coming through these doors for 15 years and finding Christian product and it’s exciting that they will still be able to do so. God will honour it.”

* Scroll down to page 2 of City Light News for the full, unedited transcript of this story

For Christian Bookstores, The Paradigm Shift Started with Music, Not Books

This appeared at the blog of the Steve Laube Agency, a must read for stores, distributors, publishers and especially authors. The author is Dan Balow:

treble clefIf you think Amazon has been damaging to Christian retail stores, you might be right, but it was the loss of music sales that delivered one of the first body shots to the Christian retail segment about 15 years ago.  Music accounted for a major piece of Christian retail sales. A second crippling hit was the movement of video from physical to digital media.  Then, along came massive online sales of books and bookstores needed to rethink their entire business model. Some did not have the resources to do so and are now gone.

Nothing seems to be the same as before.

The article then goes on to discuss ways authors can find their equivalent to concerts, the one part of the music business that is growing.

It’s Our 7th Birthday at Christian Book Shop Talk

August 24, 2015 1 comment

It was seven years ago today that I wrote:

Do you ever feel like an odd duck when you go to church? You’re in ministry, but not in the sense that pastors, counselors and missionaries are. You’re working hard for little return, but some people think you’re making big bucks off the gospel. You’re kind of interested in getting to know the guy at church who manages the Home Depot and the woman who has a chain of clothing stores, but you’re experience of retail is just so different from theirs. You’re an expert on different strains of theology, can use a concordance or Bible dictionary with your eyes closed, and have experience dealing with people from umpteen different denominations, but nobody ever thinks of you as the go-to person when they have some deep questions. You have a four-drawer filing cabinet filled with glossy catalogs, but you’re rarely asked to recommend a specific resource for a specific church project...

…In Canada, changes to our industry are coming fast and furious and it’s really hard to keep up. It’s also hard to find someone to talk to who really knows and really understands the unique features of our commercial ministries.

So by putting this blog up, and leaving the comments section open, I’m hoping that those who want to talk can talk, and those who want to rant can rant, and those who have questions can ask them.

This is intended as a forum for CANADIAN Christian Bookstore OWNERS and STAFF, but if you’re reading this from the USA or the UK, or you’re just a big huge fan of Christian books; feel free to chime in, but identify yourself as such. Stores which want to can SIGN their comments, or you can just use your username, or you can create something anonymous. Feel free to come back to the discussion often; and feel free to post comments to various discussions at the same time.

…but it didn’t take long before the blog started serving another purpose, as a news conduit. The first day we had four posts, and the last announced both the closing of CMC Distribution and the end of print editions for CCM Magazine. Just three weeks later, it was our sad duty to report the shuttering of both the retail and wholesale divisions of R. G. Mitchell.

I recently tweeted this:

Bad news clomps around in construction boots;
Good news tiptoes in sock feet.
~ Adapted from a Welsh proverb

Sometimes the bad news seems to dominate my writing. There have been changes, store closings, and the roller coaster ride that is the Canadian-American currency exchange rate. But we’ve also celebrated some great people, great products and great ideas. I have no regrets about starting this little project 7 years ago.

7 is the perfect numberOur readers are presently three-quarters Canadian and one-quarter American (which is according to plan) but we also have enjoyed having readers in the UK, Australia, India, South Africa, Germany, New Zealand, The Philippines and France. For all time, popular stories include the closing of Salem Storehouse in Ottawa, the controversy over The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, and other posts on store closing and (in Windsor) a reopening. I especially love it when other media picks up the thread of items that originated here.

Christian Book Shop Talk also shares stories with my other two dominant blogs, Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201, where I often post excerpts of books reviewed here and at Thinking O. L.

We don’t ask for donations here, and are not part of any affiliate programs. Occasionally, people we’ve met through the blog purchase remainder boxes from Searchlight, which helps make this possible. I am especially grateful for the excellent book review relationship we have with Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, and Baker Books, but if I had it to over again, I might have insisted on more books from IVP where, a lifetime ago, I once worked.

Although my purpose here is not to help self-published authors, the blog has led to a number of interactions, some of which have helped writers get contracts, or get better contracts.

Over the last few years, I have become a bit of a recluse when it comes to attending industry events. I realize I now write as a bit of industry outsider, not an insider, but I am very thankful that my one remaining store continues to operate and I hope the insights I can offer from the way we do things a bit differently there are helpful to store owners, managers and front-line staff. With the news-gathering capabilities of Thinking Out Loud — even though it no longer has the connection to Christianity Today — I hope we can find information that you read here first.

Thanks to all of you who tell me you read this on a regular basis, and especially those who leave comments. 

Happy Birthday to us!

~Paul Wilkinson.

Birthday Party from Joy of Tech dot com

 

 

 

Side-by-Side, Two Titles by J. Warner Wallace Revolutionize Apologetics

Two years ago I reviewed the book Cold Case Detective by J. Warner Wallace, in which the principles by which this police investigator has operated in his vocation are applied to fleshing out the reliability of the Bible’s gospel narratives. At the time I wrote,

Every decade or so a great work of apologetics appears which breaks the boundaries of the discipline and reaches a wider audience.

I enjoyed the book, and in the time that has passed since have enjoyed recommending it to a variety of readers, though at times, I feel it is Christian apologetics’ best kept secret.

God's Crime SceneA few weeks ago, Wallace returned with God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe (David C. Cook) in which he applies the same skills to the idea of God being behind what we might call creation. But we need to watch using the word creation in describing this book, since creation science is concerned with origins and answering the “How did we get here?” type of questions. Rather, this is more about intelligent design and bypassing the How? and When? questions to look more at What?; or more specifically the complexity that exists in the world pointing to a master designer; a designer who exists outside the realms we can observe or quantify.

The last distinction is important to Wallace’s argument; he compares it to cases where detectives would have to determine if the killer was in the room or came from outside the room. The analogy is very fitting, but the proof isn’t contained in one chapter or another, but in the aggregate of a case built on a foundation consisting of an amalgam of evidence and syllogistic logic.

The evidence “inside the room” points to a very specific “suspect.” He’s not a malicious intruder. Although I’ve titled this book God’s Crime Scene (in an effort to illustrate an evidential approach to the investigation of the universe), God hasn’t committed any crime here. In addition, God is not an unconcerned intruder; He isn’t dispassionate about His creation. (p. 201)

God’s Crime Scene is intended therefore to make the argument for the existence of God accessible to the average reader through the comparisons to anecdotal cold-case detective work, and the use of cartoon-like illustrations. But make no mistake, this is not light reading.

This time around, I found myself gladly absorbing the chapters that were more philosophical and epistemological in nature, but totally over my depth in the sections that relied more on biology and physics. I could only marvel that the author was able to present such a wide swath of material which was so multi-disciplinary.

Still there were elements of the argument that were not lost on me. Even a child could see the resemblance of a machine-like mechanism in the human body and a man-made machine that forms a similar function, the latter being something we know was intelligently designed. Or the logic that if we agree that the brain is distinct from the mind, then it’s not a huge leap to the idea that a soul exists.

This is a textbook-quality product that will appeal to a variety of readers with an assortment of interests in this topic and offers the additional payoff of further insights into detectives’ investigative processes. You don’t have to understand every nuance of every issue to both appreciate and learn from Wallace’s writing; and it is in the cumulative assembly of all the various subjects raised here that Wallace is able to mark the case closed.

I give this a very high recommendation both for Christian readers and those who doubt God’s existence. I’d be interested in seeing links to articles where non-believers have interacted with its various chapters, as I believe Wallace has been very thorough in his documentation and his logic.

 


9781434707840  320 pages oversize paperback  $17.99 US

 

 

Story in the Stars

The Story in the Stars

Several years ago I was made aware of First Century Foundations, the ministry of Joe Amaral. Joe and his wife Karen are based in Canada; their ministry is very similar to that of America’s Ray Vander Laan. Both are committed to help people see the life, teachings and miracles of Jesus in the context that his Jewish audience would have seen, heard and understood them. Although I had some early exposure to Ray, it has been Joe’s teachings which most recently have helped me learn more of this type of content, which truly makes the Gospels come alive. In addition to books such as Understanding Jesus and What Would Jesus Read? they lead tour groups to Israel on a regular basis.

So it seemed only fitting that the man who has helped so many see so much of what we miss in our hurried scripture readings wearing Western-mindset glasses should turn his attention to the many astronomical references in the scripture which can be equally overlooked. (Perhaps it was the natural next step, since Joe takes his telescope everywhere.)

“Can you direct the movement of the stars–binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion?
-Job 31:31 NLT

He who made the Pleiades and Orion And changes deep darkness into morning, Who also darkens day into night, Who calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the surface of the earth, The LORD is His name.
-Amos 4:8 NASB

Story in the Stars is a DVD/BluRay combination which does leave you scratching your head in wonder at the detail that we’ve missed. Even the twelve signs of the zodiac, which is anathema in conservative Evangelical quarters, are rich in relevance when interpreted through a Biblical lens.

But the real payoff in this 41-minute documentary is a section at the end which gets into signs occurring in the heavens relevant to Jesus’ birth — a better understanding of what drew the Magi to the Bethlehem stable — as well as his crucifixion, resurrection and second coming. Having been in the audience for several Story in the Stars live presentations, I can say that this video only begins to whet your appetite for this topic, and as I said above, it serves to warm you toward an area that has been off limits for many church people. Perhaps it’s the similarity of the word astronomy to the word astrology that throws Christians off the trail.

Story in the Stars is available for purchase or download at StoryInTheStars.com and at Christian Bookstores who can order copies through Elevate Entertainment via Send the Light Distribution. Canadian retail customers will recognize this product from its exposure on 100 Huntley St. and can, as we did, place a wholesale order direct through their office in Milton, Ontario. It’s a great introduction to a topic that many of us might never have considered. A companion coffee-table book is also available; and even though it’s not about astrology, the move or the book make a gift and conversation-starter for someone who has that passion.

 

 

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.

Sales Still Sluggish, Stores Still Closing, But Publisher Jobs Abound

Major U.S. Christian publishers are looking for help. For my Canadian readers, don’t count this out. Just ask Andrew Bronson at IVP, or Don Pape at NavPress. It can be done.

Your bookstore history may serve you well, but remember that brick-and-mortar retail is only one of about six primary channels by which books are distributed. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of sub-contracting my services to three publishing companies in our industry doing everything from warehouse management to royalty administration and marketing. The job I would probably most covet would be acquisitions, searching for the voices worthy of greater platform. For that you need a much broader knowledge than simply having worked a bookstore, but again, you would offer great product familiarity. 

This list is not exhaustive, but one in you might have is your denominational exposure. Being a Lutheran and applying to Augsburg would put you in a better position than a non-Lutheran. Another is any formal training you might have in Children’s ministry that might be useful to a curriculum publisher.

To cross over to “the other side” of the industry and work in product development, marketing, etc., does mean setting aside much of your retail perspective. You’ll discover there’s a massing learning curve.

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.