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Posts Tagged ‘Christian Retailing’

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.

How Much Catholic Merchandise Does Your Store Carry?

catholic-bookstore-3

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

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

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

So what did I leave out?

How does your store compare with mine?

saint-joseph


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

Worldwide Shortage of Book Titles Continues

September 13, 2016 1 comment

It sounds like a headline from Christian news satire site, The Babylon Bee, but the reality, as first reported here several weeks ago, has been noticed by Christianity Today at this article. There really are three books in current release with the same title, Unashamed.

unashamed

img-091316The confusion continues this month as the 2008 title about surviving an affair, Torn Asunder by Moody Press is being joined by a 2016 title from Eerdmans on helping children survive divorce.

Or is it? It was due out the first week in August. CBD doesn’t list the Eerdmans title, but Ingram does as well as the publisher website. But unlike the Unashamed confusion, this one is an academic book, publishing at $34.00 and probably won’t be stocked in too many retail outlets…

…Most retailers can handle books with similar or same titles. A bigger challenge comes when old books are released under new titles. Go to the popular online Christian book site and type “previously published as” (and its variants) and you’ll see just a few of these.

October’s Great Day, Every Day by Max Lucado is a reissue of Every Day Deserves a Second Chance. The original, despite the bright yellow cover, never reached its full potential in the market and turned up on overstock and remainder lists for several years. But I suppose every book deserves a second chance.

(Couldn’t resist.)


upper image: Christianity Today


Previously noted here in May: Two different CDs have similar titles, Where the Light Gets In (Jason Gray) and Where the Light Shines Through (Switchfoot).

Will the Jesus Calling Magic Happen Again?

jesus-alwaysOnly about three weeks away from releasing, HarperCollins Christian Publishing is deeply committed to the official follow up to Jesus Calling with an unprecedented one million copy first printing for Jesus Always by Sarah Young.

In our store, initial acceptance of the first title was slow. We monitored the U.S. statistics but weren’t seeing anything like what transpired there. Of course, conservative Evangelicals chose to keep their distance from this one because the format was different.

We posted something to Facebook to see if we could get a clear guesstimate of what the initial interest will be. There hasn’t been a lot of discussion about it so far, but it tends to be customers more on the periphery who gravitate to this. Our regular customers aren’t fans. 

But don’t hedge your bets on this too long. It may be a million copy printing, but there are many different markets competing for those copies: Gift stores, airport newsstands, mainstream book market retailers, big box stores; just to name a few.

David C. Cook Canada Purchased by Senior Management Team

David C. Cook Distribution Canada of Paris, Ontario has been sold. The announcement came Tuesday (1st) afternoon in a press release from its former U.S. parent in Colorado Springs. Many of us had trouble opening the release so I’ve copied it here in full:

DAVID C COOK SELLS CANADIAN DISTRIBUTION OPERATIONS

Colorado Springs, CO (March 1, 2016) – David C Cook’s Chief Executive Officer, Cris Doornbos, announced the Canadian management buyout of its Canadian distribution division, located in Paris, Ontario, by Executive Director Greg Tombs and Financial Director Hardy Willms. The sale is effective February 29, 2016.

The Canadian distribution division has been resourcing Christian and general market resellers and the church for over 30 years and will continue to provide a national full service sales, marketing and fulfillment operation. David C Cook’s resources will continue to be represented along with the other partners in Christian publishing, music, media, cards and gifts the organization already serves.

Greg and Hardy have been competent leaders over the years. They have a real passion for the dissemination and distribution of Christian resources for the long haul. We are confident that this purchase by Greg and Hardy will result in a long term continuation of their effective service to the Canadian market,” Doornbos stated.

During this transition, we remain committed to each and every customer and client and will ensure the high level of customer service everyone has come to expect from David C Cook Canada. Every effort has been made to make this transition as seamless and successful as possible. A strategic plan looking forward to 2020 is already being executed Greg and Hardy.”

Tombs said, “Hardy and I are delighted to have the opportunity to continue to serve the CBA trade, general market and churches in Canada with the books, curriculum, music, cards, gifts and church supplies that Canada needs for ministry and discipleship. We are pleased that we will continue to have a great working relationship with David C Cook as we continue to distribute their curriculum, books, and Integrity music in Canada.”

This is independent of another story we reported on earlier the same day of the selling of Augsburg Fortress Canada to the same owners.

Augsburg Fortress Canada Sold to David C. Cook Canada

augsburgfortress-logoChristian bookstores in Canada now have one less organization in the supply chain. Augsburg Fortress Canada has been purchased by David C. Cook Canada, effective March 1st. The sale includes all of the existing inventory and distribution rights for everything AFC carried including:

  • Augsburg
  • Fortress Press
  • Westminster John Knox
  • Abingdon
  • Abbey Press Gifts
  • Anglican Book Centre
  • United Church of Canada Publishing
  • Penguin/Random House religious titles (CBA rights only)
  • Waterbrook/Multnomah (CBA rights only)

Norm Robertson will continue to call on mainline Protestant and liturgical accounts representing the former AFC product line and any existing Cook products those stores may find of interest. One other former AFC staff member is transferring to Cook.

This also adds a curriculum line and VBS brand to Cook Canada’s already huge stable of Christian Education resources. (The company recently picked up the former Standard Publishing’s Sunday School curriculum.) With Abingdon, it also gives Cook a virtual monopoly on church bulletins and ancillary products.

Not to be overlooked in the deal is the strong success many stores are enjoying with Abbey Press giftware, which will also now be stocked and shipped from Paris, ON to Canadian accounts and will only make the brand more accessible to stores here. 

Anglican and United Church denominational products include a mixture of trade titles and items sold to stores on a short-discount basis.

The sale came about after Augsburg Fortress in Minneapolis had been seeking to shut down the Canadian operation if it could not find a buyer. The AFC retail store in Kitchener, ON has closed and is not part of the transaction. 


This story is independent of another announcement the same day of the sale of David C. Cook Canada to two members of its Canadian management team.

 

New Author, Craig Biehl Releasing Two Apologetics Titles Simultaneously

The following has been adapted from the just-releasing book, God The Reason: How Infinite Excellence Gives Unbreakable Faith by Craig Biehl (Carpenter’s Son Publishing). A second book The Box: Answering the Faith of Unbelief is also available. Both titles are now shipping from Send The Light Distribution. What follows appears on the author’s blog Pilgrim’s Rock.

Corrie ten Boom Meets Lieutenant Rahms

God The ReasonShortly after her arrest and imprisonment for protecting Jews from the Nazi reign of terror, Corrie ten Boom met with Lieutenant Rahms, her pensive and troubled interrogator. He showed Corrie unusual kindness in his initial visits, though Corrie rightly suspected he was manipulating her to gain information about others involved in harboring Jews. Corrie spoke to the lieutenant about her ministry of preaching to the “feeble-minded” in what she called her “church for mentally retarded people” to which Lieutenant Rahms responded in typical Nazi fashion, “If you want converts, surely one normal person is worth all the half-wits in the world!” Nervous and contrite, Corrie ventured a reply, “The truth, Sir…is that God’s viewpoint is sometimes different from ours—so different that we could not even guess at it unless He had given us a Book which tells us such things.” Corrie “knew it was madness to talk this way to a Nazi officer,” but she continued. “In the Bible I learn that God values us not for our strength or our brains but simply because He has made us. Who knows, in His eyes a half-wit may be worth more than a watchmaker. Or—a lieutenant.”[1]

In a later encounter, Corrie spoke to the lieutenant about the message of God’s Book. “It says…that a Light has come into this world, so that we need no longer walk in the dark. Is there darkness in your life, Lieutenant?” After a long silence, and in a surprising moment of candor, the officer admitted, “There is great darkness….I cannot bear the work I do here.”[2]

I do not know the fate of Lieutenant Rahms. We can hope that his earthly darkness drove him to flee from eternal darkness and embrace the Light of the World. Maybe we will see him in heaven. Or, sadly, like Pontius Pilate, maybe he traded justice and reverence for God for his short-term power and livelihood and became an eternal tragedy.

Many participants in the Nazi reign of terror likely struggled with the evils with which Lieutenant Rahms struggled. Many made eye contact with the precious people who were dehumanized as apes by a worldview that saw Aryans as the apex of evolutionary progress. Most could not distinguish Jewish children from their own. Many saw the disproportionate accomplishments of Jews in society, contrary to the assertions of the propagandists. Yet they participated in the murder.

What lives might have been spared the terror of the racist Aryanism if people were rightly treated as endowed with dignity, as created in the image of God. What concentration camps would never have been built and what trains would never have carried their priceless cargo if people acknowledged dependence on God for purpose, meaning, and a moral compass. What horrors might have been prevented if Nietzsche had bowed the knee to the “God of the weak” and had never penned his deadly philosophy. The Nazi god, the Aryan pinnacle of human evolution, was no god, with no ultimate standard of right and wrong, no ultimate accountability, and no ultimate consequences for evil behavior. As William Penn once said, “If we are not governed by God, then we will be ruled by tyrants.”[3]

Many were partners in the evils of the Holocaust, so beware—if you reject and ignore God’s moral compass, someone else will provide one for you…. And the prevailing winds will drive us where we never dreamed we would go.


[1] Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place (Chosen Books, 1971; Bantam Books, 1974), 160.

[2] Ibid., 161.

[3] Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, rev. ed. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 34.

Family Christian Stores Begin a New Life

September 3, 2015 1 comment

fc-logoWith a tumultuous season now in the past, Family Christian Stores have had a legal resuscitation and the chain enters into the 2015-2016 selling period with a mixture of hopes and challenges. A lengthy article at MiBiz.com is worth reading in its entirety, some highlights are below, but you should click here to link.

Some key points that stood out to this observer:

  • …the senior management team of the new Family Christian is much of the same team that took the company into bankruptcy.
  • “We need (multiple) outlets in our industry,” said Curtis Riskey, president of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Christian Booksellers Association. “Family Christian is the largest chain, so it’s important that we retain those outlets. For the suppliers that were part of the proceedings, to be able to keep doing business with their largest customer is important.”
  • Aside from closing approximately 15 of the company’s stores, the management team’s agenda includes better defining the Family Christian brand, enhancing the look and feel of stores and shifting to a hybrid e-commerce sales-and-distribution model.
  • “We’re never going to compete with Amazon — that’s a losing proposition,” [Family Christian CEO Chuck] Bengochea said. “But I don’t want (customers) to have to wait a week and a half just because (they’ve) ordered a Christian product. I want it to be out there in three days or less.”
  • “We have a five-year plan and we don’t believe it’s double-digit growth,” Bengochea said. “We believe there is single-digit growth, which the (Christian retailing) industry has not been experiencing, but we believe we can do that. Our model is very healthy. We have new stores in the model and good EBITDA earnings growth. But it’s not a high-growth business.”

Again, there is much, much more to read in this well-reported analysis.

When Wholesale is Not the Best Price

Frequently, bookstores larger than ours are part of programs which allow them to sell books to customers below the wholesale price. Unless something is in the back of a clearance bin, I don’t make a practice of buying from other stores, but recently realized that sometimes, I am being played by my suppliers.

I noticed on Monday that we were out of stock of Choose Life by Stormie Omartian, and happened to remember that the Canadian supplier was running a 46% discount on her selected backlist. Today, that book is available to customers at a Hamilton bookstore at 50% discount. Next Wednesday, the discount on this “Dutch Auction” special jumps to 60%. I’m sure there are many other stores which are part of this particular promotion.

During the last few weeks, I have made an extra concerted effort to buy all I can from this particular supplier, knowing as we all do that with stores in major cities closing, they probably need every sale they can get. But despite this, I find myself today moving back to the position I’ve taken earlier in the year of making them an absolute last resort.

There’s no fixed pricing.

Every dealer (and here I want to add ‘but me’) is getting a different price.

Your volume determines your discounts; as it always does in this industry. This is something I consider a bit of a slap in the face from distributors who then have the nerve to sell “What Would Jesus Do?” products. Jesus would give the guy buying five units the deal, and tell the guy buying 50 that he can probably live with the standard discount.

I just don’t want to be a part of something that isn’t more standardized, practicing more of what I would call fairness. For that reason, I don’t go to this supplier’s industry events anymore. Frankly, I think it would be totally hypocritical of me to sit down to lunch and eat their food. The sharing of a meal has spiritual significance to people in eastern cultures, and even though I’m not actually at the table with the employees and owners, I am in fact sharing their food.

I just can’t do that. I can’t have spiritual fellowship with people who are so busy doing backroom wheeling and dealing with the top 15 bookstore accounts that they think the rest of us, the bottom-feeders, are totally oblivious to what’s going on.

It’s frustrating also because I was just warming up to the idea of using this supplier more frequently, even though they are actively selling into my market. I had softened. I was willing to surrender the fight. And then I was reminded why I was offended in the first place. The total inconsistency on pricing.

…If I can walk into this store next week and as a retail customer get 60% on a book that I’m only being given a 46% discount as a wholesale customer, then I would say something is serious warped.

90 Minutes in Heaven Movie Lands Distribution Deal

U.S. release on September 11th

This book has done quite well in our stores which should generate much interest in the film.

From today’s announcement in Los Angeles at Christian Newswire:

90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN—the stirring story of Don Piper, who died in a highway accident, experienced heaven and returned to face severe physical, emotional and spiritual challenges—has landed a distribution deal with Samuel Goldwyn Films. The faith film is based on Piper’s New York Times best-selling book of the same name with more than 7 million copies sold; the film premieres in 800 theaters across the country on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015.

90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN is presented by Giving Films. It stars Hayden Christensen (STAR WARS) and Kate Bosworth (SUPERMAN RETURNS) as Don and Eva Piper. Michael Polish (THE ASTRONAUT FARMER) directs…

…90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN is rated PG-13 for intense accident and injury images.

From the movie website, 90MinutesInHeavenTheMovie.com

Bankruptcy Court Denies Sale of Family Christian Stores

The drama of Family Christian Stores is now officially in overtime. Here’s some of the report from Publisher’s Weekly (19/June), but you need to click through for the full story:

A United States Bankruptcy Court has denied the sale of Family Christian Stores, the largest retail Christian chain in the country, to FCS Acquisition (a company founded by FCS owners to buy back the business). The ruling was detailed in a memorandum decision filed on Thursday in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Family Christian Stores, which has 266 locations in 36 states, filed for bankruptcy in February after several years of falling sales.

The denial of the sale motion was based on several factors: Hilco Merchant Resources, LLC, and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners LLC (Gordon/Hilco)–both liquidators–made bids on the chain, and both have standing to object to the sale. Additionally, the auction process during which FC Acquisition was named the “highest and best” bidder included several mistakes, though the court said it ultimately did not “find that the auction was unfair or fraudulent.”

The court was especially troubled by a telephone call from Family Christian CEO Chuck Bengochea to FC Acquisition owner Richard Jackson during the sale auction, asking him to increase FC Acquisitions’ bid.

A third objection says that the debtors “failed to articulate a sound business justification for the sale to any of the bidders.”…

…The decision comes nine days after a 14-hour hearing in Grand Rapids on June 9 that began at 9 a.m. and ended just after 11 p.m.

A longer story appears at MLive (Michigan Regional News) and notes:

…The judge said the clock is ticking for the company if it wants to remain a viable business. It will have a “liquidity crisis” with cash reserves likely depleted by mid to late July.

…If Family Christian Acquisition’s had been approved, Bengochea planned to close 15 or 16 stores as part of a five-point restructuring.

With several bidders planning to liquidate the company, many creditors, including publishers who would lose millions in the bankruptcy, backed Family Christian Acquisitions’ bid as a way to keep the company afloat and continue as an important distributor of their products.

Family Christian Stores Stay Open

If you’ve been following the Family Christian Stores (FCS) saga since February, you know that two of the most authoritative sources on this — both of whom posted a summary of last week’s hearings — have been the West Michigan website MLive, and the publisher agent Steve Laube’s blog. From the latter, we get this summary:

  • Stores will stay open
  • Trade creditors will get 5% of what they are owed plus 100% for all of the sales made within 20 days of the bankruptcy filing.
  • Owners of consignment inventory will get paid for a percentage of their inventory, somewhere between 10-35%, depending on circumstances.
  • The main secured creditor will get paid 100%.
  • Another secured creditor will take a large write-off.

The decision reached last week is still subject to court approval, which includes a challenge by the second-place bidder; plus a stipulation that consignment vendors call off their lawsuit.

Steve Laube summarizes everything with much wisdom:

With any situation like this there is good and bad. The bad is rather obvious. A lot of publishers and vendors are severely hurt by this bankruptcy.

The good, if you will allow me to characterize it as such, is that if the bid is approved by the courts, the stores will stay open. That means future business will occur. In the long run, this may be a wonderful thing. Whether FCS can survive in that long run amidst the ever changing nature of retail is a different question entirely. This situation has demonstrated the fragile nature of the brick-and-mortar store. Unless some changes are made we may end up in the same boat a few years from now. But, in the meantime, having 266 places where books, bibles, music, and gifts are sold is a positive thing.

Unfortunately that “good” thing had to be rebuilt on the backs of hundreds of publishers, vendors, suppliers, authors, and artists. Many of whom will not have the ability to survive their own bankruptcy.

It is easy to create villains and heroes in any story we tell. Rarely, in a situation like this, do we know the full picture, the motivations, or what has been negotiated behind the scenes. My hope is that somehow something good in the long run will happen to turn this into a long forgotten bad dream.

For earlier reporting on his blog check out: blog #1 and blog #2. There is also a report at the CBA website.