Thinking Out Loud

September 16, 2008

Economic Meltdown Hits Christian Bookstore Industry

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:39 pm

While the economic fundamentals remain stronger for Canada than is the case in the U.S., today many of us here are reeling from the news that the largest Christian book distributor in the country, R. G. Mitchell Family Books, is in receivership.   Staff at the Toronto-based company were given the news at around 4:30 PM yesterday, according to one report.   Mitchell holds distribution rights to many of the major U.S. Christian book lines including Tyndale, Broadman & Holman, Gospel Light and Harvest House; and also operated several retail stores in Ontario.

This comes just three weeks after it was announced that the largest Christian music distributor in Canada, CMC Distribution of Niagara On The Lake, Ontario, sold its assets and distribution agreements to David C. Cook of Paris, Ontario, effective September 1st.

Both of these events follow the bankruptcy of the largest Christian book chain in Canadian history, Blessings Christian Marketplace, which occurred about a year ago, and a more recent decision by the largest Christian bookstore in the country, Christian Publications of Calgary, Alberta, to close its flagship store and two others in that province.

Additionally, Christian books are priced based on the U.S. dollar; and during the last year that the Canadian dollar has been strong against the U.S. greenback, prices have fallen; leaving the industry in a situation called ‘deflation,’ where constantly falling prices can’t produce enough real income to pay overhead and wages, which are constantly rising.

In the short-term, many stores in Canada can rush product in from Ingram, the largest U.S. book distributor (in fact the largest in the world), but the economic situation there seems to be striking at major players, meaning that it’s anyone’s guess what sources of supply will exist in the next few months.

All this filters back to the publishers themselves, who could be looking at cutting back the number of titles, the size of the print runs, or both.   Some currently slated new releases could find themselves on the chopping block as well.

For my local readers, it’s business as usual at Searchlight Books.   We are already accustomed to operating on a shoestring, we are in an excellent inventory position, a strong financial position, and will continue to do whatever it takes to serve our customers.   As one person told me, “Smaller market Christian stores tend to be so missions-focused that it takes more than economic hard times to shut them down.”


  1. I see opportunity here. Time to change the marketplace — publish and distribute Canadian books in Canada. That means creating a truly Canadian industry. No, Canada is not too small. With Christ all things are possible.

    Comment by Jane Harris Zsovan — September 16, 2008 @ 5:05 pm

  2. I have been in the Christian Retail 14+ years
    There is room for lots of changes
    However, 1st and for most. For the smaller communities – we are no longer supported by our local customers. In a day and age of online purchases. We can’t compete.
    Our customer base sometimes needs to remember who they go to when the need “donations” for many different causes/events.
    Those “Big Box Stores and Online Stores” will not help you out.
    I know there are times when it is unavoidable – but we all know – there are more when it is not.

    Comment by P PHILLIPS — September 16, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

  3. The online situation has hurt many stores and obviously hurt R. G. Mitchell, but there are literally hundreds of items in our stores that people can’t or won’t buy online. We are still viable.

    I do think however that the churches in Toronto (and Oshawa and Kitchener, etc.) that were buying things from Amazon are now realizing the true “cost” of their actions.

    It’s the same in my hometown. The largest church in town buys everything from Amazon, and only if and when we close will the community at large truly realize what they’ve lost, and at that point in time, I will place the bulk of the responsibility for that closure on their doorstep.

    And thanks for giving me a great response next time that same church asks for “donations.” They can ask Amazon.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 16, 2008 @ 7:38 pm

  4. Note to regular Thinking Out Loud readers:

    Some comments on this post may appear from readers “visiting” from another blog page we run called Christian Book Shop Talk. The events of the day have left many store owners engaged in all kinds of speculation as to what the future holds, both long-term and short-term. When reality hits at the consumer level, well … see the 2nd & 3rd paragraph of my other comment above.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 16, 2008 @ 7:44 pm

  5. Link to Aug 2015 story about Faith Bookstore in Toronto reopening under new structure

    Pingback by Toronto’s Faith Bookstore to Reopen Under New Ownership | Christian Book Shop Talk — August 15, 2015 @ 8:17 am

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