Thinking Out Loud

February 1, 2018

Christian Bookstores in Canada Under Threat from Their Own Suppliers

Christian bookstores in Canada have learned to accept competition from Amazon, as have book retailers in other parts of the world. It’s a different story when the source of your competition is the very company from which your store receives its wholesale shipments. The largest wholesale distributor in the country has set up shop online to sell direct to customers, and three of the other four major distributors are on board.

We have chosen not to identify the website in this story.

In Canada, distribution of Christian books is concentrated among four companies. While independent distributors have also existed in the U.S. — Spring Arbor, Anchor, STL, Riverside, etc. — they tend to be used by smaller stores or for inventory topping off. In Canada, they are the sole source of supply for store owners and managers.

The largest of these represents publishers such as:

  • Baker
  • Bethany House
  • InterVarsity (IVP)
  • David C. Cook
  • Waterbrook
  • Broadman & Holman
  • LifeWay
  • Destiny Image
  • Howard
  • Moody
  • Westminster Press
  • Dayspring
  • Kregel
  • Eerdman’s 
  • Fortress Press

etc. But in this venture they were joined by HarperCollins Christian Products who also participated in an earlier project. They represent

  • Zondervan
  • Thomas Nelson
  • HarperOne

and this time around a third company has joined in, which represents:

  • Tyndale
  • Navigators
  • Barbour

etc., although so far product from that company is not being discounted.

The current situation, with these companies being both part of the wholesale distribution chain and now selling direct to retail customers is creating some awkward moments as well as some ethical issues. One retailer wrote on a Canadian book trade forum:

How am I supposed to support a company who has stepped into the field as our direct competitor? I can’t idly sit by and help to subsidize their efforts to break into the online selling game while directly targeting customers and more openly Churches right in the areas where I am situated.

As distributors, their cost on books is far better than anything being given to Amazon Canada or Chapters/Indigo (the Canadian equivalent of Barnes and Noble.) No retailer could ever mount anything like this that would remain financially viable.

Some stores have felt a level of protection from The Amazon Effect because, even though Amazon Canada exists, many customers did not want to deal with what they perceived as an American company. Other customers are not as comfortable shopping in the mainstream product mix at Chapters/Indigo. This new website meets those two objections customers might have.

Is it possible that their own distributors will finish off Christian retailers in Canada in ways that other market forces did not? Right now there are many Christian retail owners and managers looking at an uncertain future.

 

Advertisements

February 24, 2017

Family Christian Stores: The Final Curtain

This article posted several hours ago at our affiliate blog, Christian Book Shop Talk

Christianity Today reported the sad news on Thursday (2/23) afternoon:

All 240 Family Christian Stores Are Closing

More than 3,000 employees in 36 states will be laid off in the liquidation of one of the world’s largest Christian retailers.

fc-logoMore than two years ago, suppliers forgave Family Christian Stores $127 million in debt so that it could remain open. Today, the chain—which bills itself as “the world’s largest retailer of Christian-themed merchandise”—announced it is closing all of its stores after 85 years in business.

Family Christian, which employed more than 3,000 people in more than 240 stores across 36 states, blamed “changing consumer behavior and declining sales.”

“We had two very difficult years post-bankruptcy,” stated president Chuck Bengochea. “Despite improvements in product assortment and the store experience, sales continued to decline. In addition, we were not able to get the pricing and terms we needed from our vendors to successfully compete in the market.

“We have prayerfully looked at all possible options, trusting God’s plan for our organization,” he stated, “and the difficult decision to liquidate is our only recourse.”

Tyndale House Publishers chairman and CEO Mark Taylor called the stores “an important outlet for Christian books, gifts, and Bibles for many decades.”

“All of us at Tyndale House Publishers feel a sense of grief over Family Christian’s decision to close the entire chain of stores,” he stated. “Family’s millions of customers now have even fewer options for finding these wonderful, life-giving products…

continue reading here

Publisher’s Weekly had a different store count:

…Family Christian Stores, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2015, is closing all of its outlets due to changing consumer behavior and declining sales, the company announced Thursday. The Christian retailing chain operates 266 stores in 36 states.

According to various sources, a board meeting was held at FCS’s Grand Rapids headquarters on Wednesday afternoon to determine whether the beleaguered retailer would close or finance another year. To continue, the board members wanted to see a path to profitability by 2018, the sources said…

continue reading here

Michigan Live reported:

…The announcement on Thursday, Feb. 23, did not specify a timetable for the liquidation, which will affect more than 3,000 employees at more than 240 stores in 36 states…

…”We had two very difficult years post-bankruptcy,” said company president Chuck Bengochea in a news release, that blamed changing consumer habits and declining sales for the decision.

“Despite improvements in product assortment and the store experience, sales continued to decline. In addition, we were not able to get the pricing and terms we needed from our vendors to successfully compete in the market.

“We have prayerfully looked at all possible options, trusting God’s plan for our organization, and the difficult decision to liquidate is our only recourse.” …

continue reading here

This is a very sad turn of events for our industry. It is a loss that is both significant numerically and also symbolically. It represents the further demise of brick-and-mortar Christian retail, and all the fellowship and ministry that these stores bring, at the hand of online vendors.


Christian Book Shop Talk reported extensively on this subject; to read recent stories click this link.

August 6, 2016

Tyndale House Shelves Perry Noble Book Indefinitely

Two days ago, when this story was breaking, I posted the following news story from Greenville Online at a trade blog I write for people in Christian publishing and Christian retail. A similar story appeared at Slate with raw video from a church member. (I’m assuming here you’ve already read last month’s reports of Noble’s resignation.)

Perry Noble on DatingA Christian publishing company has decided to shelve, at least temporarily, the latest book from former NewSpring Church pastor Perry Noble.

The book, “11 1/2 Questions To Help You Date Without Regret,”was originally scheduled to be released to the public Sept. 27.

A spokeswoman for Tyndale House Publishers said Wednesday that the company has moved Noble’s book to “unscheduled status.”

“We plan to review this status at a future date and then evaluate the viability of releasing this book at another time,” publicist Margie Watterson said in an email to the Independent Mail.

Watterson said there is no set date for that evaluation to occur…

continue reading at Greenville Online.

Most of the things I post there — and the readership is quite small — don’t attract a lot of attention, but this one led to an exchange with someone — perhaps a rabid Perry Noble fan — on Twitter:

“…all because he made mistakes? See man! THIS is why people don’t want to follow Jesus man. We don’t help our wounded!!! We shoot them! Stupid.

So I want to offer some opinions on this, as my original responses vanished — including something written hastily about not taking advice from someone who had failed in some measure — in the cloud:

  • This is about a publishing decision, not about the book itself. The book had already been vetted by Tyndale’s acquisitions and editorial staff. Tyndale is currently keeping three previous Noble titles in their catalog. That is significant. They just may think the timing is bad to launch a new title, especially one that dealers might be skittish about stock right now.
  • It’s possible the subject matter of this one is related (directly, indirectly or whatever) to the issues that led to Noble’s resignation and it’s possible that the public doesn’t have all the facts related to the resignation. If it turned out there were other factors and the publishers felt this was the wrong time for Noble to speak to the topic raised in the book, then they would be acting with prudence to shelve the title for the time being.
  • This in no way diminishes the content of the book which may be useful, helpful and insightful. Publishing is all about author platform, about the matter of who is speaking. For the reasons above, they may feel this there is, right now, an author credibility issue.

This type of thinking led my correspondent to suggest:

I’d take advice from them if they had success in business before. Trump has failed in the business realm but had success too and that’s how I’d equate noble… Sure he has failed in areas but he’s also had A LOT more success than failure… and also, if someone has failed that means what they say now isn’t valid? A divorced person can’t give insight to a marriage because he got divorced? No! He definitely can. He can tell you the mistakes he made and should’ve changed… and he still speaks truth despite of failure or success. Check the Bible… Full of people that speak and are “failures”

To which I would respond:

  • Again, this is a publishing decision that is probably quite on the periphery of any issues the NewSpring board have dealt with over the last several days.
  • It’s possible that the type of transparency and honesty that Noble can bring to the book is indeed helpful, but that an update or revision is necessary at this stage, which might involve pulping copies already printed.
  • There’s such a thing as too soon. We’ve seen pastors and authors — rightly or wrongly — swiftly restored to ministry. In other cases we’re still in the middle of the story: Tullian Tchividjian, Mark Driscoll, Darrin Patrick, C. J. Mahaney and others come to mind. (There are entire blogs which deal only with these things, so I’m not current on all the stories and names. )

Perry NobleAnd that’s how I ended my conversation, with this: “So my guess on this one is that you will eventually see copies of the book in bookstores. They’re probably just biding their time.” (I base that largely on Tyndale’s decision to keep the previous three titles in print and online.)

But there is one more thing I shared, and that was a response to the premise that this is type of issue is “why people don’t want to follow Jesus…”

I disagree.

  • First, I think that this type of story represents an excuse someone might use for not wanting to follow Jesus when their mind is already made up.
  • Second, I think Luke 16 is helpful, where in the parable of the shrewd manager, Jesus says, “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” In other words, I think the seekers, the skeptics, the atheists, the agnostics, etc. recognize a logical business decision when they see it.

 

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.