Willard - Will there be a Resurrection of
the Christian Bookstores from the Dead?
the past 5 years I have been speaking about
the great Christian bookstore Tsunami and
how you and I unintentionally helped the
demise of hundreds of loyal, well-established
Christian bookstores in Canada and the USA
without even trying. You have heard how
bricks and mortar bookstores were just another
example of the 8 track tape whose time had
passed and death was inevitable. But many
are beginning to doubt that is accurate
and I hear more confessions that people
miss the whole array of products and services
that they offered and wish they could help
to bring them back. And though I am not
a prophet, I want to risk saying that I
still see a need for some of those lost
services and I believe the brick and mortar
bookstore is in the midst of going through
a metamorphosis and some will soon come
out of their cocoon resurrected as "a
better creature than ever."
I always insisted that my contribution (and
no doubt yours) was unintended and so we
are innocent of their death. I always went
to local bookstore but like you, all I wanted
was a "good deal" for my hard-earned
dollars so I increasingly went to the lowest
bidder. As my mother used to remind me,
"A penny saved is a penny earned! (Oh
seeing what has happened to the
penny, I guess we'll have to modernize that
adage as well). So I was following her wise
counsel" I didn't expect there would
be such a consequence to my saving "a
few cents here" and "a few dollars
there!" But it happened. And that "lowest-cost"
mindset eventually killed the local Christian
is nothing sinful about being frugal and
trying to get the best deal whenever we
buy something but there is a "bigger
picture" we need to be aware of as
we make our choices. The personal benefits
of "always getting the best deal,"
regardless of the overall impact, leads
people to unwittingly cooperate in the decimation
of local establishments, what ever their
services, and in the end, what does it profit
us if we gain a few dollars and lose our
jobs and institutions as a result. What
if my own job were next as a result of this
Christians are different than a worldly
community or local burger joint. We are
a family with a particular mission and a
unified focus that has an eternal outcome.
We need to support each other above "just
making a profit." Christian institutions
need our support if they are to continue
to offer the full array of resources and
services that our community has benefited
from over the years. They just can not survive
the continuous erosion of sales diverted
to "on-line" or "big box"
lowest price-discount retailers. The bookstores
and other providers need those sales to
sustain their models. They offer more than
just books that someone can get anywhere.
They offer a specialty that could be lost
if we are not thoughtful.
people are beginning to notice the value
of their local Christian store as they try
buying a good Christian book at one of the
large secular bookstores of our country.
Except for a few top titles there is scant
selection and little depth. These are bookstores
that place the Bible, the Koran and a number
of new-age titles in the same section and
label it "Spiritual Enlightenment."
Try finding a good "serious" book
at these stores. Try sending a new Christian
there to pick up a book to help them in
their spiritual development. Nothing replaces
the vast selection of the traditional dedicated
Christian bookstore or the staff that use
years of knowledge and wisdom to suggest
just "the right title."
on-line shopping can not replace taking
a book in your hand and running through
the pages before you buy it. Looking at
several titles on a topic and deciding if
the content is solid before buying it. It's
harder to do that on-line. It's hard to
even see what the selection options are
on-line. And most good books are not even
available at the larger secular chains and
finding them on-line requires you to know
what the title is when you start.
you now own a lot of books that turned out
not to be what they looked like in the on-line
photo? Were the real costs of online purchases,
with the hefty freight costs, and foreign
exchange rates not a great deal after all?
local Christian bookstores needed to go
through a metamorphosis. I think they will
have to look more like a Christian Chapters
with their gifts, books, music café
and more. They must make the customer experience
exciting and as inexpensive as possible.
Our new stores must be more like communities
where people come to have coffee with friends
and then do some quick shopping. The selection
of gifts, cards, movies, music and books
must be better than ever. They need a lot
more Canadian authors and artists and they
need to be changing to meet a customer's
newest needs all the time. So it is not
for the faint-hearted.
they need Christian's to
help them survive. How terrible if one day
there wasn't a place to browse for the latest
releases without scanning mounds of web
pages for an hour. Everyone wants a good
deal. We shop for the best price and shake
down a sales rep if we think we can. I am
not recommending that you forget about getting
a good or fair deal and just pay anything
to keep your Christian retailer in business.
I just ask that you give them a chance or
the next tsunami for that industry is just
around the corner.
there is a greater "good" we serve
when we pay a few cents more and sustain
the service of the "touch and feel"
local Christian retailer. If all of us practice
the "best deal" model in everything
we purchase, one day we also may find ourselves
out of a job because someone wanted to save
a dime or dollar. I still have high hopes
that there will be the resurrection of the
Christian Bookstore to a new exciting and
sustainable entity. I hoe that is true of
many Christian service providers.