Last week the Lifeway Christian Store chain announced the closure of all 170 of their stores by the end of this calendar year.
This is follows the closure of the Family Christian Stores in 2017 (240 locations). And in 2012 the Cokesbury chain closed (35 stores). Over 400 total locations closed in seven years. You may also recall that Borders closed 500 locations in 2011. (I started my career in this industry with the Berean Christian Stores. That chain was bought by Lifeway in 2013.)
The State of All Retail
The brick and mortar retail environment has been under siege for many years as the consumer’s eye has wandered. Some chains adapted well, others did not. Every retail industry has been affected by the un-malling of America.
Obviously the loss of 170 locations will impact those communities and make it harder to find the right products. Lifeway has been an important resource in those communities. Buying a Bible is usually an exercise in comparison of the various sizes, colors, study options, etc. Buying the right gift product with a Christian message of some sort is highly tactile and visual.
From a business perspective, at least this is not a bankruptcy. Invoices will be paid and author royalties unaffected, as long as sales volume is recovered elsewhere.
What Does This Mean for the Publishing Industry?
Meanwhile publishers continue to find new outlets for their products, and will again. There are still many Christian bookstores out there and many large churches have one on their campus.
I do know one major publisher started seeing a decline in sales to Lifeway quite some time ago. And yet this same publisher had record sales, last year.
Publishers obviously are not thrilled, but they are not wringing their hands.
Don’t forget that Publishers sell far beyond bookstores and Amazon.com. For example, I have a client who sells over one hundred thousand of her books each year. Almost 98% of those are to ministries which use them as gifts or as a fund raiser. It has been rare to find her books in a bookstore for many years.
Publishers are not going to be hurt in the long run by this. This should mean happy authors as well.
Remember to think of the thousands of retailers who will be without work in the next year.
Writers? Please don’t despair. The enemy would love nothing more than for you to be distracted by the ebb and flow of the retail economy. The world needs great content by great writers and great communicators.