I follow a gentleman on Twitter by the name of @bryanbrock. Bryan and his wife own and operate a Christian bookstore in Bel Air, Maryland that they are closing because they have not been selling enough books to stay open.
Bryan and his wife are no slackers when it comes to operating an independent bookstore. The store carries a range of Christian books including books for both Protestants and Catholics. They have used the Internet and social media to market their bookstore. You can find Bryan on Twitter, he hosts a blog, the couple hosted an online bookstore (as well as their physical store), and they even posted product preview videos for customers.
So what went wrong? The economy? Maybe.
On his blog, Bryan listed 13 random thoughts he has had about closing his store. I will share three here:
- Sad but true: you can make more money closing a store than keeping it open. We are seeing excellent traffic this month that we would not be seeing otherwise.
- People talk about finding great prices on CBD and Amazon even as they lament that we are closing.
- I’m not an economist, but I believe we are currently in a deflationary cycle where people are just not willing to pay what the manufacture says a product is worth.
Yes, businesses close all the time. Yes, we are in a recession and businesses are being hit hard. Maybe I am a pessimist, but I suspect that even when the economy recovers, Christian bookstores will not recover.
Consider the following three points:
- For a number of years, Christian bookstores have not carried the breadth and depth of books they needed to sustain their customer base. Most have catered to best sellers and best selling back lists. A good segment of the Christian population has stopped using their local bookstores to find the meatier Christian books they crave. At ICRS in 2006, George Barna issued a challenge to Christian retailers to carry less fluff and more meat in the books they stocked.
- The U.S. Census Bureau found that bookstore sales peaked in 2005 and have declined steadily ever since. The recession did not hit until 2008, yet sales of books began declining two years prior to the recession. The reason book sales are declining is not a money issue; it is a larger societal literacy and reading issue.
- Our society is becoming increasingly depersonalized and anonymous. We shop at chain stores and eat at chain restaurants. In urban areas, the sense of community and shopping locally to sustain the community is lost. As a result, small, independent businesses face a steeper mountain to succeed.
Keep in mind that every Christian bookstore that closes means one less place for Christian publishers to sell their books. Every place for selling books that the publishing community loses equals fewer sales. The competition in selling books is growing. The book selling environment is becoming an ever increasingly more difficult place to succeed.