The news broke last week that Family Christian stores are closing. The decline of the Christian bookstore continues.
Family Christian declared bankruptcy two years ago, in 2015. Not wanting to see this valuable resource for selling Christian products fail, Christian publishers and other suppliers forgave Family Christian $127 million in debt and approved the reorganization that allowed a number of Family Christian stores to remain operational.
Now, Family Christian has made the announcement that despite the changes they made to improve product selection and make their stores more appealing to their clientele, sales have continued to decline. Now the chain is forced to close its stores.
The closing of Family Christian stores is sad news for the Christian book industry and for communities around the country. The impact of this big.
- Christian publishers will now have 240 less stores to sell their books through.
- 240 communities across 36 states will now lack a physical resource where people can discover Christian products, where the gospel can be proclaimed, and where people can receive encouragement.
While book sales are migrating largely to the Internet, there is still something to be said about physical stores. Across the country, physical stores are not on the decline. In Charlotte, where I live, there are numerous strip malls and shopping centers being built.
In fact, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) has been reporting an increase in their number of bookstore members of the past few years. The number of independent secular bookstores around the country is growing, while the number of Christian bookstores is declining.
You may want to attribute the decline of the Christian bookstore to the weakening of Christianity in the United States. I don’t think that this is the largest contributing factor to what is undermining Christian bookstores.
Why are Indie general market bookstores succeeding while Christian bookstores aren’t? I think the answer can be summed up in one sentence:
General market indie bookstores have embraced the indie author, Christian bookstores have not.
Here is why this is so important. Indie authors are excited about their books. They may not have the clout that national bestselling authors have in terms of drawing large crowds, but they still draw people to a bookstore. Indie authors are enthusiastic. They host events and invite the community to these events. Bookstores that embrace indie authors and their events find that these authors bring the community to the bookstore. These community members come for the indie author event, but they also buy other books. Increased foot traffic equals increased sales.
Sadly, for fear of the “unknown”, Christian bookstores have refused to embrace the indie author to their own demise. I just hope that the remaining Christian bookstores wake up and do what they need to succeed.
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