The number of Christian brick-and-mortar bookstores has shrunk rapidly over the past few years. In 2017, Family Christian, the largest Christian bookstore chain, declared bankruptcy and closed the doors to its 240 stores. Earlier this year, Lifeway announced that they would close all 170 of their stores by year end. The company is moving to an online only presence for selling books. A number of independent Christian bookstores have also shuttered.
All told, the Christian book selling industry has lost well over 400 Christian bookstores in the last four years. This raises the question:
Are Christian bookstores a dying breed?
The 2019 Walker Sand’s annual Future of Retail report looks at shopping behavior. This year’s report reveals:
1. Consumers are buying less
Two-thirds of respondents of all ages, and 72% of those age 18-35, say they are buying fewer things because they have become more conscious of keeping a clean, organized lifestyle.
2. In-store is still in demand
Brick-and-mortar remains popular with consumers for buying things like food and other daily necessities: Some 83% of respondents say they purchased groceries in-store in the past year, and 76% say they purchased consumer packaged goods.
One exception to in-store shopping is purchasing books. Books are the only type of product that consumers shopped for more on third-party online marketplaces like Amazon than in-store.
Number of Christian Bookstores
The increase of online book buying raises the question:
Just how many Christian bookstores remain?
This is an important question for publishers and authors. While both the size and scope of bookstores focused on selling Christian products have diminished over the past decade, physical book browsing is still one way a number of Christians discover new books.
In 2018, CBA launched the Get It Local Today program. The program was designed to help drive traffic to brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores. The program recently reported that their database—the largest online directory of verified independent Christian retailers—features more than 1,800 stores.
Each of these stores is part of the Get It Local Today program and are featured on a new interactive map on the program’s website.
I encourage you to check out the map and find how many Christian bookstores are near you. Then, make an effort to support these stores.
I find the news of 1,800+ Christian brick-and-mortar bookstores heartening. How about you?
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