How Many Christian Bookstores Remain?

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.

How many remain?

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.

Shopping Behavior

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.

Get It Local Today Bookstore Map

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?

Related Posts:
Where Will Christian Books Be Sold?
Why Christian Bookstores Are In Decline
What Authors Can Learn From Shopping Behaviors

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Where Will Christian Books Be Sold?

“Change is the only constant in life.”

This quote by Greek philosopher Heraclitus is as true today as when he lived in the sixth century before Christ.

The publishing and book-selling industry is no exception to this rule. Publishing houses come and go. Book distributors open and close their doors. Retail stores move from brick-and-mortar entities to the digital realm.

In an era when Amazon is opening physical stores, chain stores are falling by the wayside. Retailers filed for bankruptcy at record-high rates in 2018. The American trend has gone from small independent stores to large chain stores to digital shopping.

Lifeway Stores to Close

Christian booksellers are part of this shift. Lifeway stores are the latest victim. Last week, Lifeway Christian Resources announced that they will close all 170 of their brick-and-mortar stores this year.

In January, LifeWay announced it would reduce the number of its retail locations due to declining customer traffic and sales. The company had hoped to keep some stores open, but due to market projections, they decided to close all physical stores.

This means that there will now be 170 fewer stores where Christian books will be sold. In 2017 Family Christian Stores closed all 240 of their brick-and-mortar locations. That is a loss of over 410 Christian bookstores stores in three years.

These closures are a loss for the whole Christian book-selling industry. In my book Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books, one of the twenty marketing fundamentals I provide states:

The more channels through which consumers can purchase your books, the more books you will sell.

The Christian book-selling industry now has fewer places to sell books. Since Lifeway did not work with many indie authors or small publishers, this most recent loss is not as great for us as it is for the established Christian publishing houses.

Online Commerce Growing

Lifeway reports that over that last decade, they have seen commerce increasingly move online. They are not the only store to fall to e-commerce. In 2012, Cokesbury closed all 47 of its physical bookstores and went to one online-only store. I believe it is only a matter of time before Barnes & Noble follows suit.

Online commerce is growing while physical shopping is declining. For authors and publishers, this means that the main focus of your marketing efforts should not be about getting your books into bookstores. Instead, your focus must be on selling directly to consumers.

Selling directly to consumers means that you must focus your attention on branding and platform building to develop an audience to sell your books to. It’s the new way of selling everything—not just books.

Christian Indie Publishing Association

If you need information and support to help you make the shift in your marketing efforts to developing an audience and selling directly to consumers, Christian Indie Publishing Association can help you.

Christian Indie Publishing Association exists to provide information and tools for success in publishing and marketing to independent authors and small publishers. The Association has numerous resources available for you to educate yourself on how to develop an audience and sell books directly to readers. These include on-demand seminars, reference guides, checklists, and our monthly newsletter. You can join today for just $90 and have access to all these great resources.

Related Posts:
Five Christian Book Publishing Trends for 2019
Why Christian Bookstores Are In Decline
The Demise of the Christian Bookstore

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Photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder.