|Why we are 'nuts' about Christian retail|
|Written by Mark D. Taylor|
|Wednesday, 27 October 2010 08:59 AM America/New_York|
CBA's 'channel champion' leader on supporting—and joining—'a tough business'
Mark D. Taylor, President/CEO, Tyndale House Publishers
We at Tyndale House Publishers love the Christian retail channel. We always have, and we always will. Why? Because Christian retailers share our passion for getting the good news into people's hands and hearts.
Christian retailers are happy to pray with customers. They are not afraid to ask a customer with tears in her eyes, "Is there some way we can help you?" They know and understand the books they carry, so they can point a customer to just the right book to meet a certain need.
They reach out to local churches so they can meet the needs of the pastors. They carry more breadth of Christian product than any mass merchandiser would dream of doing. They carry a wide array of Bible translations and Bible studies and Bible study tools.
They carry greeting cards with just the right sentiment to convey Christian love and friendship. They carry inspirational gifts that are hard to find anywhere else.
What's not to like?
At the same time, we recognize that not everyone can or will shop in Christian retail stores. That's why we also sell to general-market retailers—bookstores and general-merchandise retailers and Internet retailers. We are committed to making our books available wherever our customers choose to shop.
But we hope and pray that the Christian retail channel will continue to thrive and grow.
We were honored this past summer when CBA retailers gave Tyndale House the Channel Champion award for the second year in a row. But from our perspective, we were just doing business as usual. We continually look for ways to serve independent Christian retailers because we know this is a tough environment for independent retailers—and it seems to get tougher every year. But we want independents to thrive.
We also look for ways to serve the Christian retail chains. Between them, they have hundreds of outlets in key markets all across the country. The chains are an important part of our overall distribution network.
If Christian bookstores disappear, who will carry the breadth of product published by the many Christian publishers? The big Internet retailers will continue to carry essentially every book we publish; in fact, they carry more of our titles than any single Christian bookstore does anywhere in the country.
But it's hard to browse in an online bookstore. One of the nice things about a bricks-and-mortar store is that I can go to the Christian Living section and find books I would never have heard about otherwise. Or I can look through 10 different Bibles to get just the right translation, binding style and support materials.
AN UPHILL BATTLE
At Tyndale House we believe that every major market should be served by a Christian bookstore. Several years ago, the Christian bookstore in our community of Carol Stream, Ill., closed its doors. There are other Christian bookstores in several nearby communities, but Wheaton/Carol Stream was left without its own store.
After waiting a couple of years to see if another independent or one of the Christian chains would open a new store, we grabbed the bull by the horns and decided to participate in opening an independent store in our community.
We are partnering with Christian Art Distributors of South Africa and its affiliate, Christian Art Gifts, a gift supplier that operates in the U.S. market. The new store is called Johnsen and Taylor, named after the founders of our respective companies.
Are we nuts to be opening a Christian bookstore in this economic environment? Maybe. We know it's an uphill battle. But that's how strongly we feel about the importance of local Christian bookstores.
In the process of our planning, we've looked at all of the financial parameters that make for successful retailing.
We need a good location, which we think we've found. We need a good manager and employees. We need the right breadth and depth of inventory. We need good marketing, which we will work hard to create. We need adequate capital so that we can pay for our build-out and fixtures and our opening inventory.
Thankfully, the partner companies are all strong enough to provide adequate capital. We're willing to make the investment that's necessary for success. Finally, we need faith that God will bless our efforts.
Our corporate purpose is to minister to the spiritual needs of people, primarily through literature consistent with biblical principles. I'm reminded of Ps. 96:2-3, which reads this way in the New Living Translation: "Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does."
That sounds like a good description of what all Christian publishers and retailers do.
We know that Christian retailing is a tough business. Many stores are under-capitalized, and it's very hard to run a business in those circumstances. The hours are long. Rent expense is high. There is more competition than ever. But those who see Christian retail as a calling press forward despite the difficulties.
So to all of our Christian retail partners we say, "Thank you and God bless you."