|Cokesbury stores to close, 'transition initiative' announced|
|Written by Eric Tiansay|
|Tuesday, 06 November 2012 11:21 AM America/New_York|
The United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH), Cokesbury's parent company, will close all of the historic chain's 57 stores by April 30, 2013.
Announcing the move Nov. 5, the UMPH board of directors said it will launch "a transition initiative" for its retail division. CokesburyNext will redirect focus and resources toward expanding and enhancing products and services at Cokesbury.com, the Cokesbury Call Center and through more than 40 sales representatives. The chain will be closing its 38 brick-and-mortar locations and 19 seminary stores, with the first shuttering in January.
"Cokesbury has been serving for more than 200 years, and during that time has continuously adapted to the changing landscape affecting congregations and their leaders," said UMPH President and Publisher Neil Alexander. "A shift toward all things digital and the convenience of placing orders at any time is the reality of Cokesbury today. It is difficult to see the closure of Cokesbury local stores, but doing so will allow us to make a greater investment in the ways of shopping with Cokesbury that customers increasingly prefer."
UMPH officials said 185 full-time employees and 100-plus part-time staff will be laid off by the store closings. UMPH will provide both severance packages and job search services for staff.
Cokesbury, which offers resources for congregations, seminaries, church leaders, study groups and individuals, has seen a steady increase in sales through Cokesbury.com and its Cokesbury Call Center operation in the past 10 years.
At the same time, the number of Cokesbury customers relying solely on store locations has steadily declined. In the most recent customer survey, only 15% of Cokesbury's customers reported shopping exclusively in stores, UMPH officials said. As a result of changes in the industry and the consumer shift to digital shopping and purchasing, the local stores are no longer financially viable.