Over the last decade, Christian bookstores across the nation have been shuttering. In some cases, consumers are just less interested in the stores' God-blessed inventory. But plenty of others are just opting to purchase religious items from online retailers, with Christian bookstores humbled before the same digital market forces that felled secular mom-and-pop bookstores.
The flailing Christian bookstore industry reached code red status earlier this year when Family Christian Stores, touted as "the world's largest retailer of Christian-themed merchandise," declared it would shutter all of its 240 stores across America and lay off 3,000 employees. The 85-year-old chain said that "changing consumer behavior and declining sales" left it no choice.
The rise of online retailers created stiff competition for brick-and-mortar stores. The absence of rent, real estate, and large staffs allowed these emerging distributors to offer deep discounts that traditional booksellers simply could not match. The internet also created options for authors to affordably self-publish their work and distribute it straight to consumers. This, combined with a sharp decline in book sales generally and the rise of reduced price e-books, ate into publishers' profits.So, the usual. Just more of it.
These converging trends decimated the print publishing industry. And retailers, which form the industry's front line, bore the brunt of it. Many prominent chains, such as Borders, B. Dalton, and Waldenbooks, floundered and eventually folded. Others, including industry giant Barnes & Noble, teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.