With Thanksgiving arriving early this year, we’re already two weeks into the overly-long Christmas shopping season. It arrives so progressively earlier each year that I recently remarked to my wife (with tongue in cheek): “Maybe they should move it up to August so they can get it over with.”
This absurdity struck me last month when I ventured out to buy a cell phone charger to replace the one I misplaced while cleaning out my old desk. Walking into the store the first sign I saw proclaimed, “Only 49 days left until Christmas.”
Only 49 days? We tire ourselves so much with all the preliminaries that by the time the Big Day arrives, we’re worn out.
I’m not here to bemoan the commercialization of Christmas, though. This year, as an inveterate book reader and admirer of Christian outlets that fight the online tide and keep their doors open, I choose to find good news in recent stories about that very development.
Healthier Christmas sales at Christian-oriented stores bodes well for the future of a beleaguered Christian products industry.
Going Against the Grain
It started in late summer when I saw a story about Tyndale House Publishers—the company launched by Kenneth Taylor’s The Living Bible—opening an on-site bookstore at its corporate headquarters near Chicago.
The grand opening occurred in late September alongside its first-ever warehouse sale.
“In recent months, our employees have participated in innovation discussions, and we are enthusiastically pursuing several initiatives,” said Doug Walton, Vice President of HR and Administrative Services.
“The idea for an annual warehouse sale came out of these conversations . . . we thought a Tyndale bookstore would be a great way to serve our community and further our mission.”
Talk about going against the grain. This action belies the idea that Amazon and other online book, toy, clothing and everything-else-under-the-sun sites are putting all retailers six feet under.
More Good News
On the heels of that news came another story in Publishers Weekly. In addition to Tyndale’s move, it related three positive developments:
- The one-year-old Books and Mortar bookstore in Grand Rapids, Michigan opening a second shop called Annex Paperie & Bookshop.
- A note about a story in a British publication that bookshops there contribute 1.9 billion pounds (about 2.5 billion dollars) to the UK economy.
- A link to a story about a used bookstore in Centralia, Washington (about 85 miles south of Seattle) that serves as an intellectual gathering place for the community.
Then, less than a month later, PW carried a story about retail opportunities eight months after the nation’s largest Christian retail chain closed the first of its 240 outlets en route to bankruptcy.
Filling the Gap
Into the gap stepped people like the former assistant manager of the Family Christian Store (FCS) in Flint, Mich., who opened an independent outlet in the same location.
In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, former FCS manager Kirk Ford opened The Christian Store in early August. He told a local newspaper the chain’s struggles had nothing to do with a lack of demand for its products.
“A huge percentage of the population likes to get out and go to a store to shop and to hold a Bible in their hands,” Ford told The Gazette.
Another former manager established the ConnecTions Christian Store in Lynden, Wash., in the same shopping center where an FCS store was located. Said the new owner: “Sales have exceeded expectations.”
There are others, like the small chain that acquired 15 FCS locations. All offer good news during an era when it’s been in short supply for the Christian retailing world. It’s a kind of corollary to the Good News we celebrate during the Christmas season.