The United Methodist Publishing House announced it would begin closing its 38 full-line stores and 19 seminary bookstores, in order to sell books exclusively through its Web site, Cokesbury.com, its Cokesbury Call Center, at conferences and meetings, and through church events.
The board of directors of UMPH cited growing sales through those channels and declining sales in its physical stores as the reason for the move. A recent survey by the organization revealed only 15 percent of customers purchasing books in the stores.
In the fiscal year ending July 31, of a total of $85 million in revenues, 30% came from stores, 40% from the call center and events, 18% from Cokesbury.com, and 12% wholesale to trade.
Neil Alexander, UMPH president and publisher told Publishers Weekly that over the past 5 years they had closed 21 stores (from a peak of 76 in 1999) based on individual store performance. “If a store had been in the red for more than a year, we shut it down,” he said. The seminary stores “had always been a break-even proposition at best, and part of the reason we had those was to establish ourselves as a brand with the students.” Used textbook sales, the move to e-books, and the decline in seminary students all negatively affected those stores.Read it all at Publishers Weekly.
Less than two years ago Cokesbury assumed retail back office functions for Church Publishing Incorporated.
“While the driving force behind this expanded relationship is financial, it is allowing us to redefine ourselves as ‘pure play’ publishers,” said CPI Publisher Dr. Davis Perkins. “This is a necessary move for us to significantly improve our future viability. However, churches, clergy, and bookstores will discover many benefits from the economies of scale in terms of enhanced customer service, ease of shopping, ability to easily tap into a broader array of church resources, and so on.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that Cokesbury is the most effective and largest denominational retail operation in mainline Protestant Christendom. So we’re teaming up because it makes good sense, especially now, in a still unsettled economy when denominational publishing and the business of publishing itself are undergoing radical transformation. This expanded alliance will help us to better serve the church by reinforcing our Episcopal identity with broader reach, improved service, and a sharper, singular focus on what we do well and distinctively: developing books, church resources, software, and faith formation materials of excellence for the Episcopal Church.”