The Southern Baptist Convention-owned bookstore chain LifeWay Christian Resources will close all 170 of its brick-and-mortar stores in 2019, officials announced March 20.
LifeWay Christian Resources announced in January it would close some stores in a cost-cutting move while moving toward a new ‚Äúdynamic digital strategy.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWhile we had hoped to keep some stores open, current market projections show this is no longer a viable option,‚ÄĚ Brad Waggoner, LifeWay‚Äôs acting president and CEO, said in a Wednesday press release.
Carol Pipes, director of corporate communications for LifeWay Christian Resources, said Wednesday afternoon she does not know how many jobs will be eliminated in the shutdown.
Glassdoor, an online job-seeking site, says the average sales associate at a LifeWay Christian Store earns $8 an hour. Indeed, another online job site, ranks the stores as a good place to work, especially for the devout, with a benefit that as a faith-based company they are closed on Sunday.
The Southern Baptist Convention began publishing Sunday school materials in 1891, completing a schism with Northern Baptists over slavery begun in 1845. Originally forbidden from publishing books, the agency originally called the Baptist Sunday School Board added general publishing in the 1920s with formation of Broadman Press, a conflation of the names of early education leaders John A. Broadus and Basil Manley.
The printing of books required distribution, leading to a system of Baptist Book Stores across the country. The chain was renamed LifeWay Christian Stores in 1999 in an effort to expand the customer base beyond those who identify with the denominational appellation.
In addition to stocking merchandise, LifeWay officials reported in the 2018 SBC Annual, LifeWay Christian Stores place specially trained ‚Äúchurch connection specialists‚ÄĚ in each location to help match customers with the right products.
LifeWay stores in 2017 also offered customers opportunities to make donations to charities including Global Hunger Relief and Compassion International and drop off new or gently used Bibles for a nationwide Bible drive.
Nationwide, LifeWay stores collected more than 12,000 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child in partnership with Samaritan‚Äôs Purse, a Christian relief ministry led by evangelist Franklin Graham.
Waggoner said the decision to close the local stores is ‚Äúdifficult,‚ÄĚ but over the last decade the organization has seen commerce increasingly move online. Five times as many people interact with LifeWay through digital environments than through its stores, according to the press release.
‚ÄúOur world and our customers are increasingly online,‚ÄĚ Waggoner said. ‚ÄúInvesting in a dynamic digital strategy allows LifeWay to better serve the church in its mission and only enhances our ability to provide biblical solutions for life.‚ÄĚ
The store closures and shift toward online shopping mirror an industry-wide trend. Family Christian Stores, a LifeWay competitor with 240 stores, went out of business in 2017, blaming ‚Äúchanging consumer behavior and declining sales.‚ÄĚ
Borders, the second largest bookstore chain in the country, went out of business in 2011. Sales at Barnes & Noble, the largest book retailer in the U.S., have been in decline for 11 years.