Good news: U.S.’s biggest retailer of Christian books and merchandise closed after bankruptcy

February 25, 2017 • 11:00 am

Reader Alexander sent a link to an article in Publisher’s Weekly (PW), which Wikipedia describes as “an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents. Published continuously since 1872, it has carried the tagline, “The International News Magazine of Book Publishing and Bookselling”. With 51 issues a year, the emphasis today is on book reviews.”

The report on that site is about the retail chain Family Christian Stores, formerly America’s largest chain of stores purveying Christian merchandise (books, jewelry, movies, geegaws and the like) I say “formerly” because the chain is closing. (You can read the CEO’s official announcement here, signed “In His Service”.) After declaring bankruptcy in 2015, the chain is shutting down: lock, stock, and barrel. And it’s no small chain, either, as it has 240 stores in 36 states. As PW reports:

Family Christian Stores, the largest retailer of Christian books and merchandise in the country, is closing all of its outlets. The chain, which went through a bankruptcy proceeding in 2015, cited changing consumer behavior and declining sales when it announced its decision to shutter on Thursday. FCS operates 240 stores in 36 states.

According to various sources, a board meeting was held at FCS’s Grand Rapids, Mich., headquarters on Wednesday afternoon to determine whether the beleaguered retailer would close or finance another year. To continue, sources said, board members said that they needed to see a path to profitability by 2018.

. . . “We prepared for this,” said Jonathan Merkh, v-p and publisher at Howard Books. The planning, though, doesn’t take away the sting. “Financially, it may not affect the industry in the short run, but it will in the long run. There are 240 less stores selling books.”

Mark D. Taylor, chairman and CEO of Tyndale House Publishers, told PW that it will be hard to lose a company which has been a cornerstone of the segment for so long. “The entire Christian community—indeed the entire nation—will be poorer as a result of this pending closure,” he said.

The Christian community may be the poorer, but I think the nation will be the richer, for this not on facilitates the secularization of the U.S., but is a strong sign of that secularization. People just don’t want to buy Christian stuff any more, and that coincides with the rise of the “nones”: those Americans who don’t identify with an established church. While people like Rodney Stark keep claiming that Christianity is doing better than ever, they’re like the captain of a ship proclaiming how sound the vessel is as it’s going down

By the way, here’s PW’s list of subject editors. It’s supposed to deal with the entire publishing industry, but notice that there are three religion editors and no science editors! We still have a way to go.

Calvin Reid

John Maher

Diane Roback, Children’s Book Editor
John A. Sellers, Children’s Reviews Editor
Emma Kantor, Associate Editor
Matia Burnett, Assistant Editor

Please contact Matia Burnett for queries concerning review submissions of children’s books.

Carolyn Juris

Seth Satterlee, Religion Reviews Editor
Emma Koonse
Lynn Garrett

Gabe Habash

Peter Cannon
Rose Fox

Alex Crowley
Annie Coreno
Everett Jones

Adam Boretz

This is an ex store. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. it’s kicked the bucket, shuffled off the mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible!!

43 thoughts on “Good news: U.S.’s biggest retailer of Christian books and merchandise closed after bankruptcy

  1. It makes me wonder

    Can books from such a source – through some business process – become offered to public libraries, and if so, what policies exist on such ” literature “?

  2. One thing about Christian book stores is they don’t expose their customers to anything else. Christian literature etc buyers will need to risk contact with other types of books in the future. The dangers they’ll face negotiating the aisles! I can see a comedy skit of them dodging certain types of books as they wend their way to the Bibles. Perhaps a Father Ted character can lead them out of the science section like Father Ted led the priests out of Ladies underwear. 😀

    1. That was my thought, too. I’d love to think it was especially about declining Christianity; but, sadly, brick-&-mortar bookshops in general have been having a hard go of it lately.

  3. Book stores in general have been struggling for years and closing right and left. Stores like Barnes and Noble have expanded into selling music, games, and especially toys over the last few years, but B&N still is closing lots of stores. So o wonder how much is specifically a Xtian store issue and how much is a general trend that squeezes all bookstores, especially niche stores. After all, I know some sci fi/fantasy and some mystery bookstores that also have folded.

      1. Do you mind?? I *like* scifi / fantasy. Don’t want no damn religious rubbish polluting my browsing!

        I do hope that suggestion was satirical.


          1. Yeah but, considered as fantasy, religion *sucks*. Even L Ron Hubbard’s fantastic effort.
            Good fantasy is entertaining, thought-provoking and a pleasure to read, not boring depressing thought-inhibiting diktats.


              1. How can you tell if you haven’t read it? 😉

                Anyway, it was just an example that good fantasy literature can be depressing and hard to read (for sensitive people).

              2. It just occurred to me that I may’ve misunderstood you. If you did read it, I retract my question. O:)

              3. Umm, yes.

                You linked, I read, I commented.

                I found the premise interesting but it was a bit depressing to read.

                But it did then occur to you that I might have read it, which was charitable of you. Thank you.


              4. Thank you, too.

                Yeah, it depresses me still when I read it from time to time, but in an enjoyable way. I would compare it to the appeal of blues music.

                I chose IHNMAIMS to exemplify because it’s a SF classic and there’s even a video game based on it.

            1. You’re right about that. I like sci-fi and fantasy too, and fantasy should have an internal consistency. Even as a child, the Children’s Bible stories never made sense.

    1. Great minds. Posted the same sentiment but with far fewer details in a comment thread above; sorry–hadn’t yet gotten to yours yet!

  4. Here in Nelson, New Zealand, we have a Buddhist shop right next to Manna Christian Stores. I’m wondering abut the idea of a one stop shop for all things religious – Pentecostals, Hindus, Wiccans,…

    1. If I had a large bookstore, I’d manage religious things exactly this way, a big label “Religion” and behind it peaceful coexistence of all scriptures and (hopefully) their admirers.

  5. Good news but one also must realize that retail brick and mortar are long on the decline. And bookstores are really going down due to, who else, Amazon. Barnes and Noble are still in play but many other large firms are gone.

  6. One of their stores is on busy Congress Avenue in Boynton Beach Florida. In the six years I’ve been around here, I have never seen anyone go in or out of that store.

  7. The local library patrons donate a lot of religious books and Christian fiction for our our local library book sale. In Central PA, some of the churches have book stores in the lobby area along with the ATM machine and the coffee shop.

  8. I do feel sorry for all the people who will lose their jobs as a result, but the closure is, overall, welcome. Though, as several point out, it has been well and truly assisted by the likes of Amazon.

    I’d next like to see the whole of the tobacco industry bankrupted.

  9. Like others, I think this has a lot to do with the rising market of online sales. I have mixed feelings on this, since these will be another batch of empty storefronts in strip malls.

  10. Sorry, but in this day and age, I can’t celebrate anything that reduces the volume of print on paper.

    Not that I have any love lost for religious bookstores (though I did spend a pleasant afternoon once in a Christian Science reading room, while waiting for a bus, when there was nowhere else to go.)

  11. Fantastic good news – but celebrations must be muted: look up Christian Books on Amazon.
    Depressing….pages and pages. We can hope that they don’t sell well.
    There are probably many more closeted Nones than get counted- it takes courage in our society to profess atheism, knowing that the result may probably be not only incredulity but condemnatory disbelief!

  12. Chapters had a good science section. Should we conclude from their bankruptcy some years earlier that science is dying out?
    Rodney Stark talks about the third world and China. Does this bankruptcy refute his claims about China? Does it really refute him about Africa?

  13. This is particularly delicious as it’s right in the heart of Betsy DeVos’s home stomping grounds. 😉

    When I was young there was, at least on the West Coast, a chain of “Christian Supply Stores.” Whilst driving by such a store in any vehicle with more than one passenger, it wouldn’t be long before someone would pretend to muse, “I wonder who supplied the lions?”

  14. This reminds me of the bankruptcy of the German Roman Catholic Weltbild Publishing Group.

    Before that, the Roman Catholic Church wasn’t happy about esoteric, homosexual and erotic literature published by Weltbild. They filtered these topic in their Blog for a while. This was reversed after public criticism. See the german Wikipedia article for more about that.

  15. There’s a shop in a city near me (Leicester LE1 4RQ, UK) thatis listed as the Hail Mary Immaculate Charity Shop.

    Look on Google Earth Street View for the full appearance, that may upset your equanimity. Although Street View does show a cat poster in the doorway…

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