Sue Smith,
CBA Board Chairman

It seems to come in waves—independent Christian stores closing, Barnes & Noble laying off skilled employees to save the ship, LifeWay making fundamental organizational changes to how it conducts business. In my opinion, these changes are staggering, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

Looking for hope around every corner led me to a comment by LifeWay’s Senior VP and Chief Business Officer Eric Geiger: “We have to change the way people see a LifeWay store. It can no longer be a place you go to buy things, because you don’t need to go to a store to buy things anymore. LifeWay stores must be a place you go to learn, to experience, to connect to people and to discover resources.”

I agree with Eric wholeheartedly. Gaining that traffic to our front door must be more about the indescribable thrill that comes with a sense of discovery. We know that store experience is gained through personal connection centered on life-changing product. So, let’s make that trip to our stores worthwhile. Let’s think big; bigger than we ever have before.

How do we set up our stores to the church worldwide as “Your Guide to Discovery”?


I’ve said it several times, and here it is again: Let’s return to carrying a healthy book inventory. If the life-changing impact of Christian books is leaving our stores, along with our most faithful customers, this is our chance to re-align our mission and responsibility to the church to be that place to discover new authors and Christian thought from foundational authors.


Proper inventory levels are incredibly important to the bottom line. The conservative nature of our industry motivates our stores to buy for just-in-time levels. That’s great for yesterday’s bookstore, but not today’s. Setting up our stores for discovery means having a wide breadth of Christian thought and strong interrelated backlist.


If we’re truly personal guides to the church, we must come back around to basic book-selling. Read what you sell. Read about what you sell. What is the church reading? Train each other.

Review books for each other, reading from all sections of your store. Create ambassadors for various parts of your store, setting up your staff as the experts. Smaller stores might consider asking friends, church members, or family members to review books for them.

Both book lovers and lifelong learners derive happiness from discovery. They know where to unearth this experience. That can be us once again.