Occasionally we are asked, or the opportunity arises, to take over an existing Christian bookshop. We carefully consider these possibilities for growth where others have been the pioneers in establishing the work.In the first half of 2014, we have taken over 4 existing bookshops and this figure could increase before the end of the year. * In February, CLC Colombia took up responsibility for 2 bookshops in the city of Ibagué. These shops were previously run independently, by people who were faithful customers of CLC Colombia Wholesale. * Around the same time, CLC Indonesia took on the lease of a small bookshop in a large shopping centre (The City of Tomorrow Mall) in Surabaya. This had previously been a family-run business and the request for CLC to take it over was an unexpected, but welcome, surprise as the team in Indonesia were already looking at possibilities for bookshops in shopping malls! * CLC UK already has an established bookshop in Birmingham but recently they agreed to open a second bookshop in the UK’s second largest city (with a population of just over 1 million), when another Christian bookshop chain no longer wanted the premises. The property (in the photo) is owned by, and attached to, a church.
CRT is the annual Christian trade show for booksellers, publishers, producers and suppliers in the UK. It took place from 2nd to 3rd June, 2014.Among the many well-deserved plaques and recognitions at the gala dinner, CLC is greatly honoured and encouraged to be in receipt of two awards: CLC Wholesale was named Distributor of the Year for the third time in succession and CLC Bookshops was recognised as Retail Group of the Year – an award last won in 2012.Both awards are a fitting recognition of the effort, commitment and dedication of our staff (which includes quite a number of part-time volunteers) to get reliable Christian resources into people’s hands so that lives are transformed and the Kingdom of God advanced. We continue to take steps to improve our service through our warehouse and bookshops and it is fulfilling to know that those taken so far have been well received. Well done Team CLC UK!
Each of these teams has been publishing Christian books in their countries for a number of years or is about to begin doing so.Here is an overview of what CLC is doing around the world in publishing:-Korea – CLC has been publishing books in Korea for over 40 years. Their focus has been on producing academic materials for the fast growing Seminary and Bible College community. Given that the Presbyterian Church is one of the largest evangelical groups in Korea, the emphasis has been on translating and publishing books by reformed authors. Over the decades, the team has published 1500 books and they currently have 800 in print. CLC Korea is the largest publishing house in the CLC World and operates from a beautiful four story building in downtown Seoul. They have recently built a new and larger warehouse space to house the books they have published. With the growth of the evangelical church in Korea, the team is now looking to expand their publishing emphasis beyond the academic niche they have developed so well. It was great to see two of the books that they acquired from CLC Publications in the USA being featured in their showroom.India – The team in India has reignited their publishing efforts in the last seven years. They are the second largest publishing house in the CLC World with over 600 titles in print. More than half of these are in the Tamil language. The team leader, Christopher Robert, has led the way in re-establishing their English language publishing initiatives. We have worked very closely with him and many of the titles that CLC USA first acquired are now being produced for the Indian market at very affordable prices. In the last 18 months they have launched a growing e-commerce website that is filling orders from all over the country.Colombia – The team in Colombia produces the Spanish language materials for the rest of the CLC World and has 150 titles in print. They publish as many as twelve new titles each year and work with many of the largest evangelical publishers in the USA to get high quality content. We have a special relationship with this team and have given them first right of refusal to publish any of our titles in Spanish. Over the years, this has been a fruitful partnership and many of our new titles are quickly translated into Spanish and made available to the public. The work in Colombia is growing so fast that they have recently purchased a sizeable new warehouse to house the books they publish and distribute.Myanmar – CLC has been publishing books in the Burmese language since 1992. Today they have over 200 books in print and have published some very important books including the Lion Bible Handbook and the Purpose Driven Life. Jacob Mung, the team leader, has worked sacrificially with his team to make evangelical Christian literature available in this country that is closed to outside missionary influence. One local pastor has said that Jacob’s efforts have changed the trajectory of Christianity in his country. They are now beginning of creating the first ever Burmese Language Study Bible. Ideally it will be available by 2017.Philippines – The CLC team in the Philippines produce books in both Tagalog and English. Today they have nearly 300 titles in print and are working on as many as twenty new books a year. It was exciting to hear their desire to produce more books by local Philippine authors. They have worked closely with CLC USA to get rights for English language printing and have made many of our new books available within a year of their first publication in the USA.Pakistan – CLC publishes books in the Urdu language in this predominantly Muslim country. They are currently working on two books by Lee Strobel, including ‘The Case for Christ’…. Given the small number of evangelicals in the country, they have required external subsidy for publishing work. At the conference, we were challenged to consider doubling our publishing efforts over the next nine years and to help a number of new countries get their publishing efforts started for the first time. What a blessing to worship, dream and plan together.” by Dave Almack, National Director of CLC USA. Taken from his blog – http://faithlit.wordpress.com/
Throughout the history of CLC, burdens have birthed bookstores. In 2010, the main Christian bookstore in Santa Cruz (the largest city in Bolivia) closed after many years of service. The need for Christian resources in this nation with a growing evangelical population is quite significant, and the store closure left a big hole in the community. Many local Christian leaders and pastors sought to find a suitable replacement and approached CLC about opening a bookstore as soon as we could. To God’s glory, the CLC work has been growing rapidly in recent years in Latin America. Today, CLC has resource centres in Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and Uruguay. Each of these teams is thriving and praying about how it can reach beyond its own borders. A little over 10 years ago, the Colombian team sent out their best manager and his wife as cross cultural missionaries to Ecuador to get that work started. This model proved to be quite successful and CLC now operates five bookstores and a distribution warehouse to serve the growing needs of the Ecuadorian church.When this need in Bolivia became known, the CLC team in Venezuela began praying to see if this was a project that they could take on. After a significant time of prayer and seeking God’s wisdom, they decided to step out in faith to take on this huge task and to give of their best. This sacrificial principle of tithing from your first fruits has been a hall mark of the CLC Latin American teams for many years.Surprisingly, the team decided not just to send one of their best managers, but the current leader of their team, Gamaliel Padilla and his wife Marlene. They have both served actively on the Venezuela team for many years and filled vital roles that will make them very hard to replace. While the two countries do speak the same language, this will be a very cross cultural experience for this family as many things are different.Getting a new store started in a new country is not a simple undertaking and there is much work to be done. Applications will need to be completed with the government, a location will need to be found, books will need to be purchased, shelves will need to be built and installed, and the community will need to be informed that CLC is opening a store. Each of these steps involves time, money and people. Please pray that the Lord will clear the way with government officials and others that need to give us permission to get started. Our goal is to see Gamaliel and his family move to Bolivia this winter, once all the needed permissions are in hand. This also means significant transition for the Venezuela team which will now need to elect a new leader and find people to fill the roles that are being vacated. What makes this story particularly remarkable is that the Venezuela team nearly ceased to function just a few short years ago. When the current president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, came into power, the ensuing economic turmoil almost destroyed the CLC ministry. For two years, the sales decreased precipitously (nearly 75%), while many fixed expenses remained the same. On top of that, getting money out of the country to pay vendors was nearly impossible.The team prayed, asked for counsel, and sought the patience of the book publishers that they had been working with for many years. Many wonderful people stepped up to help with advice, finances, prayer and patience. Some vendors even forgave some of the team’s indebtedness. As a result of these miracles, the Venezuelan team began to have hope that they would eventually come out of the crisis.During the midst of the crisis, however, the team had to make hard choices. Little did they know how these choices would help them prepare for the future. They sold a headquarters location in the western part of the country and moved many people and offices to the much more centrally located city of Valencia. In addition, they began making plans to grow again once things became more stable in the country. Within a few short years, things began to turn around and the team saw their sales increase by double digits for several years in a row. They were able to open many new stores and even a new warehouse location in 2010. Knowing how God had so richly blessed them, they could not help but be motivated to see a new work started in Bolivia so that they could bless others. by David Almack
This past week I came across a very insightful article by James Stewart in the Wall Street Journal about the current situation at Barnes and Noble. After describing why he felt that B&N was not a good current investment, he went on to share his thoughts about independent book retailers. This is what he said:”I do miss the bookstore I grew up with in the Midwest and the small stores that once dotted my neighborhood. Could B&N’s decline pave the way for the return of the independent bookseller? Despite the array of suggestions tailored to my interests (or at least to my recent purchases) that appear when I open the Amazon site, I still yearn for someone intelligent who can recommend a good book. I enjoy the community of other people who love books. I like talking to someone both before buying a book and after reading it. I think independent bookstores may be able to provide these services even while selling over the Internet. Their overhead should be lower, since they don’t need to carry huge inventories of physical books and don’t need huge retail spaces. Maybe I’m naive, but I’d like to think there are new opportunities for booksellers.”
After reading these highly encouraging words, a terrible thought struck me. Are we independent Christian book retailers really going to be able to provide the experience that he remembers and still longs for? With all the stores that have closed and with so many great long term retailers having gotten out of the business, are we who are left really able to take up this mantel effectively? After about two minutes of wallowing in the possibility that we might be doomed after all, the optimist in me returned and I began to get excited again.
I think that the key to what James Stewart was saying resides in the words intelligent, community and people who love books. Over the years it has been my observation that the Christian retailers who loved what they did and were successful were book people and hired book people. To my dismay, however, on all too many occasions, I ran into colleagues who confessed that they did not read much. The two reasons that I was given for this surprising reality was either they were too busy running their stores or they actually did not enjoy reading. In our current economic environment I have come to the conclusion that we must all become avid readers or we will die and maybe faster than Barnes and Noble.
For those who say that they are too busy to read, I refer you to the excellent Bill Hybel’s book entitled, Too Busy Not to Pray and I would contend that we are too busy not to read. No Christian retailer worth their salt can afford to ignore this aspect of their business. We all need to commit to put down our iPods and cell phones, turn off our televisions, and take a Facebook fast. Making time every day and certainly every week to immerse ourselves in books and authors that God has given us the privilege to represent has to be one of our biggest business priorities.
This may be a little harsh, but for those that say that they really do not enjoy reading, I would suggest that maybe they are in the wrong business or they need to reconsider their priorities. For most of us who do enjoy reading, it is one of the greatest joys in our lives. If a person is running a Christian retail store and really does not enjoy reading and still wants to stay in the business, they must at least have someone on their team who loves to read and can help instill this passion in the rest of the team.
So why am I optimistic after all? This past summer, I have had the opportunity to get to know a number of young college students who were interns with our ministry and discovered that they really enjoyed reading, were intelligent and longed to build the types of community settings that James Stewart talked about in his article. We had lots of conversations about authors, ideas and books that were shaping their lives. These folks are the next generation of Christian retailers, writers, editors and Christian book consumers. I firmly believe that they will work for current Christian retailers if we give them opportunities to take on significant responsibilities within our operations and even for the modest wages that we can afford. Their enthusiasm will infect our customers and may even re-energize those of us who have been around for a while wondering if we can still keep going.
Reading is not optional for us as Christians and retailers, it is essential. Praise God that he has gifted so many people to put words together in such a way that they can actually change lives. I am eternally in debt to the writers that have affected my life and I am committed to sharing this passion for reading with all those that I come in contact with. The next time that I am tempted to simply “vegetate” in front of the TV, I am going make sure that I have a book nearby that can help me to overcome that momentary and passing temptation.