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.
In announcing the decision to liquidate, Family Christian president Chuck Bengochea said the company had just emerged from "two very difficult years post-bankruptcy.".
“Despite improvements in product assortment and the store experience, sales continued to decline," he said in a press release. "In addition, we were not able to get the pricing and terms we needed from our vendors to successfully compete in the market. We have prayerfully looked at all possible options, trusting God’s plan for our organization, and the difficult decision to liquidate is our only recourse.”
The meeting took place just over two years after FCS filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2015. That move left a raft of publishers--including HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Tyndale House, B&H, FaithWords and Barbour--on the hook for millions of dollars. In June 2015, FCS was sold to FC Acquisitions, a subsidiary of the chain’s parent company.
And, although FCS has continued to struggle since that initial Chapter 11 filing, there was hope among publishers that the company might figure out a way to keep its doors open.
“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.
This story has been updated from its original version to include publisher reaction to the closings.