Riverside Distributors, which serves the evangelical Christian market, closed its national buying office in Nashville, Tenn., effective January 9, and is gradually phasing out its operations. Meanwhile, competitor Spring Arbor announced last week that it is discontinuing distribution of gifts and church supplies to focus on its core business—books, music and Bibles.

According to Gary Huntley, senior v-p of sales and marketing at Riverside, the company will continue operations out of its headquarters in Iowa Falls, Iowa, while it sells off $10 million in inventory, a process he expects to take "four to five months." The company will then cease operations. Further details were not available at press time.

Riverside Distributors was formed in 2001 in a management buyout of Riverside Book and Bible and its publishing arm, World Bible, led by then-Riverside president Skip Knapp and Rick Pigott, former CEO of Spring Arbor. Funding was provided by Huron Capital Partners of Detroit and 11 Riverside executives and former Spring Arbor employees. The World Bible publishing operation was sold to Thomas Nelson Inc. in September 2003.

Janet McDonald, Spring Arbor v-p and general manager, said Spring Arbor's decision to exit the gift and church-supply businesses came after lengthy discussions with retailers indicated that providing services for the two product lines "is not valued by our customers and [is] not a viable business for Spring Arbor." Supplying gifts to stores is a difficult business for wholesalers because many retailers prefer to buy directly from the manufacturer on a nonreturnable basis.

Spring Arbor will continue to offer gifts through Easter and will support the Spring Arbor Gift catalogue through April and the Church Resources catalogue through October.