Another brick-and-mortar chain bites the dust
This time it’s Family Christian, the non-profit company known as the largest retailer of Christian-themed merchandise.
CEO Chuck Bengochea explained, ”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,” in a sobering letter addressed to Family Christian’s customers.
The company didn’t go down without a fight
In 2015, Family Christian filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Surprisingly, the move came with a wave of optimism as company leaders believed it was a good opportunity to reorganize and ultimately make Family Christian stronger.
In a 2015 press release the company announced: “As part of the reorganization, Family Christian have upgraded and expanded their product selection to include a new compelling assortment of home décor, apparel, and books.”
The company also launched two exclusive brands, Cupcakes and Jesus and Small but Mighty.
Unfortunately, these moves weren’t enough to keep business afloat. Family Christian now joins the list of retailers going under in 2017, including Wet Seal and the Limited.
In a letter to Michigan’s Workforce Development Agency, Family Christian detailed plans to shut down distribution center operations in early April and headquarter operations later in the month.
This move will move put 170 employees out of work.
Overall, the company employed about 3,000 workers in 36 states. For customers, there is no set timeline for store closings. However, as of today, all items are listed as up to 30% off on familychristian.com.
Who else will feel the blow?
Besides affecting employees and customers, Family Christian’s closing puts publishers, vendors and authors in a crunch. They’re losing much needed shelf space in 240 locations.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Family Christian’s vendors are so reliant on them that they agreed to insider sale of company.” quote=”In fact, Family Christian’s vendors are so reliant on the company that during bankruptcy proceeding in 2015, vendors agreed to an insider sale of the company.”]
The sale put vendors at a major loss, but allowed Family Christian to keep its door’s open.
Surviving the niche store rapture
With the loss of Family Christian, vendors are left with very few options in the niche Christian retail environment. Lifeway and Mardel’s Christian Bookstore (owned by Hobby Lobby) are among the few options left for vendors looking for brick-and-mortar shelf space.
Interestingly, these retailers service niches within the Christian retail niche. Could Family Christian have survived with this approach? We’ll never know, all we know is that an upgraded product line wasn’t enough.