Family Christian Stores, the world's largest retailer of Christian books, movies, and other merchandise, has announced it will shut down after 85 years in business, explaining that due to the "changing" retail landscape, it has not been able to "generate the sales necessary to sustain our business."
"We have had two very difficult years, and after prayerfully looking at all possible options, and trusting God's plan for our organization, we have made the difficult decision to close our stores. Family Christian will begin the closing process soon," Chuck Bengochea, President and CEO of Family Christian, said in an email made available to The Gospel Herald.
The Michigan-based retailer filed for bankruptcy in 2015 and was sold for $55 million, announcing at the time its sales had fallen 29 percent since 2008.
"As with any worthwhile endeavor, there have been challenges and setbacks, as well as remarkable acts of service and self-sacrifice," said Bengochea. "The retail landscape is changing, however, and despite improvements in our product assortment and our store experience, we have not able to generate the sales necessary to sustain our business. We have fought hard because we deeply believe in our mission to help people find, grow, share and celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ."
Family Christian is a nonprofit business that employs more than 3,000 people and operates more than 240 retail locations in 36 states, according to its website. Since it began in 1931, the organization has provided humanitarian aid for more than 14 million orphans, widows and oppressed people across the globe.
"As we end this chapter, we would like to thank you for walking along with us," said Bengochea in an email to the company's supporters. "Together, we have truly made an impact on the Kingdom by caring for more than 14 million people, here and abroad, in some of the world's darkest places. We are deeply indebted to you."
The chain has locations all over the U.S., particularly in the South and the Midwest, and has not announced whether sales on the website will continue.
In a statement, Tyndale House Publishers chairman and CEO Mark Taylor said the store was "an important outlet for Christian books, gifts, and Bibles for many decades."
"All of us at Tyndale House Publishers feel a sense of grief over Family Christian's decision to close the entire chain of stores," he stated. "Family's millions of customers now have even fewer options for finding these wonderful, life-giving products. The entire Christian community-indeed the entire nation-will be poorer as a result of this pending closure.
"At the same time that we share our sense of loss, we express our appreciation to Chuck Bengochea and his staff who have worked so hard over the past few years to make the chain of stores succeed," stated Taylor. "We will pray for the many Family employees who will lose their jobs."