America's largest Christian retailer has stopped reporting to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). According to an October report by Publishers Weekly's Religion BookLine, Family Christian Stores no longer sends sales figures to the ECPA's STATS system. They now report to a system created by the Christian retail trade association, CBA International, which serves only retailers, not publishers. The move comes amid debates about how Christian retailers, who continue to lose market share, should respond to Christian publishers selling more books in secular markets.

Family Christian Stores CEO David Browne offered no comment on the move. CBA president Bill Anderson has responded to industry shifts by encouraging CBA stores to join together to build and improve their own channel. So in October, CBA launched CROSS:SCAN.

Since the publishers' desire to market across channels now clashes with the retailers' need to protect their channel, some retailers have raised concerns about sharing information in STATS. But Mark Kuyper, CEO of ECPA, told CT that publishers do not use STATS data to help them sell material to secular retail outlets.

Still, Anderson said the proverbial Davids of Christian retail have now been pitted against the mainstream Goliaths.

Christian retail sales are climbing, and surveys show that Christians remain avid media consumers. However, Christian retail stores continue to close at high rates. CBA now claims 2,256 stores, compared with about 5,000 stores in the 1980s. But the data follows overall retail trends, observed Phil Darr, vice president of Lemstone Christian Stores. Pressed for time, consumers consolidate their shopping, which leads to fewer specialty shops and more all-purpose retailers.

Related Elsewhere:

CT earlier reported on Christian bookstores losing customers to big box outlets.

Hurt by Success | Christian bookstores hit hard by competition from Wal-Mart. (Oct. 21, 2004)

The Publisher's Weekly report is available online:

Is It Christian Booksellers vs. Christian Publishers? | Family Christian Stores, the largest Christian retail chain with more than 320 outlets in 39 states, has stopped reporting sales statistics to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association—a move that annoys at least some publishers. (Oct. 12, 2005)