LifeWay, the Largest Christian Retailer in the Country, is Closing All Stores March 21, 2019

LifeWay, the Largest Christian Retailer in the Country, is Closing All Stores

LifeWay, the largest Christian retailer in the country, will officially close its doors later this year and sell merchandise online only.

If you’re not a Christian, you may have heard of LifeWay from its previous controversies in which they removed books by authors who affirm marriage equality, referred to female genitalia, and claimed to have visited Heaven (at least after it was discovered that said visitor made the whole thing up).

This is clearly a business decision, as more and more brick-and-mortar stores grapple with uncertainty about the digital future. But it probably didn’t help that the company’s strict standards for “acceptable” Christian material alienated many believing customers.

The Southern Baptist affiliate announced in January initial plans to reduce its locations this year due to declining sales and financial pressures, but ended up deciding it wasn’t viable to keep any stores open past 2019. [President Thom] Rainer said they did all they could to save the stores.

Our retail strategy for the future will be a greater focus on digital channels, which are experiencing strong growth,” [acting president and CEO Brad] Waggoner said in an announcement on Wednesday…

Rachel Held Evans, whose book was pulled from LifeWay’s shelves because it included the word “vagina,” called the decision “good news” for Christian publishers.

Many Christian publishers refused to take a chance on new authors with good writing and large social media followings because they feared backlash from LifeWay. After all, why take a chance on an author if the books can’t be sold in the largest Christian retailer?

Time will tell whether this change will affect the Christian publishing industry at large, but it’s hard to see how this would change it for the worse.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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