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hattiesburgmemory/flickr.com

LifeWay Christian resources will close all their retail locations. The store has been an important channel for Christian publishers.

The retailer is now shifting gears and all merchandise will be offered entirely online.

“The decision to close our local stores is a difficult one,” said acting president and CEO Brad Waggoner,“LifeWay has developed close connections with the communities where our stores are located, and we have been honored to serve those communities. We will continue serving local congregations as they meet the spiritual needs of their neighbors.”

This has been a tough time for the Christian retail business. LifeWay’s closure comes just two years after its competitor, Family Christian Resources, closed down all 240 locations following mounting debt and bankruptcy.

“As someone who spent 20 years working in Christian retail, I am sad that there will be 170 fewer physical stores where people can find and purchase Christian books, Bibles and resoruces,” said Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) president CEO Stan Jantz in direct response to LifeWay’s closing.

While the closing is hard for many, it signals a new chapter for LifeWay and Christian retailers.

“Certainly in the short run, adjusting to this new reality will be a challenge…LifeWay stores have been an important channel for Christian publishers, but the life-changing content produced by ECPA members will continue to find and engage readers in ever more creative and effective ways.”

According to the LifeWay website, the timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. LifeWay expects all brick-and-mortar stores to close by the end of the year.

LifeWay has been in operation since 1891 and has offered a comprehensive selection of Bibles, books, Scripture tools. Bible studies, children’s products. Christian music and movies, gifts and church supplies.

“Our world and our customers are increasingly online,” Waggoner said, “Investing in a dynamic digital strategy allows LifeWay to better serve the Church in its mission and only enhances our ability to provide biblical solutions for life.”

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