The Board of Directors of the UM Publishing House (UMPH) met in Nashville Oct. 29–31. The Board reviewed UMPH’s FY12 results and learned that sales of $86.1M were up 2.2% over the previous year and that the House achieved its budgeted net operating revenue. But the Board also discussed future economic challenges related in part to decreased church worship and Sunday school attendance, steadily increasing costs for local store operations, changes in publishing technologies and the use of digital readers, and the impact of the sluggish economy and new actuarial formulas affecting long-term assets in the UMPH staff pension plan.
The Board announced a transition initiative, CokesburyNext, for its retail division. CokesburyNext will redirect focus by enhancing products and services at Cokesbury.com and the Cokesbury Call Center (1-800-672-1789), and through a team of Cokesbury sales representatives across the U.S. As part of this transition, Cokesbury will close all of its 38 local and 19 seminary retail stores.
Cokesbury has seen customers increasingly use Cokesbury.com and the Cokesbury Call Center while at the same time the number of Cokesbury customers relying solely on local stores for shopping has steadily declined. In the most recent customer survey, only 15% of Cokesbury’s customers reported shopping exclusively in stores. As a result of changes in the industry and the shifts to digital shopping and purchasing, the local stores are no longer financially viable.
“Cokesbury has continuously adapted to the changing landscape affecting congregations and their leaders for 200 years,” said UMPH president and publisher Neil Alexander. “A shift toward all things digital and the convenience of placing orders any time of the day or night is the new reality. It is difficult to see the closure of Cokesbury local stores, but doing so allows us to make a greater investment in providing services for browsing and shopping that churches and individuals increasingly prefer.”
CokesburyNext involves the enhancement of four distinct purchasing channels. The Cokesbury Call Center (1-800-672-1789) will extend its hours to 10 p.m. Eastern Time and increase staffing. Cokesbury.com will be continuously improved and will regularly feature special offers and products. The scale and frequency of Cokesbury’s presence at local gatherings and meetings will increase. And to provide personal attention,
UMPH will deploy more than 40 Cokesbury sales representatives across the U.S. who will bring information about a full complement of products directly to customers at their churches and other ministry settings. UMPH is taking steps to help ensure the well-being of store personnel following the closure of the local stores and will provide severance packages that include extended heath-care coverage and job-search services.
CokesburyNext will be rolled out throughout 2013, and the last Cokesbury local store is expected to close by Apr. 30, 2013. More information on CokesburyNext is available at www.CokesburyNext.com.