“The organization will continue to offer a broad selection of resources through LifeWay.com and the LifeWay Customer Service Center (1-800-458-2772),” Pipes wrote. “LifeWay will also continue to serve customers through its network of church partners who work directly with churches.”
Brad Waggoner, LifeWay's acting president, was cited in the announcement saying that LifeWay still had “a robust publishing, events and church services business" and is “experiencing strong growth” in the company's digital retail sector.
“LifeWay is moving into a new era with a strategic digital focus that will prepare us for the future and allow us to better serve our customers,” said Waggoner.
Rumblings first began in January when LifeWay's then-President Thom Rainer emailed employees announcing that the company was going to close just a few of its bookstores due to “an accelerated rate of erosion.”
“In simple terms, a strategic shift is required for moving more and more of our resources to a dynamic digital strategy,” Rainer wrote earlier in the year. “We will be transitioning many of those resources from our LifeWay stores to digital channels. The good news is that we will be better prepared to meet the future. The challenging news is that some of our stores will have to close.”
Waggoner noted the apparent contradiction between this news and LifeWay's past plans to only close some stores and explained that “current market projections show this is no longer a viable option.”
Still, Waggoner said, the decision to shutter its stores nationwide wasn't an easy one: “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."
LifeWay stated that the official dates of closure for each store will vary based on "local circumstances," but all stores are expected to be closed down by the end of 2019.
We pray that this is merely a shift in focus for the Christian media giant whose service to the Christian community dates back to 1891. Disappointed customers may still look to LifeWay.com for its extensive selection of Bibles, Christian literature, music, and movies, as well as church supplies and other gifts.