LifeWay Christian Resources announced March 20 the closure of its 170 brick-and-mortar stores in 2019.
“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.”
In January, LifeWay announced it would reduce the number of its retail locations due to declining customer traffic and sales. “While we had hoped to keep some stores open, current market projections show this is no longer a viable option,” Waggoner said.
Baptist Press previously reported the stores lost $35.5 million in 2017, while the rest of the Southern Baptist publishing house’s product line produced $452 million, an increase of $45 million since 2009.
As part of the organization’s strategy, LifeWay has introduced a number of digital resources including online Bible studies, worship planning, live streaming of events, and online training opportunities.
“LifeWay has been serving the church for 128 years, and we will continue to grow our ministry to churches and individuals into the future,” Waggoner said. “As the market continues to change, primarily through shifts in brick-and-mortar retail, we are taking steps to meet customer demand for digital shopping experiences and to expand our reach globally.” LifeWay distributes resources in 164 nations and licenses resources in more than 60 languages.
The timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. LifeWay expects all stores to close by the end of the year. Moody Bible Institute previously announced LifeWay would not renew its lease for the on-campus store in Chicago; Illinois’ other LifeWay store is in Carterville (pictured above).
Like other retailers, over the last decade LifeWay has seen commerce increasingly move online, while experiencing overall growth in digital sales.
“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.”