Why are Family Christian stores closing? Christian retailer shutters citing falling sales

After more than 85 years in business, Family Christian, the "world's largest retailer of Christian-themed merchandise" is shutting its doors.

The Christian retail chain cited declining sales as the reason for its closure. This isn't the first time the company has revealed its financial troubles, having previously filed for bankruptcy in 2015.

"Despite improvements in product assortment and the store experience, sales continued to decline," company president Chuck Bengochea said in a statement, USA Today reported. "In addition, we were not able to get the pricing and terms we needed from our vendors to successfully compete in the market. We have prayerfully looked at all possible options, trusting God's plan for our organization, and the difficult decision to liquidate is our only recourse."

Family Christian was first founded under the name Zondervan in 1931 by brothers Bernie and Pat Zondervan, the company's website explains. The company, which was first renamed Family Bookstores in 1971 before taking its current name in 1997, later became a nonprofit organization in 2013 and has since donated its profits to Christian charities.

When the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015, USA Today noted, they reported that sales had fallen 29% from 2008 to $216 million. The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based company currently operates 240 stores in 36 states, employing more than 3,000 people.

No timetable for the stores' closure has yet been given.

8 retailers shrinking across America
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8 retailers shrinking across America

The Limited

The women's clothing retailer shut down all 250 of its stores in early January. 

"We're sad to say that all The Limited stores nationwide have officially closed their doors," the company said in an online statement. "But this isn't goodbye. The styles you love are still available online — we're just a quick click away 24 hours a day."


Macy's is closing 68 stores and laying off nearly 4,000 employees, beginning in early 2017. Ultimately, the retailer plans to shut down about 100 stores, or 15% of its store base, over the next couple of years.

The retailer has struggled to keep up with the rise of e-commerce. In early February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Macy's had received a takeover offer from Canadian retailer Hudson's Bay.


Sears plans to shutter 108 Kmart stores and 42 Sears stores by April.

Sears' downward spiral has analysts speculating that the company will file for bankruptcy and some of the brand's suppliers already cutting back on shipments. 

Wet Seal

The struggling teen retailer is closing all 171 of its stores, the company announced in late January. 

The closures come two years after Wet Seal closed 338 of its then-511 stores in January 2015, shortly before the company filed for bankruptcy protection. At the time, Wall Street analysts said that falling foot traffic at shopping malls played a major role in Wet Seal's death spiral.


The retailer is shuttering 120 locations, primarily in the US, the Star Tribune reported in early February. Currently, BCBG has 570 locations worldwide, and 175 in the US. 

In January, BCBG told Bloomberg that it would shift its focus away from brick-and-mortar stores, and instead double down on e-commerce and selling the BCBG brand through other retailers. 

In February, Women's Wear Daily reported that the retailer is considering filing for bankruptcy, with a source telling the publication BCBG is "shopping for bankruptcy attorneys."


The retailer announced in early February that it planned to shutter up to 25 locations in 2017.

Bebe's sales have been slumping in recent years. In the most recent quarter, the company reported that same-store sales dropped 10.5%, compared the same period a year ago, in which sales declined 2.5%.


The discount shoe retailer could close as many as 1,000 stores as part of a debt restructuring plan, sources told Bloomberg. Currently, Payless has about 4,400 locations worldwide, including 3,600 in North America.

In January, Reuters reported that Payless was working with attorneys to restructure debt worth roughly $655 million. Later in the month, Payless laid off 165 associates, including 110 employees at the Topeka corporate office, The Topeka-Capital Journal reported. 

American Apparel

The future of American Apparel's stores remains unknown, following the retailer's acquisition by Gildan Activewear Inc.

Gildan did not acquire the chain's 110 locations when it bought the American Apparel brand. If American Apparel doesn't find a buyer, then these stores will likely be shut down. 

While rumors circulated that the brand would be shuttering all locations immediately, the retailer denied these reports. Stores will not close for at least another three months, due to a 100-day license with Gildan, American Apparel spokeswoman Arielle Patrick told Business Insider in mid-January.

American Apparel declined to comment on what would happen after that point. 

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