GRAND RAPIDS — Many consumers are turning to their faith for comfort and turning to their Bible retailers as a resource following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
According to recent reports from Zondervan Inc. and Family Christian Stores Inc., Bible sales are up between 20 percent and 30 percent on the retail level.
Cris Doornbos, executive vice president of sales for Zondervan, said history is repeating itself in these numbers.
“If you look at history and look at 1990 and the gulf war, you will see a similar spike in Bible sales. If you go back to the Vietnam War, I think you find an increase in Bible sales. And I think that in times of tragedy and uncertainty, vacuums are created within the human soul that things like the Bible and the certainty that they offer can solve, and they do.”
Doornbos added that while the sales of some religious books are up only slightly, Biblical prophecy books and books of comfort have seen a huge jump in sales recently. Family Christian Stores is seeing the same increase.
“One week sales were up 80 percent and another week 160 percent,” said Les Dietzman, president and CEO of Family Christian Stores. “Books like ‘Are We Living In The Last Times?’ and ‘The Battle For Jerusalem’ were both books that were selling way above where they were last time. While most retailers suffered sales decline at the end of September, we had a respectable increase. The biggest category was in Bibles, and it just appeared that as people had the anxiety and fear and apprehension from what had happened, there seemed to be more people looking for God’s word for help and encouragement.”
While both companies are paying close attention to the material that comes in so as not to exploit the situation, both also are holding several promotions and participating in relief efforts. Zondervan, in conjunction with author Phillip Yancey, developed a way to give money to assist in relief efforts.
On Sept. 13 the company was, like everyone else, wondering what it could do to help when an e-mail came in from Yancey. “He said, ‘I think this book (“Where Is God When It Hurts?”) could really help the particular needs people are having and I’d be willing to forgo my author royalties.’ So within 36 hours we developed a plan, printed a special edition to be sold at $6.99 instead of $12.99, and sold 775,000 copies to retailers around the country, and actually around the English-speaking world,” said Doornbos.
Zondervan also decided to donate its profits from the book, along with Yancey’s author royalties, to the American Red Cross.
The firms also are seeing a demand for patriotic-themed works.
“We are rushing some of those books that would normally sell around the 4th of July, but now patriotism is a very strong theme,” Dietzman stated. “Where we saw it first was in T-shirts; anything that combines patriotism with a faith statement has sold extremely well.”
Zondervan also has been selling many patriotic-themed products, including a book called “God Bless America.”
“We thought it fit perfectly. It has a flag on the front and is filled with prayers and reflections on our country from George Washington to George Bush,” said Doornbos. “In that same 36-hour period we sold over 400,000 of those, and we think we will sell a million of them before Christmas.”
Both companies sell nationally and internationally. Family Christian Stores has a store in the Bronx and one on Long Island.
In Zondervan’s recent report of fiscal 2001, the company posted net sales of $165 million and a 25 percent increase in profitability for its fiscal year ending June 30, 2001. The company also announced it shipped a record 34 million individual products in fiscal 2001.
Doornbos expects an even better 2002. “Recent sales of the books I spoke of will be reported in the fiscal end 2002,” Doornbos said. He is confident the numbers will reach even higher next report.
“Again, we do not want to exploit a tragedy,” Dietzman commented. “What we are trying to do is provide what our guests are looking for at this time, and we really feel that we are created for a time like this.”