If things had gone as the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) planned, this month your local Christian bookstore would have been changing its name and appearance and joining a nationwide coalition of Christian retailers known as “LifeDiscovery” stores. Modeled after the plan that united hundreds of independently owned hardware stores into the nationally advertised True Value chain, LifeDiscovery was to be the centerpiece of CBA’s campaign to expand the Christian bookselling market.

But after three years and $425,000 worth of research, development, and promotion costs, CBA announced just prior to its annual convention last July that LifeDiscovery had been put on indefinite hold. Even though the plan initially had been endorsed by many Christian publishers and Christian bookstore owners, CBA’s president, Bill Anderson, said it became obvious “the industry was not behind us.”

Twice in the past year the plan had been scaled back as commitments failed to materialize. Apparently few retailers were willing to sacrifice their hard-earned local identity to the new, nationwide LifeDiscovery label and to commit themselves to carrying the LifeDiscovery “product of the month.” Suppliers were reluctant to pay for their participation (costing from $10,000 to $50,000) if stores weren’t going to carry the featured products. In the end, only 110 of some 2,700 CBA-member stores and two suppliers had signed on. CBA refunded all the participants’ deposits in full. “LifeDiscovery isn’t a failed program,” Anderson said. “It’s a program that didn’t happen.”

The suspension of LifeDiscovery is only one of a number of recent setbacks for CBA, the ...

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