Family Christian book chain closing its 240 U.S. stores

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By Jim Christie

<span class="articleLocation”>Family Christian, the biggest U.S. Christian
bookstore chain, said on Thursday it was going out of business
and planned to close its 240 stores across 36 states.

“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,” Chuck Bengochea,
the company’s president, said in a statement.

“Despite improvements in product assortment and the store
experience, sales continued to decline,” he noted. “In addition,
we were not able to get the pricing and terms we needed from our
vendors to successfully compete in the market.”

The chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2015
with more than $120 million in debt in the face of a sales slump
amid growing competition from online stores.

Bricks-and-mortar rivals also took business away by stocking
best-selling Christian-market titles and Bibles.

The company trailed Barnes & Noble Inc, with 640
stores, and Books-A-Million Inc, which describes itself as the
second-largest U.S. book retailer and operates more than 260
stores, according to its website.

Family Christian’s bankruptcy was noteworthy as U.S.
Bankruptcy Judge John Gregg took the unusual step of finding
that the company’s auction of its business was “flawed” and
ordered a new sale.

The original sale produced a $49.8 million high bid by
liquidators Gordon Brothers Retail Partners and Hilco Merchant
Resources. But the company instead selected a less valuable bid
by FCS Acquisition, which like Family Christian is owned by the
nonprofit Family Christian Resource Centers Inc.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based retailer was eventually
sold for $55 million to FCS Acquisition.

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