NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 5, 2012)—The Board of Directors of the United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) has announced the launch of a transition initiative, CokesburyNext, for its retail division. As part of this transition, Cokesbury will be closing its 38 full-line stores and 19 seminary stores.
CokesburyNext will redirect focus and resources toward expanding and enhancing products and services at Cokesbury.com, the Cokesbury Call Center (1-800-672-1789), and through a team of Cokesbury Sales Representatives.
Cokesbury offers resources for congregations, seminaries, church leaders, study groups, and individuals. Over the past 10 years, the ministry has seen a steady increase in sales through Cokesbury.com and the Cokesbury Call Center operation, while the number of Cokesbury customers relying solely on store locations has steadily declined. In the most recent customer survey, only 15 percent of Cokesbury's customers reported shopping exclusively in stores. As a result of changes in the industry and the consumer shift to digital shopping and purchasing, the local stores no longer are financially viable.
"Cokesbury has been serving for more than 200 years, and during that time has continuously adapted to the changing landscape affecting congregations and their leaders," said UMPH President and Publisher Neil Alexander. "A shift toward all things digital and the convenience of placing orders at any time is the reality of Cokesbury today. It is difficult to see the closure of Cokesbury local stores, but doing so will allow us to make a greater investment in the ways of shopping with Cokesbury that customers increasingly prefer."
CokesburyNext involves the enhancement of four distinct purchasing channels.
- The Cokesbury Call Center (1-800-672-1789) will be extending hours to 7 p.m. Pacific Time and increasing staffing to better suit busy customer schedules.
- Cokesbury.com will be continuously improved to serve customers and will feature special offers and products regularly.
- To better serve customers who require personal attention, the ministry will deploy more than 40 Cokesbury sales representatives (located in 25 states and the District of Columbia), who will take information about a full complement of products directly to customers at their churches and other ministry settings.
- The scale and frequency of Cokesbury's presence at local conferences and meetings will increase, and Cokesbury will work with church partners to host many of its most popular events.
Cokesbury and ACS
"An early question that has come to us is whether Cokesbury plans to continue to be present at Annual Conferences with a sales display," Alexander said. "The answer is an emphatic yes! The only aspect of Cokesbury retail activity we are ending is the presence of the current 38 full line and 19 seminary stores. Both Cokesbury.com and the Cokesbury Call Center will be expanded and continue in full force. In addition, we will be adding nearly 30 more Cokesbury sales representatives (for a total of 40+) who live and work in specific Annual Conference regions across the U.S. – and working in concert with the Annual Conference, districts, and local churches, we will add to the number and types of events where we provide sales displays. We hope that Annual Conferences will continue to extend Cokesbury the opportunity to be present with books, church resources, and other products at the site of their yearly gatherings."
Alexander said Cokesbury is taking steps to help ensure the well-being of store personnel following the closure of the local stores. The ministry will assist them in the transition, providing both severance packages and job search services.
CokesburyNext will be rolled out throughout 2013. A few stores will close as early as January 12, 2013, and the last Cokesbury local store is expected to close by April 30, 2013.
Cokesbury is the retail division of The United Methodist Publishing House, a publisher and distributor of books, Bibles, and other resources to the greater Christian community. Its mission is "to provide quality resources and services that help people come to know God through Jesus Christ, learn to love God, and choose to serve God and neighbor."