So you want to open a Christian bookshop?

The two most frequently asked questions in my correspondence are:

  1. Will you review my book?
  2. How do I go about setting up or opening a Christian bookshop?

There are other questions, of course: we’ll get to those another time. But for the moment, being contrary, I’ve decided to address the second one first. This advice is far from being a comprehensive business plan: these are simply a few suggested starting points. If you’re already a bookseller, please do add your own comments and suggestions.

Updated 13th September 2012

  1. Start by checking the UKCBD Town & City Index and by asking around: is there already a Christian Bookshop in your area? If so, it’s unlikely that there will be enough business available to support another: go and talk your ideas through with them and see whether you can work together.
  2. Visit as many as possible of the local churches and other Christian organisations in your area to canvas support. (Thanks to John Duncan for raising this point).
  3. Subscribe (free of charge) to this blog. In particular, look out for the News Roundup reports for latest news and commentary on the UK Christian book trade and the wider world of Christian retail.
  4. Join the Christian Authors, Booksellers and Publishers facebook group for all sorts of useful discussions and exchanges about the trade.
  5. Keep an eye on for news, reviews and a vast array of other useful information.
  6. Contact the Booksellers Association (BA) – amongst other things they administer the National Book Tokens scheme and Batch, an online supplier payment system which will help streamline your admin. The BA can provide all sorts of information/advice on things to be aware of, possible pitfalls, sources of supply, deals on shop fitting, insurance, legal advice, systems etc. The BA’s Christian Booksellers Group can offer more specific advice for Christian booksellers. The membership subscription is based on your annual turnover.
  7. See the UKCBD Wholesalers, Distributors and Suppliers page for details of the leading UK Christian trade suppliers. You’ll need to open accounts with several suppliers, in particular CLC WholesaleIVPJoining the DotsKingsway DistributionMarston & Orca Book ServicesNorwich Books & Music and Trust Media Distribution. It may also be worth contacting members of the Christian Suppliers Group.
  8. Consider subscribing to Christian Marketplace magazine: published bi-monthly, it includes regular columns from the BA Christian Booksellers Group and the Publishers Association’s Christian Suppliers Group along with various other helpful features. Subscriptions are currently free of charge to UK Christian retailers. Sadly, Christian Marketplace ceased publication in September 2012
  9. Consider attending Christian Resources Together, the successor to CBC, the Christian Booksellers Convention. For many years CBC was the UK Christian book trade event, but in 2009 CBC handed its operations over  to Bible Society’s Christian Resources Exhibitions.  More info and related discussions.
  10. Consider charitable registration: it’s a complicated business but ultimately worth it for the tax breaks and advantages.
  11. Register your shop for inclusion in this site’s Directory!
  12. Come back here and tell us about your experiences.


3 thoughts on “So you want to open a Christian bookshop?

  1. With regard to setting up a Christian bookshop, how about (assuming you have done Phil’s step one) slogging round as many as possible of the churches within your planned catchment area and asking whether they would be interested in supporting you?

  2. And if you get going particularly if connected with a Church, think about registering as a Charity as that brings many benefits.

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