This time last year Eden.co.uk threw down a gauntlet to the rest of the Christian book trade by claiming that their customers were more interested in range, availability and convenience than price. Their latest marketing ploy seems to mark something of a U-turn in attitude: a £15,000 gift voucher giveaway to church leaders to “encourage [their congregations] to read and/or share more Christian literature, music or resources.”
In a message sent to selected customers, Gareth Mullholland writes:
As a customer of Eden.co.uk Christian Bookshop I wondered whether you would like to receive a pack of £3 Gift Vouchers to give out to your congregation at [name of church]?
We have 5,000 x £3 gift vouchers to give away and would be happy to send you a few packs if you think it would encourage your congregation to read and/or share more Christian literature, music or resources.
If so, please reply to let me know:
- how many voucher you would like (packs of 50)
- a delivery address for the voucher packs
With kind regards,
It’s a great idea that could certainly generate significant sales for Eden, but will do little to help generate footfall in local Christian bookshops — unless we rise to the challenge as I have done at LST: We will accept Eden’s £3 Gift Vouchers. Ultimately it’s our call: do we allow Eden to dominate the market or do we seize the day? Any other suggestions out there?
Replying to last year’s challenge from Eden, John Duncan wrote:
I just feel that this whole issue raises a number of rather awkward underlying questions. What, in principle, is the difference between the rapid growth of eden.co.uk and the growth of a firm such as Wal-mart in the US, which is well documented as being destructive of local community and putting local stores out of business as soon as it puts up a new concrete block? Undoubtedly, at the end of the day, the rise of internet suppliers has caused bookshops to improve or die, to become leaner and fitter, to be shaken out of our complacency and so on, which is no bad thing. But the closure of a local bookshop always represents some kind of loss to the local community, which will become poorer as a result. And what is eden.co.uk giving back into those local communities? Range, availability and convenience? That’s great if all you want to define yourself as is a consumer, but if you prefer to be a relational being made in the image of God, it seems to me that local community becomes rather more important.
The logical (and I mean logical, in market terms) conclusion of the inexorable advance of eden.co.uk is presumably to close down all other competitors and dominate the market entirely. But having said all this, eden.co.uk is a Christian company, undergirded by Christian values. So, eden.co.uk, what is your plan to replace these losses to the Christian community? What is your commitment to local incarnational presence? What is your message to the elderly ladies on low incomes who like to buy their Christmas cards from their local Christian bookshops?
Are these real questions that need answers, or should we just bow to the market and await the inevitable?
All responses welcome…
- Eden and the high street: Ian Matthews, Lost in the Heart of Somewhere, 2/10/2009