America's largest Christian products distributor shutting down

Send the Light Distribution, the largest distributor of Christian products in the United States, has announced that it will be shutting down, primarily because of the competition from online retailers.

Send the Light Distribution | Facebook/SendTheLightDistribution

"When companies get creative and find new and better ways to do things, like Amazon Prime ... at the end of the day, that kind of thing also destroys the current or past way that business had been done," STL president Glenn Bailey told Christianity Today. "That's our basic problem."

According to the report, the distributor will "wind down operations" this summer after 42 years of "service to the global Christian supply chain." STL used to ship products to at least 10,000 Christian retailers, majority of which are bookstores based in the U.S., and they previously supplied around 25,000 Bibles per day. However, online retailers like Amazon have provided a more convenient way to purchase items, and products are often more affordable. This has affected independent Christian retailers, which comprise most of STL's business.

"They're being put out of business left and right," said Bailey. "Many of our best customers are no longer what they once were."

One of the company's major clients was Family Christian Stores, but when FCS filed for bankruptcy, its debt to creditors, including STL, amounting to $127 million was erased. STL lost around $500,000, which, apparently, contributed to its financial difficulties.

According to Christian literary agent Steve Laube, the demise of STL means the industry would have "one less major distributor to feed the Christian store market." He said, however, if it happened several months ago, he would have made a connection to the FCS bankruptcy.

"But today it is merely a reflection of the shift in retail buying patterns," he said. "Ironically, it doesn't mean books aren't selling, when in fact they are. Instead it only means they are being purchased in a different place."

Bailey said that around 150 vendors would have to find another way to have their products movoing in the supply chain, while the other 350 are already dealing with other distributors.

Other business are also affected, such as the sporting goods. The STL website shows clearance sales, with discounts of up to 92 percent.