Augsburg Fortress closes U.S. stores

Published December 2, 2008

Augsburg Fortress, the publishing ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), recently announced the closure of its nine bookstores in the United States, but said that its two Canadian bookstores, including Augsburg Fortress/Anglican Book Centre (ABC) in Toronto, will remain open.

A store at the ELCA’s Luther seminary, St. Paul, Minn., that is not owned by Augsburg Fortress, will continue to rent space there and to market resources to congregations.

Citing “significant changes in its business operations,” Augsburg Fortress announced Nov. 7 that it was closing its bookstores by April 2009, eliminating 55 positions, including four in Canada.

The changes will involve adding 13 positions to the company’s information technology, marketing, and sales operations, said Augsburg Fortress.

“The publisher will focus its ministry on its ‘two most important callings – group-use materials for congregations, such as faith formation and worship materials, and textbooks and monographs for higher education,” said Beth Lewis, Augsburg Fortress president and chief executive officer.

 “There’s no plan to close the Canadian stores. We’re fortunate in that we are self-sustaining,” said Andy Seal, Augsburg Fortress Canada director. He also said that there is “a very different scenario” with regards to ABC, adding that the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod still controls the publishing of Anglican resources.

General Synod treasurer Peter Blachford said that he was assured by Mr. Seal that the needs of Anglicans would continue to be met even with the elimination of four positions, including that of Rev. Alan Cook, the congregational sales representative, whose job included helping dioceses meet their needs in terms of church supplies, Sunday School curricula and books.

Augsburg Fortress assumed full control of Toronto-based ABC in June 2007 under an agreement that allowed it to operate the bookstore for three years. Its other bookstore is in Kitchener, Ont. Under the renewable arrangement, General Synod receives an annual revenue of $31,000 from Augsburg for rent of the Augsburg Fortress/ABC operation and the lease of the store’s name. The deal avoided the planned closure of the ABC storefront in favour of an Internet and telephone-based retail operation.

Augsburg Fortress will no longer provide bookstores at most ELCA  events. It will instead work in partnership with synods and offer services to teach about new resources and faith formation teaching techniques. “This adds value for synods and for us,” it said. “Giving envelopes and worship supplies, such as communion wafers and cups, and candles, will still be available.”


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