Originally created 01/05/02

Christian stores see sales stall



The Bible, books on end-time prophecy and a 15th-century mystic's writings were hot sellers in the Augusta area after Sept. 11.

The rising tide in sales among national Christian and secular booksellers prompted optimistic sales predictions for the Christmas season despite a cooling economy.

The predictions materialized for some publishers and wholesalers, but area retailers generally said sales of inspirational and religious gifts and books were ho-hum this year, though the Bible retained its reputation as a perennial best-seller.

Valerie Lopez, manager at Borders Books, Music and Cafe on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway, said it is hard to say how Sept. 11 influenced sales because new releases in the inspirational category this year were few. Bible sales held steady at Borders, but they always are a big part of holiday sales, she said.

After Sept. 11, her store saw shoppers snap up books on prophecy, such as works based on the writings of Nostradamus, a 15th-century astrologer and physician. "We sold out and had to reorder," she said.

Rumors circulated through the Internet that Nostradamus foretold the fall of the Twin Towers, but the rumors were debunked. Nostradamus died more than 100 years before the prediction was supposedly written.

At Books-A-Million on Washington Road, people bought anything on prayer with flags on the cover after Sept. 11, said general manager Wayne Tapley. He said that sales tapered off during the weeks leading up to Christmas, then surged again the last 10 days before the holiday.

Inspirational titles and Bibles are always solid sellers during Christmas, but what surprised him was how quickly the store sold out of Joyce Meyer's books, he said. Ms. Meyer has written numerous books about encouragement and overcoming adversity.

The Prayer of Jabez, by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, continues to sell well at Books-A-Million, as does the newest title in the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Desecration: Antichrist Takes the Throne.

Desecration's publisher, Tyndale House, has distributed 3 million copies to retailers since releasing the title Oct. 30. Sales are so high - the highest for any book since Sept. 11 - that it has already had a second printing, said Beverly Rykerd of Colorado Springs, Colo., the series' publicist.

"Publishers Weekly says Desecration has a good shot at being No. 1 in sales for 2001," she said.

The Left Behind series bumped up sales at Jay's Christian Supply in West Towne Market Square, where works by Dr. David Jeremiah, author of Escape the Coming Night, and John Hagee, author of Final Dawn Over Jerusalem and From Daniel to Doomsday - The Countdown Has Begun, also sold well after the terrorist attacks.

But the trend cooled at Jay's and other Christian retailers - stores ended up canceling orders, said Steve Gindlesperger, Jay's manager. "The economy is flat."

The economy was stalling before Sept. 11. Few retailers, with the exception of those in new or expanded stores, expected to match business of a year ago, he said.

As at other outlets, however, Bibles continued to be reliable sellers at Jay's. "People want Bibles," he said. "It is the true Word of God."

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 vanorton@augustachronicle.com.