This article originally appeared in the August 2007 issue.
By Lauren Hunter
Lauren Hunter is a freelance writer and public relations consultant dedicated to the faith-based technology market. For more details on Bookstore Manager, visit www.BookstoreManager.com.
If your church is anything like mine, automating your church bookstore, or book table, might not be top on your staff’s priority list. As always, there are a plethora of other pressing tasks that always seem to rise to the top of the pile.
But as many churches now know, innovating your church through technology advancements is no longer an option; it is essential to survival. Not only can technology keep a church connected to its members, it can reduce the administrative burden that churches experience.
By using technology to streamline the church bookstore, pastors and staff members can remain focused on reaching out to their congregations and communities—to impact them and make a difference for Christ.
This said, regularly reviewing all areas of church ministry and evaluating them for effectiveness and purposefulness is crucial to maintaining a thriving church body.
In this article, we are going to take a look at your bookstore ministry and uncover ways to streamline inventory, track sales, increase sales, decrease labor costs and more, all through the implementation of bookstore management solutions.
First, here is an overview of how the Christian bookstore technology industry has evolved.
For many years, bookstores around the country didn’t use any type of inventory management software to track book sales, customer buying habits, sales trends, inventory control or purchase orders. There were a handful of software companies for the secular market, and some of the larger Christian retailers implemented these software applications to assist where they could, but there was nothing created specifically for the Christian retailer.
One innovator in the market was Randy Voorhees, an independent Christian retailer for 13 years. He took a leap and decided to harness his expertise to develop a Christian retail management solution that would handle many of the hassles that plagued his everyday life as a retailer.
“What I really disliked about the bookstore business was inventory control and tracking customer purchase behavior. When I realized how much time I spent managing this process, I was sure there had to be a better way to get the job done,” said Voorhees, the developer of Bookstore Manager. “These experiences led me to design computer software that exclusively supports Christian bookstores.”
Churches are often fearful that the technology needed will be too expensive, too difficult to learn, or too complex to maintain. Fear not. There are very simple solutions available. Today’s falling hardware prices make computerizing an option for even the smallest church bookstore. Technology can and will improve your bookstore in significant ways.
While traditional cash registers served retailers well in years past, their inability to gather and maintain important business information in real time has caused the use of this time-honored product to dwindle.
If you are still using a traditional cash register, perhaps it is time to consider upgrading your technology to a point-of-sale (P.O.S.) system. While switching from a cash register to a computerized P.O.S. system may seem intimidating, advances in technology have made learning how to operate these systems relatively easy.
So, you might ask yourself how you know when you need to computerize your church bookstore. If you are asking the question, chances are, you probably need to make a change.
While bookstore management software is imperative for independent and large church bookstores, smaller stores need more assistance in determining whether or not they need to computerize.
Asking questions like these can be valuable in helping to determine what your organization needs:
* Do you find that you often run out of books that your customers frequently request?
* Do you find it difficult to track your sales and retrieve totals for the week/month/quarter/year in order to evaluate ministry effectiveness?
* Would you like to provide reports of sales and inventory to your church secretary in order to streamline the accounting processes necessary for your bookstore?
These are just a few questions that can help you to determine your church’s need for bookstore management software. If you answered “yes” to more than one of these questions, then your organization is most definitely in need of bookstore management software.
Here is another helpful guideline. If you’ve been selling more than $2,000 a month and you are still using a cash box or an “old-fashioned” cash register to keep track of sales, let me invite you to step into the 21st century. A point-of-sale system makes completing sales transactions fast and easy, not to mention the vast assortment of management reports the software can provide.
You also might want to take a look at your inventory process. Do you hand-key each product into your computer, or do you utilize a Christian products database to make it simpler to enter the products you have on hand and need to order?
Regardless of your size, regardless of what your current processes are, I can guarantee you that if you haven’t yet automated your church bookstore using an inventory management program, your ministry is in need of improvement.
While many of these offerings naturally appeal to larger stores, it is good to know that by automating your church bookstore with technology now, you can position your organization to grow—as quickly (or slowly) as you want it to. You can feel certain that you are implementing a retail management solution that can scale to meet your needs today and tomorrow.