Flagship store’s future to be decided

New Zealand Bible Society, owner of the NZ Manna Christian Bookstore chain, is yet to make a...
New Zealand Bible Society, owner of the NZ Manna Christian Bookstore chain, is yet to make a decision if the store will remain open. The Invercargill store on Spey St was the chain’s flagship store. PHOTO: ODT FILES
The future of Invercargill’s Manna Bookstore will not be decided until later this month, New Zealand Bible Society chief executive Neels Janse van Rensburg says.

News of the store’s closure initially appeared on social media but had since been removed.

Mr Janse van Rensburg was disappointed the potential closure went public before any discussions or final decisions had been made.

"It’s an internal process we are working on and it’s only a proposal at this stage."

The Invercargill store was the flagship store of the national Manna bookstore chain, which the New Zealand Bible Society bought out in 2017.

Manna Bookstores lists 14 store locations on its website.

"In the current economic environment, they haven’t been profitable for some years now."

The New Zealand Bible Society was the parent organisation of the bookstore chain, which was only one aspect of the society’s overall mission, and it had a fiscal responsibility to ensure the struggling stores were not draining the society’s resources, Mr Janse van Rensburg said.

"We have to be good stewards of what we’ve been entrusted with and if we go on down this path, we are not good stewards.

"We have to make hard decisions of how to save the whole or end up in a position where you have to close the whole.

The Christian book industry globally had been suffering for some time, he said.

"We, as the Bible Society, have maintained our operation because that’s our heart for the mission.

"But you get to the point where the economic situation is where you cannot sustain the mission or sustain the retail entities — that’s not financially viable — it hasn’t been financially viable for some time."

People could protest the closures, but it would not change the financial reality of the struggling branches, he said.

"It’s one of those things, you have to think about making a decision or think about going into receivership."

The society had received significant building lease increases in multiple stores post-Covid, Mr Janse van Rensburg said.

International freight costs, logistics and rising paper prices had also continued to add to the cost of selling books in New Zealand.

While the electronic book sales had remained steady, many people still preferred a hard copy book, he said.

The society’s board would be contemplating some options to achieve some operational efficiencies — online sales or franchise development could potentially provide a partial solution, he said.

The board and management were expecting to make a decision about the Invercargill store’s future soon and were open to hearing options and suggestions from their national team.

 - By Toni McDonald