For a long time Ascension Press has been running sales on their products directly to the public and doing aggressive direct marketing to parishes for their Great Adventure Bible Study.
Recently, Ignatius Press started doing similar things - offering parishes products on commission, offering movie night packages for parishes and now, steep discounts on a lot of products on their website.
I have heard several store owners grumble that the publishers are helping to destroy their business and I agree. I have said the same thing. On the other hand, I have also said that the publishers are probably being forced to do it because a large percentage (probably a majority) of Catholic store owners have no idea how to promote products to local parishes or even their own customers. Because the stores aren't staying up on what's new from publishers and aren't making the initiative to go out and promote these products, publishers are left with two undesirable options:
- Keep publishing new items and hope that stores will suddenly start doing what they have never done before, namely, promote new products to the local market.
- Go direct to the public with products to survive.
If I were a publisher I would have leaned towards number one but first I would have sent an ultimatum to all of my accounts giving them a time frame to get their act together, or else.
Unfortunately, the publishers chose option one without talking to stores first leaving everyone in a bad position. Frankly, I doubt that giving an ultimatum would have resulted in more than whining from most stores. A few stores would probably have done something but not enough to convince the publishers to abandon the threat.
The Catholic Marketing Network has been battling this business apathy for years and doesn't seem to be making any headway. They keep offering classes at the trade shows that are basically 101 level classes and they never can move beyond that because most stores won't even take the advice offered there and put it into practice.
So, what to do? I'm afraid that a generation of store owners will have to pass away before this situation can really be dealt with. In the meantime, publishers will continue to become hostile competitors competing for an already small base of customers. Unfortunately the store will probably be the loser leaving local shoppers without a local option for buying Catholic products.