Family Christian Stores (FCS) has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Yet the ministry assured customers yesterday that it "does not expect" to close any of its more than 250 stores or lay off any of its approximately 4,000 employees.
“We strive to serve God in all that we do and trust His guidance in all our decisions, especially this very important one,” stated FCS president and CEO Chuck Bengochea. “We have carefully and prayerfully considered every option. This action allows us to stay in business and continue to serve our customers, our associates, our vendors and charities around the world.” [Full announcement below.]
Image: FCS website
Map of Family Christian Stores locations.
With 266 stores in 36 states, FCS is the nation's largest chain of Christian stores as measured by locations, not sales. (For comparison, LifeWay Christian Resources has 185 stores in 29 states.) In 2014, FCS generated $216 million in gross revenues, notes Randall G. Reese at Chapter 11 Cases.
FCS bought itself back from private equity owners in 2012 and pledged to donate 100 percent of its profits to widows and orphans. One example: It partnered with Karen Kingsbury to donate 2013 Black Friday sales to help Haiti orphans. FCS recently expanded into filmmaking, with 90 Minutes in Heaven to be the first of a planned two movies made each year.
In a video message to customers, Bengochea named the recession, the digital revolution, and the company’s debt load as factors leading to FCS's bankruptcy.
“I wish that we had alternatives but we do not,” he said.
On its FAQ page, FCS stated that it moved forward with bankruptcy “after much prayerful consideration and only after working to cut costs and taking other steps. We believe our only two options are to liquidate and shut down our stores or go through the Section 363 sale process and preserve Family Christian Stores. When faced with these two options, we strongly felt that there was only one viable path to take.”
“Our customers will not see any change in operations during this process,” stated Bengochea. “After the court approves the sale, we can begin to reinvest in our stores and bring our customers products and services that will help us better fulfill our mission—to glorify God by helping people find, grow, share and celebrate their faith in Christ.”
FCS has no plans to ditch "brick and mortar" stores for an online-only presence. "Some could say that 'brick and mortar' retail is not relevant, but our new management believes differently," states its FAQ. "Our plan is make the necessary investments to our stores, diversify our product lines and craft a strong retail strategy that properly places the emphasis back on delivering a warm and positive customer experience."