Published in Breaking News

Family Christian to close all retail locations, plans liquidation

BY MiBiz Staff Thursday, February 23, 2017 04:18pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Nearly two years after emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Family Christian Stores said today that it planned to cease all operations.

The Grand Rapids-based retailer of religious merchandise operates more than 240 stores across 36 states and employs 3,000 people, according to a statement. The company did not indicate when it planned to close all of its stores. 

Family Christian emerged from bankruptcy in August 2015 after FCS Acquisitions LLC purchased the struggling retailer for between $52.4 million and $55.7 million, according to a previous MiBiz report.

[RELATED: Family Christian’s Next Chapter: Niche retailer emerges from bankruptcy with plan for modest growth and profitability]

Richard Jackson, the chairman of the bankrupt Family Christian Stores, spearheaded FCS Acquisitions and retained the majority of senior management.

Following the bankruptcy, the organization embarked on a strategy integrating e-commerce into its business — a move it had previously resisted but one that Family Christian CEO Chuck Bengochea told MiBiz was a “necessary evil.”

It is unclear to what extent the company followed through on its plan post-bankruptcy.

Previously, Bengochea said the newly emerged company had a humble growth strategy, but still faced headwinds in what he saw as “not a high-growth business.”

“We believe there is single-digit growth, which the (Christian retailing) industry has not been experiencing, but we believe we can do that,” Bengochea said at the time. “Our model is very healthy. We have new stores in the model and good EBITDA earnings growth.”

Others in the industry remained skeptical of the strategy. Sue Smith, chairman of the board for the Christian Booksellers Association and a store manager at Ada-based Baker Book House Co., told MiBiz at the time that she didn’t think the strategy would be enough to sustain Family Christian.

“I see some stores doing well — the ones that are all in with their heart and with their business model,” Smith said of the overall Christian retail industry. “The ones that won’t change their business model with the changing times won’t make it.”

Representatives from Family Christian did not respond to immediate requests for comment.

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