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Charleston Cokesbury store among US closures

Cokesbury at 612 Washington St. E. in downtown Charleston is among 57 Cokesbury "brick-and-mortar" stores across the country slated for closure.

The closings were reported Wednesday in the United Methodist News Daily Digest, an online publication of the United Methodist News Service.

The article says the United Methodist Publishing House board's decision to close 57 stores includes 19 seminary stores and affects about 285 full- and part-time employees.

The manager of the local Cokesbury store said she was to refer all questions to United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, Tenn.

Amy Campbell Smith, spokeswoman for United Methodist Publishing House, said the Charleston location is the only Cokesbury store in West Virginia and has four employees. An exact closing date for that store has not yet been determined, she said.

"The decision to close the local stores was not taken lightly or without prayerful consideration of all the factors," she said. "There are multiple forces that drive the decision."

She named the rise of online and catalog sales, decline of store sales, and rising costs of sustaining store operations.

"The sum of all local stores' revenue has not covered store expenses," she said. "Operating at an ever-increasing financial loss is simply not possible."

The local store carries a variety of merchandise such as Bibles, study books, music, children's books, toys, gift items, clerical collars, bookmarks and greeting cards. 

The UMNS article reports the closings came on the heels of increased online shopping by consumers.  

The Publishing House has launched an initiative called CokesburyNext. Customers are encouraged to go online at Cokesbury.com to shop. By early 2013, the Cokesbury Call Center is to be open 24 hours a day, six days a week. The number is 800-672-1989.

Plans also call for Cokesbury representatives to attend more special church events such as annual conferences and vacation Bible schools.

Closing dates for Cokesbury stores will depend upon local circumstances such as lease expirations. However, all locations are to end business no later than April 30, 2013.

The United Methodist Publishing House was founded in 1789, receives no general church funds, and operates as a self-supporting nonprofit. The Cokesbury retail division is named for the first two United Methodist bishops in the United States, Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury.

Go to CokesburyNext.com for more information.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.


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