July 31, 2020

Indiana Conference votes to keep the Indiana ABC open

It has been clear for some years that the entire Adventist Book Center (ABC) industry has been in decline. There are many reasons for this: (1) the movement from printed materials to digital formats, (2) free access to EGW writings, (3) competition from Amazon and other retailers, and (4) declining interest among younger generations. 

Many conferences sold their ABCs to Pacific Press about 15 years ago. There was a high level of confidence that Pacific Press could succeed where the conferences had failed. Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be the case. Pacific Press lost so much money operating the ABCs that they had to close them all down. 
Instead of selling its ABC to Pacific Press, in 2005 the Indiana Conference invited Michigan to operate its ABC as part of the Michigan network of ABCs. It was thought that adding the Indiana market to the Michigan ABC operation would bolster overall sales and profits. That also did not turn out to be true. While there were some years of break-even, the recent trend has been ever increasing operating losses. 
It was with sadness and disappointment when news came a few weeks ago that the Michigan Conference was closing all of its ABCs, including the branch store in Indiana. It was sad because the arrangement by which the Michigan Conference operated the Indiana ABC had worked well for the Indiana Conference. The ABC employees, of course, also were disappointed. Not only was their future in doubt, they were also facing the increased workload of processing orders for the Michigan branches due to their COVID-19 closures. They have done an outstanding job meeting customer needs and providing quality customer service during this transition time.

Now the question on everyone’s mind is: “What shall we do with the Indiana ABC?”   
The Indiana Conference is not in a position to absorb large operating losses from its ABC, especially while facing COVID-19 financial stresses. Therefore, it was decided to adopt a different model, a model that has been used successfully by other conferences. It is a model that will provide a strong financial foundation now as well as in the future.  
For the past four years, Karla Coupland, business manager of Indiana Academy, has operated a very successful industry on campus that has provided employment for students and profit for the school. With her experience and expertise, it is believed that she could do the same with the ABC. Therefore, on June 2, the conference executive committee invited Indiana Academy to assume management of the Indiana ABC.   
No doubt, the operation of the ABC will change. In fact, it must change. The academy will continually evaluate the operation and staffing needs and make the necessary adjustments as needed. The good news is that the ABC will remain open, and with careful management of costs and sales, the Indiana ABC will be able to serve the needs of the church and community as well as provide employment for students and additional income for the academy. By God’s grace, we believe that this new model will be a blessing for the Indiana Conference, the Lake Union and Indiana Academy.   

Mark Eaton, secretary/treasurer of the Indiana Conference