(THE WEEK) -- Back in the 1990s, it often seemed that every city and town in America had a strip mall with a Christian bookstore where you could purchase WWJD bracelets and enough devotional books to fill up the Ark of the Covenant. But today, these Christian bookstores are a dying breed. Indeed, it seems we are fast approaching an America where this particular brand of religious retailer will be no more than a memory.
Over the last decade, Christian bookstores across the nation have been shuttering. In some cases, consumers are just less interested in the stores' God-blessed inventory. But plenty of others are just opting to purchase religious items from online retailers, with Christian bookstores humbled before the same digital market forces that felled secular mom-and-pop bookstores.
The flailing Christian bookstore industry reached code red status earlier this year when Family Christian Stores, touted as "the world's largest retailer of Christian-themed merchandise," declared it would shutter all of its 240 stores across America and lay off 3,000 employees. The 85-year-old chain said that "changing consumer behavior and declining sales" left it no choice.(
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