Photo Credit: Managers of the stores just before social distancing was enforced. L-R: Lea-Anne Smith (Cooranbong), Tina Gilchrist (Victoria), Scott Wegener (web-store), Susan Duncan (WA), Michael Pupovac (Sydney), Gloria Paun (Brisbane), Keith McDougall (Townsville). (Credit: Michelle Richardson)
Australia | Scott Wegener

I n February of this year, just weeks before the first wave of COVID-19 in Australia restricted trading, Adventist bookstores officially united their online sales in one central location: AdventistBookCentre.com.au.

The decision was fortuitous, with all Adventist bookstores being forced to cease in-store shopping services in March. Still operating behind closed doors, the stores encouraged people to use their web-store to place orders and initiated a new drive-by pickup option to complement their regular delivery options.

Web store coordinator Scott Wegener said finding agreement on a combined web store was a lengthy process, as each store is independently administered by their local conference.

“But we’re excited to all be on the same virtual page now and can work more efficiently at spreading the Word—and it seems it was just in time too,” he added.

Back in 2016, the NNSW and Greater Sydney conferences made the decision to upgrade their bookshop web stores and decided to pioneer a shared web store, with the intention of inviting other conference stores to join.

“At that time we had several web stores in the country selling essentially the same Adventist products,” said Greater Sydney Conference CFO Eva Ing. “Having only one web store between us is not only good stewardship—removing duplication of work and money spent—but it also untangles the web for those looking for Adventist products online in Australia.”

AdventistBookCentre.com.au is progressing to be the one-stop shop for Adventist resources in Australia for people interested in personal study, health, and evangelism resources—“From lesson pamphlets to GLOW tracts to Pathfinder uniforms to health foods (yes, Nutmeat by mail is coming soon),” said Mr. Wegener.

As a result of the upgrade, online sales for the bookstores have been five times higher than they were during the same period last year.

“We were taking orders via phone, email, and our web store,” said Lea-Anne Smith, manager of Cooranbong’s Better Books and Food. “However, the phone and email orders, especially for our large health food range, quickly became difficult to manage, especially with the increased volume of orders coming in as people stocked up on food supplies [during COVID]. We expedited the inclusion of our food range online for easy ordering, and that immediately made the whole process so much easier for us.”

In addition to the push to expand the 5,000-strong product range, there is a major upgrade planned to bring the site’s look and features to the next level. “What we have now is okay, but we have plans to do even better as we move with the times together,” said Mr. Wegener. “We plan to team up for some national marketing to reach out to the Australian community via various media formats.”

With the cancellation of traditional regional church events like Big Camps, the stores have also missed out on their annual captive customers who “resource up” during these events. Some stores have run online “book hours” and sales events as an alternative.

Another challenge for the bookstores has been the supply and delivery of products in a timely manner. “We’ve been so grateful for the efforts of Signs Publishing and the AUC Resource Centre for keeping their supplies coming, especially through their lengthy hardships in Victoria,” says Susan Duncan, store supervisor for Western Australia. “We’ve seen such great demand for particularly end-times-related products, even our suppliers have been running out of stock.”

Some delivery delays of customer packages have also been due to reduced flights carrying mail and increased demand in the distribution industry. Australia Post also warns that Christmas deliveries will need to be sent by no later than early December to ensure guaranteed delivery before Christmas. The challenges are not over yet.

All the bookstores of Australia would like to thank you for your support, patience, and prayers as they continue to supply resources in these more challenging times.

Keep in the know!

With each store’s trading situation in a state of change, keep informed on the latest closure and reopening news, as well as new products, online sales events, specials, and giveaways by joining the Australian Bookstore’s eNewsletter at AdventistBookCentre.com.au/news.

This article was originally published on the website of Adventist Record

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