A Gasoline Alley store that’s been a retail mecca for thousands of Christians is poised to close.
Scott’s Parable, which specializes in Christian books, music and gifts, is slated to cease operations in August — a victim of the public’s affinity for online shopping.
“It’s still a great location,” said Jim Pearson, the store’s longtime manager. “Our problem is the digital age is on us.”
He described how music used to account for 30 per cent of Scott’s Parable’s business. Now that’s down to about six per cent.
“Everybody is buying and downloading,” he said, adding that the same trend applies to written materials.
“I sell books for a living, and I’ve got too many books on my iPad. It’s just so convenient.”
Even customers who favour hard copies of their music or books have an online alternative, he said.
“They can get it at Amazon and have it delivered to their door for free in three days.”
Pearson said the store’s customers, the majority of whom live in Calgary and Edmonton, haven’t changed much over the years. They just don’t come in as often as they used to.
“They used to shop eight times a year and now they’re shopping two or three times a year.”
The problem is not unique to Scott’s Parable.
“We’ve lost in Canada close to 20 bookstores just this year — Christian bookstores,” said Pearson.
“They’re dropping like flies.”
The Red Deer business, which is owned by Gerry and Jan Scott, actually dates back to 1952. That’s when Garfield and Tillie Ferris opened The Gospel Book Store as an addition to their office supply and typewriter repair business in downtown Red Deer .
A series of different owners, names and locations followed, with the Scotts buying Gospel Books ‘n’ Music in 1988. They opened a Scott’s Parable Christian Store in Saskatoon in 1999, and the following year moved their Red Deer business to its current Gasoline Alley location — a 15,000-square-foot building that made it the largest Christian retail store in Canada.
Pearson said news of the closure has hit many customers hard.
“They’re shocked; they’re saddened.”
There is a chance Scott’s Parable could be sold, with the Scotts’ Saskatoon store scheduled to change hands in January.
“I’ve got a couple people still looking,” said Pearson.
He believe the operation still has potential, particularly given its prominent location on Hwy 2. But it would have to rebrand itself as a gift store that sells Christian music and books, rather than a Christian music and book store that sells gifts.
“We need to basically turn it into a secular gift store that appeals to the masses.
“Even now, we’re selling ladies fashion apparel, and a lot of our pictures don’t even have any kind of Bible verse on it or anything.”
But Pearson said he and the Scotts are too old to take on this challenge.
“I’m retiring,” he said.
Of the nearly 20 people who work at the store, several have been there more than 15 years and one for more than 20.
“It’s just been a great place to work,” said Pearson. “We’re family here.”
If a buyer doesn’t come forward, Pearson anticipates that Scott’s Parable will begin liquidating stock in July and close its doors on the last Saturday of August.
“I’m still kind of on the outside hoping that somebody is going to come along and want to take it over,” he admitted. “It’s never over until its over.”