NASHVILLE (BP) — LifeWay Christian Stores are closing at three Southern Baptist seminary campuses, the retail chain confirmed to Baptist Press Feb. 10.

The LifeWay Christian Stores chain also confirmed the closure of its longtime downtown Nashville location due to the sale of SBC entity’s 14.5-acre campus last November and the relocation of its offices to a new facility late next year also in the downtown area.

A change in buying patterns among seminary students was cited as the reason for the closures at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

Cossy Pachares, vice president of the retail division of the SBC’s LifeWay Christian Resources publishing arm, said in a statement to Baptist Press: “LifeWay created our campus stores to help seminary students acquire the resources necessary for their academic studies. Over the last five years or so, students have been migrating more to digital, rental and online options for many of their textbook and scholarly resource needs. This is not a bad thing. We know these new options are helpful to students, since they can be more cost effective and powerful.

“While we are excited about these new options for seminary students, the changes have unfortunately had a significant impact on our ability to continue to operate these stores,” Pachares said.

LifeWay Christian Stores at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary “have not been as significantly affected,” he said, “because they draw customers from outside their student population. LifeWay will continue to operate these stores at this time.”

LifeWay’s store at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in the San Francisco Bay Area closed last year as the seminary prepares to move to a new campus in Southern California later this year.

LifeWay is part of the move to digital resources, Pachares noted in his statement, reporting that the entity’s WORDsearch software team is in the process of releasing a number of digital textbooks.

Pachares said LifeWay employees at Southwestern, Southeastern and Midwestern “have been encouraged to apply for positions with other LifeWay Stores, and have also been informed of severance benefits as well as incentives to continue their employment until work is completed at each location.”

“The closings are very difficult decisions, and ones we delayed as long as we could. But we have worked with executive leadership at each of the seminaries, and they understand our situation with the stores,” Pachares said.

LifeWay has operated its bookstore at Southwestern since 1930; at Southeastern since 1951; and Midwestern since 1958. The store at Southwestern will close Feb. 29; at Southeastern, April 30; Midwestern, May 31.

Regarding the downtown Nashville location, Martin King, LifeWay director of communications, told Baptist Press Feb. 10, “The downtown Nashville store closed last month as a result of the sale of LifeWay’s downtown campus. We are considering the feasibility of including a LifeWay Christian Store in our new building.”

LifeWay currently operates nearly 180 Christian retail stores in 29 states.