NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Home Life magazine from LifeWay.com: $1.22. Estimated shipping and handling from Nashville to Canada: $7.10. International handling fee: $5.00. Estimated sales tax: $0.11. Estimated total: $13.45, or $20.54 Canadian.
Who would be willing to pay more than 10 times the original amount for a magazine, much less one they likely will get well after it is printed? Until recently, Canadians had few options when ordering products from LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Without a local distributor, customers were forced to pay high tariffs and shipping charges for items that often took weeks to arrive after being tied up in customs.
“For several years we have looked for a solution to the problem of providing good service to our Canadian customers,” said Jim Cook, manager of international sales at LifeWay. “The main issues have been pricing, convenience and prompt delivery. Up to now when a church ordered a church resource from our customer service department, they had to pay in U.S. dollars, wait for the product to clear customs and pay high shipping costs associated with small orders.”
However, LifeWay wasn’t ready to give up, and neither was Canada. So after researching possibilities, it was determined that the most effective, cost-efficient way to supply LifeWay products to Canada was to find a Canadian distributor.
Enter R.G. Mitchell Family Books, Inc., a supplier of Christian and inspirational products to the Canadian market for nearly 70 years. Although R.G. Mitchell, located in Toronto, Ontario, had been partnering for several years with LifeWay International and Broadman & Holman, the publishing arm of LifeWay, they were not yet distributing other LifeWay materials, including dated Sunday School items.
“R.G. Mitchell was chosen for several reasons,” said Steve Blount, LifeWay’s director of knowledge and channel management. “First, like us, they are a business that exists for the purpose of ministry. Their prayer has always been that the products they distribute will touch people throughout Canada and leave an indelible imprint of God’s love on their lives.
“Working with R.G. Mitchell will allow us to have higher customer satisfaction in Canada than at any time in the past decade,” Blount added. “Greater use of our resources will impact Kingdom growth and ministry expansion in Canada.”
R.G. Mitchell will operate a new unit under the banner of LifeWay Canada. As LifeWay’s exclusive representative in Canada, they have hired telephone customer service representatives and consultants to represent all of LifeWay’s church resources products to Canadian churches and individuals.
“We have about 190 Southern Baptist churches in the Canadian convention,” Cook said. “This partnership will enable them, plus thousands of other churches, to have our LifeWay resources available to them as a support to their ministries.”
Warren Benson, director of supplier development at R.G. Mitchell, was equally excited about the partnership with LifeWay.
“The strength of our two organizations working together will certainly be superior to us trying to work separately,” Benson said. “LifeWay Canada will undoubtedly help us from a pricing standpoint, and our customers will not have to do mental gymnastics when placing orders.
“More importantly, it is a tremendous support to be able to work with a strong partner who has the same vision,” Benson added. “We are not only expanding products, but also transferring a business model, including systems, computer issues and logistics. The only word to describe what is going on is awesome!”
While LifeWay is a key provider of Christian resources in the United States, Benson said, the presence in Canada has not been as large because of the difficulties in distribution.
“We feel the timing is perfect to spread the recognition of LifeWay Canada,” he said. “We are excited to be able to bring respectable, quality resources to the Canadian market.”
LifeWay Christian Resources has sought to support LifeWay Canada in various ways, including the sending of experts to Ontario as well as hosting R.G. Mitchell representatives at LifeWay’s headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., where they were able to learn about LifeWay products and go through customer service training.
“It is not often that LifeWay gets the opportunity to partner with another company whose core values mirror so closely those that we have at LifeWay,” Cook said. “We believe we’ve found one in R.G. Mitchell.”