Associated Press

Christian retail chain now open Sundays

September 27, 2003 | Associated Press News Service, The

Author/Byline: AP BOBBY ROSS JR. Associated Press Writer | Section: Financial

474 Words | Readability: Lexile: 1390, grade level(s): >12

DALLAS (AP) – In a sign of how much America’s traditional day of rest has changed, the nation’s largest Christian retail chain will open Sundays starting this weekend.

The change at Family Christian Stores’ 315 locations in 39 states will make Bibles, Christian music, church supplies and inspirational T-shirts available on ”the day that Christians most attend to their spiritual needs,” said Dave Browne, president and CEO.

Over the past month, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company tested its plan to open from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays in 18 Dallas-Fort Worth area stores and reported a positive response from customers.

”I just think there’s something about your spiritual needs being met on a Sunday that some people don’t want to wait until Monday,” district manager Dan Morano said.

While Family Christian officials tout the ”ministry” aspect of the change, experts say it reflects sweeping social changes that have long been at work. More women in the labor force and the softening and repealing of ”blue laws” across the nation have made Sunday as much a day of activity and commerce as worship and relaxation.

Historically, Sunday blue laws – so called because they were written on blue paper – forbade the sale of items such as cigarettes and alcohol. They also prohibited secular amusements and unnecessary work.

”With an increasingly large fraction of women with regular business-week employment, the effect of that is to essentially eliminate Monday through Friday as viable options for them doing their shopping,” said David A. Laband, an Auburn University economist and author of ”Blue Laws: The History, Economics and Politics of Sunday-Closing Laws.”

Still, some companies – including Atlanta-based Chick-Fil-A restaurants and Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby stores – say they will resist the temptation of opening on Sunday.

”We don’t have any arguments with anybody who’s open on Sunday. We don’t judge them. This is what we feel like is right for us,” said David Green, whose family-owned company operates 309 Hobby Lobby stores in 27 states and 19 Mardel Christian & Educational Supply stores in five states.

Chick-Fil-A – with 1,100 restaurants in 36 states – believes closing on Sunday has helped recruit better employees. They enjoy having a day off to worship or just spend time with friends and relatives, company spokesman Don Perry said.

Family Christian’s Browne makes a distinction between his company’s products and those of Chick-Fil-A. ”We do things that will help people find, grow or share their faith,” he said, ”and that’s very different from a chicken sandwich.”

But officials with LifeWay Christian Stores, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn., say a Christian CD is no different than a chicken sandwich: It can wait until Monday.

”Even orders that are placed by customers on Sunday through our Web site are not processed until Monday,” said Rob Phillips, spokesman for LifeWay, which has 119 stores in 21 states.


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