From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Publishing House focuses on new ideas; posts strong financials

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 02 Oct 1998 12:31:14

Oct. 2, 1998        Contact: Tim Tanton*(615)742-5470*Nashville, Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) -- The United Methodist Publishing House,
continuing to push itself in innovative ways, is launching a new
business development team that will focus on nontraditional ways of
reaching customers.

The unit will concentrate on reaching children and youth in product or
market areas not currently served by the Publishing House. As it tries
to identify needs and develop products, the team will emphasize new ways
of listening to the church and to people who are not traditional
customers. It will use avenues such as the Internet to reach customers,
particularly young people.

The creation of the new unit was one of several developments outlined at
the Publishing House's fall board meeting, Sept. 29-30. Other meeting
highlights included reports on the agency's strong financial performance
for the business year ended July 31.

"We are engaging our work with a sense of urgency," agency President
Neil Alexander told the board. He emphasized the importance of
maintaining that sense of urgency in inventiveness, quality and
willingness to learn in a changing environment. 

The sense of urgency is one of three qualities that characterize the
Publishing House and are critical to its future, Alexander said in his
report. The other two are:

*	Paying attention to what's important. "What people pay attention
to is a measure of what they care about and what they can care about,"
he said. He cited several examples, including a series of intensive
retreats for the agency's executive staff aimed at "helping us look at
who we are as servants of Jesus Christ."

*	Stepping out with new ventures "and making investments to
enhance our future."

Alexander cited the new business development team as an example. The
group, headed by Director Susan Salley, will begin organizing in the
week of Oct. 5. The team will spend the next two months talking to
churches and developing concepts for two or three products. By January,
a business plan will be fleshed out. And the team's dollars-and-cents
goal is to generate sales of $500,000 in the business year 2000, which
will begin Aug. 1, 1999.

Other areas of emphasis for the Publishing House include continuing to
upgrade the Cokesbury retail store chain and establishing the Cokesbury
Internet store. The agency also is developing an in-depth stewardship
study resource for churches that will be theologically based and will go
beyond concepts such as money management and annual finance campaigns.

"We are self-conscious and intentional in looking for opportunities for
growth and expansion," Alexander told the board during his report.

F. Belton Joyner Jr., the board's product development standing committee
chairman, described plans for a new children's curriculum and a new
approach to Vacation Bible School. The Publishing House is also
exploring ways to expand its curriculum for African American

The New Interpreter's Bible is becoming the basis for a whole line of
work, and a New Interpreter's Study Bible is planned for introduction in
January 2001, Joyner reported.

Joyner and other board members also discussed the need to reach
customers through electronic publishing on the Internet.

"If you can do it by punching a button, we're going to do it," Joyner
said. He noted, however, that the question remains as to how electronic
publishing would generate revenue.

Alexander said he was pleased that the Publishing House exceeded its
sales budget and contained expenses for the 1998 business year, which
ended July 31.

"In late spring, it looked iffy that we would achieve year-end sales,"
he told the board. However, the Publishing House exceeded its sales
growth target for the 1998 business year over the previous year. 

Total sales were $110 million, up 3.6 percent over the previous year and
0.3 percent better than budgeted, according to the agency's annual

Of that, sales for the Cokesbury stores, wholesale accounts,
international distribution and wholesale curriculum were up 7.2 percent,
at $51.4 million, according to the report. That exceeded the budget by
1.7 percent.

Expenses were up 6.7 percent, at $16.4 million, compared with the
previous year. That figure came in at 2.9 percent under budget.

Net operating revenue, which is the Publishing House's bottom-line
figure, was up $150,193, at $2.86 million. That represents total sales
minus expenses and the cost of goods sold.

The board members applauded the news that the Cokesbury stores' net
operating revenue was 15.6 percent, or $6.98 million, of the chain's
total revenue of $44.8 million. It was the highest return on sales that
the stores had ever experienced, said Larry Wallace, senior vice
president and chief financial officer.

The Publishing House's finance committee reported that $8 million in the
current year will be reinvested in infrastructure, which includes items
such as store improvements, building repairs and other capital expenses.
The money will come from revenue and possibly long-term investments.

In other action, the board:

*	Acted in executive session to approve guidelines for allocations
to conference claimants for clergy pensions. The members expressed their
commitment, in keeping with the denomination's Book of Discipline, "to
assure that surplus earnings, above those required to sustain effective
operations of the House, be allocated for the benefit of conference
claimants." The agency's goal is to pay out $1 million to the claimants,
contingent upon the net cash generated in the current fiscal year. Some
of that money is presented at each annual conference session to be used
for pensions. 

*	Consecrated a chapel in the Publishing House in memory of Bishop
W.T. Handy Jr., a longtime executive and later chaplain for the agency,
who died April 12 at age 74. The consecration service was led by Bishops
Robert Spain and George Bashore, and Handy's family attended. Board
Chairman Randy Smith and his wife, Ann Smith, donated a large cross for
the chapel.

United Methodist News Service
Releases and photos also available at

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home