Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Trouble at Augsburg Fortress?

Shrimp here. All through 2007, we heard about how sales of Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW), released in October 2006, were so much better than anyone had anticipated. It seems those forecasting ELW sales are again way off the mark, the ELCA News Service reports here. It's not looking very pretty for 2008. Shrimp out.

May 6, 2008

Sales of Worship Resources to Impact ELCA Publisher in 2008

           MINNEAPOLIS (ELCA) -- Sales of the pew edition of "Evangelical Lutheran Worship" (ELW) for the first quarter of 2008 were slightly more than half what was projected by Augsburg Fortress, the publishing ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  The ELCA publisher expects this trend to continue for the remainder of the year and revised its pew edition sales forecast to about $3.4 million for 2008, down from the $5.5 million in sales it originally projected, said John A. Rahja, chief financial officer, Augsburg Fortress, in a report to the board of trustees which met here April 25-26.
     Augsburg Fortress is the publisher of ELW resources, which were introduced in 2006 to the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.  The resources are available in both print and in electronic form.  More than 1 million copies of the ELW pew edition have been sold since it was introduced in October 2006, said Beth A. Lewis, president and chief executive officer, Augsburg Fortress.
     For the first three months of 2008, Augsburg Fortress posted a net loss of $206,000, Rahja reported.  Overall first quarter sales were $728,000 below forecast, all due to decreased sales of the ELW pew edition, he said.  Operating expenses were $729,000 less than budgeted.  Rahja attributed the lower expense total to new product development expenses which are likely to be incurred later in 2008 than expected.
     For the 2007 fiscal year Augsburg Fortress reported $2.5 million in net income, much of it driven by stronger than anticipated sales of ELW resources, Rahja said.  This money will be reinvested in 2008 to improve the infrastructure for the organization and in the development of several new faith formation and worship resources, Lewis said.
     Augsburg Fortress entered 2008 with a plan to improve and upgrade its information technology systems. The board was told of the progress of the project, which is aimed at making all of the publisher's systems compatible.  So far Augsburg Fortress has improved or replaced systems for collecting customer information, created a central repository for its image library and overhauled its intranet systems, said Sandy Clifford, director of information technology and marketing, Augsburg Fortress.  Significant system upgrades and improvements are still to be completed over the next several months, she said.  Augsburg Fortress has allocated up to $2.3 million for the entire project, Clifford said.
     Janet Thompson, board vice chair, Eagan, Minn., told the board that a decision had been made to put "on hold" fundraising through the One Mission Endowment Fund, established by the trustees in 2006.  The fund is still open to receive gifts, but staff will focus greater attention on other priorities, she said.
     Augsburg Fortress has several new faith formation and worship resource projects in process, said Tim Blevins, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Augsburg Fortress. These include an adult Bible study curriculum; new Sunday School materials; new Web-based contemporary worship materials; sacramental resources; new textbooks; and a Lutheran study Bible, part of the "Book of Faith" initiative adopted by the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
     Blevins said the Book of Faith initiative has resulted in strong relationships and regular consultation between Augsburg Fortress staff and staff at the ELCA churchwide office, Chicago.  Board members discussed specific concerns about the ELCA publisher's role in the Book of Faith initiative, and they appointed a task force to address those concerns. The task force was asked to work with Lewis and the Rev. M. Wyvetta Bullock, executive for administration, ELCA Office of the Presiding Bishop.
     The board also discussed details of the publisher's 2008-2010 strategic plan in closed and executive sessions.
     Information about Augsburg Fortress is at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

50+ layoffs and store closings just this week. Shellfish, you saw it coming.

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...