The Mormon merchandise market has a new player.
Deseret Book Co., a for-profit book vendor owned by Deseret Management Corp., has launched a non-book retail subsidiary, Deseret Gift, in four locations statewide. Deseret Management is a holding company for businesses affiliated with the LDS Church.
"Some of the fastest-growing areas for Deseret Book are in the non-book areas in art, statues, clothing, et cetera," Deseret Book retail vice president Roger Toone said.
So, quietly over the past three years, the industry's dominator has opened separate gift stores in the Layton Hills, Cottonwood, University and ZCMI Center malls.
"We think it's pretty exciting," Toone said. "It is an opportunity to bring to customers something they've never seen before, and we think it fits in very well with lifestyles for members of the LDS Church."
The University Mall store is currently called "HearthWorks," but Toone said the name would soon be changed to conform to the other three stores. And the ZCMI Center store's lease is not yet permanent, though Toone said he'd like to see Deseret Gift at that location, next to Deseret Book's flagship store.
Deseret Gift will compete directly with a growing number of independent LDS-related retailers, but it also will begin marketing its own line of products, Toone said.
And that's just fine, according to the company's competitors.
Kim McKone, vice president of merchandise for Seagull Book & Tape, said Seagull has grown and expects to keep chipping away at Deseret Book's market share dominance.
"We're definitely growing," McKone said. "We've increased our stores, offered newer products and have had good advertising. And we've been importing our own gift line for a couple of years now. So (Deseret Book's latest expansion) is nothing new to us."
Seagull operates 14 stores, in Utah, California and Arizona.
Latter-Day Creations operates three stores, including one at the ZCMI Center mall. General manager Karl Aland said sales are down at Latter-Day Creations' ZCMI Center store, but he did not attribute the decline to the emergence of Deseret Gift.
"At that mall generally sales are down," Aland said. "I just think people don't want to go downtown anymore.
"Very little of what we sell competes with Deseret Book at that location, anyway."The Orem-based company specializes in "white" clothing clothing appropriate for temple attendance, weddings, baptisms and burials other wedding supplies, jewelry and art. Latter-Day Creations expects to open a fourth store in Arizona this year.