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Deseret Book rethinks offerings

Published: Wednesday, July 1 2015 11:27 p.m. MDT

Deseret Book is not taking any chances when it comes to products that may offend its customers.
The perennial seller of LDS-based literature and music has not only launched a new television and radio brand campaign, but also is conducting an extensive review of its 65,000 products after new research revealed some customer dissatisfaction.
"We found that there were a lot of customers who had at one time or another purchased something at Deseret Book that for them created a feeling of distress. . . . One area where we on occasion had lost trust was we had stocked items that did not match with the core beliefs of our key customers," said Sheri Dew, president and chief executive officer of Deseret Book Co., a subsidiary of Deseret Management Corp., the holding company for the Deseret News and other businesses affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Deseret Book survey, conducted last year by Wirthlin Worldwide, a Virginia-based research and consulting firm, targeted roughly 350 customers who identified themselves as practicing LDS Church members.
"What this body of research led to was a new set of brand guidelines, a more focused set of brand guidelines," Dew said.
Those new guidelines will reject material that offers a sympathetic view of behavior contrary to LDS standards or rewards immorality, Dew said.
That policy hit headlines last week after the retailer refused to carry Richard Paul Evans' new book, "The Last Promise," because of a passage suggesting an adulterous relationship.
"That's the kind of thing, it appears from what our customers tell us, to just stand their hair on end, and it makes them not trust us," Dew said.
However, Deseret Book, which has sold more than $2 million worth of Evans' other products, will special-order the book for customers who request it, Dew said.
Jon Kofford, vice president of marketing for Seagull Book & Tape, an American Fork-based book retailer that also carries LDS products and is a main competitor of Deseret Book, said its 18 stores originally carried "The Last Promise" but pulled the book off its shelves after it was determined the book did not meet the company's guidelines.
Unlike Deseret Book, Seagull Book will not special-order "The Last Promise" for its customers.
"Deseret Book is instigating a new policy, and we've always had our policy and pulled books off the shelf before," Kofford said. "We typically have just focused on the LDS market, and we have carried very few trade books."
Kirsti Gilbreath of Puyallup, Wash., said while visiting Deseret Book's downtown store Tuesday that she has never encountered anything objectionable at the store but expressed surprise over its decision not to carry "The Last Promise."
"I have other books of Richard Paul Evans. Seeing his new book out, I would probably come here looking for it and be disappointed that it wasn't here," Gilbreath said.
The new policy may pose future dilemmas over what to pull off shelves. Currently, one-third of Deseret Book's inventory is made up of products from national publishers, including reference books like "Frommer's France 2003," which includes places gays and lesbians would be comfortable visiting.
"I don't think we have gotten to that category of books yet," Dew said. "We'll probably have to look at that, because that is the kind of thing that potentially could offend a lot of customers."


E-mail: danderton@desnews.com

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