Catholic supply stores have had to raise prices to offset increased shipping expenses and product costs. Photo courtesy Holy Family Catholic Gift and Book Store

Catholic gift stores staggered by inflation

  • September 2, 2022

The Canadian Consumer Price Index (CPI) offered one ray of good news as the 7.6 year-over-year growth rate for July braked from June’s 8.1 per cent gain.

However, this difference is nearly exclusively driven by the sharp decline in gasoline prices from record highs earlier in 2022. The cost of food, consumer items, shelter, health and personal care, recreation and travel continues its ascent.

Catholic gifts and supplies stores are not immune from the vice grip of inflation rates not seen in Canada since the early 1980s. 

Andreas Pfenniger, the owner of Holy Family Catholic Gift and Book Store in Langley, B.C., spoke with The Catholic Register about the economic challenges in 2022.

“What is coming more to head in the last half a year would be the increase in shipping expenses and the increase in actual product costs, which are related to the costs of paper, ink, binding and the shipping of materials from other parts of the world to my supplier who manufactures.

“Their supply chain prices have gone up, and there is a trickle-down effect, so I have to increase my prices.”

Nearby Catholic parishes and schools are a primary consumer base for Holy Family Catholic Gift and Book Store. Pfenniger’s business supplies these establishments with textbooks for religious education classes and faith formation programs. Because of costs for books rising 10-15 per cent and Pfenniger having to add a five per cent surcharge to compensate for higher shipping rates, many of these limited-budgeted institutions can no longer afford to buy extra copies or supplementary materials.

Pfenniger said he has seen “increases in silver up to 20-25 per cent on the giftware front.” Three of his suppliers routinely acquire items from Italy and China, two of many countries with supply chain bottlenecks. Pfenniger said these countries added a 10 per cent surcharge for shipping on top of this 20-25 per cent rise in the product price. 

Joseph’s Inspirational Inc., a family-owned Catholic bookstore and church supply centre in Toronto for 32 years, is a case study of the sizable obstacles caused by shipping costs.

Owner Joseph Rizza said he and his team worked hard in developing St. Joseph’s online store in recent years. It appears this work has paid off as individuals from far-flung locations such as England, Ireland and Dubai have discovered the website and many place items of interest in an online cart.

“Looking at my numbers and metrics, we may have 100 people put something in the cart, but maybe only three of them will go through with the purchase because of the shipping costs. People say, ‘I want to buy this book at $10, but it costs $52 to ship it to England.’ We try to adjust it so it is affordable for both of us, but often people don’t call us and cancel their order once they see the shipping costs.”

And upon negating these purchases, Rizza said many consumers turn to online shopping giants like Amazon and eBay.

Rampant inflation and supply chain woes have also played havoc with the price of shipping containers. Years ago, before COVID-19, Rizza said the St. Joseph’s family seriously considered purchasing their own storage unit to hold statues and Christmas materials being shipped overseas.

“At the time, it would cost around $8,000. During COVID it went up to $18,000. Two-and-a-half months ago we were quoted a cost of $32,000 for the same container.”

Tackling inflation is expected to be a major challenge for months to come, but Pfenniger said one measure that could provide some quick alleviation is the federal government scaling back or rescinding use of the ArriveCan app. Canadian and U.S. government officials, border commerce experts and constitutional rights organizations are among the stakeholder groups decrying the continued mandatory usage of this application.

“Removing any border restrictions would help give mobility of product, truckers and people to move back and forth across the border I think would help.

“Removing this app would give people more freedom. And if something can be done legislatively to curtail fuel costs, it would be a big source of help.” 

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