While large numbers of businesses are closing and many more companies have been struggling to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, BJU Press has experienced a 30% increase in total sales in the past year as the number of families sending their children to Christian schools or choosing to homeschool rises.
After an initial decrease in sales in March and April 2020, BJU Press saw a 10% gain during that summer, with growth continuing throughout the remainder of the year, especially in the Christian school market.
Laurie Wilson, the communications manager for BJU Press, said sales to Christian schools, in particular, have increased by 40% over the previous year. “When COVID hit, and so many schools were having to push to remote learning, we were able to pull some of the things that we use for homeschool and push it to Christian schools so that they could go through and continue to use the textbooks in a remote [way],” Wilson said. She also said distance learning kits had seen the greatest hike in sales over the course of the pandemic, selling 81% more than during the previous summer.
Wilson credited BJU Press’s ability to meet the heightened demand for virtual classroom materials to the company’s existing digital infrastructure, which had been gradually built up over the course of the last 20 years.
In November 2020, BJU Press soft-launched two new digital tools, Homeschool Hub and Textbook Hub. Homeschool Hub, which has over 3,300 users, serves as a platform for homeschooling families to manage grades, plan schedules and track assignments, among other features. “We’ve got probably twice as many users as we thought we would, and we’re getting good responses back about [the update features],”saidMiltonAshley, a senior manager of the educational technology department.
Textbook Hub, which is available for Christian schools, allows students to complete and submit workbook assignments from electronic workbooks or eWorktexts as well as use eTextbooks with new interactive sections. The platform currently has almost 30,000 users across more than 135 different eWorktexts and eTextbooks.
Sales of physical textbooks grew to the point that the printing division had difficulty meeting demand, and employees from other divisions were called on to help pack the materials for shipping. In the months of July and August, the printing division shipped over 2 million pounds of material to customers from all 50 states and over 80 countries worldwide.
The increase in sales came from a growth in the number of families seeking a Christian education. “COVID was a catalyst, … but it wasn’t the [main] reason we see this growth in sales,” Wilson said. “We see Christians getting an awareness of what we do and reevaluating their lives and the choices they’re making, and they are choosing Christian education.”
Steve Skaggs, the director of content development, believes the reason the families and schools are choosing BJU Press over its competitors is the unique emphasis placed on blending a biblical worldview with the material.
“We’re doing something that nobody else is doing,” Skaggs said. “You ought to be able to go through our algebra one book and see everything covered there that’ll be covered in any secular text, … but you should also then see Scripture and a biblical worldview integrated with it. We don’t believe that anybody is really doing that to the level that we are.”