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Guest Editor Recommended Reads: Randy Davis PDF Print E-mail
Written by Moriah Peters   
Monday, 05 November 2012 12:39 PM EST

Defending the faith, thinking practically and looking up
Recommended reads for your business life

TheCaseForACreatorThe Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God by Lee Strobel (Zondervan, 978-0-310-24144-7, 2004).

This book has really helped me in strengthening my faith in God. There was a time when I questioned His existence because I was being bombarded by the “facts” of evolution and secular theories. I would recommend this book to anyone who is seeking knowledge in defending his or her faith. 

MereChristianityAudioMere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (HarperCollins Publishers, 978-0-060-57263-1, 2003) 

No matter how many times I read this book, I always reach a new revelation. Lewis uses practical thinking, which is golden in our world of philosophizing and over-analyzing. Pull out a pen, put on the audiobook and get ready to think!

HeavenHeaven by Randy Alcorn (Tyndale House Publishers, 978-0-842-37942-7, 2004)

Heaven is one of those books that can change the way you live. It is rare to find theological research on the topic of heaven. Based on Scripture and a life dedicated to the study of life after death, Alcorn paints a vibrant and tangible picture of heaven. For the first time, it's like heaven is a real place to me, not just some floaty, cloudy thing!

ThenSingsMySoulThen Sings My Soul: 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories by Robert J. Morgan (Thomas Nelson, 978-0-785-24939-9, 2003)

This is for every writer of any kind! It's a book of hymns, their history and their composers. There is something about a hymn that brings me to a simple appreciation for the cross, and learning about the struggles of their writers just gives me a deeper love for the Jesus they sing about. 

 
Guest Editor Retail Essentials: Randy Davis PDF Print E-mail
Written by Randy Davis   
Monday, 05 November 2012 12:34 PM EST

RandyDavisMarket for value-driven music and movies is still strong
Christian retailers must consider how best to appeal to wider community

“The digital revolution may not be as revolutionary as believed, according to a music survey that found listeners more in tune with friends’ tips and radio than blogs and social networking.”—Edna Gunderson, USA Today

Companies like The Barna Group, Nielsen and others track the things that make us tick, drive our passion and motivate us to perform one way or the other. They help us understand those we serve and those we seek to serve.

In The TRU Study 2012 of Christian Music Consumers, a division of TNS Custom Research, “Value Monitor” indicators rank the importance of Religion and Faith, the similarity of Worldview with our parents’ generation and Traditional values. All of these come out exceptionally high among Christian music consumers when compared to the country at large.

At the same time, the indicators also show we drastically undervalue the importance of clothes or products with a particular brand (equating specific brands with quality) and that we hold the value that “Success” means making a lot of money. The importance we place on happiness skyrockets on Religious and Spiritual Fulfillment and plummets compared to the general populace on “Partying” and having material things.

Commonly, our complaints align with others on daily life in regard to sleep, money and work. We chart highest on “not having enough time in the day” and “stress.” We are more likely to view our generation as “living in dangerous times” and less likely to view opportunity for the future and focus on goals against the populace as a whole.

For the under-30 crowd, the statistics show Christian music consumers foresee having kids as more likely than our peers and that they view themselves as less likely to get divorced, fired or to have multiple/many romantic relationships.

When we look for specific behavioral activity that affects the Christian industry and those we serve, NPD Group’s recent Contemporary Christian Music Executive Summary is enlightening. Of specific note, out of the estimated 15.5 million Contemporary Christian music fans, the highest degree of separation in TV viewing habits when compared with our non-believing neighbors is watching Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and the Gospel Music Channel (GMC). Yet even the Christian community seems to follow the trends of our society and gravitates to Country (GAC) and family/kid-friendly cable networks such as Disney XD, ABC Family, Boomerang and Nick at Nite. Interestingly, Full House (ABC) is our highest-indexing show followed by What Not to Wear (TLC).

You may ask, “So, what does that mean to our industry, our channel and your customers?” What it tells me is that the entertainment category in our industry is increasingly important for stores to consider. Not only does it mean we need to continue to support core Christian artists and programs, but we need to recognize that society trends and demands—even among the church crowd—are looking for wholesome forms of entertainment in music and movies. We as an industry need to recognize this, embrace it and perhaps grow the relevance of our retail footprint in the communities we seek to serve.

The NPD study further reveals that customer’s magazine consumption indexes highest ministry favorites like Focus on the Family and Guideposts. In addition and not so surprisingly, Southern Living ranks high with our market. Our online habits trend comparative to users as a whole on the staples of Facebook, Bing, Google and eBay, while top indices for Christian consumers against the general populace is for Christian content found at Biblegateway.com, Christianbook.com and GodTube.com.

More than 50% of us communicate connect with friends, post messages and post photos through social networking sites. We play and sing with a band, write music and lyrics, and play musical instruments other than guitar more likely than others. We like to make records and videos as a hobby. We love to meet in book clubs. And, obviously, we like to go to church.

From The Barna Group we learn that radio still ranks highest for music discovery, followed by friend and relative recommendations. For product purchases, radio has double the impact of social media, while a pastor’s recommendation trumps them all.

Why is all of this so important in the Christian products industry? Because we need to understand exactly who our customers are, what makes them tick and what they value most. What will drive them into our stores to buy our products? You see, folks, our consumption of music and video in physical format is above trends in the general market, according to Nielsen’s comprehensive consumer survey, Music 360. Ergo, our customers still find physical Christian product a value.

Christian music fans skew toward females over 25. The majority of Christian music listeners live in the South in a four-plus member household with an average income of $45,000-$74,000. While the female buyer prefers Adult Contemporary/Pop, Males purchase Rock most often. Live music events are most attended by 18-34 year olds followed by the 45-and-older crowd. Teens up to age 54 are mostly likely to purchase T-shirts at a concert while 55 and up will purchase CDs/DVDs.

These are the people who are consumers of the products we create and sell. These are the hungry—looking for spiritual truth through many forms of entertainment. These are the sons and daughters of our Creator who are looking to raise their families and enjoy for themselves Christ-centered alternatives to what the world is offering. Like the study shows, they desire wholesome products from many providers and look for it in many areas.

The Christian products industry has always been and hopefully always will be a true source of solid products for adults and children alike. Our customers will have purchased 7 million units of music titles through the Christian retail channel as of press time, and we will see upwards of 6 million units of DVD/Home Entertainment.

Consider these statistics from some of our industry’s best-known brands and new releases making an impact this year:

  • Courageous has led the charge with more than 500,000 units across the counter in its first four months and is well on its way to a million in sales.
  • Our friends Bob & Larry and the VeggieTales release of Robin Good will scan more than 100,000 units this year.
  • October Baby has made a big impact in the lives of our most defenseless, and sales continue to climb in only its first few weeks in retail.
  • We have welcomed new, traffic-driving music releases from top-sellers Wow Hits 2012, TobyMac, Third Day, Kari Jobe, Mercy Me and Francesca Battistelli.

You see, we still serve members of a community that looks very much like our neighbors, yet has a worldview that draws them to the content of your store. We have traffic-drawing releases that are ripe for your customers and are exactly what they want—from a shop ethos based on values just like their own. So, don’t lose heart as technology innovations change seemingly at the blink of an eye. Know your customer and serve them! And, remember, as Mark Twain so eloquently stated upon hearing that his obituary had been published in the mainstream media: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

 
Guest Editor in Conversation: Randy Davis PDF Print E-mail
Written by Randy Davis   
Monday, 05 November 2012 12:28 PM EST

StevenCurtisChapmanIconic artist is still drawn to Christian retail stores
Steven Curtis Chapman sees the work of Christian retailing as an ‘incredible privilege’

STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN shares his thoughts on Christian retail and this year’s Christmas release, Joy. Chapman has sold more than 10 million records, including two RIAA-certified Platinum albums and eight RIAA-certified Gold albums. He has amassed 46 No. 1 singles, 57 GMA Dove Awards; five GRAMMY awards, an American Music Award and more than 200 songs recorded on 17 original albums in his 25-year career. In 2013, Chapman will follow the Christmas release with his first full studio release of all new material since 2007’s This Moment.

You’ve been a songwriter and singer of Christian music for quite a few years now. I’m interested in finding out what a typical experience looks like for you when you walk into a Christian retail store.

To be completely honest, I always feel a little overwhelmed when I walk into a Christian retail store because I’m immediately reminded how many great books there are that I don’t have yet. It’s a little bit of a problem because I usually have a stack of books sitting on my night stand that I haven’t finished yet, but as soon as I walk into a store, I start wanting to add more to the stack. I’m a sucker for a cool cover. Then there’s the music and the video/DVD section! Seriously though, I am always encouraged to see and be reminded how many great resources are available to encourage people on their journey (OK, sometimes I covertly check to make sure they have some of my music in stock, too).

In your entire music catalog, which record or records do you feel were most embraced by Christian retail and why?

That’s a tough question. I’ve been grateful to hear stories of how each of my records have been used by God to encourage and minister to people in unique ways. I guess if I had to pick out a few, I’d say More to This Life was one that I felt was particularly embraced by Christian retail probably in part because that record had “I Will Be Here” on it. That song seemed to connect with many people and has been used in many weddings, which has probably brought a lot of people in looking for that song and that album, particularly before the iTunes era. Then I’d say The Great Adventure was another one that seemed to be very strongly supported by Christian retail. Why that was is hard for the artist to answer, but I’d say [it] was partly because of the excitement the song “The Great Adventure” itself created among Christian music listeners and particularly youth groups and church groups. I think records like that one and Speechless created excitement among my friends at Christian retail because of songs like “Dive,” “Fingerprints of God” and “Speechless” that really seemed to connect with people.

If you could offer any advice to the readers of Christian Retailing—many who are Christian retail owners and employees—what would that be?

I’d probably just want to encourage them to know how important what they do every day really is to the building and growing of God’s kingdom. I know it’s a business and work, but we have this amazing opportunity with what we do to point people toward the eternal and precious truth of God’s love and grace, expressed in music and books and, ultimately, the Holy Bible, and that’s an incredible privilege! I would just want to remind Christian retailers to never forget what a gift we’ve been entrusted with and know that what they do really matters.

Anything you want to offer to our readers that may or may not have anything to do with Christian retail?

As always, I’d just encourage them what I need to be reminded of everyday—we are loved more than we can imagine by the God of the universe! I’d also want to remind them that the One who loves us has entrusted us with gifts and abilities that we can use uniquely to worship Him and bring Him glory, and that is ultimately what we were made for.

The music industry has shifted quite a bit in the last 10-15 years. How has this impacted you? Does this at all influence what you’re thinking about writing or recording?

Well, I can tell you I’m more humbled than ever to still be doing it. I’ve been doing this for 25 years! Can you believe that? I started when I was very, very young, of course, a child prodigy of sorts you might say. Actually, no, I wasn’t. But I have been extremely thankful for the opportunity to record and release these 17 albums and counting. I still feel God has things for me to say and share, and I want to be faithful to Him in doing so. From the beginning my goal has been to know Him and make Him known, and I want to try to be true to the writing and storytelling God has given me to do. I plan to keep doing that as long as you’ll have me.

Joy-StevenCurtisChapmanYou just wrote and recorded a Christmas record called JOY. Tell us about it; what influenced you and a couple of your favorite tracks (and why)?

After recording re:creation, I wasn’t quite sure what next step to take in my creative journey. I started exploring the idea of writing and arranging some new Christmas music. I have to admit I was kind of surprised by the joy that began to surface in the process, considering the journey my family has been on these past four-and-a-half years with the loss of our daughter Maria in the accident. I think that I just started remembering my childhood and then really celebrating my family. Even as hard as things have been, and as bittersweet as it relates to things like celebrations and holidays, we have begun to experience that the sweet is starting to trump the bitter for us more and more each year. Christmas is becoming a less hard thing for us each year. It’s not that it’s easier to get through because we are forgetting. It’s like we can remember now without it just being so painful, and the memories can be sweet. So when I started writing these new songs I was really excited. I’ve written a couple songs on this Christmas record that sound like they could of come off a Nat King Cole record or an Andy Williams album. They sound like the old stuff that I love. One of my favorite Christmas songs is Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.” I just love that song and I love the A Charlie Brown Christmas record. Joy has seven classics I’ve redone and six new ones I’ve written, and much of the album has that cool vintage sound that just says Christmas. I can’t wait for you to hear it.

You have a new studio record out in 2013. Can you give us a sneak peek at its theme? What can listeners expect?

It’s still a little too early in the incubation to share specifics. I can say I feel like God is giving me fresh things to say and I’m emerged by the music I’m writing and the ideas that are coming.

Read more of this Q&A at www.christianretailing.com/chapman.

 
Guest Editor: Randy Davis PDF Print E-mail
Written by Randy Davis   
Monday, 05 November 2012 12:14 PM EST

RandyDavisGUEST EDITOR RANDY DAVIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES AND MARKETING, PROVIDENT DISTRIBUTION

Mirroring the principles of evangelism 

Best practices in Christian retailing parallel communicating our faith

“Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. Jesus said to them, ‘Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.’ They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed” (Mark 1:16-18, MSG).

The concepts of intentional relationship evangelism are easily understood, but they are often not as easily executed. The simple message of the Good News is that it is, well, good news!

Jesus likened evangelism to fishing. Grab your net. Cast your net. Go fish. Sure, there will be some you chase after and don’t catch. However, there will be many you don’t go after and catch anyway. But, you don’t really fish just standing on the bank looking at the water. You jump in the boat and row away from the shore.

Like this, relationship-based sales and service should be proactive, not reactive. Relationship-based sales principles may not come naturally to all, but with a little practice can truly have the greatest impact on your in-reach into your local community.

Today, technology offers so many new ways to inter-connect with others in the culture we live. Unfortunately, because of the ease of viewing life from afar, we can become more isolated in our up-close, personal relationships. Sure, we “post,” “tweet” and “pin” to dress the set of who are, or at least who we want the world around us to think we are. But we have shortened the experience of our interactions with others to the maximum-allowed 140 characters per tweet. We have become “safe for the whole family” as the tagline goes.

In business, we have followed suit. We strategize on the maximum content for strategically placed emails to get the highest open rate. We have dissected our market into demographic slices of pie of an infographic-laden meal served to our friends who consume the most. We know about their habits based more on zip code than on the personal history we have with them.

And, when things go south, as they do, we are often left looking—and eventually finding—the real relationships that will stand the test of time. Most often they are not the casual followers of our posts or readers of our blogs, but those whom we have with walked through life. Real life. Wind and rain, drought and flood, birth and death kind of life. They are neighbors and relatives. They are friends from school and parents of the kids you coach. They are people. You care for them and they care for you. They love you for it!

In Christian retailing, they are the guests in our stores—our customers. And, contrary to the old customer-service adage, they are not always right. But they are always our customers who, with a few simple reminders, will deliver a treasure of rewards, in addition to continued business as we engage and serve them.

RELATE

The first habit in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Be proactive.” Know your customer. No, not just their buying habits and statistics. Rather, truly know your customers—their names, where they go to church, what they like and what they have purchased from your store. Ask questions. Listen. Remember.

Practically speaking, get out of the office and into the store. Engage customers and don’t be shy in recommending books, music and DVDs that are current in your community or have had an impact on your life. Get out of the store and into your car to make intentional visits to pastors and their church staff to offer to serve them, not just to get a quick sale, but to offer services that set your store and staff apart. Have each person on your staff be a specialist/customer service representative to individual churches and offer to drop off orders on their way home.

And now, the truly daring part—get to know your marketplace competitors—and not merely their pricing and promotion plans or corporate structure. But, purpose to know your competitor as an individual. What’s his life story? Where does she go to church? How can you pray for him or her? This is the part where you step into the boat and row out into the deep water. Be kind and never speak ill of them.

INVITE

  • Share a relevant message … and a meal. You are on the cutting edge of now-trends in music, new messages through home entertainment and new books and studies on the truth of God’s love for the community you serve. When you find something you really believe in, share it! Really S-H-A-R-E it. Offer a free copy of the book or study to key influencers in your market. Invite them to join you for theatrical screenings of upcoming faith-based movies. Invite them to dinner. Invite them to lunch. Invite them to breakfast. Invite! Invite! Invite!
  • Pray. Pray for yourself and your staff. Pray asking, not merely for God to bring customers, but for God to send you to meet the needs of others, who may just turn out to be customers in the end.
  • Do a little. Do a lot. Do something! Like fishing, you do not have to begin after practicing and perfecting your plan. Start slowly and add a little at a time. My grandfather started me fishing with a cane pole and a bobble. Just bait the hook and drop the line in the water. Start fishing.

 

iStock_19585284Medium_CREDIT-MichaelSvoboda“After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, ‘I’m going fishing.’

The rest of them replied, ‘We’re going with you.’ They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn’t recognize him.

Jesus spoke to them: ‘Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?’

They answered, ‘No.’

He said, ‘Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.’

They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It’s the Master!’

When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. The other disciples came in by boat for they weren’t far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it.

Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.’ Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore—153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn’t rip.

Jesus said, ‘Breakfast is ready’ ” (John 21:1-12a, MSG).

 
Guest Editor Recommended Reads: Cris Doornbos PDF Print E-mail
Written by Cris Doornbos   
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 10:30 AM EDT

LaunchingALeadershipRevolutionLeading people, adapting to change and staying healthy

Launching a Leadership Revolution: Mastering the Five Levels of Influence by Chris Brady & Orrin Woodward (Business Plus, 978-0-446-58071-7, 2007)

Sooner or later, we are all called to lead in some capacity. Leadership skills are vital in corporate settings, small businesses, church or community organizations and even within the home. Brady and Woodward have recognized this need and have jointly created an in-depth, step-by-step guide for developing leadership skills.

Utilizing an abundance of historical examples, the authors have developed a unique five-step plan that charts a course for creating and maintaining strong leadership in any organization. The plan guides the reader through the “Five Levels of Influence”:

  • Learning: a leader must be able to learn from anyone
  • Performing: persevere through failure to find success
  • Leading: extend your ability by expanding your team
  • Developing Leaders: learn to trust your people 
  • Develop Leaders who Develop Leaders: create a legacy

This book is full of prescriptive advice, quotes and anecdotes that illustrate the authors’ principles.

This is the best book I’ve read on leadership to date! It addresses the priorities and practical issues of what a leader is, what a leader brings to his team/organization, what a leader does and how a leader grows, all the while using historical examples from real people like Winston Churchill, William Wilberforce, the apostle Paul, Theodore Roosevelt and more.

The7HabitsOfHighlyEffectivePeopleThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey (Free Press, 978-0-743-26951-3, 2004)

Covey presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. With penetrating insights and pointed anecdotes, he reveals a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, service and human dignity—principles that give us the security to adapt to change and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.

When I first read this book as a young man, it completely changed the way I viewed managing time and leading people. This is an absolute must-read for future leaders. Just last week I gave this book to my nephew, who is a youth pastor in a small church in Michigan.

SpiritualLeadershipSpiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda by Henry & Richard Blackaby (B&H Books, 978-1-433-66918-7, 2011)

Drawing on their own extensive leadership experience as well as their ministry to leaders in all walks of life, the authors Blackaby offer insightful counsel into the ways God develops, guides and empowers spiritual leaders. Clear guidance is given as to how leaders can make a positive impact on the people and organizations they are currently leading.

One of the best reads on vision came from this book in the chapter “The Leaders Vision: Where Do Leaders Get It and How Do They Communicate It?” The other chapter that spoke to me was “The Leader’s Schedule: Doing What’s Important.” These two chapters alone were worth the price of the book!

NoneOfTheseDiseasesNone of These Diseases: The Bible’s Health Secrets for the 21st Century by S.I. McMillen, M.D., & David E. Stern, M.D. (Revell/Baker Publishing Group, 978-0-800-75719-9, 2000)

Asserting that the truth of the Bible holds the key to healthy living, None of These Diseases identifies how many life-threatening medical conditions could be prevented through living a committed Christian life and following the instructions in the Old and New Testament.

As a young man, the examples in this book of how we get and prevent diseases served to strengthen my faith in the creator God and validate the more obscure passages in the Bible, particularly in Leviticus. They also helped me understand the absolute and profound wisdom of God in the creation of the human race and how I could better care for my body as the temple of the living God.

 
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