|Church Store Summit offers practical advice to niche market|
|Wednesday, 18 July 2012 08:28 AM EDT|
Church bookstore expert Geni Hulsey hosted a panel discussion at the Church Store Summit and reported on statistics from a study by CBA, which is aiming to support the niche stores.
Hulsey started by encouraging networking on a small scale among church stores, giving the example of a trio of managers who frequently visit each others’ stores for fellowship and support from each other. One of those retailers—Martha Brangenberg, manager of Charis Christian Bookstore in Largo, Fla.—spoke at the event, encouraging networking outside of church walls and personally inviting people in the community to visit the store.
“You really get tired of hearing that you were a secret in your community,” said Brangenberg, who joined her local Chamber of Commerce.
Another church store manager, Susan Chipman of Granger Community Church in Granger, Ind., reflected on niche products such as items for pet lovers, among them devotionals for dog/cat lovers, Bob Siemon Designs charms for pet collars and mugs from Glory Haus—all of which can be pulled together to create an eye-catching display.
George Thomsen, chairman of the board at CBA and one of the original regional Church Store Network directors; Beau DiFrenna, associate pastor, Calvary Chapel, Melbourne, Fla.; and Jeanne Terrill, director of retail and food services at New Hope Church in Manvel, Texas, reflected on questions posed by Hulsey related to CBA’s winter survey on pastors/church leaders and congregants regarding church bookstores.
Thomsen urged church stores not to lose out on business by making sure they “have a well-stocked store within the theological framework” of their church or denomination. In looking at store staff, he also said that “just because people are volunteers doesn’t mean you can’t require something of them.” His Harvest Store in Riverside, Calif., requires volunteers to read certain books, including a book on how to choose a Bible translation.
Thomsen also recommended asking for timely financial reports from the church. Terrill opted to engage her church’s financial officer to get the information she needed to run the store better.
“I felt like I was on an island out there … so I started to go to our financial officer and bring him info and start a dialogue with him,” said Terrill, who directs the church’s welcome ministry, including the store and café.
As part of the research report, Hulsey said congregants said they shop in their church bookstores to find appropriate resources to grow my faith; because of the convenient location; to buy gifts or resources for family or friends; to support the church and because they know the products are filtered or aligned with church teaching.
Although there will always be people who criticize the store, DiFrenna said that it’s important for people to “understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.”