Christian Retailing

The Church Bookstore Newsletter

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Tuesday, 22 February 2011 02:10 PM EST

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Eph. 4:29, New International Version

GENI: Cutting costs while increasing impact PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 11:24 AM EST

A message from Geni Hulsey, president of the Church Bookstore Network:

It is no surprise to anyone that things have changed economically in the last few years. It is also not news that in retail we have had to make some serious adjustments to survive in this climate.

In the realm of church-owned bookstores, it has become imperative that our budgets balance in order to support the stewardship of the church. If we become a drain on the budget, then we become a liability. That is the last position in which we want to find our stores.

One of the ways to improve your financial position might be in decreasing the number of paid employees you have. (Some of you are smiling, “Paid employees? What is that?”) These positions can be replaced with dependable, committed volunteers. Managing a volunteer program can be a bit more of challenge, but many of you have done it well.

It is always good to keep your eye on your hours of operation, too. Has the pattern of activities, the worship times or anything else relevant to traffic flow changed in your church? If you have P.O.S. software, chances are it will give you a report of how much revenue and traffic you have each hour.

Another important issue to revisit on a regular basis is marketing. From time to time we have talked about marketing to the “outside”—neighbors, other churches and nonprofits. But one of our greatest challenges is engaging the church membership. While there are those who are totally loyal to “their” church store, others do not even realize you are there.

So, be sure you have a presence—in the form of a display, a rotating commercial on the flat screens, posters, whatever works at your church, in every area of the building or buildings on your campus. A coupon in your visitors' and new members’ packets helps new folks in your church form the habit of using your store right away.

After personnel, the largest single expenditure in our stores is inventory. This last week I spoke to several stores about how they are handling purchasing as dollars tighten. The consensus was, “We buy less.” Well, that may sound obvious, but the answers offered a few more details. Store representatives told me that they were buying two copies of a new book instead of four or six, finding sources where they could buy just one or two of a gift item instead of the normal six or 12 or 24.

While it seemed to be about reducing the number of items, not the product mix, let me also encourage you to keep an eye on the product mix. If a category or even department is not holding its own financially, then obviously your folks just are not buying it. Focus on what is selling.

For many of you this is old news; for others it may be just the thing you needed to hear. The way we will survive and thrive is sharing what we know with those who do not know.

I encourage you—in your town, county or region—get together, talk about your mutual problems, share your victories and pray together for a stronger Christian retail market in order that we might continue to help make Him known.

REGIONAL REPORT: Nashville church readies appeal PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 11:17 AM EST

The Nashville church whose bookstore is at the center of a major tax exemption text case has been readying its appeal against a ruling that could cost it hundreds of thousands of dollars and impact church ministry across the country.

Christ Church has until Jan. 21 to file an appeal in the Davidson County Chancery Court against a decision by the Tennessee State Board of Equalization that it needs to pay property taxes on its For His Glory store, run in the church’s family life center.

“The appeal will be based on the argument that the church facilities at issue are integrally related to the religious mission of the church and as such should be considered tax exempt,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the church.

The case is seen a having widespread constitutional implications for other churches and ministries. “A corollary will be that the court and judges must give deference to the church’s articulation of its religious purposes and mission and how these amenities relate. They cannot second-guess what the church is saying,” Stanley said.

A December report on the case in Christian Retailing magazine had helped raise awareness and “much support,” said Christ Church administrator Linda Hilliard. “I do believe the area churches realize just how serious this can be to the future of their bookstores.”


INSIGHTS: Developing 'you-niqueness' PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 11:13 AM EST

by Wayne Hastings

If you were to ask customers what they felt your store stood for, could they tell you? I’m not talking about values and mission. I’m talking about merchandise and product. Do you take a stand in these areas, and if so, is it unique to you? Or are you just like any other store—so you are not top-of-mind to the customer when they need to make a purchase?

All of the most successful retailers have identified their uniqueness. This is sometimes called their Unique Selling Proposition or USP. This uniqueness makes them different or better than their competitors. Once identified, USP drives marketing, merchandising and even the in-store customer experience.

Having a USP means that you need to take a stand for something. For example, if being the best place for Bibles is your USP, it means you must do everything you can to live up to that promise. With that in mind, inventory must be robust (breadth, not necessarily depth, on every title); promotion must be solid (with good in-stock quantities on promoted titles); the department must be well-merchandised; and every customer should be able to easily find Bibles. Literally, your store should shout, "Bibles!"

If your USP is books, the same rules apply. Small-group studies? The same rules apply. Take a stand, be in stock and shout from everywhere in and out of the store that this is what makes you unique—this is where you’ve chosen to take a stand.

The down side of not taking a stand is mediocrity. Your store won’t come to many customers’ minds because you’re a generalist.

Take a close look at your customers, and understand who they are and what they want. Then, take a hard look at your competition and what they do to attract and keep customers. Next, look at your store: What do you do better than anybody?

This last question can be product- or service-driven. Are there specific products that your competitors don’t carry or are weak in where you could excel if you took a stand?

–Wayne Hastings is an author and consultant with leadership experience in Christian publishing and retailing.

PICTURE OF THE WEEK: Slatwall solutions PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 11:10 AM EST

If space is at a premium, consider adding slatwall, as it can extend your store's display and shelving options. On both side walls and endcaps, slatwall is used to merchandise everything from wall art and Bible covers to books and photo frames at Water's Edge Resource Center at Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugar Land, Texas.

ADVICE: Dear Betty PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 11:08 AM EST

Our church has many special events, for which we have been asked to carry tickets. Is this a good idea?

Special events can be both a blessing and, to be honest, a lot of hard work. When you become a ticket service, you are that—a service. Along with bringing traffic to your store, it also brings quite a bit of expectation from those customers. You are not only a book or gift store, but you are a “vendor” of an entertainment product.

Whether it is a concert or guest author event, if you are responsible for selling tickets, you must be prepared to keep accurate records. It will make a great difference if the tickets are reserved or general admission. If you are using a P.O.S. (which I hope all of you are doing) then general admission tickets should be entered like any other product. You can enter them by price point and thus keep an up-to-the-moment count of sales. I would also suggest that before the tickets are printed you give them a bar code so that the actual ringing up of the sales can be streamlined.

Many events will bring customers who only want to purchase their tickets and leave quickly. If you are selling on Sunday, then you need to have a special line for those purchasers. Frustration sets in quickly with ticket sales, so prepare your staff for unusual behavior from some who are not used to being in a church setting.

There are other facets of ticket selling that need to be addressed—credit cards, sales-tax issues and refunds. Be sure and set all the ground rules before taking on this project. If planned out carefully, it can be a win for both you and your customers.

Got a question for Betty Bookstore? Write to her at

CHURCH LIFE: Are you stocking for stickability? PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 11:05 AM EST

It's about this time that many people who make New Year's resolutions start to waver in their commitment, so what can you do to help them persevere?

Church stores looking to support church members endeavoring to make positive changes need to be aware of the sobering results of a Barna Group study that found most people intending to make changes in 2011 said they were not planning on having “accountability or a support system in place” to help them stick with those commitments.

“Churches and faith communities have a significant opportunity to help people identify what makes for transformational change and how to best achieve those objectives—especially by relying on goals and resources beyond their individualism,” said Barna President David Kinnaman.

Barna interviewers found that about two people in five planned to make personal changes this year, most of them self-oriented. Among those intending to make resolutions, the top pledges for 2011 related to weight, diet and health (30%); money, debt and finances (15%); personal improvement (13%); addiction (12%); job and career (5%); spiritual or church-related (5%); and educational (4%).

Personal improvement responses included being a better person; giving more; having more personal or leisure time; organizing their life or home; and having a better life in general.

“While people concentrate on themselves when making priorities for the New Year, it is telling that so few Americans say they want to improve relationships with others,” noted the report. “There were virtually no mentions of volunteering or serving others, only a handful of comments about marriage or parenting, almost no responses focusing on being a better friend, and only a small fraction of people mentioned improving their connection with God.”

Less than 1% mentioned that one of their objectives for the year was getting closer to God in some way. “Even in the rare instance when people mention spiritual goals, it is often about activity undertaken for God rather than a personal pursuit of God or an experience with God,” Kinnaman said.

Looking back on 2010, only one out of four Americans (23%) who had made resolutions found those commitments resulted in “significant, long-term change” to their behaviors or attitudes. More commonly, Americans described their 2010 resolutions as resulting in “minor change” (29%) or “no change” (49%).

Source: Barna Group.

To read the report in full, go to

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Celebrating Easter PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 11:03 AM EST

The high point of the Christian calendar presents a great opportunity for church stores—from the first-time or occasional visitors who may attend church to members looking to celebrate the season in a special way.

What will you be doing this year? What products and promotions have worked well for you in the past? Have you created any effective displays? Share your thoughts and experiences with others at

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 11:01 AM EST

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

Matt. 6:2, New International Version

GENI: Making time for what truly matters PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 14 December 2010 03:15 PM EST

A message from Geni Hulsey, president of the Church Bookstore Network:

For church bookstore managers and workers, this time of year can come and go without our “feet touching the ground.” It seems once Thanksgiving week comes, almost before we know it New Year’s Day has arrived.

In the midst of taking care of the urgent, it is all too easy to miss the truly lasting things of this time of celebration, so my prayer for you during this season is that you will take time for faith, family and friends.

These are some of the things I find most important at Christmastime:

C is for Christ. He is the centerpiece of this special time of year. Without Him. Dec. 25 would be just another date on the calendar

H is for home. This time of year our hearts turn back to that first place we called home, as well as that place that we now call home.

R is for remembering. One of my favorite things to do this time of year is to look back at old photographs of Christmases past. There are silly things, special gifts, family members now passed and celebrations to be treasured.

I is for illuminate. Christmas is filled with lights—on the tree, around the house and all around the city. But mostly it is filled with the “light of the world.” In a very dark time in our world, Christ comes to shed the light of His truth.

S is for salvation. Because of Christmas and the reason for this season, salvation came into the world. And because of salvation, there is hope beyond this world.

T is for the tree that most of us put in our homes. It also reminds us of the tree that came into the life of Christ as the cross on which He bore our sins.

M is for Mary, the mother of the One whose birth we celebrate; the young woman who nurtured the child who was Messiah. I love the line in the song, “Mary, Did You Know,” that asks, “Did you know that when you kissed him, you kissed the face of God?”

A is for angels, the angels that announced the birth of the Christ whose birth we celebrate. On a clear cool night, I love to look into the heavens and imagine what it might be like to see the skies filled with angels singing “Hosanna.”

S is for shepherds—those who followed. They followed a star to a manger and a Savior. We follow the Savior to the cross and eternal life.

There are so many things that are a part of this wonderful time, and for each of us, there are special people and special times. I pray that God would bring each of you special gifts of peace, love and joy this Christmas season.

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