Written by Christine D. Johnson
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 04:35 PM EST
How long in the Christian products industry: 17 years.
How you first came to work in the industry: I was good friends with a gentleman who was opening a store; we went to church together. I have a background in retail [mostly shoes], and we partnered together to start and grow the store.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A baseball player.
Describe yourself in three words: Quiet, loyal, helpful.
Favorite hobby: It’s a tie between golf and fishing.
Favorite place: Mountains, to anywhere outside that’s quiet.
Mission in life: To do what God wants me to do—whatever that is.
Favorite verse: “… make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you” (1 Thess. 4:11, NIV).
What motivates you to go to work each day? My background—12 years as a Christian retailer. My motivation is just knowing that I can go in and help retailers succeed. It’s so much more difficult now than it was when I first started back in the mid-’90s.
What work issue keeps you up at night? Not having enough time to do all the things that I’d like to do, although I sleep pretty well.
Who do you consider your mentor in business? Larry Haege, president of Innovative. His background experience in the industry as well as from a business standpoint, marketing and sales.
Pet peeve in business: Not doing something you’ve committed to do.
Share a recent success story you’ve experienced in business: Just being able to help the retailers when they call. There’s a lot of times where a retailer will call who needs help with something, [so] just being able to help them get through, whether it’s a business issue, a personal issue—that to me is, over all of the work things, why we’re here. That spells success for me.
What would people find surprising about your job? Probably the difficulty of working with 250 different retailers in different parts of the country and trying to provide services, tools, promotions that fit everyone’s needs.
What is one thing the Christian products industry can do to improve its business? From a publisher’s standpoint, to provide the best resources possible; from a retailer’s standpoint, continue to focus on being a light in the community, customer service and being there.
How can our readers pray for you? That God continues to direct me and that I receive that and understand what He’s directing me to do.
Richard Hauhuth, director of online sales and marketing at Innovative in Greensboro, N.C., managed a Christian retail store, The Master’s Loft in Winston-Salem, N.C., from 1997 to 2009.
Written by Christine D. Johnson
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 04:09 PM EST
How long in Christian retail: About seven years.
How you came to work in Christian retail: I homeschooled our daughter until she was in eighth grade when I put her in private school. I needed more income. I prayed that I could find a job without having to go through the long process of a job search. A few days later a friend at my church told me that the Christian bookstore in Monroe was looking for part-time help. I knew that was the answer to my prayers. I had just moved to Monroe a year prior and I didn’t even know there was a Christian bookstore in Monroe until that day.
First job of any kind and your age then: Babysitting when I was a teenager. In ministry, I had worked for my church full time until our children were born and then part-time in preschool ministry when my children were young. I also started the media ministry in my church and worked there until my son was born.
Are you living your dream job? I love my job because of the ministry part of it.
Describe yourself in three words: Honest, sincere and happy.
Hobbies: Gardening, crosswords and keeping up with politics.
Favorite place: I enjoy being home working in the garden.
Favorite verse: “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20, HCSB).
Mission in life: My first goal was to raise Christian children. Now that that’s been fulfilled, I seek to witness to people any way that I can and that’s why working at the bookstore offers me a lot of opportunities to do that.
Mentor or role model: I have a favorite pastor-author, David Platt. He’s truly anointed and he really humbles me.
Share a recent idea that has worked in your store. The owner is always open to new ideas. Most recently we’ve added a $5 section (books, CDs, DVDs) to our store. It has been very successful. Another area that we’ve been very successful in is jewelry and scarves.
How about an idea that hasn’t worked? Facebook worked a while, but now it doesn’t seem to reach out to as many people as it used to.
Pet peeve in retail: Bad customer service. I had quite an episode in a big-box store recently.
How can our readers pray for you? That God will give us wisdom as we try to improve ourselves at our store and that we can minister to the needs of our community.
What’s the best way to reach you online? Christian Art and Book Shop on Facebook.
Beth Johnson is a sales associate for Christian Art & Book Shop in Monroe, Ga., on the east side of Atlanta.
Written by Chris Fann
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 01:28 PM EDT
Building sales of DVD Bible studies
Recently Zondervan conducted two
independent surveys of consumers on its DVD Bible study buying
habits. We asked small group leaders and women’s ministry leaders
how they discovered the material that they ultimately used in their
groups. The top two answers were exactly the same on both surveys:
word of mouth and bookstore browsing. Other answers included online
searching, catalogs, emails and references from other leaders.
People are coming into Christian
retail stores to learn about what is new, available and trusted. How
can you capitalize on this? I think there are several ways:
Understand it. Local retailers
are in a unique position to learn about DVD Bible studies. Many
online retailers do not get an opportunity to engage the consumer
directly with personal recommendations. When I worked at a local
bookstore several years ago, we were encouraged to take the product
home on loan to experience it for ourselves. Consider allowing your
employees to do the same so they can understand and recommend
products to consumers who are browsing.
Stock it. You cannot sell it if
you do not have it. I visited three local stores earlier this week
and only two or three titles at each store had more than one copy
each. The majority of people experience DVD Bible studies in
groups—and need multiple copies. If customers cannot find the study
locally, they will be forced to purchase online. My suggestion would
be to stock four study guides for each DVD you carry and bring in
studies from authors that your customers and employees resonate with,
as well as new releases.
Organize it. With so many DVD
Bible studies coming out each month, it’s difficult to know how to
best display them all. Many stores alphabetize by author. This seems
to be the simplest for the stores and consumers. I might also
recommend adding three designated shelves—New Releases,
Best-sellers and Employee Recommendations. Also consider placing the
DVDs and study guides that correspond to trade books with the books.
Show it. Consumers are much
more likely to purchase a DVD Bible study if they are able to
experience it in some fashion. Consider playing trailers or clips on
a television or computer with a looped or menued DVD.
With a little extra
attention and taking advantage of the natural ways you have to engage
the people that walk in your door, you can see your DVD Bible study
Chris Fann is marketing
director for small group studies and curriculum at Zondervan.
Written by Bob Spooner
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 09:03 AM EDT
Running a Christian bookstore in this
economic situation requires careful inventory control, planning and
marketing, just to name a few of the retailer’s intensified jobs.
Here are a few ideas others have used to market wall décor in a
niche that is still buying strong.
Try calling on
existing church accounts and asking about future sermons or study
series, then work with your favorite wall-décor manufacturers to
uncover pieces that may fit well as tie-ins. Many customers will
purchase art as a reminder of something they’ve heard in church or
Bible study that profoundly touched their hearts.
ignored possibility that has picked up steam lately is working with
churches to design large custom pieces for their foyers or other
areas. One retailer recently purchased two stretched-canvas framed
prints for a church, ordered by a member of its congregation. Deb
Graham of Prestonwood Church in Plano, Texas, placed work from Robert
Spooner Galerie all over the walls of the congregation’s three
campuses. And Lois Breeden of Flint Baptist Church in Flint, Texas,
commissioned an original on canvas by Betty Spooner as well as many
other pieces for the church vestibule. The tickets are quite large,
while most of the research and design is done by the manufacturer.
retailers should ask their manufacturers for samples of frames and
mattes or other products they may use to customize wall décor for
their customers in-store, or use other custom design tools they may
Even for the
artistically challenged, these methods of selling bigger wall décor
items can be fun, while engaging customers in a personal way that
will bring them back to the store time and again.
Bob Spooner is director of
marketing for Robert Spooner Galerie, based in Allen, Texas.
Written by Jean Christen
Tuesday, 11 September 2012 01:23 PM EDT
Unlike most book formats and greeting
cards, gift books are still being purchased the old-fashioned way—by
direct contact with the customer. Here are a few tips I’ve seen
If it ain’t broke …
The past few years
have been difficult for gift retailers, so if you’re still in
business, know that you are doing a lot of things right. Always seek
to improve, but don’t tamper unnecessarily with something that is
working. If gift books are selling well from a floor display, for
instance, continue to use it, but try mixing in a couple of titles
with other displayed merchandise for added sales opportunities.
Location, location, location
gift-book retailers offer their customers multiple opportunities to
see the same book throughout the store. Use a book display, but also
group gift books by theme with other gift products. Gift books are a
great way to fill holes or freshen up existing displays. If a holiday
or seasonal occasion is coming, display a book or two near the point
Know thy customer
Find out what
brings your customer to your store so you can stock accordingly. Is
she looking for a book by a particular author/artist, or to celebrate
an occasion or comfort a friend who’s struggling? As the majority
of gift-book buyers are women, don’t be afraid to embrace and cater
to the feminine side of your business through special events—perhaps
a tea party focused on a tea-themed gift book. Offer signed copies
Try something new
If you’ve never
sold gift books, know that not all with the word “God” or
“prayer” in the title are biblically sound. Start with a
publisher you know you can trust. Most major Christian publishers
offer gift books. Look for the best deal—consider minimum opening
and reorders, shipping costs, product and display specials, and 100%
satisfaction guarantee so you can try certain titles risk free.
Agree in prayer
Many retailers have
benefitted from answered prayer. Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer
for your business and your customers. If you don’t already do this,
take a few minutes while your store is closed each day to center on
God and acknowledge Him while considering your customers.
Jean Christen is managing
director, gift and children division at Harvest House Publishers.
Written by Doug Fleener
Monday, 15 August 2011 08:13 AM EDT
Concentrate on seizing those important ‘Moments of Connectivity’
In customer experience management, we often talk about Moments of Truth. The term was coined by Jan Carlzon, who managed the Scandinavian SAS Airlines. He used it for those moments in which important brand impressions—for good or bad—are made.
In retail, Moments of Truth occur in key interactions:
- on the phone
- when a customer enters the store
- when he/she is engaged by an employee
- at checkout
- leaving the store
- in follow-up cards, emails, newsletters.
Along with a store’s products and environment, these moments add up to the customer’s experience.
At the staff level in specialty stores, we can drill it down another level to what I call “Moments of Connectivity.” Those happen by taking advantage of key interactions to connect with the customer. A meaningful connection is one that develops trust, demonstrates a commitment to the customer and leads to a more enjoyable experience.
Many of these key interactions overlap with the Moments of Truth, but there are also some additional engagement points.
1. First engagement. Sadly, many stores short-circuit right here by ignoring customers or opening with “How may I help you?”
The goal at this point is to:
- Demonstrate your priority to customer service/experience.
- Let your customer know you’re glad he/she came into your store.
- Create a welcoming environment.
2. The transition from welcoming the customer to developing the relationship. Many customers want to be left alone, but more often than not, it is because of the quality of the first engagement.
We want to learn about our customer and the reason for his/her visit. Notice the word “reason,” not “need.” Too often we disconnect from the customer if they don’t state a need.
Remember this: It’s all about the customer and their connection to our store, our products and the reason for the visit. Our questions and comments should be leading us to establish that connection.
Great sales associates don’t small-talk; they establish a relationship. They engage with purpose. They show sincere interest.
3. Showing or recommending the product. The most successful sales associates establish a very strong connection here. They continue to learn more about their customer in relation to the products. They aren’t shy with their professional opinion, but at the same time they never forget that the goal is to help the customer purchase the right products for them.
If an associate hasn’t connected with the customer before this, the chance of truly connecting while showing the products is low.
I’ve seen a number of people who establish a number of wonderful connections with the customer and then disconnect when showing/recommending products.
They either didn’t learn enough about the customer before showing/recommending products, or they have unresolved issues about being in retail sales.
Forget customer service, it’s all about the connection and experience.
A former director of retail for Bose Corp. and an independent store owner, Doug Fleener is president of retail and customer experience consulting firm Dynamic Experiences Group. Learn more at www.degretail.com.