Christian Retailing

VITAL SIGNS: Customer connections Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 25 May 2010 12:09 PM America/New_York

Individual responses to some of the questions we asked:

Does your store have a Mission Statement?

"Making lives easier, healthier, happier."

"To provide people with quality, Christian books at affordable prices so everyone, regardless of income, can purchase good Christian materials."

"Putting Christ in your everyday life."

"To provide resources necessary for discovery, growth, and encouragement for and within the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. It is our intention to use fiscal stewardship through Biblical principles to be in a position to support and bless the ministries of Woodmen Valley Chapel. Your support is vital to that goal."

"To place a testimony of Jesus Christ in the marketplaces of today. To promote the work of the Holy Spirit. To promote unity in the body of Christ. To equip the Saints that they may make a difference in our culture for the Lord Jesus Christ."

"To serve the entire Christian community with Christ-centered products. We want to sell Christian products at the lowest possible prices. In the process of doing business profitably, we want to professionally serve our customers, share God's love with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and reach out to all those who don't yet know God's love, grace and salvation."

"To bring people to maturity in Christ through ministry and product."

"To be a lighthouse for Christ, where you can find a wealth of Biblical resources and inspirational gifts for all ages and a helping hand that lets you know how truly special you are to God and us."

"To be a catalyst in the Christian community, helping others draw closer to Christ."

"To give Glory and Honor to God in all we say and do; To testify to all of the love of God, the birth, death, resurrection, and imminent return of Jesus Christ His Son, and the present comfort and empowering of the Holy Spirit; To support and encourage each customer in their individual walk with the Lord; To support and encourage the Hispanic Christian community with access to Bibles, books, and other materials to meet their needs, as we are able; To promote literacy, responsible Bible Study programs, and other activities that enhance understanding and comprehension of Biblical history and concepts."

"To practice our brotherhood in Christ with believers of every culture and language with whom we have contact."

"To equip the saints for ministry and evangelism to get christ-honoring, life-changing products; books, Bibles, music apparel and gifts into the lives, hearts, and homes of those we meet!"

"To honor God by supplying conservative Christian literature and related materials to men and women who desire to obtain a greater understanding of the Bible and how it relates to their lives."

"To be a complete Christian resource center, enhancing our community, by providing exceptional service in a welcoming atmosphere."

"Provide life-shaping, life-changing products based on the principles of God's Word to the people of our city and beyond through a retail environment dedication to excellence in service, competitive prices and responsible stewardship."

"To be helpers of your joy."

"To provide the resources and services which advance learning about God, stimulate Christian growth, enrich worship experiences, and enable the ministry of the members and leaders of our church."

"To provide products and resources which will encourage our customers to edify, equip, educate and evangelize."

"To glorify the name of Jesus by providing a full-service bookstore that encourages Christians in their daily walk with Jesus Christ."


What do you say to shoppers who question or challenge you on pricing issues?

"We are a smaller store and cannot often get the same discounts as a larger store or chain. We can, however, give you a more personalized shopping experience."

"We let that we do not sell anything more than MSRP and that we have many sale price items in our store. If price is an issue, we will work with them."

"Because of the size of the store that is the best we can do for you."

"We are a self-supporting ministry and buy on a much smaller scale than chains or independents."

"It depends on how they phrase it. Are they asking us to match it or are they trying to embarrass us? Often I can match it and will. Other times, I say the store probably got an exclusive which we do as well."

"I present the argument that I can't change prices but also suggest where we can look for coupons and programs within the store that may help save on their purchase. I also remind them (without trying to make them feel guilty) that our store has a broader ministry calling in mind and, although we try to be as competitive as possible, we can't always compete but that we sure appreciate your support for supporting our ability to serve others through our ministry extensions."

"I encourage them to shop wherever they can get the best deal."

"We are a family owned business. We don't have the same discounts as large corporate stores. We try to meet them halfway. If it is a $30 item and they can get it somewhere else for $20, we will sell it to them for $25. We normally explain that with the way the economy is, if people continue to buy online or at Wal-Mart there will be no more Christian bookstores."

"We always seek to offer the best value for the price."

"We typically mention the personalized customer service we provide."

"We can match some prices from other stores up to 20% off the retail price. We also explain our pricing structure, which is different than some stores."

"I wish I could help but our chain has set prices and that cannot change."

"Sorry, we are a small independent store and cannot buy in the quantities to take advantage of some of the savings."

"I'll match it within good reason after I have proof of what they say is the price they found."

"We will match any other retail store's price"

"It varies. Might reduce our cost to get the sell. Thank them for their support/partnership in our local ministry. Explain that others are able to purchase it at a lower cost than what we can."

"That even though they may find some items cheaper somewhere else that overall we feel our inventory is priced as low as possible. But in most cases we try to honor the competition's prices."

"That all our proceeds go to benefit a home for abused women and women who are addicted and or women who are supposed to be in prison. We have seen many women's lives changed for the glory of God. Then they get all excited and in some cases want to buy more so they can support the home!"

"I offer them an in-store coupon. If that doesn't satisfy, then I explain that the other store is able to purchase at a higher volume than we can, and we simply cannot afford to sell items at low-ball prices. We also are able to offer other services and knowledge that the big box/chain stores do not."

"Let me see if I can do something about that."

"I am sorry. We try to keep our prices low as possible."

"I remind them that when they look for further books by the same author or on the same or related topics, they will find them at my store, not the other one with lower prices. I also tell them I have seen books sold at discount in other stores, after they have raised the original SRP to enable them to do so."

"We sometimes offer a discount to price match other retailers .. we mention that we try to offer the best price we can, but we do need to make a profit to pay the rent and staff, etc."

"Tell them that they are helping the 'Cause.' "

"Family Christian was the cheapest in town. Now they're gone. Would you like us to be gone as well?"

"We do our best to provide the best prices we can offer. Sometimes we beat the competition and sometimes we don't."

"Most times, we just smile and reinforce the item's value. Our customers do not expect the 'best price anywhere,' they realize they are supporting ministry."

"We are not a big store, so we cannot order mass quantities and get the lower prices by doing so. However, we do offer prayer and the personal touch of knowing who you are, and you can rest assured that your money goes towards God's further work, because the money stays in the church and goes to ministry not bigger, profit-making stores. So, you pay higher prices here, but the tradeoff is putting your treasure where it will be used to better His kingdom."

"Items are priced as marked. We cannot pay you to take them out of the store."

"It depends on how they phrase their statement. If they are pushy or rude about it, I am polite but make it clear that I can't change our price. If they are just making an inquiry into if we can match, then I do try to help."

"We always match if at all possible. We won't lose money in a transaction but we will sell at cost. We apologize and explain to the customer why we can't sell it to them at a below-cost price. We've seen that generate better goodwill."

"It is true, that due to the other retailers ability to buy in volume...they are able to offer lower prices. However, in our store we only carry a wide variety of trusted resources and we have the knowledge and ability to help you (the customer) find exactly what you need. And because our store is within the church, you can trust that we will only carry items that are biblically based. You can trust in what we carry."

"We let them know that we try to price competitively whenever possible. Often we can offer a better price; sometimes we can't. Especially in the case of churches and quantity orders, we encourage them to check with us first, and let us research to see if we can be competitive. We tend to get good responses most of the time with this approach, as they feel that dialogue is indeed open and that we are trying to meet their needs."

" I'm all for saving money myself. I think it's good stewardship to be wise in our spending."

"Depends on the item. I ask them to determine the final cost if shipping is needed. I always encourage them to buy where it best suits them."

"We try to take advantage of publisher specials when they are offered but we don't always get the same deals as larger big-box stores, some offers are made specifically for them alone. If you participate on our mailing list you will receive catalogs with our specials and also receive coupons to use on non-sale items in our store."

"We're a small independent paying retail rent; we can't match every price on every item from every possible source. It's almost always possible to find a lower price on something no matter who you're talking about (including Internet sites) if you look long enough; however, we're very competitive with most of the products we sell."

"I do not have sales, my prices are fair and remain the same. I do not play pricing games or gimmicks. Shopping here keeps my store in business."

"I tell them that I know they are able to buy some items lower at others stores, but that when they purchase from us it helps support churches, ministries and other businesses in our area, and that our employees are trained to help meet specific needs, that the big boxes cannot do."

Describe something you've done in the past six months to make your store more customer-friendly.

"Offering discounts through social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook."

"Re-categorized and shifted categories."

"Open more hours."

"Changed the curtains in the windows at the front of the store to picture banners, replaced scanners and receipt printers to speed up transactions."

"Learned most customers' names."

"Added second listening station for music. Reset store to have larger area with overstuffed chairs."

"Added a bunch of leather sofas to our cafe area to create a much better place to chill and relax. Now a much stronger presence of community."

"We have taken on a wedding gown/tuxedo business in a part of our store to supplement our bookstore income. We also make sure our Web site is up to date."

"Rearranged merchandise; Placed a video that plays describing some merchandise; playing uplifting music."

"WiFi access."

"Signage, better access to all items, information posted for all to see."

"Customer service surveys."

"Rearranged the shelves to create more room."

"We have developed a program for our area churches to meet or beat online shopping prices. We offer free local shipping and delivery."

"Have weekly sales on specific items that are promoted through college weekly newsletter."

"Got rid of gifts and better highlighted the new releases."

"We offer 20% off coupons on a regular basis and customers look forward to receiving them and using them."

"Free gift wrapping and engraving."

"Extended hours."

"Discounting all Bibles, and customers are donating used books that I price at 50-90% off."

"We send out thank-you notes to new customers, have several special days with refreshments, have seasonal functions with refreshments and giveaways. Send out birthday and sympathy cards to customers."

"Greet every customer with a smile, a hug or handshake, and their name."

"Train and remind staff regarding customer service and 'engaging' our guests. Create a welcoming staff and atmosphere."

"Given $10 gift cards to the top 50 customers each month."

"Made a real effort to memorize names by putting a description of the customer along with their name and church name on a card near the register."

"We've designed new signage to help the customer understand the departments and categories. We've also posted a lot more recommendations and reviews so that customers have some insight into the products we carry."

"We have opened up more space, eliminated a few display units by adding slat wall, and provided more seating."

"Set up a giving board. People can post needs/wants on small note cards, and when others come in, they can look at it, and then drop off an item or help them get into contact with each other."

"Run and publicized ongoing $5 book and CD spotlight programs."

"I listen carefully to their wants and try to meet them. I tell them when I place special orders and when the product will be ready to pick up. I have a volunteer at the register while I circulate in the store and talk with and serve the customers."

"We have remodeled our book cases to increase the number of end caps that are visible. People are more impulse buying than ever before so this has helped improve visibility for quick sales."

"Weekly incentives to encourage shoppers to come in. We provide giveaways, prizes, popcorn, a comfy reading area and weekly programs such as book signings, children's readings."

"We offer free gift wrap on items purchased in-house. We offer no-hassle returns. We special order."

"Increased space for wheelchairs, strollers."

"Continued very high customer service levels and continue to rotate the merchandising of the store."