Christian Retailing

CBA at 60 Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Wednesday, 17 June 2009 10:50 AM America/New_York

Looking back at the highlights of the trade association’s summer conventions


This year CBA is marking 60 years of serving the Christian products industry. In this retrospective, Christian Retailing looks back at some of the highlights of CBA summer conventions past.

CBA is celebrating its milestone “by calling attention to the 60 years of progress our member retailers and suppliers have made,” Bill Anderson told Christian Retailing, noting that in that time, “we’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth in the quality of product, marketing of product, product packaging, music production, DVDs.

“Christian retail has catapulted forward, employing retail disciplines, technology, aggressive marketing, customer relationship management, fresh concepts, using improved locations and increasing the strength of their specialization is Christian retailers. They’ve done all of this without losing their ministry focus.”


1950: The Hotel LaSalle in Chicago hosts the inaugural CBA show. Forty-eight exhibitors presented their products to the 279 in attendance.


1951-1953: The show remains in the same location for several years, increasing each time in attendee and exhibitor count, from 374 attendees and 66 exhibitors in 1951 to 467 attendees, 59 exhibitors in ‘52 and to 603 attendees, 66 exhibitors in ‘53.


1954: Though the convention stays in Chicago, it changes locations to the Morrison Hotel. In attendance were 603 convention-goers, 66 exhibitors.


1955: Just over 100 exhibitors and 881 attendees travel to the Shoreham Hotel-Motor Inn in the nation’s capital for the first CBA show outside of the windy city. CBA’s annual report notes the availability of roadside signs to retailers, and bookstores order more than 200 of the 6-by-8-foot signs.


1956: It’s back to Chicago, with the Sherman Hotel as the convention site and 1,207 attendees, 108 exhibitors and 270 stores. Attendance is 35% higher than last year. CBA’s new president is R. Gordon Mitchell of the Home Evangel Book Shop, Toronto, and a past vice president of CBA.


1957: Aug. 18-22. Chicago is once again the site of the show, with record-breaking attendance: 1,325 total and 290 stores. With the convention’s theme “Knowledge on Fire,” one reporter notes its “remarkably deep tone.” A Michigan retailer says: “I can go back and sell records better than before having seen the consecrated people who make them.” CBA passes its membership goal with 614.


1958: CBA’s convention at the Sheraton-Jefferson Hotel in St. Louis sees 1,100 total, 109 exhibitors and 280 stores in attendance. CBA introduces a $2 registration fee. Henrietta Mears of Gospel Light Press is banquet speaker, with tickets at $3 each. International flavor includes two missionaries interested in literature distribution in Hong Kong and Colombia.


1959: The 10th CBA convention, held in the Pantlind Hotel, Grand Rapids, Mich., sees 1,586 total attendees and 125 exhibitors. Theme: “He Profits Most Who Serves Best.” Key workshops address bookstore accounting and audiovisual sales. Uncas Manufacturing Co. gives away the first CBA gift jewelry this year.


1960: Aug. 7-11, it’s back to the Sherman Hotel in Chicago, with 1,804 attending, 134 exhibitors and 130 first-timers, a record. Theme: “The Written Word Endures.” Robert Kregel of Kregel’s Book Store in Grand Rapids, Mich., is voted in as CBA president. The banquet speaker, courtesy of Word Records, is commentator Paul Harvey.


1961: Aug. 6-10 is the date and an Ocean Row site, the Deauville Hotel, is the location for the Miami Beach convention. The theme is “Christian Booksellers for Times Like These.” There are 138 exhibitors, and CBA membership hits 830. Fleming H. Revell launches a daily newspaper, CBA Convention Daily News. Banquet address is by Sen. Frank Carlson of Kansas. Plans for a half-million dollar Bible promotion are laid out by the Ecusta Paper Division of the Olin Mathieson Chemical Corp. Tie-in ideas for booksellers are demonstrated at a special display. The promotion aims to reach more than 80 million readers in November and December with the message that the Bible is “The greatest gift of all.”


1962: It’s July and once again, the convention is back at Chicago’s Sherman Hotel, not Miami. There are 1,811 delegates, 387 stores and 153 exhibitors present, and the theme is “Eye Hath Not Seen.” Attendance tops the 1960 record at the same location. For the first time, a dealer choir is organized and sings at the banquet and other activities. A resolution is passed, adopting “Big Brother,” a correspondence prayer fellowship program with overseas or missionary bookstores. Living Letters by Ken Taylor is introduced. Concordia is giving away a book, How to Fight Communism Today.


1963: After eight years’ absence, the convention returns to the Shoreham Hotel-Motor Inn, Washington, D.C., Aug. 11-15. Total attendance is 1,649 with 144 exhibitors, and the theme is “Christian Booksellers—Workers Together With Him.” Speakers are Don Brandeis (Baker Book House) and Harold Lindsell (Harper and Row, Publishers), with devotions by J. Sidlow Baxter (Zondervan Publishing House). The youth program divides children into groups for ages 6-11 and 12-18 with a full schedule of activities, including sightseeing. Speakers include Carl Erskine, former Brooklyn Dodger pitcher (Fleming H. Revell). Workshops include how to sell handcraft (cost of materials: $1) and a session on gold-stamping.


1964: Attendance is 1,170 with 156 exhibitors. Banquet speaker is Richard Halverson, an associate of Bob Pierce of World Vision. Publishers representing European and Far Eastern countries exhibit at the first International Exhibition of Publishers and Booksellers—Centro Biblico from Italy, Committee of Literature for the Evangelical Churches or CLIE from Spain and The Epworth Press from England.


1965: The theme is “Freedom—A Gift From God” for the Aug. 1-5 convention at the Sheraton Hotel, Philadelphia. Attendance is 1,941 with 146 exhibitors. This year’s site is chosen in part because of proximity to New York’s World’s Fair. John Bass, appointed new executive secretary, succeeds William F. Moore, who is to become general manager of Family Bookstores of America. Walter Knott of Knott’s Berry Farms is a luncheon speaker, Zondervan having published his most recent book.


1966: July 31-Aug. 4 sees 1,812 total attendees at the convention at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago. The theme is “United to Serve.” For those placing orders at the show, C.W. Boyer Co. has a giveaway—a novelty “Tranquilizer Pill Bottle”—and Zondervan is celebrating its 35th birthday with a party. Ethel Barrett is the first woman CBA banquet speaker.


1967: The El Cortez Hotel in San Diego sees 1,565 CBA convention-goers with 133 exhibitor personnel, July 30-Aug.3, marking the first CBA convention on the West Coast. A higher ratio of first-timers and more internationals than ever before are present. Eighty-five delegates fly to Hawaii afterward for a reconvened session incorporating discussions with Hawaiian booksellers. Bill Zondervan is named Salesman of the Year.


1968: Chase-Park Plaza Hotel, St. Louis. There are 1,600 attendees with 132 exhibitor personnel. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, insurance salesman and sales counselor offers lots of personality, his “combination of buffoonery, practical sales suggestions and basic spiritual truths set the pace for the four-day convention,” writes a Christian Bookseller reporter. Canadian store managers choose to formally organize.


1969: Netherland Hotel, Cincinnati, with 1,924 in attendance, 154 exhibitor personnel and more than 400 stores, an all-time high. Charlie Shedd, author of The Stork Is Dead, Letters to Karen and Letters to Philip, wins over some attendees who once thought he was mistaken on his views of sex. Twelve young people participate in the Third Annual Future Christian Booksellers Association Institute, the first held during the convention.


1970: The Leamington Hotel in Minneapolis has a 40,000-square-foot convention hall and air conditioning. The theme for the convention Aug. 2-6 is “Successful Seventies.” Most workshops are standing-room-only. “ ‘Gone was the circus-like clatter of past years,’ one publisher remarks. “Yet, selling was done—fantastic sales for some exhibitors. Most convention-goers liked the change, but one confessed he sort of missed the excitement and showmanship of the past,” reports Christian Bookseller Magazine.


1971: The theme is “70s—Decade of Decisions.” A record-breaking 2,341 are registered with 159 exhibitors. Held up by a Senate vote, Sen. Mark Hatfield addresses a capacity crowd by telephone, later making a personal appearance at a Word reception and staying through the next day to sign his book Conflict and Conscience. The banquet features music by Dino and Doug Oldham.


1972: July 30-Aug. 3 are the dates in Cincinnati with Francis Schaeffer of L’Abri Fellowship speaking at a luncheon. Thursday’s banquet sees George Beverly Shea, recently turned author, speak and Dale Evans sing. CBA’s new president, Dan W. Jantz, is also presented.


1973: For the July 16-19 convention in Dallas, Word Inc. in Waco, Texas, has lined up a concert with a 70-piece orchestra, Ralph Carmichael conducting. Hal Lindsey speaks at the banquet and Pete Gillquist at the Teen Banquet with Andrae Crouch and the Disciples performing.


1974: July 21-25, Minneapolis. This marks CBA’s silver-anniversary year, with the convention featuring Anita Bryant, Evie Tornquist and 2nd Chapter of Acts. Retailers are encouraged to visit local host companies Augsburg Publishing House, Bethany Fellowship and World Wide Publications.


1975: Anaheim, Calif. Johnny Cash performs at the convention, which also includes Catherine Marshall, Joyce Landorf, Lloyd John Ogilvie and Robert Schuller. There is a large number of new, small exhibitors and a proliferation of order desks. Suppliers are often sharing a booth because space is limited.


1976: James Dobson speaks at the convention in Atlantic City, N.J. About 5,500 booksellers are present, amid fortune tellers and shooting galleries in this tourist area. Several new hymnals are highlighted as well as higher-quality creative gifts than in years past. With an election nearing, there are more books on politics. The Miracle of Jimmy Carter (Logos) sells more than 600,000 in a month.


1977: July 10-14, Kansas City. Attendees number 7,298, about 2,000 higher than the previous year. Representing 36 countries are 118 foreign publishers and booksellers. More than 2,000 are present to hear closing banquet speaker Charles Colson.


1978: Denver. Bill Anderson’s first convention as part of the CBA staff, as its first full-time convention manager. New author Charles Swindoll speaks at the show, and Herbert Lockyer Sr. is keynote speaker.


1979: July 16-19, St. Louis. Bob Benson emcees the 30th convention banquet. CBA sues the city of St. Louis to protect its contract for convention center use.


1980: Closing banquet speaker at the Dallas Convention Center is pollster George Gallup, whose The Search for America’s Faith (Abingdon), written with David Poling, is announced as “the religious publishing event of the year.” The 200th anniversary of the Sunday school movement is celebrated, while Warner Press marks its centennial year.


1981: At the Anaheim Convention Center, Calif., New Leaf Press introduces TV host Tammy Bakker’s autobiography, I Gotta Be Me. Vision House premieres excerpts of its new film series, “Walter Martin Speaks Out on the Cults.” The presenter is a convention speaker, along with Tim LaHaye. Visiting authors include Cheryl Prewitt, Miss America 1980, whose autobiography, A Bright-Shining Place, is published by Doubleday. Chuck Swindoll is the banquet speaker, and Herbert Lockyer Sr. the keynote speaker.


1982: Author and artist appearances at the Dallas Convention Center include Calvin Miller (“The Singer Trilogy,” InterVarsity Press), Andrae Crouch (Lexicon Music), Charles Swindoll (Strike the Original Match, Multnomah Press) and John MacArthur (The Family, Moody Press). Sandi Patty also makes her first CBA appearance. The convention features the world premiere musical presentation of How Firm a Foundation, celebrating Thomas Nelson’s New King James Version. Joyce Landorf is the keynote speaker.


1983: In the Year of the Bible, the convention goes to the capital, where former Nixon aide Charles Colson is the keynote speaker at the Washington Convention Center. David C. Cook introduces three Narnia board games based on the classic C.S. Lewis series. NavPress and The Navigators hold a 50th anniversary reception.

1984: CBA’s 35th convention features Lloyd Ogilvie, R.C. Sproul and Debby Boone. Oxford University Press debuts its Oxford NIV Scofield Study Bible at the Anaheim Convention Center. Scripture Press Publications marks its 50th anniversary. New releases include Tyndale House Publishers’ The Book, a special CBN edition of its The Living Bible.


1985: Bill Anderson is named CBA president. Richard Foster and Philip Yancey are featured speakers.


1986: Washington, D.C. Charles Colson is the banquet speaker.


1987: July 11-16, Anaheim, Calif. For the first time, CBA welcomes some 3,000 consumers to the exhibit floor during a special preview showing called the “Books, Music Gifts Expo for the Christian Family.” Some suppliers report up to 75% increase in sales from the 1986 convention, which also attracts 300 members of the press. Presidential candidate Pat Robertson is the banquet speaker.


1988: July 16-21, Dallas. A VCR screen with a continuous presentation of convention highlights is placed near entrances for passers-by to watch. About 250 Dallas-area pastors, music directors, youth leaders and seminary students attend CBA’s Outreach Adventure, which includes a tour of the convention floor. Sandy Patti, Twila Paris and Steve Green perform.


1989: July 8-13, Atlanta. CBA unveils LifeDiscovery, a $3.8 million national image campaign and marketing partnership to be launched in October 1990. A record number of more than 10,000 people from 46 countries attend the 40th annual convention. Authors Gordon MacDonald and Frank Peretti speak at the banquet.


1990: July 14-19, Denver. Children’s merchandise creates the biggest stir, with virtually every major publisher offering an expanded selection of children’s books. A record number of 11,071 people, with 2,000 stores represented, attend.


1991: First time in Orlando, Fla., and attendance is high, at 12,000, but sales are slow and there is theft at the booths. There are approximately 1,300 booths. The “McGee and Me” video series debuts. A special event is held at SeaWorld, and the closing banquet features Chuck Swindoll and Jerry Jenkins.


1992: The convention, with the theme “Take Flight,” is moved to Dallas because of the delayed completion of the scheduled San Diego Convention Center. There is a record number of exhibitors, with total attendance (including exhibitors) at 12,050. Attendance and sales are up. Dallas is better than Orlando, some say, because buyers are buying, not sightseeing. Suppliers report sales exceed their expectations.


1993: Atlanta. Attendance is 12,663, with 2,634 stores represented and 414 exhibitors. Actor Charlton Heston cuts the ribbon to open the show. Exhibitors report flat sales. The banquet features Oliver North.


1994: Denver. The convention’s date is moved up to June 25-30. Attendance is down to around 12,000, representing 2,500 stores. There are 1,465 booths, many reporting increased sales. Convention’s theme is simply “One.” Wendy’s Dave Thomas cuts show floor ribbon. Nearly 70 attend the bookseller school for new and prospective retailers. Dan Quayle speaks.


1995: Denver. Nearly 800 international delegates are visiting from 58 countries. Michael W. Smith cuts the exhibit floor ribbon.


1996: Anaheim, Calif. Record attendance this year is 13,663 with 2,801 registered stores, 419 exhibiting. Jars of Clay, Point of Grace and The Imperials perform.


1997: The July 12-17, Atlanta CBA convention is a strong order-writing show. There are 13599 in attendance with 2,773 registered stores, 438 suppliers exhibiting. International attendance grows 50% from 1994 to 1996. Foreign rights business is booming. Music suppliers are in favor of their location on the newly divided floor.


1998: July 11-16, Dallas. All-time high of 13,741 attendees. Number of stores present declines from 2,773 to 2, 679.Just In Time inventory is a hot topic. The show features for the first time a fully segmented floor, which receives mixed reviews. Author signings are at exhibit booths rather than at personality booths on the floor’s perimeter.


1999: July 10-15, Orlando, Fla. The 50th anniversary tops last year’s all-time high of 14,694 attendees. CBA’s second International Marketplace nearly doubles, with 29 exhibiting companies representing 12 countries. For the first time, CBA offers a convention chaplain—author John Trent.


2000: New Orleans, La. July 8-13. Attendance is down, 12,107 (representing 2,629 stores). Exhibitors numbers 525, with some suppliers choosing not to attend because of location. Pacesetter event features Alan Keyes. Bibleman cuts the opening ribbon. First annual Christy Awards take place, honoring the best in Christian fiction.


2001: Atlanta. July 7-12. There are 14,239 in attendance—2,687 stores represented. Christian African-American Booksellers Association has a display at the show for the first time. Crossway launches the English Standard Version translation. Bruce Wilkinson—whose The Prayer of Jabez (Multnomah) is named Charles “Kip” Jordon Christian Book of the Year—speaks at the Sunday morning worship service. Joni Eareckson Tada is inducted into CBA’s Hall of Honor.


2002: July 13-18, Anaheim, Calif. For an unprecedented second time, Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez (Multnomah) is named Christian Book of the Year. During the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association awards banquet, Wilkinson challenges publishers to expand their reach globally. Attendance totals 13,129.


2003: Actor Mel Gibson surprises those in attendance at CBA’s Impact Awards ceremony in Orlando, Fla., by making a brief appearance to mobilize support for his The Passion of The Christ. President George W. Bush speaks via video to attendees.


2004: June 26-July 1, Atlanta. CBA’s attempt to bring attendees together in prayer for industry issues is met with lackluster response, as fewer than 15 retailers gathers for the Industry Prayer Meeting. New strategies include a new show schedule, and training and exhibit floor changes.


2005: Denver, July 10-14. The convention’s new name is the International Christian Retail Show, with the theme this year “Success In Store.” Registered attendance totals nearly 10,000, almost 1,000 down. Professional attendance reaches just over 3,000, and exhibitor personnel is 6,679. Changes at the show, including the Solution Centers with practical merchandising and marketing ideas, are a result of CBA’s reinvention effort. Products tied to the forthcoming movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are a big presence.


2006: Denver. July 9-13. Attendance is down 9% across the board, while the show’s ironic theme is “Be Part of Something Bigger.” The show features appointment-only times on the exhibit floor. Les Dietzman, president of Berean Christian Stores, is announced as the next chairman of CBA’s board. Wal-Mart buyers come to the show, but keep a low profile.


2007: Atlanta. July 8-12. After six years of declining numbers, more than 9,000—including nearly 3,000 professionals—attend, a similar number to 2006. Church store attendance increases 16%. Exhibitors drop to 6,007, and there are 67 first-timers exhibiting. Workshops focus on CBA’s More From the Core initiative and CBA WebSearch is unveiled, allowing users to search the Web sites of member suppliers.


2008: Orlando, Fla. July 13-17. The theme is “It’s a New Day.” However, numbers are notably down at 7,448 total. Professional attendance is down 17%, and exhibitor personnel comes in at 4,787. William P. Young’s The Shack (Windblown Media/Hachette Book Group USA) gets the most attention among new books, and Symtio, an iTunes-style card program, is announced by Zondervan.