Christian Retailing

Post-COVID Print Email
Written by Tiffany Benson   
Monday, 09 August 2021 02:11 PM America/New_York

Benson COVID 1The Christian Retail Association became an industry leader for faith-based retailers after replacing the Association for Christian Booksellers in 2019. The Munce Group began forming CRA in 2018 with a focus on “developing new programs and other benefits for its members,” per Publishers Weekly. Under the direction of marketing consultant Bob Munce, president of the Munce Group, members experienced a mostly positive transition as CRA aimed “to bring together a community of retailers, publishers, authors, artists, manufacturers and distributors throughout the world to engage in evangelism through retail and help grow their businesses.” Frontline ministry operations united with Christian business owners, creating partnerships that will foster continued success in the retail marketplace. 

The Munce Group also made plans to continue hosting the Christian Product Expo, “a trade show serving Christian retailers that takes place twice a year.” Despite setbacks due to the pandemic, CPE’s schedule remained in 2020 with summer and winter shows taking place in Wilmington, Delaware. CPE attracted 514 participants, a 44% decrease from 2019. Expo bright spots included fellowship (albeit socially distanced), free registration for the event and vendors who wrote nearly 700 orders in less than two days. The next CPE is set to take place Aug. 15-17, 2021, in St. Charles, Missouri; for registration information, go to

 CRA Industry Update

CRA published a 2020 industry update with encouraging statistics along with advice to Christian retailers to keep faith at the forefront of their businesses. CRA sent its survey to independent Christian bookstores to see how COVID-19 affected their families and businesses over the last year. While the pandemic caused many privately owned businesses to close permanently, ministry retailers overcame incredible obstacles to maintain a presence in their respective markets. 

As of January 2021, 82 retailers responded to the survey. Of that number, 15 were stores inside churches, 29 in malls, 34 in freestanding buildings, one in a nationwide chain, one at a college bookstore and two in the category “other.” Another 70 were required to shut down, 10 remained open, and two were required to shut down twice.

In 2020, 54 stores were down in sales, six were flat, but 22 were up in sales, per results of the survey. Bibles remained the No. 1 selling product during the pandemic. Projections for 2021 show 13 stores will cut store hours, while 19 will not change their hours. At least five stores will decrease the number of open days, and one will increase. A total of 17 stores reported they will cut staff, two will increase, and 18 won’t make any staff changes.

Post-pandemic customer service plans include 27 stores continuing curbside pickup, nine stores will continue shipping to homes and 16 stores will continue website merchandise sales. Along with traditional inventory, such as puzzles, games and children’s products, all but three stores will continue selling masks and hand sanitizers. 

CRA provided three encouraging tips for Christian retailers during this season of restoration:

  1. Build community: Network with likeminded professionals in faith-based retail industries.
  2. Save money: Utilize discount programs on shipping, office supplies and other store needs.
  3. Stay up to date and supported: Connect with a mentor, attend training workshops, join CRA and learn to promote the business side of your ministry.

For more information on CRA, visit

For more information on CPE, visit 

 The Parable Group 

The Parable Group released a report aimed at giving “insights into various market dynamics that can direct retail strategies, fine-tune inventories, provide innovative solutions and to safeguard and grow Christian retail businesses for the long term.” The report shows survey results, data collected from Christian bookstores and strategies to help retailers to succeed in 2021.

“The best kind of retailing is inspired by love for the product and genuine love for a local customer, Greg Squires, president of The Parable Group, wrote in the introduction to the report. “Resilient Christian retailers who continue to press forward with 2020 in the rearview mirror are beacons of light in local communities,” he added. “The retail challenges are real. But there is a path toward successful local retailing.”

The Parable Group’s POS data network, ParableConnect, received data from 230 U.S. Christian bookstores showing how sales trends, customer retention and new growth were affected during the pandemic. Results showed 75% of stores were fully closed to in-store customers for over a month in 2020. Nearly 25% were shuttered for over 10 weeks. 

Retailers made needed adaptations as store closings necessitated innovative strategies to keep inventory flowing. Digital marketing and online retail channel sales helped 81% of retailers promote and offer phone orders, completing some transactions with curbside pickup. One retailer launched a new website allowing ordering requests for products directly in-store and saw a 22% increase by the end of 2020. 

Last year’s category market share shows books (34% by unit) and Bibles (23% by dollars) continue brisk sales followed by gifts and greeting cards. At 8%, church supplies had the largest increase in proportion of sales. Not surprisingly, homeschool curriculum sales increased 68% from 2019–2020. Same-store sales were up 0.9% the second half of the year.

In January 2021, The Parable Group gathered responses from 62 Christian bookstores summarizing firsthand challenges and an overall outlook for future retailing. When asked how they felt about the future, 87% of retailers report a “healthy, strong future” or “steady, will carry on.” Another 87% “strongly agreed” or “agreed” when asked if they were surprised by customer support during disruptive times. “Cash management and margins” was a high concern for more than half of retailers. 

Top priorities for 2021 show 96% will assess and optimize inventory. About 83% will increase marketing to new and existing customers via social media and digital ads. Around 50% said they will improve on serving the spiritual needs of local communities beyond their retail store. 

Adapting new knowledge to current and changing situations and having optimism for the future can help retailers. But they affirm that continuing to trust and have faith in God is most important during challenging times. The following points can help Christian retailers focus on improving store health and growth in 2021:

  • Brick-and-mortar retailers must adapt their business to include an online presence.
  • Use videos to create a more personable interaction with customers in the virtual world.
  • Create a game plan for using email marketing; this is still one of the most effective tools for reaching local and online customers.
  • Use social media in creative ways (such an in-store virtual tour).
  • Leverage your advantage of being local.
  • Embrace data and technology; form partnerships with trusted technical support teams who will understand your business and offer a variety of options to meet store needs. 
  • Attract and retain customers. After incorporating pandemic safety guidelines and implementing new marketing strategies, it’s good to remember serving and ministry are still the main priority.

For more information on
The Parable Group, visit

Tiffany Benson is a freelance writer for Charisma Media. When she’s not catching up on politics or watching documentaries, she enjoys journaling, fiction and contributing to her blog:

Maximize margins with inspirational gifts Print Email
Written by John McKinney Sr   
Thursday, 25 February 2016 10:23 AM America/New_York

F-McKinewWin with the 3 C’s of success for your store

Many Christian retailers understand the concept that the gift category generally offers them a higher profit margin than other products in their store. In many cases, however, those same retailers don’t understand the merchandising strategies within their four walls that will help them maximize additional profit margins on their gift lines.

It’s not enough to purchase gift items that may offer great profitability. Using effective merchandising techniques, the retailer must also “sell” those gifts to his customers to realize those additional profits.

Capitalize on the coloring craze Print Email
Written by Heinrich Johnsen   
Thursday, 25 February 2016 10:09 AM America/New_York

F-JohnsenHelp your customers express their God-given creativity

From coloring to art journaling, pen and paper are making a comeback. People of all ages feel the need to slow down and take a break from the tyranny of gadgets and the digital wave that has overcome us. Consider how texting, social media, YouTube, Netflix, news, polls, tickers, steps and calories can take over your life—if you’re not careful.

Stay on trend with new Bibles Print Email
Written by Andrew Tebbe   
Wednesday, 06 January 2016 03:06 PM America/New_York

How retailers can stay up to date with the latest editions

JournalingBible-CrosswayAs publishers and retailers, it is a great privilege to work with God’s Word on a daily basis. Indeed, at Crossway, we view the Scriptures as central to everything we do. Our publishing agenda, corporate structure and ministry commitments all flow from the foundational truths of the Bible. There is nothing we take more seriously than our responsibility to publish and distribute God’s Word.

Celebrating our Jewish roots Print Email
Written by Rabbi Barry Rubin   
Wednesday, 06 January 2016 03:01 PM America/New_York

Christians adopt the Jewishness of their faith through Messianic resources

iStock 000071620411 XXXLarge stellaleviA special line of books has been showing up on the shelves of most Christian retail stores in the last several decades. Not only is the number of Messianic Jews—Jews who follow Yeshua, or Jesus—growing, but more Christians are seeking greater understanding of the Jewish background of the New Testament and the Jewish context of Christianity.

Renew your store for spring Print Email
Written by Sue Kloeck   
Wednesday, 06 January 2016 02:57 PM America/New_York

Special occasions bloom with repeat sales opportunities

GiftsForHer SpringSpring holidays offer a wealth of sales opportunities for Christian retailers. The most recent National Retail Federation study available on sales for these holidays found that Mother’s Day ranked only behind the winter holidays and “back to school” in spending totals for 2013-14, with numbers for Easter, Father’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day falling closely behind.

Customer Engagement: Listen and learn Print Email
Written by Larry E. Haege   
Wednesday, 06 January 2016 02:48 PM America/New_York

5 ways to consult with customers to increase sales at your Christian retail store

iStock 000038009376 XXXLarge Steve DebenportWhen considering how to improve your store and increase traffic and sales, you may have wracked your brain, questioned your family and friends, and seriously prayed. In these times, we all have.

But what about asking for input from the people who know your store the best and pay your bills every month? Let’s look at ways God can help us best discover—from our customers—what keeps them coming in and what might bring them in more often. Consider these five methods of listening that have proven effective in Christian retail:

Q & A: Up Close With Stan Jantz Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Wednesday, 06 January 2016 02:41 PM America/New_York

An interview with ECPA’s newly appointed executive director

SteveJantzPublishing executive, best-selling author and former Christian retailer Stan Jantz became the executive director of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) last fall. With a commitment to Christian publishing and retailing, Jantz talked with Christian Retailing on a wide range of topics, from mentoring aspiring publishing professionals to the value of the Christian retail store.

Feeding the YA reader Print Email
Written by Linda Howard   
Wednesday, 04 November 2015 05:16 PM America/New_York

How to satisfy the appetite of the Young Adult market

71019019 © iStockphoto-HramovnickYoung Adult (YA) readers have been responsible for a significant portion of overall book purchases in the last few years, helping to make up for lagging sales in adult fiction and nonfiction print books. However, most of these YA sales can be attributed to general market releases. The Christian market has not kept pace with top-sellers like the “Twilight Saga,” “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” series. Reaching this important audience with quality, engaging Christian books can provide a solid opportunity for greater revenues and spiritual growth for these readers who are currently purchasing their books at general market retail.

Following ‘The Francis Effect’ Print Email
Written by Greg Erlandson   
Wednesday, 04 November 2015 05:06 PM America/New_York

Adopt these 7 tips for serving Catholics in your community

TheCatholicGiftStore-RomanAmericans—and Catholics around the world—were transfixed by the visit of Pope Francis in September. By all reports, he felt the same way. During his first visit to the U.S., he was clearly moved by the warm welcome he received.

Media coverage of Francis’ visit was virtually 24/7. The media followed his historic appearances in Congress and the United Nations as well as his Mass for 1.5 million Catholics in Philadelphia at the end of the weeklong World Meeting of Families gathering. The papal visit resulted in a spike in interest in the Catholic Church and in Pope Francis himself. As one of the largest publishers of books about the pope or by him, we’ve seen our sales of Francis books jump with his visit, and we don’t expect the interest to die down anytime soon.

New ‘Superbook’ meets market need Print Email
Written by Deborah Christensen   
Wednesday, 04 November 2015 04:53 PM America/New_York

Increase Bible engagement with Scripture-focused children’s DVDs

JoyGizmoChrisMany adults recall their favorite stories from the Saturday morning cartoons or holiday classics they watched in their childhood. Recognizing the power of animation in conveying Bible-based stories, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) created the Superbook children’s series in 1981.

Make displays pay Print Email
Written by Michelle Amster   
Wednesday, 04 November 2015 04:48 PM America/New_York

Adopt these principles of merchandising—and watch your store sales grow

MultipleBlessings-CarolineSimasYou can learn to merchandise. I cannot even begin to tell you how many store owners and managers have said to me, “I just don’t know how to merchandise product in my store” or “I don’t have time to merchandise every time new gifts arrive.” I respectfully disagree!

Yes, there are people who are born with “the gift,” but most retailers simply must learn how to correctly merchandise product to make it sell. After all, that is the whole reason why merchandising is so important.

Create events with ‘lifetime value’ Print Email
Written by Kathleen Samuelson   
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 10:58 AM America/New_York

How signings and more can help your store reach long-term goals


What if you threw a party and no one came? The very thought of nobody showing up for a specially planned event or appearance can make any retailer cringe.

VBS goes year round at retail Print Email
Written by Dr. Julie Horner   
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 10:50 AM America/New_York

Adopt a monthly checklist to stay on track for VBS success


Christian retailers can serve as vital partners to the church in the ministry of Vacation Bible School. If your store has a well-planned effort to promote VBS resources, you’re all set! But if you have never carried VBS resources or stopped doing so a few years back, the following checklist is designed to help you reconsider getting involved in this life-changing ministry.

VBS: Introducing children to Jesus Print Email
Written by Jody Brolsma   
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 10:42 AM America/New_York

Why VBS is still an effective church ministry opportunity

F-BroslanVacation Bible School has been a staple in children’s ministry for more than a century. Launched in 1894 in Hopedale, Illinois, what is now known as “VBS” has brought many children to Christ and ministered to their families—and it all started because a teacher wanted more time with his students.