Christian Retailing

Year in Review: Recalling the happenings of 2012 Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 18 December 2012 10:34 AM America/New_York

‘Christian Retailing’ editors, writers reflect on what mattered and why

ChristineDJohnson_2012BOOKS // Fiction marks a first-printing milestone; heavenly nonfiction still tops


Nonfiction titles including the formerly self-published To Heaven and Back by Dr. Mary C. Neal (WaterBrook Press) and Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo (Thomas Nelson) continued their celestial sales in 2012. Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling also remained a lead best-seller, making way for her new devotional, Jesus Today (both Nelson).

Thomas Nelson drew media attention in a different way upon choosing to pull David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies from publication after it reached New York Times best-seller status. The decision was made after alleged historical inaccuracies came to light.

Pastor Rick Warren tailored his top book for a generation that was too young to read it when it was first published. In November, Zondervan released The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?, marking the 10th anniversary of the original title.

In fiction, Dee Henderson was back with her first novel in six years, Full Disclosure, under new publisher Bethany House, and William P. Young put pen to paper for his second work of fiction, Cross Roads, following The Shack. FaithWords planned an astounding 1 million-copy first printing.

The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn is seeing big sales for FrontLine (Charisma House Book Group)—700,000 and counting. At press time, the prophetic message for America had been on the New York Times best-seller list for 45 consecutive weeks and on USA Today’s list for 44 weeks. 

Lynn Austin won her eighth Christy Award for Wonderland Creek, while Anne Elisabeth Stengl took home the Visionary award for Veiled Rose (both Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group) after winning the First Novel category last year—a first in Christy history.

BIBLES // NavPress’ The Message marks 10th year, King James continues to excel


Zondervan looked to former President Jimmy Carter, who taught Sunday school for years, to join his lessons with the text of the New International Version (NIV). The result, NIV Lessons From Life Bible, includes in-depth studies and prayers and quotations from the president. 

Modeled after USA Today, Zondervan’s NIV QuickView Bible aims to help a visual society understand the Bible through infographics that present its most significant stories and facts. Zondervan also published The Book of Revelation in graphic novel form with illustrations by Chris Koelle and a new translation from the Greek. 

NavPress marked the 10th anniversary of The Message with the advent of The Message Study Bible, adding Eugene Peterson’s insights to his colloquial translation.

Aiming to equip believers to stand firm against their enemy, The Spiritual Warfare Bible came to market in August. The Charisma House product features the New King James Version along with tools such as spiritual warfare declarations and prayers,  and warfare lessons from Bible figures.

Thomas Nelson released the King James Study Bible, describing it as “the most comprehensive King James Version study Bible published in 50 years.” B&H Publishing Group launched the Holman KJV Study Bible with the tag line “The Only Full-Color KJV Study Bible.”

October saw the release of Crossway’s English Standard Version (ESV) Global Study Bible. Published in partnership with international Bible societies, it was quickly made available in 20 countries. Containing notes and maps dealing with global issues, the Bible features contributions from more than 100 scholars and teachers from 20-plus countries and more than 25 denominations. Aiming to deliver Global Study Bible content to 1 million people, it was launched with a “Buy One, Give One” campaign, where for every print edition purchased in North America, free digital access is given to a person in need. 

Tyndale House Publishers’ most significant Bible release in 2012 was the Chronological Life Application Study Bible (LASB), adding to other best-sellers wearing the LASB name. A Twitter campaign saw NFL quarterback Drew Brees and actress Patricia Heaton—both Tyndale authors—tweeting about the new Bible.

Thomas Nelson issued in October what is sure to be a Gaither fan favorite, The Gaither Homecoming Bible. Original poetry and insights from Bill and Gloria Gaither are included, as are exclusive devotionals from 60 Homecoming artists. And Nelson’s The Voice released in the full printed Bible in April along with several digital formats. The Newsboys and Gungor supported the release with readings at their concerts.

Hendrickson Publishers celebrated a well-loved theologian with the publication of The A.W. Tozer Bible, released in Tozer’s favorite version, the King James.

EricTiansayDVD // ‘Courageous’ leads field of 2012’s faith-based films with strong sales


Like its predecessor Fireproof, Courageous provided a significant boost to the home-viewing section of Christian stores. 

The 2011 faith-based cop drama from Sherwood Pictures and Provident Distribution sold more than a million copies in the first 90 days—just as Fireproof did. Courageous was also the best-selling DVD in the country its first week.

Another Provident-distributed DVD, pro-life drama October Baby was a surprise hit in theaters—an independent film that topped $5.3 million and debuted at No. 8 at the box office—and saw strong sales with its September DVD release. 

The continued rising tide for Christian movies was again showcased at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS)   with CBA’s inaugural Resonate Film Festival featuring 14 films, including Undaunted: The Early Life of Josh McDowell; God’s Not Dead: The Movie; and VeggieTales: The League of Incredible Vegetables

Among the more significant releases from Pure Flix were Apostle Peter and the Last Supper, featuring actor Robert Loggia as the elderly apostle, reflecting on his life to two jailers as he awaits execution. Bruce Marchiano portrayed Christ in the film as well as in The Encounter: Paradise Lost, also from Pure Flix. 

Another notable release was Seven Days in Utopia, featuring Oscar winner Robert Duvall as an eccentric rancher who helps a young golfer find direction. Released through Provident, the film was based on the Zondervan book Golf’s Sacred Journey by life coach David Cook.

There Be Dragons followed the journeys of two childhood friends—one whose faith lead him to found the Catholic organization Opus Dei, the other spurred to conflict by his anger. Directed by Roland Joffé (The Killing Fields, The Mission), the drama was released through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. 

There was also a plethora of Christmas-themed films. Released by Image Entertainment and distributed by EMI CMG Distribution, The Heart of Christmas tells the story of a 2-year-old, whose struggle with Leukemia sparked a worldwide outpouring of support for his family who gave him one last Christmas in October. 

The movie was inspired by the song “One Last Christmas” by singer-songwriter Matthew West who was moved by a true story he received in a letter. West, who was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for the song, is featured in the film. 

An uplifting story from the late Thomas Kinkade, Christmas Miracle (GT Media/EMI CMG) showed the real meaning of the season when eight strangers are forced to take refuge in an abandoned church during a snowstorm.

In Christmas Comes Home to Canaan, also from GT Media, Daniel Burton (Billy Ray Cyrus) learns to love again when he meets Briony Adair (Gina Holden). The film is the sequel to the Hallmark Channel’s highest-rated movie of 2009,
Christmas in Canaan.

RhondaSholar08GIFTS // Toys and Fair Trade grow category’s sales, while companies raise T-shirt prices


While gifts appeared to be an overall bright spot in 2012, a few areas stood out. 

T-shirts continued to sell well despite rising retail prices. Some vendors’ decisions to raise prices to absorb increased costs has some worried as they remember a decade ago when shirts rose to $18.99 before the market collapsed. Customers are looking for quality shirts with clear graphics and are tiring of the logo “take-offs.”

Dicksons continues to do well with the “Full Armor of God” line that debuted in 2010 with a figurine to fill a void in the men’s gift category. Based on the outstanding response, the company added pocket stones with each of the six components of Eph. 6 and a display with an assortment that includes a key ring, bookmark, auto visor clip and ink pen.

Some stores continue to cut back on music and limit books to best-sellers to make room for toys and games. Five years after venturing into partnerships with general-market toymakers Melissa & Doug, Fisher-Price and Playmobil, New Day Christian Distributors reported 665% growth in toy and gift sales.

Kerusso celebrated its 25th anniversary with the publication of a gift book, Change Your Shirt, Change Your World by Vic Kennett and Friends, with proceeds benefitting Compassion International. 

DaySpring achieved its goal of sending no solid waste to landfills. By mid-year, the company had not incurred any expenses on its cardboard recycling, but instead had made money on the endeavor.

For the second consecutive year, Lighthouse Christian Products received Family Christian Stores’ Business Innovation Award, for excellent product design and for helping to serve Family’s direct-import need. Evergreen Enterprises, a home and garden décor manufacturer, won the award for its service and distribution. Other retailers praised vendors such as P. Graham Dunn for producing quality art at affordable prices and for its customer service.

Gift companies that promote humanitarian efforts were in line with Exotic World Gifts’ support of artisans with Fair Trade items and Jedidiah Clothing’s partnership with World Vision to fight poverty and injustice. CBA gathered Fair Trade suppliers into a designated area on the floor at the International Christian Retail Show.

Despite the sad news in April of Thomas Kinkade’s sudden death, sales of his products at galleries and retail outlets spiked in the months following. Companies like DaySpring debuted new, Kinkade-inspired items with sales expected to continue through Christmas.

One framed-art product that did exceptionally well in several sizes, price points and décor styles is Carpentree’s Prince of Peace. Painted by then 8-year-old Akiane Kramarik, the image is the one Colton Burpo identified in Heaven Is for Real (Thomas Nelson) as the Jesus he saw in heaven. Licensed by Art & SoulWorks and framed and distributed by Carpentree, Prince of Peace is expected to continue its sales momentum, Marketing Manager Sherry Morris said.

INDUSTRY NEWS // Family Christian buyout, Obamacare rullings top newsmakers


Two of the biggest stories of 2012 came near year’s end—the contrasting healthcare rulings involving Tyndale House Publishers and Christian-owned-and-operated Hobby Lobby Stores and sister company Mardel Christian & Education.

A Nov. 16 federal court ruling stopped enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate against Tyndale, which filed a healthcare lawsuit against the government Oct. 2. Tyndale specifically objects to covering abortion pills.

But, unlike Tyndale’s healthcare ruling, the court did not show favor to the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel. U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton ruled Nov. 19 that the Oklahoma City-based stores must provide the “morning after” and “week after” pills under new federal healthcare rules that begin Jan. 1. If they don’t, the companies will face significant fines.

Another big story broke in mid-November—the announcement of Family Christian Stores’ management partnering with a group of Atlanta-based Christian businessmen to acquire the company from its private equity owners, with plans to give 100% of its profits to benefit Christian causes through its nonprofit, The James Fund.

Terms of the Nov. 13 transaction—involving the nation’s largest Christian retail chain—were not disclosed. Family reported that while its ownership structure and financial purpose had changed, its operations will continue in a largely “seamless” way, said Cliff Bartow, CEO of the company.

In another sign of a changing Christian retail industry, Covenant Group expanded its membership with the addition of the 18-outlet chain Berean Christian Stores.

With the addition of Berean and two other independents, Covenant now has 20 dealerships, representing 52 stores—an increase of more than 60% since fall 2011.

LifeWay Christian Stores President Mark Scott retired in September following months of significant health issues. Scott’s position was filled by Tim Vineyard, vice president of LifeWay’s technology division. LifeWay Christian Resources CEO Thom Rainer was named as acting president of the retail division until trustees can review and affirm the change in February.

CBA promoted Curtis Riskey from executive director to president during an October board meeting. Riskey served as interim executive director after the resignation of longtime President and CEO Bill Anderson in October 2009. He was appointed as executive director in March 2010 with CBA adopting a new management model. 

In September, HarperCollins’ new Christian division, comprised of Zondervan and the newly acquired Thomas Nelson, announced its leadership team, featuring 12 executives from both publishers. Mark Schoenwald leads the division as president and CEO. 

HarperCollins Christian Publishing also formed a single fiction team headed by Daisy Hutton, formerly vice president and publisher of fiction at Thomas Nelson.   

Germany’s Bertelsmann media company and British publisher Pearson agreed to merge the book publishing units Random House and Penguin Group last fall, forming the new Penguin Random House company, said to be the world’s largest publisher of consumer books. Bertelsmann owns Random House, the parent of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Meanwhile, in a decision in favor of the federal government that could start an e-book price war, Denise Cote, federal district judge in Manhattan, N.Y., approved a settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster in a civil antitrust case that accused the companies of price-fixing digital books. 

Evangelical Christian Publishers Association President and CEO Mark Kuyper said that the decision could have “a very negative impact” on e-book retailers. 

NatalieGillespieMUSIC // Christian music expands reach with high ticket sales, top honors


Christian music hit some significant milestones in 2012, from eye-popping concert ticket sales to top positions on mainstream music sales charts, prompting TIME magazine writer Tim Newcomb to declare in a Sept. 17 online article titled “Christian Music’s Moment: How TobyMac and Lecrae Conquered the Countdown” that Christian music is “no longer a style, but simply a lyrical perspective.”

Winter Jam, Casting Crowns and the Rock & Worship Roadshow landed in the top 100-grossing tours for the first half of the year, with more than $14 million in tickets sold. Ticket sales have become such a hot property that a Vancouver-based Christian music promoter, LMG Concerts, filed a lawsuit against Salem Communications, alleging that Salem is running a monopoly in the Christian radio market.

Chris Tomlin, Kirk Franklin, Laura Story and Le’Andria Johnson garnered GRAMMY awards in the Gospel and Contemporary Christian Music categories.

Jason Crabb took home top honors as Artist of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year at the 43rd annual Dove Awards, held for the second year in Atlanta and broadcast on the Gospel Music Channel. Natalie Grant took home her fifth Female Artist of the Year award. Needtobreathe received three Doves, including Group of the Year. 

Casting Crowns and Laura Story won the Billboard Music Awards in the Christian categories.

At mid-year, Christian album sales were down only 0.5% compared with the same time period in 2011, according to Nielsen SoundScan, while overall album sales saw an almost 4% downturn. At the same time, Christian music track sales were up 8.8%. 

Casting Crowns learned that its self-titled debut album had gone double-Platinum, becoming one of only eight Christian music projects ever to receive that status.

TobyMac’s latest release, Eye On It, became the first Christian album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard’s Top 200 sales chart in 15 years and only the third Christian album ever to hit the top spot.

Christian rap artist Lecrae followed right behind TobyMac in September, hitting No. 1 on the iTunes chart and No. 3 on the Billboard chart with Gravity. Lecrae also concurrently placed in the first, second and seventh slots on iTunes’ hip-hop chart for the deluxe and regular versions of Gravity and his album Church Clothes.

Before going solo, TobyMac was part of the groundbreaking act dcTalk, and his bandmates have now become part of Christian music’s musical mash-ups. In August, Audio Adrenaline announced it was coming out of its five-year retirement and naming dcTalk’s Kevin Max as its new lead singer. Max joins longtime Audio A members Mark Stuart and Will McGinnis in the new lineup. Three years ago, Newsboys frontman of 20-plus years, Peter Furler, left that band and was replaced by former dcTalk member Michael Tait. 

Christian artists scored some major media appearances this year, as Third Day celebrated the release of Miracle with an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Amy Grant sat down with Katie Couric, while Mandisa appeared on Good Morning America and talked about her 120-pound weight loss on The Doctors.