Christian Retailing

Taking stock of trends for 2013 Print Email
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Monday, 14 January 2013 03:39 PM America/New_York

Part 2: Winners of the 2012 Retailers Choice Awards ponder the near future

Continuing our look at trends expected as the calendar turns to 2013, we have invited the 2012 Retailers Choice Awards winners to examine the particular categories in which they won: Bibles, Christian Education and Teen Nonfiction. Refer to our January issue for trends in audio, children's books, fiction, gifts and marketing. 

BIBLES // Looking beyond the market's core consumer

ChipBrownBY CHIP BROWN, senior vice president and publisher for Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, Bibles, curriculum and popular reference, HarperCollins Christian Publishing

In the January 2012 issue of Christian Retailing, I wrote about “Consumer Centricity,” “Digital Shift & Technology Leverage” and “ Decentralization and Informality.” At Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, we continue to deliver products and programs aligned with those trends, but in 2013 are adding the focus of the shifting demographics in the church, with the goal of increasing traffic and purchasing in our CBA partners’ stores to help them grow their consumer base. 

We are mindful that the "core consumer" demographic we all cherish in CBA is shrinking, and we want to help our CBA retail partners successfully acquire and cultivate the next generations, which are growing in size and spending power. Although many in these next generations have left the church, they are interested in spiritual matters, and research shows that even non-Christians are purchasing Bibles. They are especially drawn to Bibles that don't necessarily look and feel like Bibles. So, while we continue to develop a full portfolio of outstanding traditional text and "notes" Bibles in traditional and innovative bindings, we are also further investing in groundbreaking new titles such as the Quickview Bible (the New International Version with hundreds of high-quality info-graphics). 

Both generation X and the millennial generation grew up in a multimedia world where information was given in smaller "chunks," often with highly visual content, which they now easily share via social media. At times they want their Bibles and other products like this, and everything we have brought to market like this has done very well. The Book of Revelation is our first of many graphic-novel Bibles and sold in its first month as many copies as we'd hope to see sold in its entire first year. Other titles like this are The Story and The Story: Going Deeper and the forthcoming 2013 titles Ignite Bible for teens (July) and NIV Live (the first celebrity-cast-dramatized audio, April). 

Some “Gen X” consumers want to be led to understanding and unlock the eternal truths rather than merely doing in their life whatever a Bible's notes system says. The Archaeological Study Bible and Jewish Contextual Bible (September) take this approach. 

“Millennials” have the highest number of volunteer hours per person of any other cohort. They are passionate about making an impact on the world. Where the Gen Xers accept and adapt to their situations, Millennials want to change it for the better and be a part of a movement. What’s Your Mark (March) delivers on this desire by looking at the “mark makers” in the book of Mark, and contemporary “mark makers” in the world today, showcasing Jesus Christ as the ultimate mark maker in conquering death to give each of us an opportunity at everlasting life. The book challenges the reader to consider the mark they can make in their everyday lives and is already shaping up to be a huge campaign several months before it pubs. Millennials also want to be a part of the product development and promotion, which we’ve done with the new Mom’s Devotional Bible by hosting an online devotion contest that has created an “ownership” of the title by thousands of young mothers who will be looking for this title in CBA stores this March. 

At Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, we are seeing all consumer demographics desiring to engage the Bible and Bible content in new formats, and we are focused on developing Bible engagement products for all ages and stages, in the formats they want. We believe products and programs should be designed so current CBA shoppers can easily find products for themselves, but also for their “next generations” friends and family members. We are very interested in partnering with our CBA partners in 2013 to explore physical (print) and digital product bundling to deliver the most people possible into CBA stores to find the resources they need to engage the Bible and lead biblical lives. 

Zondervan's six 2012 Retailers Choice Awards included a win in the Bibles: Children's category for NIV Youth Quest Study Bible.


CHRISTIAN EDUCATION // Market for home education products expected to grow

 CraigFromanBY CRAIG FROMAN, assistant editor, New Leaf Publishing Group

The publishing landscape has changed dramatically in the last five years. The increase in self-published books, bookstore closings, e-books and more have forever altered some publishing traditions that existed intact for more than 500 years. A part of the dynamic trends that have seen an increase in sales, even as other titles have collapsed, has been in the area of Christian education. 

Many trends were recognized in the category of Christian education publishing last year. It has truly become a thriving growth market, where many other categories and genres of Christian publishing have become either stagnant or weak. Also, in the past many secular fields of study that seemed “neutral” to the faith were allowed to be studied alongside Christian materials. Now as the market expands, so has the desire for all education books to include a biblical worldview. 

Looking ahead, research shows an expected growth of nearly 10% in the homeschooling market alone. This single growth trend will surely have a significant impact in the area of Christian education publishing. As competition for this market expands, an increasing number of higher-quality materials will find their way into the marketplace.

Families are choosing private Christian schools and homeschooling as viable options for their children. This has occurred for several reasons, including the desire for more regular religious instruction, a biblical worldview that embraces creation rather than evolution, safety issues and academic excellence. 

We have an imprint dedicated to creation-based homeschool resources, reference titles, apologetics and quality children’s literature. This imprint is called Master Books. We have considered ourselves a supplemental Christian education resource provider for many years, and now we are focusing our product development on curriculum, specifically unit studies and full-year curriculum titles for all ages. 

The homeschooling market is a growing market in many ways. Conservative estimates state that there are about 2 million students being home-educated in the United States alone, and within five or so years it could double. 

While Christian education products have been part of the mission of our company since 1975, in the last five years the homeschool market has emerged as a core focus of our publishing and marketing. Every season that we release new books, we make sure that a growing number of these products will meet the needs of Christian schools and homeschool families. 

In 2013 we are adding more specific curriculum packages to our product line, which now includes both books and DVDs of the highest quality and at the best price in order to serve families better. We are also developing our current line of resources into focused curriculum choices. 

Retailers selling Christian education products will want to make sure their community is well-informed of their product choices, and learn to know the “seasons” that families are looking for new curriculum. This is usually March and April (with tax refunds) and then often June through July or August (as they look to the upcoming season). Also, know that many who love books often search for the best children’s gift books in November and December. Make sure these are visible, and that gift cards or gift certificates are available for grandparents and others wanting to support their family’s educational choices. 

New Leaf Publishing Group won the 2012 Retailers Choice Awards in the Christian Education category for Big Book of History.


TEEN NONFICTION // Helping teens on their journey to adulthood

AnnetteBourlandBY ANNETTE BOURLAND, senior vice president and group publisher, Zondervan, HarperCollins Christian Publishing

It’s always been said that the issues teens face never change. In every teen’s life, he or she will encounter the angst of fitting in, figuring out the opposite sex and deciding what to do after high school. After living through my own teen years and now publishing for teens, I can safely say the issues are the same from decade to decade. However, the way teens (and their parents) choose to tackle these stages of maturation changes dramatically due to society and the social “norms” that continue to develop.

To put it bluntly, the topics that are front of mind for teens and their parents are bullying, sex and money. These subjects are covered in a variety of positive and negative ways, but the fact is teens are the ones who need to make their own decisions and be courageous enough to stand up for what they believe is right. While parents are still the No. 1 influence on teens and how they gather advice, teens complain of parents who are too busy (mostly with electronics such as smartphones and Facebook) and not available to talk to. This leaves parents buying and passing along materials for their teens as well as teens looking to teachers, coaches, friends and recommended resources in an effort to figure out life.

Alarming stats regarding bullying, sex and money underscore the need for teens to have solid guidance as they navigate the world. In November 2011, 19% of all teens reported they have been bullied in the last 12 months (Pew Research Center). Social-media-using teens who have witnessed cruel behavior have grown to 95%. When it comes to the s-word, sexual content can be found in one-third of all G-rated films, more than half of all PG-rated films and four out of five R-rated films. 

“Adolescents who are exposed to more sexual content in movies start having sex at younger ages, have more sexual partners and engage in riskier sexual activities,” said Ross O’Hara, researcher at the University of Missouri (The Washington Times). 

In addition, when it comes to money, only half of all parents regularly set aside money for savings, which translates to fewer teens practicing sound money management skills (TIME). The cumulative effect of recession and slow growth in the economy leaves teens unable to find employment coupled with not knowing how to check the accuracy of a bank statement. All of these points influence what teens and parents are looking for as they shop in your store.

Personal study and spiritual growth are highly ranked reasons for teens to purchase nonfiction books. Young adults seek books that will help them be better people as well as outline tasks in accomplishing specific goals. Teens want books that focus on self, not necessarily on God or helping others. Readers are asking, “What can I do to get ahead?” One sign of this shift in preference is higher sales demand for “self help” nonfiction dealing with purity, money and college preparedness. 

Besides developing better life skills, teens have always wanted to express themselves. One notable trend in publishing is journals, interactive books and “not your mother’s devotionals” geared for young adults to wreck, tape, tear and finish however they deem fit. Customizable products allow teens to be themselves, share themselves and work out their thoughts and beliefs. Each teen becomes an author (and star) of his or her own book.

And speaking of stars, we’ve all witnessed the tremendous sales of Through My Eyes, Young Reader’s Edition by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker. Sales of celebrity-driven books continue to thrive amongst teens. Young adult readers avidly seek out role models to emulate. Today’s teens specifically appreciate reading about accomplishments, humanitarian efforts and a person’s ability to overcome adversity. The celebrities teens choose are typical (Jesus, President Obama, Gabrielle Douglas) as well as atypical (comic book writer Alan Moore, manga artist Yumi Tamura). This generation is drawn to social innovators, scholars, historic leaders and even really great graphic novel illustrators as noted above. Spirituality as a specific topic is only of modest concern to teens you’ll meet on the street. Even among Christian teens, their role models are virtually no different than other teenagers (Barna Group). 

In conclusion, opportunities abound in helping teens as they journey through to adulthood. Whether it’s reaching the teen or the parent who frequents your store, both are seeking relevant and solid materials. This generation of teens sees Christianity not in a box and set aside for Sundays, but as a way of life. Teens expect to see a Christian live each moment as Jesus would … He is, after all, the ultimate role model.

Zondervan won six Retailers Choice Awards last year, including the Youth/Teen category for Through My Eyes: Young Reader’s Edition by Tim Tebow.