Christian Retailing

Beyond the sales floor Print Email
Written by Natalie Gillespie   
Tuesday, 13 May 2014 04:37 PM America/New_York

ICRS2014LogosStackedCBA show offers retailers significant opportunities to learn

The theme of the 2014 International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in Atlanta may be “Cause to Celebrate,” but for stores it’s an opportunity to go beyond the sales floor and hone their retailing craft. Taking place June 22-25 at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), CBA’s trade show offers stores the chance to see the latest in upcoming books, trends in décor, entertainment and gift items all in one place. It offers retailers a chance to catch up with old friends and attend some fun film premieres and events, but it also should be seen as a “boot camp” where veteran retailers, suppliers and business experts give store owners and frontliners the chance to learn more about operating a store.

“CBA has taken a new direction in training to help retailers and the industry better understand the future of Christian stores,” said Curtis Riskey, president of CBA, which hosts the convention. “All retailing is going through significant change because of the continuing sluggish economy, the increasing gap between rich and poor, and consumers’ new purchasing habits. It is important for retailers especially to hear what’s happening broadly in retailing to determine how they best might thrive despite all the changes.”

Mary Manz Simon returns to the show to present her popular Children’s Product Trends workshop, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year (See p. 21 for her Q&A). In a survey, the children’s author and educator found that training is a key component for stores to get the most take-home value out of the time and money they spend to attend ICRS.

“Nearly 50% of survey respondents said ICRS is where they ‘get their best ideas,’ ” Simon said. “Walking the exhibit floor, connecting with fellow retailers and attending the children’s trends workshop all contribute to building sales.”


ICRS has changed the annual pre-show “Retail Academy” to a day-long training session called “Moving Retail Forward.” Sponsored by CBA and Spring Arbor/Ingram, Moving Retail Forward will be held 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Sunday, and will help prospective stores, young stores and veteran retailers catch a glimpse of the future of retailing and learn ways they can adapt to the changes ahead. Registration is $49.

Group Publishing founder and CEO Thom Schultz will begin the day with a keynote address called “Retail’s Frightful Kodak Moment.” Kodak missed the opportunity to join the digital revolution, but Schultz believes retailers can learn from Kodak’s mistake.

“Schultz will talk about his findings from talking with pastors, church leaders and Christian store owners and managers,” Riskey said. “He sees retailers in a similar situation as Kodak, which forgot what business it was in, but he encourages retailers there’s still time and opportunity to adapt and thrive.”

Following the keynote, Jeff Michaels, Group vice president of sales, will conduct a workshop called “What’s Missing from Retail? 4 Keys to Winning the Battle of Showrooming & Attracting Millennials,” which will take a look at new retail concepts and proven strategies that other kinds of stores are using to build customer loyalty by creating relationships and experiences.

Another session, “Driving Discoverability and Sales,” is a case study from HarperCollins Christian Publishing’s direct-to-consumer marketing and its findings about spikes in retail sales. 

“Eric Shanfelt, senior vice president of eMedia for HarperCollins, will analyze how its consumer-direct marketing has actually driven sales at  retail, and will give retailers insights into what they can do to capture sales from suppliers’ B2C marketing,” Riskey said. 

Other sessions will explore how retailers can benefit from self-publishing, how data can boost sales and customer relationships, and how lifestyle events can drive traffic and sales.

Also Sunday, international attendees are invited to network at the Atlanta Hilton during the Global Welcome Luncheon, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., featuring a keynote address by Gary Wilkerson, president of World Challenge and son of The Cross and the Switchblade author David Wilkerson. 

Lunch will be followed by a Global Business Training event presented by Ramon Rocha III of Media Associates International. In his decade as CEO of OMF Literature in the Philippines, Rocha led it to become the nation’s largest Christian publishing house. Aiming to help international representatives increase business and ministry profitability, Rocha will share his insights and expertise. Tickets ($49) are required.


Training continues Monday, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., with a new general-session panel at the annual member meeting that will discuss the state of faith in the United States and around the world. Panelists Ravi Zacharias, Phillip Yancey and Ryan Dobson will focus on what Christian businesspeople need to know to continue serving the church. The panel will be moderated by LifeTree Café President Craig Cable and will be held in GWCC #202-204. During the general session, CBA will present the Lifetime Achievement Award to psychologist and best-selling author James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. Tickets are required.

Monday afternoon workshops start with Children’s Product Trends and continue through Tuesday. 

“We have added specialty sessions during the week on urban marketing, DVD and film sales through stores, and reaching Spanish-language customers,” Riskey said. “We are excited about providing a broad range of training aimed at building traffic and sales and extending ministry through stores.”  

Simon embodies this year’s show theme as she celebrates the 20th anniversary of her two-hour Children’s Product Trends workshop Monday starting at 3 p.m. The workshop will offer brand-new data this year.

“For the first time ever, we will have CBA CROSS:SCAN data on the children’s market,” Simon said. “Retailers who attended the ICRS workshop during the past two years were invited to participate, so input came from people in our industry who prioritize ministry to children and their families. Attendees will hear what fellow retailers say is the most-effective type of coupon and which children’s product category is growing in their stores.”

The workshop also will include an anniversary after-party with food, fun and free product. Registration is $29.


Tuesday offers four workshops where retailers can learn the latest trends, discover new ways to merchandise and figure out how to display and sell specific categories. For an hour starting at 8:30 a.m., attendees can learn how to reach the urban community in “How to Be Effective Selling Christian Rap in Retail.”  

From 10-11:30 a.m., Film Product Trends will unveil the latest in Christian movies and how retailers can maximize their sales opportunities. This workshop also will include product giveaways. Registration is $29.

From 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., My Healthy Church will present “The Big Opportunity: Attract Your Local Hispanic Community.” According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. Hispanic population, currently at 52 million, will grow from 14% today to 29% in 2050. The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference reports that more than one-third of Hispanics consider themselves born-again believers. This workshop will help retailers get ready to engage and serve Hispanic believers.

The workshop offerings wind up  at 3-4:30 p.m. with the annual Christian Fiction Trends: “Celebrating Story.” This popular event brings together authors, retailers and readers to discuss the latest trends and sales techniques, and it includes questions and answers between authors and audience members. This workshop requires $29 registration and includes free product to take home.

Tuesday’s training opportunities also include the annual Church Store Luncheon, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Church store managers and leaders will hear from Charles Stanley, founder of In Touch Ministries and will have the chance to network and take part in mini-workshops for church-store mission and success.


 As the show comes to a close, ministry leaders, pastors and their spouses have a unique opportunity 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. to take part in a free training event presented by CBA and RBC Ministries. 

“Mission & Community: Embracing the Kingdom Today” aims to give ministry leaders encouragement, fellowship and the opportunity to network, as well as complementary resources and a message from pastor Marvin Williams, senior teaching pastor of Trinity Church in Lansing, Mich. Sessions include “Strengthening the Servant’s Heart” and “Capturing the Millennial’s Mind.” The event includes a free lunch.

To register for training events, visit