|7 trends that will affect your store this year|
|Written by Dave Almack|
|Wednesday, 04 February 2015 03:26 PM America/New_York|
Christian retailers can meet customer needs in light of 21st-century cultural patterns
The Bible calls us to be “as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” In 1 Chronicles 12:32, we are told about the men of Issachar who had “understanding of times and what Israel should do.” As you prepare for the year ahead, here are some important trends that you need to know about that will matter to your Christian retail store.
Mindfulness—this word has become a part of the modern vocabulary very quickly and is the result of the increasingly busy and distracted world in which we live. People are having a harder and harder time staying focused and being present to the people that matter to them the most. This is best characterized by the all too familiar scene of a family sitting around the dining table all looking at their smartphones. How many times have you tried to have a conversation with someone who was not really paying attention?
As people are finally recognizing what this constant shifting of focus is doing to them, they are longing for a way to change their habits. Many have turned to mindfulness gurus and special retreats where they can get away from all the distractions. Unfortunately, as soon as they return to the real world, it all goes haywire again.
Reading books is a helpful way to center our thoughts. Reading is a linear process and a great way of absorbing information and entertainment in long form. Your store can be a haven for people who are harried and hurried by the lives they lead every day. Why not create a resource center of books that people can read together as a family and change dinnertime into a wonderful family discussion and not just another opportunity to ignore each other?
College costs continue to skyrocket, and for many families, a college degree seems almost unattainable without taking on a huge amount of debt. At the same time, more and more information is required to know how to do our jobs effectively.
Hundreds of thousands of new books are being published each year, and the information available on the Internet is growing so quickly that more information is available to us now than at any other time in human history. People want to make sense of it all and need help to do so.
In the church world, there are competing theologies and constant challenges to orthodox Christian teaching. If there ever was a time that we needed to be like the Bereans, who “received the word with all eagerness, daily examining the Scriptures” (Acts 17:11), it is now. Why not make Bible study an appealing thing to do? Consider dusting off your reference section and looking for new titles that will help people do this studying for themselves. Offer seminars on how to use Bible study tools like Bible dictionaries, commentaries and concordances. Don’t assume that everyone is using the Internet alone to study the Bible.
There is increasing evidence that people are becoming tired of staring at screens all day and then coming home to do the same. Studies have shown that an enormous amount of daily activity in this information era is now spent in front of a computer, flat screen, tablet or smartphone. When all these technologies are considered, the time involved in keeping up can take the majority of our waking hours. This is now affecting our sleep patterns and making us more and more irritable.
Your customers may need to be reminded that reading a physical book is a proven method of de-stressing and a great way to recharge one’s emotional batteries. Promote reading “real” books through book clubs that you sponsor. Another effective way to remind people of this off-screen alternative is to host a book-reading time in your store whereby you use volunteers to read select books not only to children, but also to adults. You can ask authors to do readings of their books or your staff can lead the reading sessions as well. Have people close their eyes and simply listen to the words that are being read. Even five minutes of this will rejuvenate their day and remind them why they love books in the first place.
The proliferation of smartphones in this generation has created the earliest and easiest access to pornography in our lifetime. Parents who simply wanted to stay in touch with their children and did not want to “deprive” them of the latest technology also have facilitated a means for kids to get in contact with more strangers than ever before. This has caused much anxiety and countless sleepless nights wondering if that new tablet that was meant for educational purposes is really a gateway to a world children are not ready for yet. Sadly, these worries turn out far too often to be well-founded.
In response to this issue, some parents are returning to the time-honored tradition of reading to their kids and vice-versa. What a great way to spend time together, to learn and direct some of what is going into your child’s mind.
This is a carpe diem moment for Christian retail stores. The Kids section needs to come out from the back of the store and be brought front and center. Tween and teen books need to be properly curated and kept in stock, and parents need to know what the best books are for various age groups. We have a chance to be a part of rescuing the next generation and helping parents have greater peace of mind.
Whether it is ISIS, Ebola or stolen credit card data, something sinister always seems to be looming around the corner. Increasingly, these are issues that we do not understand. Why are people being beheaded with the act shown on TV? How did a deadly disease like Ebola get so out of control? Where was the “high-tech” security for our all-important financial data when we needed it most?
In a world of uncertainly, your store can be an oasis of hope and security in a God who never changes. For people who are fearful of paying with a credit card on the Internet, you willingly accept cash for their transactions. Beyond that, you offer a listening ear, open heart and prayerful spirit.
The year 2014 was one of plateauing for e-book sales, especially for nonfiction titles. New evidence is emerging that the Christmas season was very good for physical book sales, but not so much for e-books. The Waterstones chain in the U.K. even referred to the decline of Kindle sales in their stores as having “not just fallen off the edge of the cliff, they’ve hit the bottom.”
While it is certainly far too early to call for the demise of e-books—and they are likely to be a permanent fixture in the future book-reading world—they may not represent as high a percentage of sales as had been anticipated. This is great news for your store!
The trend of shopping local is no longer just a fad or the result of great marketing by American Express, which promotes Small Business Saturday every year. More and more people understand the economic impact of shopping with their local retailers and are making it a part of their regular routine. As consumers are shopping locally, they are discovering something else—it connects you to your community in a deeper way than anyone had imagined. Not only that, it is a lot of fun discovering why some local stores are so good at what they do.
With the shop-local trend, your store can help fulfill a deep-seated desire to get back to simpler times. You can help fill the world with wisdom from the pages of the books on your shelves and become the go-to place to learn what is going on in the local church.
Be sure to highlight the importance of buying local by supporting other local retailers in your community and cross-promoting their stores whenever possible. Let people know that your store is locally owned and that you appreciate their patronage, and be sure to participate in local events as often as possible. Most of all, make your store a place members of your local community will want to shop!
Dave Almack is U.S. director for CLC International. He has served as a missionary with CLC for 19 years, and his responsibilities include oversight of the organization’s three U.S. bookstores, three church bookstores, publishing house and mission-sending base. He is also a regular blogger, frequent speaker at the International Christian Retail Show and contributor to trade magazines in the Christian products industry.