Christian Retailing

Celebrating 60 years of ‘Christian Retailing’ Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 03:44 PM America/New_York

Sixty years ago, a trade magazine was launched to serve the burgeoning Christian retail industry. Known at its start in 1955 as Christian Bookseller, the publication that later was renamed Christian Retailing now is going through another significant innovation in response to the changing business environment.

Looking back

CBookseller-Apr-55From 1955 until 1967, Christian Bookseller was the only trade magazine for the burgeoning Christian products industry, covering new companies such as Tyndale House Publishers, founded by Kenneth Taylor (who considered Walker a mentor), which located in Wheaton, Illinois, where it is still today and has become one of the leading companies in the industry.

Walker’s publishing of Christian Bookseller was “extremely significant, for it encouraged a struggling industry and made it blossom for many years,” said William Petersen, who came up with the idea for the trade magazine in a journalism class. At first, Walker was skeptical but later started the magazine and hired Petersen to be the first editor.

Peter Cunliffe, who once worked for Walker, remembers that because many stores were just being started, many “managers and store personnel lacked retail experience in many cases, so Bob perceived they needed guidance in order to run their store successfully.

“So he created Christian Bookseller magazine, which included ‘how-to-do-it’ type of articles on many facets of bookstore management, to give much-needed guidance,” said Cunliffe, who is now a publishing consultant.

The magazine grew rapidly. But then in 1967, CBA started its own magazine and Christian Bookseller slowly lost market share. In early1986, Walker—then 74—felt he needed a successor and turned over Christian Bookseller and his other publishing entities (Creation House and Christian Life) to a young publisher named Steve Strang who had founded Charisma a few years before.

Strang, who is still publisher and owner, felt the magazine needed a new name and new format to spark renewed interest. The name was changed to Christian Retailing and the size was changed to the large tabloid format. The magazine more than doubled in sales in the next year. Then it doubled again and grew from monthly publication to 20 issues a year.

“The advertisers really loved the large format,” Strang recalls.  “One advertiser told me that a two-page tabloid ad was like holding a billboard in your lap as you read the magazine.”

CBS10 1984Since 1986, the big box stores have developed, buying groups and chains have emerged, and, of course, the Internet became the important new medium. Advertisers focused on new customers, often neglecting the small independent stores.

“We believe a trade magazine like Christian Retailing is still important,” said Strang. “It reaches those independent stores that no rep visits and often no one phones.  Yet these are the ones who sell the backlist and will carry the more theological and spiritual books the big boxes won’t carry. They are still the backbone of this industry.  And there is no more economical way to reach them than this magazine.”Cover-CR-12-15-86-copy

 So, in this new environment, Christian Retailing is changing.  It is “right-sizing” to save overhead and shifting some content (such as breaking industry news) to the Internet, which also saves time and money.  We are also publishing only eight print issues a year to coincide with the buying seasons and big events in the industry.

And influenced by advertising on the Internet, some of the content will now be “sponsored” by advertisers, while the majority will still be original articles you’ve come to expect from this publication.  However, product listings are being replaced by paid-for “previews,” which give vital information about new books so stores can easily order them.  Much of this content is also being released on the Internet since all previews and advertorials will be put online where they will go to an opt-in list of around 15,000.Cover-CR-8-8-05

Looking ahead

Featured themes for 2015 issues include charismatic books and the mom’s market (April/May); international and movies (June); fiction and music (July); Christmas and children’s products (August); gifts and start-of-year products (September/October); Vacation Bible School and health/fitness (November); and e-books and Young Adult (December/January).

Along with substantial features, we are offering columns on a variety of critical topics from writers including Scott Etheridge from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Sales Development); Kirk Blank from Munce Group (Store Traffic Builders); and Erik Ernstrom from The Parable Group (Data Management). Other columns will draw from a number of writers who know that aspect of the industry (Church Bookstore, Best Practices).

We continue to publish in print and digital formats, not to mention all of the content that is available at And we’ll be on the lookout for new and innovative digital products that will meet industry needs in the future.

In a recent poll conducted by Charisma Media, we found that 67% of Christian retailers surveyed use Christian Retailing to make buying decisions for their stores. We also know that in an increasingly dark culture, it’s ever more important for the publisher, DVD and music supplier, and gift vendor of Scripture-based products to get the word out, particularly through Christian retailers who minister in their  own local communities.

Although we have always been focused on helping our readers move Christian product, now our advertisers are afforded the opportunity to offer advertorial coverage of their key products alongside the editorial content we provide in each issue’s features and columns. Early reaction to our newly refreshed magazine shows that advertisers are excited about this change, and we are motivated to provide ongoing value to the Christian products industry.

Last but not least, we are pleased to have welcomed recently Troy Anderson as director of our content development department and, as we go to press, we are soon to welcome Dr. Steve Greene, former professor and dean of the Oral Roberts University College of Business, as our executive vice president of the media group.

Watch for these exciting changes ahead and let us know what you think by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or connecting through social media on Facebook or Twitter.