Christian Retailing

LifeWay to focus on digital retail, close all stores Print Email
Written by Carol Pipes   
Wednesday, 20 March 2019 02:53 PM America/New_York

LifeWayBuilding webLifeWay Christian Resources is charting a new course in 2019 marking a strategic shift of resources to a dynamic digital strategy. As part of the transition, LifeWay will close its 170 brick-and-mortar stores in 2019.

The organization will continue to offer a broad selection of resources through and the LifeWay Customer Service Center (800-458-2772). LifeWay Customer Service hours are Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (Central). LifeWay will also continue to serve customers through its network of church partners who work directly with churches.

Munce announces new trade association, upgrades CPE Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 23 October 2018 05:10 PM America/New_York

Christian Retail AssociationMunce Group announced today the formation of the Christian Retail Association Inc. (CRA) to its nearly 225 member stores. The group's president, Bob Munce, founded CRA as a nonprofit ministry to better serve independent Christian retailers.

Munce Group also will restructure one of its regional trade shows, Christian Product Expo (CPE), into a national and international show called CPE International. The first CPE International will be held Sunday to Tuesday, Aug. 25-27, 2019, at Embassy Suites Nashville SE Murfreesboro in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The show floor will be open Aug. 26-27.

“Baker Publishing Group would like to encourage our international retailers and international publishing friends to attend CPE International in 2019,” said David Lewis, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Baker Publishing Group. “Since the sale of the CBA show [UNITE] to an independent party, many people have been disappointed with the communication and responsiveness of the new owners. We believe the CPE show can add stability plus a reliable time and place for the Christian publishing industry to meet. We hope all of our international partners will consider putting this show on their calendars for 2019.”

HarperCollins Christian Publishing (HCCP) also supports the new version of the CPE show.

“HarperCollins Christian Publishing has been a supporter of Munce Marketing Group’s Christian Product Expo since its inception,” said Tom Knight, HCCP's senior vice president of sales. “As a trade show focused on the Christian products industry, CPE knows what it takes to drive success. HCCP is proud to be a supporter of CPE and will continue to support its efforts as the show grows and serves the international market.”

In a letter to vendors, Munce explained how the new association and upgraded show came to be. He said during the latest CPE, some top executives and company owners from the publishing, gift, music, services and distributor side of the industry asked him what he would need to take on this new responsibility and volunteered their support. 

Along with CPE International, the regional CPE will continue in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains in January ( Both shows will offer retailer reimbursement and have a strong spiritual emphasis as they have in the past.

Key CBA leaders leave Association for Christian Retail Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Friday, 07 September 2018 02:22 PM America/New_York

CurtisRiskey OfficialWebTwo key leaders at CBA, The Association for Christian Retail, have left the organization.

The association’s president, Curtis Riskey, is no longer working at CBA headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. CBA has not yet announced a replacement to lead the organization nor stated the reason for Riskey’s departure. He had been with the association for 11 years, first as strategic solutions executive starting in 2007, advancing to the role of president in 2009.

CBA plans to ‘interrupt’ industry for the cause of Christ Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 12 July 2018 05:26 PM America/New_York

ShowFloor Unite2018 croppedCBA, the Association for Christian Retail, moved its annual convention to Nashville this year. The location, the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, along with significant funds given to CBA member retailers to pay for show expenses were factors that drew Christian retailers to the Unite convention.

CBA reported that more than 1,700 people, a 10 percent increase over last year, attended the July 8-11 trade show. Representatives from 35 countries also attended.

Although the gift section of the exhibit floor appeared to be full, some gift companies either did not attend Unite or went from one show to the next as Unite and the Atlanta gift show at AmericasMart overlapped. 

“For the most part, we sold out our booth space,” CBA President Curtis Riskey said.

CBA is also in the very early stages of establishing strategic alliances and is challenging retailers and suppliers to look at the industry in a fresh way.

“Many great things are birthed in times of great fire, turmoil and crisis,” said Eddie Roush, the new chairman of CBA Service Corp., who has invested $1 million in CBA, including retailer show reimbursement. “Many Christian retailers are suffering because they have not yet adopted new ways of marketing their businesses, and at CBA’s Unite 2018, we have provided them new tools, insight and inspiration in order to thrive.”

Roush is also president of The Roush Foundation, which helped to organize and underwrite Unite 2018.

“We feel we need to rebrand Christianity,” he added. “We have taken the holy name of Jesus and diluted it, where people have lost hope in His power to give hope and new ideas to our business owners who are struggling. We have come to interrupt our industry for the good of furthering the cause of Christ.”

Most of the training at the show was offered free of charge for retailers, who took advantage of the opportunity to learn from inside and outside experts on retail topics.

“We had so many people not only sign up for education workshops but also attending,” Riskey said. “A lot of years we would measure somewhere between 20 and 40 on average who would be attending a session. This year there are many that averaged well over 100.”

Riskey was encouraged by the increase.

“We’re talking a lot about change,” he said. “There’s change needed, because obviously you can’t expect to do the same things and expect different results. But when I see those folks taking workshop sessions and things like that, people are starting to realize they do need help and are seeking it. Hopefully they found a lot of really good things here.”

CBA brings Unite back to the same location next year, June 25-28.

'90 Minutes in Heaven' author Don Piper continues his heavenly story Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 10 July 2018 08:12 PM America/New_York

DonPiperDon Piper, a New York Times best-selling author and the subject of the 90 Minutes in Heaven movie, said he came to know Christ as Savior at age 16 through the influence of friends and relatives. Those were the people he says he met at the gates of heaven when he died in a car crash at age 38 and spent 13 months in the hospital.

In his new book, People I Met at the Gates of Heaven, Piper, who is also an ordained minister, told of those who expected and met him at heaven’s gates. His college roommate’s mother met him there, as did one of his classmates who was killed, his great-grandparents, his grandmother and a teacher.

People I Met at the Gates of Heaven also shows how believers can and should influence others on earth for heaven's purposes, just as those who helped lead Piper to Christ influenced him.

As for whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, which the Scripture speaks about, “only God knows” Piper said.

“We think we know who’s going and who’s not, and we do not,” he said.

FaithWords releases his new book in November.

New Craig von Buseck book addresses hearing God's voice Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 10 July 2018 07:14 PM America/New_York

CraigvonBuseck Facebook

Author Craig von Buseck brings his Bible-teaching skills to his new book, Seven Keys to Hearing God’s Voice from Ramcastle Press. Supportive of Christian retail, von Buseck came to Unite 2018 to share the story of his new book that, he said, fills a market niche.

Seven Keys to Hearing God’s Voice is a book that is different than anything I’ve seen in the market in that it talks about the traditional forms of God’s guidance that you hear in pretty much any kind of a church you’re going to go into, the Scripture and godly counsel and the peace of God in confirmation,” von Buseck said. “Those are things that everybody agrees on. But what differentiates this book is that I specifically speak to, first of all, the Holy Spirit speaking directly to our hearts, and I talk about how that happens.”

He identifies four voices that try to lead the Christian’s life: God, the devil, one’s self and the world, which could be a mentor or parents, for instance.

“We need to learn how to discern between those different voices, but one of those voices is the Lord,” he said, citing Joy Behar of ABC's The View, who stirred up social media with her assertion that when Jesus talks to you, it’s a “mental illness.” She has since apologized for her remark.

In the book, von Buseck shows how God speaks to the Christian and, at times, even those who don’t know the Lord.

“I give these seven different channels through which the Lord will speak, and the point of the book is to say that He doesn’t typically speak through any one of those things,” von Buseck said. “Typically He’ll speak through several, if not all of the seven keys, then He’ll knit it together in a tapestry, and it’s in the picture of that tapestry that we see the picture of God’s guidance.”

This book is different from most books on God’s guidance in that it also teaches on personal prophecy, words of knowledge and words of wisdom.

“God gave us a brain. He gave us an intellect,” von Buseck said of the need to know how God speaks to us. “We’re not just spiritual beings.”

The author may also post teaching videos related to the book on his website,, in the future.

Gift merchandising training draws a retail crowd Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 10 July 2018 06:16 PM America/New_York

DonnaMcCollough gifts Unite

Christian retailers filled the tables and some stood to hear three gift merchandising experts teach the Ignite Your Gift Sales session. Sherry Morris of Carpentree, Michelle Amster of Integra Interactive and retailer Donna McCollough shared tips at the session held at the Church Bookstore Connection Center at CBA’s Unite 2018.

Sherry Morris, marketing manager at Carpentree, was pleased to speak to the retailers to inspire them to go back to their stores and try something new.

“It was a joy to be here and talk to the retailers and try to just give them a vision for what merchandising can be, because we all need that little bit of creative spark to take us from one level to the next level,” she said. “A lot of people already had the basics, already know it, but when you stop and you think about merchandising and what you’re trying to accomplish to help your store take that bottom line up, then it’s really good to think, What can I do to reach the next level?

The session was a continuation of last year’s training at Unite in Cincinnati.

“We’re trying to take what we taught last year about the five basic techniques of merchandising and encourage people to scaffold that to the next level,” Morris said. “What is good merchandising? What is better merchandising? And what is the best merchandising? And we gave them a rubric to try to help them to think about that. We wanted to just give them another tool to encourage them.”

McCollough, co-owner of Dove Christian Supply in Dothan, Alabama, talked of sharing the gospel any way the retailer can, including through “lifestyle product.”

Beyond more prominent product displays toward the front of the store, McCollough encourages retailers to have secondary displays to draw customers in “further and further” into the store.

McCollough talked about using simple things such as an old window with chicken wire to display jewelry. Morris added that going to flea markets, estate sales and perhaps a friend’s barn to pick up inexpensive or free items to use in gift display and attract attention.

It’s also important to make a statement and to have adequate gift product on display, McCollough said. She pointed out that it has to be full enough so that customers “know you care about the product.”

CBA Future of the Industry event focuses on world market Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 10 July 2018 04:58 PM America/New_York

FutureOfTheIndustry Unite CroppedTuesday morning’s Future of the Industry (FOI) breakfast continued on from the Sunday’s Worship Him themes. But FOI also highlighted CBA’s new emphasis on big, shared data for the Christian retail industry.

Following a musical set by Curt Anderson at the keyboard, CBA President Curtis Riskey introduced the topic of the FOI discussion.

“There isn’t an industry with a more powerful and important message,” the former Christian retailer declared. Focused on the future, Riskey prayed to the “God of new beginnings.”

The new chairman of CBA Service Corp. and chairman of the Roush Foundation, Eddie Roush invited his business partner, Kurt Ruf, and Clyde Rivers, a U.S. citizen who is an honorary ambassador at large for the nation of Burundi, into a living room setting, asking attendees to listen to their “private conversation.”

Roush talked of the Christian products industry as lacking “tools, vision and even the resources” to expand, noting how big the world market is. He asked Rivers if it would even be possible to pair a retail store in the U.S. with a city or region elsewhere to meet the needs of the internationals there. Rivers answered in the affirmative, saying it is possible to “re-store a nation.”

Roush cautioned against a close alignment with American politics and governments, which, he said, “turns off people, including Millennials.”

Rivers shared what life is like in Burundi and how open the people are to Christianity. Christian music is played in the airport he travels to and can be heard in restaurants as well.

Roush said the industry needs to “clean up our act” to be ready for this “global play.”

To do that, Ruf noted the importance of tailoring customer communication, to “differentiate and personalize.” Ruf observed that “the old spray-and-pray days are over” and that the industry must use data as a tool to target customers in a mobile society. Ruf spoke of isolating consumer prospects that align with key values such as “small town sensibility” and the need to continuously clean the data to be sure it is accurate.

Rivers believes that governments are willing to share data “if we can help them meet their needs.” He’s believes reaching the global market is possible.

“Jesus wants to set the narrative for every community in the world,” Rivers said.

Roush said the way forward is about “spreading the Jesus narrative,” not an American-style gospel. He also thinks Americans will benefit from global partnerships that pair particular stores with regions of the world to meet their needs for resources, even older products, and to hear from them as well.

“Who are the voices in those countries who have something to say back here?” Roush said.

Marilyn Hood, who with her husband, Frank, recently closed their Sweet Spirit store, have been coming to CBA for over 30 years. The FOI discussion gave Hood “a real sense of hope” for the future of Christian retail.

“I’m excited about the future of the industry even though we’re transitioning out of it,” Hood said. “If we were starting today, I would be so excited about having a little city in some other country where we would maybe give a little portion of our income, that we would be maybe taking a mission trip with our customers or even through our church or whatever to go visit that little country and get that sisterhood bonding.”

Becky Gorczyca, executive director of the Association of Logos Bookstores, believes that Logos Bookstores are “customer centric” rather than “product centric,” another topic in the FOI discussion.

“Our joy is matching up the need of the customer with the product and helping those people walk closer to the Lord because of the relationship with us, whether it be conversation or product, and also with the product that has prayerfully been developed by authors and publishers,” Gorczyca said. “I think there’s a very big network that the Lord has put together to take His people where they are and expose them to things that are going to help them to grow. He uses authors, He uses publishers, He uses bookstores, He uses staff people, He uses marketing, He uses catalogs, all these kinds of things the Lord uses to reach His people to bring them closer to Him and to grow them. I am very privileged, as all the local stores are, to be part of that plan. And may we be here for many years, and we plan to be, in order to be part of His plan.”

The Logos association had its annual conference just before Unite.

“We at the Logos Bookstores are optimistic and encouraged about the future,” she said. “The theme for our conference this year was based on Micah 6:8, What would the Lord require of us but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. That is the path that we are going to take, and we think the future is bright if we follow the Lord and walk humbly where He wants us to go. We’re going to continue to reach out to our customers on an individual and relational basis. We’re going to continue to meet customers where they are and often that means that it’s not in our physical stores, but it’s outside of the four walls of our stores. We have been doing that consistently for years, and we’ve decided to ramp that up. We are happy about the future and are looking forward to it.”