Christian Retailing

CBA: Christian store sales up in 2013 Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Monday, 09 June 2014 02:48 PM America/New_York

New report says consumer buying patterns see dramatic market shift

CurtisRiskey-Official_200Christian stores sales were up 2.9% in 2013 over 2012, according to the 2014 CBA State of the Industry Report, but consumer buying patterns shifted dramatically in 2013, according to the Christian retail association.

Fourth-quarter 2013 sales were down 6.9% in 2013, but sales were up 12.6% in the second quarter and 8.8% in the third, according to data from CBA’s CROSS:SCAN sales-reporting service. The association noted several factors affecting Christian retail sales: earlier shopping for Christmas, economic uncertainty and limited fourth-quarter product-release performance.

The number of Christian store closings also rose. Closings increased to a 49 net loss in 2013 from 39 in 2012. The loss is less than 2011’s peak of 63 stores. The loss of mid-level chains drastically cut store counts, including the closure of 38 Cokesbury stores that consolidated into one Internet-only store (not counting 19 seminary stores).

On the positive side, 18 new stores opened in 2013, up from 15 in 2012. A significant percentage of stores still have longevity; about 63% of Christian stores have been in business more than 15 years.

As with many retailers, store traffic and sales remain critical issues for Christian stores. Retailers reported using more social media, e-marketing and event marketing to drive traffic. 

Retailers also are becoming more intentional about building mission and purpose into overall store strategies. The number of stores with dedicated church relations programs increased 9% in 2013 over 2012, and 73% of respondents said they support a ministry program in some way.

Overall product category shares remained constant in 2013. Stores reported books and Bibles as about 60% of total sales. Gift and specialty categories increased as a share of overall sales, up about 6% in unit share and about 3% in revenue share.

Church supplies had the largest category increase for the year, but other increases were attributed to increased lifestyle merchandising. Categories such as kitchen/dining and apparel saw increased share, along with ties, tote bags, backpacks, bags/purses, hats and bath and body items.

While observing the overall retail landscape, CBA President Curtis Riskey is encouraged to see what Christian retailers are doing differently to draw more traffic into their stores.

“We are happy to see sales up overall at Christian stores, although we realize that not all stores are seeing the same outcome. It is encouraging to see Christian stores committed to sharing their success with their local community and church causes, and to experiment with new retail approaches and lifestyle merchandising. It is a sign that retailers are seeking ways to innovate in challenging times.”

CBA added select data to the report this year from a CBA Christian-supplier CEO survey. About 32% of CEOs responding reported flat or no growth. Most reported growth rates of less than 5%, and 28% of respondents reported 10% or more.

According to the report, future retailing is expected to be dramatically different from today as stores become more about personal engagement, in-store experience and missional purpose rather than competing on price.

New “click and collect” strategies in partnership with suppliers are forecasted to help retailers capture transactions from suppliers’ direct-to-consumer marketing. Physical stores increasingly will support supplier fulfillment and warehousing in the value chain. —Johnson