Christian Retailing

Gift makers offer fashion, fun with wide-ranging lines Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:45 PM America/New_York

Runway sees new Christian fashion, while Fair Trade focuses on the cause shopper

Kerusso-GodsNotDeadFrom Fair Trade to Made-in-USA items, gift products have a broad reach, as could be seen at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS).

Traffic from countries such as China, Korea, Nigeria and New Zealand was high at Halle Joy, a Texas-based company known for its handbags. This year, however, the trend for the company is jewelry. Design Director Curtis Downs said the sterling silver program of carded pendant necklaces is what’s new this year.

“A good percentage of our product this year will be jewelry,” Downs said. “More of the chains that we worked with have requested the jewelry over the bags, so we followed the demand. Women buy more pieces of jewelry than they would a handbag.”

The pendants with a $25-$39 price point come on cards with scripture or inspirational sayings. There are also some mother-daughter sets, and “a lot of really feminine and dainty pieces in the sterling line,” Downs’ wife, Jara, told Christian Retailing.

There were a number of apparel companies exhibiting as well, including Not of This World and Kerusso, which shared CBA’s Gift & Specialty Items booth award with Scripture Candy.

Kerusso held its annual 3:16 event, which drew a crowd for products tossed into the crowd and giveaways from drawings. Two big prizes given were the Left Behind display with product and $500 cash.

Along with new caps and “Cherished Girl” long-sleeve tees, Kerusso was highlighting its Left Behind movie-inspired products, including shirts, caps, stainless-steel tumblers and wristbands.

Kevin Sumner’s company, 1Eighty Apparel, was at ICRS as an exhibitor for the first time but not with a big booth. Geni Hulsey invited Sumner to set up a booth in the Church Store Connection area.

“It tends to be a better market for us because a lot of independent stores don’t understand a $20-or-higher-price point T-shirt,” Sumner said of church stores.

Bringing his 25 years of retail experience to the show, he finds it “encouraging to see a lot of new apparel vendors, which means there’s more selection,” said Sumner, who also advised church stores to buy several brands, giving consumers more options.

LifeWay Christian Stores and some larger church stores have been consistent with offering his product, and he plans to expand his reach through a distribution partner.

One company had a daily fashion show at the Creative Pavilion stage on the show floor. Christians in Fashion presented the Cool Revival Runway Show where Christian designers showcased their collections. The fashion show featured the work of models, stylists and hair and makeup artists.

Contributing to fashion was one of the more unusual gift products at ICRS, a museum-quality umbrella ($15.99) from Swanson Christian Products. The company had success with one last year and opted to bring out three new umbrella designs at a much lower price point than what would normally be seen in the general market.

One clothing company, Saved by Grace, is dedicated to assisting homeless families in shelters across the nation. The company made a donation of 1,000 garments to Atlanta’s Buckhead Christian Ministry, the ministry CBA designated as the recipient of the ICRS 2014 offering.

Saved by Grace recently launched the Grace for Two Project, which provides clothing to homeless families in shelters through a buy one, give one model.

“This is a big show, and we are thrilled to provide our clothing line as an example for how Christian organizations can impact their local communities,” said co-founder of Saved by Grace and GF2P Lauren Breiding.

There was “a sense of community” at the show, Halle Joy’s designer said, and Carpentree’s Sherry Morris agreed.

“We’re excited to always meet with our retailers and just make those connections that are so important for us in our industry,” said Morris, director of marketing. “We’ve seen some new people on the floor who are interested in starting new stores. It’s been very fun to visit with them and be able to teach them a little about Carpentree merchandising.”

Bob Perryman, senior director of product with DaySpring, said the new “Premium Collection” cards, which retail for $4.99 to $10.99 each, were “resonating pretty much across the board with all of our retailers.” Picking up on cues in the card industry, DaySpring opted to create high-end cards for special occasions, available this fall.

Another unusual DaySpring line caters to middle-aged or older customers with a product range featuring journals and books.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest in our ‘Hope for the Heart’ line, which is really about helping people along their path to wellness,” Perryman said. “So, as you think of an aging population, really just as we all age, we want to live well and finish well, so a lot of the products there really resonate with that.”

In addition, DaySpring was promoting its children’s products tied with the Crayola brand and its U-Neeks brand, which has a new app that is free for download.

Lighthouse Christian Products, which was celebrating its three Christian Retailing’s Best awards, had a good show.

“They appreciate the fact that we are constantly refreshing our lines and that we put scripture on all of the products that we make,” said Ed Nizynski, vice president of sales. “They appreciate the booklets of the gospel that we add to our products, and they thank me all the time for our customer service that we render.”

The company has had success with its Ark of the Covenant sculpture and is now making a “very large” version of it as well as a Spanish version, Nizynski said.

Abbey Press said the retailers who came to the show “came here ready to spend” and that the company was “pleased with what the response is with our product,” said Sue Ann Kloeck, director of trade marketing.

Abbey’s “Blooming Blessings” kitchenware was its “No. 1 hottest seller” at ICRS. Crosses and mugs did well along with new professions gifts themed around careers.

Cynthia Glensgard of Global Handmade Hope urged retailers to use cause marketing to attract loyal customers, noting that Fair Trade “embodies Christian values.”

But, she cautioned, because of its higher price point, “You can’t put it next to a product from China and expect it to sell.” —Johnson