Christian Retailing

Children’s Products Workshop continues to draw crowd of retailers after 20 years Print Email
Written by Natalie Gillespie   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:50 PM America/New_York

Educator Dr. Mary Manz Simon reports on significant growth in kids’ market, honored by CBA with special reward

MaryManzSimon-MarkHallColor and creativity were two of the hottest trends in children’s products at the 2014 International Christian Retail Show in Atlanta.

Children’s gift items are bright and bold this year, with CBA newcomer Stephen Joseph displaying backpacks and lunchboxes in primary reds and blues for boys and hot pink, orange and lime green among the colors for girls. Color and creativity were also on display at DaySpring, which is introducing more Crayola products, including Color Wonder and new Dry Erase, into the Christian market.

“Active engagement is extremely strong this year,” children’s trends expert Dr. Mary Manz Simon told retailers at her annual Children’s Trends workshop, which celebrated 20 years this year with free snacks, prizes and a large number of product giveaways. “It’s all about kids doing things.”

Simon said that since the former emphasis on promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) for children has been replaced by STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), children’s products that encourage interactivity and imagination are engaging consumers.

In that vein, Cactus Game Design is seeing success with its Apples to Apples Bible Edition and Cranium Bible Edition games, while Talicor just introduced The American Bible Challenge Board Game, based on the popular game show. Even some picture books have become interactive, with Zondervan’s Love Letters From God by Glenys Nellist (Sept. 9) outfitted with “envelopes” glued onto the pages filled with letters to the reader.

In her workshop, Simon cited a CBA store survey in which retailers reported that children’s Bibles and Bible storybooks are the fastest-growing category of kids’ products. Simon said that Hollywood has helped to drive that trend, and with even more faith-based films planned for release this fall, the category should continue to grow.

“We have seen a wave of biblical epics which have generated huge box-office sales,” Simon said. “The Bible has become a water-cooler focus.”

Zondervan introduced at ICRS its updated NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers, which now features full color and more pages that offer biblical insights, trivia and engaging elements. The hardcover design is also holographic.

Simon encouraged retailers to host events in their stores—from tapping into nationally recognized designated days like Grandparents’ Day to hiding eggs with coupons or candy during the Easter season—because the children’s department is a natural fit for fun.

“An event gives the impression that good things are happening in the store,” she said. “And excitement feeds excitement.”

Simon reminded retailers that today’s consumers are savvy researchers and are more likely to buy in-store if they have already learned about the item online, seen a video about it or heard other moms recommend it. She said retailers should ask suppliers for video clips they can use in-store and run on their websites in order to educate the consumer.

Customers also are heading into brick-and-mortar Christian stores because of coupons, the CBA survey showed. Catalog, online and emailed coupons were redeemed frequently and kept consumers coming back.

“Coupons still rule,” Simon said. “They remain the most effective promotional device available, so continue to do what you’ve been doing to save your customers money.”

Although coupons are important, Simon also said that Nielsen data revealed consumers of children’s products are no longer looking for the lowest-priced children’s items. Today, parents and other customers of children’s items are looking for personalized products and gifts that best fit the occasion or need.

“During the recession, price equaled value,” Simon said. “The post-recession customer has redefined value to include content and relevance. You know what? That’s great news for us.”

CBA and the Association of Logos Bookstores surprised Simon during the Children’s Trends Workshop with special awards to celebrate two decades of the training event. In the past 20 years, suppliers have given away more than $100,000 in free product to retailers in attendance; and Simon has invested more than 60,000 hours in preparation for the popular workshops. —Natalie Gillespie