Christian Retailing

‘Rethinking Retail’ study cites personalization and social media as keys to store success Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:33 AM America/New_York

22020366Sm_iStockphoto-GalaxyPhotoConsumers engage with retailers’ Facebook pages more than they do with stores’ websites, according to a new study from Infosys, a global consulting, technology and outsourcing firm. Even more important for retailers’ bottom line is the fact that nine in 10 consumers say how much they spend is impacted by their social media engagement with a brand.

The Rethinking Retail study is a detailed report based on interviews with 1,000 consumers and 50 general market retailers across the U.S. In addition to the impact of social media on spending, the study reveals how retailers are struggling to create the kind of personalized experience online and in stores that drives increased sales.

The study also found that women are twice as likely as men to be influenced by Pinterest, while YouTube influences twice as many men as women. Foursquare, meanwhile, influenced only 2% of consumers, women or men.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers said that consistency across channels plays a role in their spending tendencies with a particular brand. High consistency across a brand’s channels means greater spending for 34% of consumers, while 39% say a lack of consistency results in a reduction of spending.

“Creating a consistent experience across all physical and digital touch-points has a direct impact on sales,” said Sandeep Dadlani, senior vice president and head (Americas) of retail, consumer packaged goods and logistics at Infosys. “However, with the dominance of social media, creating a consistent and personalized relationship with consumers is now much harder. Retailers and brands need to arm themselves with the technology that can ensure their fans and brand advocates receive the same personalized service across channels to increase sales.”

Although 59% of consumers who have experienced personalized offers believe it has a noticeable influence on their spending, many retailers’ offers are not hitting the mark. Nearly two-thirds of retailers (62%) reported that they featured personalized offers in store, but only 20% of consumers reported even noticing that sort of offer.

This may be due, in part, to some retailers’ focus on online channels versus in-store offers for product recommendations (39% online versus 10% in-store) and personalized promotions (48% versus 3%). A minority (45%) offer product recommendations or personalized offers online and in store. Getting those offers in front of patrons in store may be paramount, as the study shows consumers are three times more likely to impulse-buy in store than online.

Lack of technology was cited as the most common factor preventing retailers from creating a more integrated customer experience, with 38% claiming it as a key barrier. 

Nearly all (96%) of consumers expect retailers to do the obvious and inform them of the store’s new products, while only 34% of retailers can track consumer trends in real time, reducing their ability to roll out appropriate offers to drive sales.

Pre-buys boost value and sales in age of Internet shopping Print Email
Written by Lindsay Williams   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:31 AM America/New_York

Retailers agree pre-release sales of a variety of products engage early adopters and cultivate customer loyalty

LifeWay-MusicManiaChristian retail chains and marketing groups continue to entice customers with pre-buys for top product, seeing the promotions as positive ways to increase value and build sales.

“Engaging that early initiator with a great deal on their favorite book, CD or DVD has potential for some long-term payoffs,” Parable Group’s Marketing Specialist Randy Ross said. “The dollar is captured up front, securing the sale in the store as opposed to online or at a competitor. That early initiator will likely become an ‘evangelist’ for that product, telling their friends about how much they loved it and where to get it; and that customer will likely be back again for the next big release if they are treated well.”

Jimmy Wheeler, vice president of sales at Provident Music Group, is among those who see the worth of pre-buys to boost music sales, though books, Bibles and DVDs also benefit from pre-sales.

“The key is to add value, not necessarily drop price,” Wheeler said. “The hope is that a pre-sale is a traffic-driver for physical retail.”

Wheeler cited a promotion Provident did in anticipation of a new Casting Crowns release several years ago as an example of an effective pre-sale. The campaign was ministry-focused, donating all pre-sale proceeds to help children in Haiti and saw a significant return in terms of both charitable funds raised and units sold. 

Wheeler believes that pre-sales are most effective when retailers are able to focus on one campaign at a time, which rarely happens in today’s marketplace. While the number of pre-sales is declining and normally only reserved for the top echelon of Christian books, music and DVDs, he still believes they serve a purpose. 

“Pre-sales equal pre-promotion, which helps generate awareness,” Wheeler said. “Doing a pre-sale is just one more tool in the toolbox that helps us.”

Fair Trade Services Senior Vice President of Marketing and Promotions Dan Michaels says it’s the collaboration of all invested parties that makes pre-sales worthwhile, driving traffic to stores. 

“The label needs a compelling artist/product and to ensure that the single is working at radio; publicity and social media marketing are engaged; and resources are allotted for retail during the pre-sale timeframe,” Michaels said. “That has been harder to achieve in recent years.” 

Retailers, publishers and labels agree pre-sales are most successful when there’s synergy between all parties involved along the retail chain—each pulling their own weight in terms of promoting the pre-sale via social media, online and in catalogs.

This spring, Provident Distribution will offer a pre-sale to participating retailers aimed at fans of Fair Trade Services group MercyMe in support of new album Welcome to the New. 

“We anticipate that offering an ‘A’ artist with major national appeal and their hit single, ‘Shake,’ climbing the charts during the pre-sale period, will create an attractive value to both consumers and our retail partners,” Michaels said.

Family Christian’s Welcome to the New pre-buy shows a cut of about $6 off the suggested retail price, a substantial savings for price-conscious consumers.

Amanda Sloan, senior vice president of marketing for B&H Publishing Group, has seen books get a boost from pre-buys.

“At B&H, when we have a highly anticipated trade book that is expected to garner substantial early buzz through the media, or the author’s audience is eager for the message, we will sometimes utilize a pre-sale outreach strategy,” Sloan said. “The way to make this most effective is to enroll the retail partner(s) to ensure we are making a reader aware of this through all of our marketing channels.”

Jim Shears, inventory control specialist at the Bartlett, Tenn., Family Christian Stores location, said the success of his store’s pre-sales is mostly determined by the popularity of the author behind the book or the artist behind the music. 

“If it’s the latest Karen Kingsbury book, it’s going to pre-sale like crazy,” Shears told Christian Retailing. “As soon as [her fans] know it’s ready to come out, they’re all over it. It depends on what’s trending. It creates conversation.”

The LifeWay, Family Christian and Mardel chains all run pre-buy specials. LifeWay’s Jan. 28-Feb. 1 Music Mania promotion was extended to Feb. 4 (due to inclement weather) and featured music pre-buys of leading artists at either $7.99 or $9.99, cutting $2 or $4 off suggested retail. Occasionally the chain offers CDs for $5 with a $5-$10 gift card good for the customer’s next store visit, which essentially makes the new release free.

Some chains also now offer pre-buys with e-books. For example, LifeWay’s recent catalog advertises Grace Unplugged with a free Own It digital download.

Despite the additional work necessary for pre-sales at retail, Parable’s Ross said that “full-circle payoff is exponential if the pre-sale is executed with impeccable customer service and follow-up.”

Ross sees the value of pre-sales to Christian retailers across the board. 

“Pre-sales should be a regular part of the independent Christian retail experience,” he said.

Editor’s note: LifeWay, Mardel, Family Christian and several independent retailers declined comment for this story.

New format helps boost attendance for ‘wonderfully inspirational’ CPE Hershey show Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:29 AM America/New_York

HarrisIIIMunce Group’s CPE tradeshow in Hershey, Pa., saw attendance grow considerably from last year’s levels, owing at least partially to a streamlined schedule. More than 200 attendees, including nearly 160 retailers, gathered Jan. 19-21 at the Hershey Lodge for a time of fellowship, training and business.

With the training sessions moved to Jan. 19, a Sunday, a greater number of retailers were able to attend the prospective retailer training with Robbie Halstead of Kingdom Retail Solutions, as well as Bookstore Manager, Vacation Bible School curriculum and Bible sessions.

The show floor opened Monday with an earlier start time of 10 a.m. and closed at 6 p.m. The doors reopened for 3 1/2  hours Tuesday. The updated hours allowed the same amount of buying time as last year’s show, but in a more profitable way with less time out of the store and office for retailers and suppliers.

Eddie Nostrand, sales director of Spirit & Truth Christian Jewelry Designs, found the show productive for his company.

“CPE Hershey was, as always, a blessing to participate in,” Nostrand said. “We as a company were excited to write many orders with both existing and current clients. We look forward to our next CPE show; the Munce crew is the best of the best at what they do, namely connecting stores and vendors together for long-lasting relationships!”

Workshops were held Monday, with the first including sessions on reaching homeschoolers; planning inventory; and stewardship (presented by Candace Tucker of CLC Bookcenter in Philadelphia). The second workshop focused on increasing in-store promotion sales, with sessions on Above the Treeline software tools and in-store and online promotions from Innovative that coordinate with Munce catalogs.

At the Monday evening banquet, Doug Anderson (Provident), solo artist and member of Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, shared stories and songs. Anderson’s “Drive to Retail” campaign was well-received by the stores, and retailers across the country benefitted by selling out of the premium autographed CD. Strong social media support and Anderson’s guest blogs on MTL magazine’s site gained a record number of “shares, likes, tweets, pins and posts,” said Kirk Blank, president of Munce Group and MTL Media. 

Blank commended Anderson and those behind the campaign.

“Hats off to StowTown records, Carol Roundtree, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Provident Distribution and Doug Anderson for really putting the focus on independent Christian retailers,” he said. “Too often, this critical segment of retail goes overlooked. This promotion proved that the independent Christian stores associated with the Munce Group are willing and able to sell a large volume of products.”

In addition, best-selling author Davis Bunn (River North/Moody Publishers) explained his commitment to crafting a worthy story, while Jud Wilhite (FaithWords) commended Christian retailers for the work they do and shared how his faith grew because of the products found in an independent Christian store in Amarillo, Texas. A number of other authors, including Mindy Starns Clark and Dani Pettrey, visited with retailers at the Personality Party.

Retailers were full of praise for the three-day Hershey show. 

“CPE is a wonderfully inspirational ‘family reunion,’ learning from one another,” said Mary Margaret Bittle, owner of Morning Star: A Perfect Gift in Waynesboro, Pa. “[Retailers] can’t survive without the valuable information and update on what’s going on in the industry.”

Kathryn Stricklin from The LORD’s Store in Triadelphia, W.Va., also saw the value in attending CPE.

“My goals and concerns for 2014 were settled here at the show,” Stricklin said. “I’m going home with peace and satisfaction.”

Craig Hall from Davis College Christian Bookstore in Johnson City, N.Y., said he is “always encouraged to continue in the ministry after attending the show.” 

Other events included Night of Worship with Paul E. Miller (Crossway), who spoke on the impact that changes in culture, church communities and the nation have made to retail, and the demonstration of Harris III (Destiny Image), who presented a clear gospel message through illusions.

At Monday’s breakfast, Natalie Nikula of Compassion International introduced a new partnership with Munce Group stores, while Satish Kumar shared his testimony of growing up as a sponsored child. Deb and Mike Woodard of Bethany Book & Gift in Baxter, Minn., encouraged fellow retailers with the success of their recent partnership with the relief organization.

To conclude each evening, CPE attendees were the first in the nation to screen the upcoming theatrical releases Heaven Is for Real and Moms’ Night Out (both Provident Films/Provident Distribution).

Later this year, Munce plans to host the one-day CPE at AmericasMart Atlanta on July 9 and will return for three days to Murfreesboro, Tenn., Sept. 21-23.

Parable Group quadruples national response rate in 2013 Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:28 AM America/New_York

Targeting, personalization contribute to increased revenues for the Christian retail marketing association

RandyRoss2014Parable Group’s print promotions paid off significantly in 2013, with its average customer response rate for print partner stores yielding nearly four times the national average of 4.25% as recorded in the Response Rate Report by The Direct Marketing Association. 

Parable mailed more than 2.3 million print promotions with an average response rate of 16.3%. The 2013 Christmas Catalog response rate was 20.1%.

“Responders generated an average of 1.5 receipts per promotion period and spent more per transaction than nonresponders—averaging $45.98 per promotion period in 2013,” said Jenni Smith, mailing and consumer specialist for Parable.

Furthermore, data revealed that top customers who received regular catalog mailings in 2013 spent $430 in their local store. 

Along with print promotion results, the San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based marketing group also reported success related to customer purchases and digital marketing strategies.

Customers of Parable Group stores purchased more than 250,000 items with unique SKUs in 2013. Top categories were books and Bibles, and the best-selling products were: Book—Jesus Calling (Thomas Nelson); Bible—The Story (Zondervan); Music—Burning Lights by Chris Tomlin (sixstepsrecords/Capitol Christian Distribution); Movie—Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas (Big Idea/Word Distribution); and Kid’s Book—The Beginner’s Bible (Zondervan).

In its digital marketing efforts, Parable sent 25.2 million emails to Christian consumers on behalf of franchise stores and various other Christian partners—a 10% increase in emails sent for partners compared to 2012. Targeting technologies contributed to email open rates as high as 28%.

“Targeting and personalization are becoming more and more of a must-have in the world of email marketing and yield higher open rates, greater click-through rates and generate more revenue,” said Randy Ross, marketing specialist for The Parable Group.

Parable served 51.1 million online display ad impressions to the Christian market in 2013 across thousands of web and mobile sites. Of these, 16.5 million were geo-targeted and served in local markets.

“We are constantly staying in tune with today’s emerging technology for online and mobile display advertising,” said Kyla Falkenhagen, Parable’s lead business analyst. “We’ve been helping advertisers of all sizes leverage online display advertising easily and effectively to reach, engage and convert customers in order to grow their business.”

Parable President Steve Potratz was pleased with the end-of-year results.

“We know the Christian customer, and we are honored to have leveraged our experience, unique customer data and technology to help retailers and clients market to them over 92 million times in 2013,” Potratz said.

Parable served 188 storefronts in various capacities in 2013.

WinePress Publishing closes amid accusations, author complaints Print Email
Written by Natalie Gillespie   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:26 AM America/New_York

Company co-founder establishes new subsidy publisher Redemption Press

Winepress-LogoWinePress Publishing announced its closure in January amid numerous author complaints, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, the death of its editorial director and accusations of cult activity. On the heels of the announcement, WinePress co-founder and former owner Athena Dean has launched a new subsidy-publishing venture, Redemption Press, with plans to move the new company as of April 1 into the Enumclaw, Wash., office space formerly occupied by WinePress.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the winding down of operations at WinePress Publishing,” the now-defunct company’s website states, giving its authors until Jan. 31 to request shipment of books from the WinePress warehouse and directing them first to Amazon’s CreateSpace to republish, then to Sisters, Ore.-based publisher Deep River Books for assistance. Dean told Christian Retailing she hopes Redemption Press also can become a home for former WinePress authors now left in limbo.

“I can’t believe it’s come full circle,” Dean said. “My former husband, Chuck, and I started WinePress from our home. Now I’m back in Washington working from a house in the self-publishing business again.”

The Deans helped pioneer self-publishing in the Christian industry when they opened WinePress in 1991, but in the last few years, the company ran into trouble when executives began pointing fingers at each other, raising accusations of fraud, theft and misappropriation of funds, and leaving authors wondering where their money went and if they would ever see their books in print.

“A number of WinePress authors started calling Deep River stating that no one was answering the WinePress phones and asking if we knew anything,” said CEO and Publisher Bill Carmichael of Deep River Books. “One of the authors was able to email [former WinePress Senior Project Manager] Mike Owens and let him know I wanted to help. He emailed me back and said there were roughly 250 authors in progress and that WinePress was releasing all of their authors from their contracts and giving them back their files.”

Carmichael said Owens indicated he had been laid off when the company closed, but was volunteering his time to make sure authors got their files and books from the warehouse. At press time, a link on the WinePress homepage directed authors to an evaluation form that Deep River is using to figure out the status of each book project.

“We are not in any way affiliated with WinePress,” Carmichael said. “I just feel terrible for those authors. We basically want to assess what they need and try to help them at our cost, so that we can get their books into print as inexpensively as we can.” 

Athena and Chuck Dean started WinePress to give authors an alternative to traditional, royalty-based publishing contracts. In 1998, the Deans published a controversial book by Timothy Williams titled Hating for Jesus and became close friends with Williams and his family, who relocated to Enumclaw and became pastor of a church called Sound Doctrine (SD). Many SD members lived together in Enumclaw homes and worked at WinePress.

In 2006, Christian Retailing reported that Athena Dean had sold WinePress to Williams, but the deal was then called off. Dean and SD members, including the Williams family, continued to work together, but trouble was brewing. In 2010, Dean sold the company to the church for $10. 

From there, the relationship between the Williams family, SD and Dean continued to deteriorate, with SD eventually launching a pair of websites (HardTruth.SDoctrine
, to denounce Dean and other detractors. Dean responded with her own site (, accusing SD of being a cult that cost her relationships with family members, destroyed her marriage and stole her business. Dean states she divorced Chuck and cut off contact with some of her own children at the church’s insistence.

In November 2012, the WinePress story took another turn when Malcolm Fraser, WinePress development officer and SD assistant pastor, was charged with the rape of a child. Timothy Williams, SD’s former senior pastor, has stated repeatedly that the whole case was a setup, and Fraser continues to declare his innocence. Convicted last May, Fraser is appealing his 20-year sentence. Sound Doctrine also operated the Salt Shaker Christian Bookstore, which closed after the verdict.

In January 2013, Carla Williams, WinePress editorial director and Timothy’s wife, was diagnosed with brain cancer, an illness she and her husband believed was directly caused by the stress of the trial and the alleged lies against the SD church. A familiar face at the WinePress booth at industry shows such as the International Christian Retail Show, Carla died last September.

“Doctors have made it perfectly clear that none of my past health issues contributed to this sudden, rapid brain tumor, but that stress has brought it on,” Carla Williams said in a February 2013 post at her website,

Well-known literary agent Chip MacGregor got pulled into the WinePress fray when he posted a Facebook comment about Athena Dean’s website, and the SD attorney responded with a cease-and-desist letter threatening prosecution. On Jan. 28, MacGregor posted at “I’ve seen some crazy stuff in my years in Christian publishing, but never anything like The Winepress Follies.”

While WinePress’ closing statement points to “lies and deceit” as the reasons for the company’s demise, debt also contributed. Mike Reynolds, Enumclaw city attorney and former landlord for WinePress, told Christian Retailing that the publisher owes him $280,000. He obtained a judgment against WinePress and took back the office space the company occupied. 

On MacGregor’s site and a number of author sites and blogs, WinePress authors are expressing their frustration and concern about signing contracts and paying Winepress for services they will not receive. The Better Business Bureau also lists several complaints by authors stating they could not get in contact with anyone from the company.

Christian Retailing made several attempts to reach Timothy Williams about the closing and received a voicemail reply that stated: “If you’re interested in talking about Athena Dean, her hate crime and her lies and go from there, I’m very interested. However, if it’s merely just to give her a platform to reiterate more lies, it wouldn’t do me any good to answer at that point because it’s not going to benefit anybody.”

When asked about the WinePress closing’s effect on the Christian retail landscape, veteran retailer Chuck Wallington, owner of Christian Supply in Spartanburg, S.C., said that there are now so many custom houses that authors will still have plenty of opportunities to self-publish.

“With the landscape of self-publishing changing so rapidly, while it’s sad to see a major player exit, there are still a lot of very viable options available to authors,” Wallington said. 

Dean hopes Redemption Press will be one of those options and has put together a publishing team that includes public relations veteran Michele Tennesen and former WinePress employees Karla Cochran and Kevin Cochran. 

“Self-publishing packages often include a bunch of services that you pay for whether you need all these things or not,” Dean said. “Basically almost everyone does it because we know Christians will pay money to get their message out. I have a hard time with that and don’t think its right. Redemption Press ( will sell everything a la carte, and I hope we can help WinePress authors at cost. I just had one author tell me it was going to cost her $2,500 to finish her book, when I know we can do it for $391. We want to help authors get and keep their books in print.”

Why retailers want more from best-selling author Kyle Idleman Print Email
Written by Ann Byle   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:24 AM America/New_York

LifeWay Christian Stores sees pastor as ‘unique communicator’ who is ‘perfect for our vision and mission’


AHAKyle Idleman remembers frequent visits to the bookstore at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Mo., where his dad was president. While he admits to mostly purchasing candy and gum, Idleman will never forget walking those aisles filled with books and Bibles.

Now Idleman’s own books are on the shelves of Christian retail stores around the country, and he’s come to understand the important link between the stores, customers and his message.

“It’s opened my eyes to the many Christian bookstore owners and managers who see their work as a ministry,” Idleman said. “The bookstore isn’t just a job for them, but a calling to get the right resources into the hands of people who need them.”

Idleman is teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., and author of the March release AHA: The God Moment That Changes Everything (David C Cook). Idleman is also author of the Zondervan best-sellers Not a Fan and Gods at War.

AHA came from about 15 years of listening to people’s stories of spiritual transformation,” he said. “The book is a journey through the story of the Prodigal Son, with stories I’ve been privileged to hear and those from my own life.”

AHA gets its name from the three steps needed in any true spiritual awakening, Idleman said. First is the “awakening” moment, when someone sees something they hadn’t seen before; second comes “honesty,” when that person speaks truth to themselves; third is “action,” when a person begins to take steps toward change and transformation.

But Idleman’s work goes far beyond a book. He partners with City on a Hill Productions to produce curriculum products that include DVDs, journals, small group study guides and pastor’s kits. City on a Hill Studio markets and distributes those products via its website and through Christian retail stores.

City on a Hill released the DVD series for Idleman’s Not a Fan about seven months before the book came out. His Gods at War study materials came out four months before the book did. Sales were good for Not a Fan: nearly 25,000 study guides, 170,000 journals and 19,000 DVDs sold via Christian stores from 2011 to 2013. 

This time, however, City on a Hill and book publisher David C Cook are releasing the book and study materials at the same time.

“Now that we’ve learned a little more, we’re launching the products at the same time,” said Tim Byron, general manager of City on a Hill Studio. “We’re hoping to get momentum behind the series, leveraging the marketing from the publisher and our marketing, cross-promoting the products and getting them in Christian bookstores.”

Mike Salisbury, marketing director for trade books at David C Cook, is delighted with early response from bookstores and readers.

“We see the way people are reacting,” Salisbury said. “We see the consumer getting excited, so we are very happy with early promotions.”

The publisher is planning a book launch March 5 at Southeast Christian, an event that will be broadcast live through the Hub Network, and is working with CBA to give retailers an opportunity to also broadcast the event live. David C Cook is offering bookstores a sampler booklet of Idleman’s work, is making him available to stores via Skype during scheduled events, and is offering signed bookplates for the books. Additionally, Idleman may offer a short devotional via Skype for store employees.

“These are the people he knows are supporting him,” Salisbury said. “Kyle’s heart is in the CBA. We’re trying to be good stewards of his time, trying to group opportunities together, but we’re looking for opportunities to put him in front of people.”

City on a Hill is just as eager for these opportunities. They want to reach retail customers who might see the book first, then make the jump into the curriculum for either their churches or their families.

“We want to tell retailers that our product is unique, but they really have to see it,” Byron said. “This is a whole suite of products that works together, though they can also stand alone. One thing we know is that when people buy one City on a Hill product, they come back. We’ve built a reputation on quality products that make an impact.”

City on a Hill’s AHA products will include the DVD —20 minutes of drama and about 10 minutes of teaching for each segment—to be used in small group or individual settings. There also will be a leader’s guide, journal for individual participants and a pastor’s kit for those who would like to preach through the series.

“This creates a church-wide experience around the product,” Byron said. “We help create an integrated campaign for churches.” 

Idleman, too, sees the benefit of Christian retailers understanding that these products have possibility for both small group and family use. 

“I would love for Christian bookstores to know that we had both kinds of users in mind when we created the AHA products,” he said. “There is such a strong story element to this material, which engages many different kinds of users.”

Nashville-based LifeWay Christian Resources, which owns and operates 186 LifeWay Christian Stores across the country, recognized Idleman’s appeal when his book Not a Fan took off with customers. LifeWay stores plans to stock all of the AHA products, including curriculum. 

“Kyle is a unique communicator, speaker and teacher,” said Donnie Baldwin, LifeWay’s buyer for curriculum and programs. “He really became popular with the 18-35 age group, but the older age groups like him as well. Not a Fan did extremely well, and so did Gods at War. We think AHA is going to do even better.”

LifeWay stores will stock all AHA products from City on a Hill, along with the book, calling the products “permanent fixtures in our stores—books, curriculum, DVDs, pastor’s kits, journals and study guides,” Baldwin said.

“Kyle is perfect for our vision and mission. He’s everything that we would like to see, and every bit of what we’d like to see our customers reading, studying and thinking about,” he said.

The stores will devote prime promotional space for the book and curriculum, positioning them together whenever possible. 

Not a Fan went way beyond our projections, and we feel AHA is on that same level. We’re excited about the potential,” Baldwin said.

Byron of City on a Hill feels the same way. 

“Christian retailers are a huge piece of what we want to do because they are closest to the customer,” he said. “We’re so excited about our products. It’s all about connecting the product to the customers.”

Idleman is quick to thank Christian retailers for their work. 

“I hear stories about how a book got into the hands of a person who needed it, and often a retailer is the one who made that happen,” he said. “I so appreciate the ministry partnership that takes place between the church and bookstores.”

Vote for the best 2013 Christian products Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 04:05 PM America/New_York

CRsBestWinners_statue_siloHelp select the top releases of the year nominated in variety of categories

Christian Retailing has opened the voting period in the 2014 Christian Retailing’s Best awards. Voting will take place from March 1, 2014 to March 31, 2014.

Authors and vendors have entered what they deem to be their best releases with more than 60 initial categories to choose from—books, Bibles, gifts, music, DVDs and more. For 2014, products were nominated in the super-categories of Bibles, Books, Gifts and Other, with categories including Devotional/Study in Bibles; Fiction: Amish and Nonfiction: Men’s in Books; Wall Décor in Gifts; and Curriculum: Vacation Bible School and DVD/Video: Movie in Other.

Now, anyone involved in the business of Christian products is invited to let their voice be heard through their vote. Owners and managers of Christian retail stores should note that voting is open to all of their team members, including volunteers. Christian retailers, authors, editors, literary agents, distributors, gift designers and others in the industry are eligible to cast their vote for the products released in 2013 they think are the best. Other products compete in the Backlist category, which includes all types of products and allows companies to enter older releases. 

To vote, visit and click on the link for the online ballot. Voters will be asked to judge nominations on the impact they have had on staff and customers, including their ability to:

  • ?speak to people’s hearts and evoke emotion 
  • ?open people’s minds to new ways of thinking 
  • ?encourage and affirm Christ-like living 

Introduced in 2001, Christian Retailing’s awards have been acknowledged as an important way of recognizing some of the most significant, life-changing products in the industry.

Results will be verified by an independent firm of certified public accountants.

The 2014 Christian Retailing’s Best Awards winners are expected to be announced in June at the International Christian Retail Show in Atlanta. Watch for details in Christian Retailing magazine and in Christian Retailing Update e-newsletter. 

Visit for more information or email the editor at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

OUP’s ‘God’s Forever Family’ wins 2014 CT Book of the Year Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 02:10 PM America/New_York

GodsForeverFamilyOxford University Press’ God’s Forever Family, Wheaton College professor Larry Eskridge’s history of the Jesus People movement, won Christianity Today’s Book of the Year award for 2014. The book also received the History/Biography award. 

Christianity Today (CT) also announced significant changes to the 25th edition of the Annual Book Awards, which started in 1989 as selected by a reader’s choice poll. The biggest addition is the first-ever CT Book of the Year, based on the book the judges agree upon the most. 

The program also introduced a Her.meneutics award, named after CT’s women’s site. The winner was Amy Simpson’s Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission (IVP Books), which recounts the author’s experience growing up with a schizophrenic parent and discusses how the church can best address mental illness.

The awards also now have a 2014 Christianity Today Book Award Winner seal, which will be given to publishers to place on their award-winning book for future pressings.

Matt Reynolds, books editor for the magazine, is running the awards for his third year.

“I have learned that every year, there are going to be a number of worthwhile books, any number of which that would be fine candidates to bestow awards upon,” said Reynolds. “Year after year I am amazed at the number of quality books. It increases your appreciation for the amount of good book writing being done.”

CT also has lifted the veil of anonymity from the judges’ comments on the winning books. The editorial team decided it wanted to recognize its judges—who include best-selling authors, experts in their fields and simply thoughtful people—for their hours spent reading and evaluating thousands of pages. 

Reynolds said that despite the change, the mission for the awards has stayed the same: “It’s still all about recognizing the books that most shape evangelical life, thought and culture.”

Pioneer Clubs debuts ‘less complex’ VBS Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 02:08 PM America/New_York

Program to be more accessible for smaller churches

WackyWorldOfWaterPioneer Clubs has revealed its first-ever Vacation Bible School (VBS) offering for 2014, The Wacky World of Water. Billed as being simple, collaborative, Bible-based, mission-focused, flexible and fun, the new VBS program targets smaller churches without huge volunteer forces as well as larger churches wanting to get back to basics.

“Many of us at Pioneer Clubs volunteer for VBS at our churches, and through discussions of how complex VBS has become, we realized most of us felt this way,” said Terry Logan, sales and marketing manager for Pioneer Clubs. “We love the kids, love the concept of VBS and the community outreach it has. However, preparing for VBS has almost become a year-round project.”

After surveying its church networks and finding a consensus, Pioneer Clubs found evidence of the negative effects of the complexity.

“The ‘icing on the cake’ in the research was from a Barna research that reflected small churches were not conducting VBS,” Logan said. This was “mainly due to cost and lack of volunteers—hence needing many volunteers to help with the complexity.”

Pioneer’s first entry into the VBS market seeks to strip away the complexity to make VBS a more feasible reality for small churches as well as large ones.

“Pioneer Clubs’ midweek programs has a strong connection with small churches, so Barna’s research resonated with us,” Logan said. “We are getting interest from large and small churches all desiring to take the complexity out of the weeklong program and bring back the strong adult-to-child relationship aspect. 

“Many people over the age of 45 can still remember their childhood VBS teachers’ names, mainly due to the relationships they built,” Logan added. “In the end Christ’s Kingdom has always been built through relationships.”

For a full list of VBS offerings, see our 2014 Vacation Bible School Product Guide at

‘Iesodo’ DVD makes splash at Christian retail in 2013 Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 02:06 PM America/New_York

Debut release won two Accolade Competition awards

IesodoBelievePoster_200Believe (Capitol Christian Distribution), the first DVD in the new children’s series, “Iesodo” (pronounced YAY-Sa-Doe), topped the sales lists for Christian retailers at the end of 2013. 

“We are enthusiastic about ‘Iesodo’s strong performance right out of the gate with our first DVD release, Believe,” said Eric Rollman, producer and CEO of Rollman Entertainment. “ ‘Iesodo’ is the No. 1 new kids animated property at Christian book stores in the fourth quarter, and our December performance exceeded expectations with the most number of units sold per week since its release in October. We’re seeing 100%-plus growth week over week, which positions us very well for our second release, Love, in January.”

“This series is taking off with kids of all ages because of the high production quality, fun adventures, memorable songs and lovable characters in each episode,” said Executive Producer Jared Hankins. “Our goal is to reach as many children as possible with the stories of Jesus, and we are excited that families are enjoying the series together.”

In addition to its success in stores, “Iesodo” has also received the Award of Excellence in Animation and the Award of Merit for an Original Song from the Accolade Competition.

The series features a cast of birds who share the teachings of Jesus through stories with the principles of loving one another, conquering fear and sharing. The birds live in a cypress tree on the shores of the lake (Galilee), where they follow the biblical teachings of a wise white dove named Iesodo.

“Many of Jesus’ teachings are told in stories or parables. ‘Iesodo’ has been inspired by great creative minds like C.S. Lewis who chose an allegorical world to demonstrate spiritual truths,” said Rob Loos, producer and writer for the series.

Zaya Toonz, the animation studio behind the series, released the next DVD, Love, on Jan. 21. A total of three DVDs are slated for release in 2014.

Logos named one of Glassdoor’s best companies to work for in 2014 Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 02:05 PM America/New_York

Bible software company’s CEO: ‘We have great employees and want to keep them happy’

Logos_logo_cmyk_v_200Logos Bible Software has been honored as one of the Best Medium-Sized Companies to Work For in 2014. The Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award is based on the voluntary input of current and former employees who provide feedback on their jobs, work environments and leadership via Glassdoor’s anonymous online survey.

What began as an after-hours project to sharpen the programming skills of a couple of Microsoft employees became Logos Bible Software in 1992. This small start-up project to make Bibles searchable would eventually lead an industry with innovations in multilingual electronic publishing, linguistics, semantic search, digital asset management and software development and design across every major consumer platform. Logos has grown to more than 360 employees with one campus near Seattle and another in Phoenix.

In 2011, Pritchett reduced the Logos employee manual to a four-word summary: Honor God. Love others. 

“We have great employees and want to keep them happy,” said Bob Pritchett, Logos Bible Software president and CEO. “Long policy documents don’t make people happy; trusting people and giving them autonomy makes them happy.”

The lack of policy papers tends to create transparency—best illustrated by “The $40,000 Mistake,” when an employee’s technical error cost Logos money, but also provided an opportunity to spotlight Logos’ cultural values and customer focus.

Logos employees also enjoy complete discretion regarding their own sick and vacation time and numerous other perks, including an unlimited supply of free beverages; an in-house bike-repair shop; supplies for kayaking, canoeing and disc golf; and an employee lounge, including free movie-, video- and book-lending.

“Logos attracts great employees because of the freedom and power they get to serve our customers, build great tools and get things done,” said Pritchett. “We love what we are creating for our customers, but we also love why we do it.”