Christian Retailing

Author Todd Starnes takes stand in culture wars Print Email
Written by Natalie Gillespie   
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 02:42 PM America/New_York

Politically incorrect FOX News commentator says it’s no longer ‘God bless America’ but ‘God Less America’

ToddStarnesGodLessAmericaWhen FOX News & Commentary radio host and author Todd Starnes says he feels like “a Duck Dynasty guy living in a Miley Cyrus world,” he means it. The self-professed Bible-believing, sweet-tea-drinking conservative commentator believes that many Americans feel the same way—concerned about living in a culture that is turning away from God at record speed. In God Less America, his new FrontLine (Charisma House) book, in stores May 6, Starnes argues that there is an aggressive culture war on religious liberties, specifically against the Christian faith.

“In the book, I sort of likened myself to a modern-day Paul Revere,” Starnes said. “I don’t have a horse or a lantern, but I have a microphone and a laptop, and I can type at the top of my voice, shouting, ‘The secularists are coming! The secularists are coming!’ and they really do want to take away our right to worship God.” 

Starnes’ FOX News & Commentary is heard daily on the FOX News Radio network. Throughout his career, he has covered a number of high-profile stories—taking him from Wall Street to the White House. He has made regular appearances on FOX & Friends and Hannity’s America. His work is heard on hundreds of radio stations around the nation, and his website,, is read by more than 2 million people monthly.

FOX News talk show host Mike Huckabee wrote the foreword to God Less America.

“We are seeing time and again the mainstream media assault people of faith for following Christian principles,” the former presidential candidate and governor told Christian Retailing. “Whether it be the Chick-fil-A boycott or Phil Robertson’s suspension from Duck Dynasty, those who stand on solid faith-based principles are being taken to task for not being politically correct.

“I wrote the foreword to Todd’s book because Americans need to recognize the important role God plays in all that is good about our great nation. We cannot become a nation that seeks to shame and condemn those who seek to live by God’s Word.”

Starnes uses real-life news stories as evidence of how the federal government has actively stripped individuals and organizations of their right to worship freely and maintain a public belief in Jesus. The book includes stories such as the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship ministry being kicked off a Florida college campus for holding a Bible study in a student’s dorm room (at the student’s invitation) and a North Carolina pastor being told he could not pray “in the name of Jesus” in a public invocation. 

Another of Starnes’ stories centers on a ministry in Lake City, Fla., that feeds the poor. Christian Service Center was told it would no longer receive U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food if it did not remove religious information where government supplies were being distributed.

Starnes says the CSC story is just one of hundreds of examples of religious freedoms being taken away across the country by the government. The FOX host hopes God Less America will open the eyes of Christians to the ways their freedoms are in jeopardy and inspire readers to get involved politically and socially to preserve their right to worship and practice their faith.

“I’m laying out the evidence, saying, ‘Folks, this is what is happening in your country. What are you going to do about it?’ ” Starnes said. “These stories do not typically appear in the major newspapers or evening network newscasts. The mainstream media refuse to cover these. They are turning their backs on these stories. 

“We live in a world where what was once wrong is now right and what was once right is now wrong,” he added. “Cultural agendas are being shoved down our throats, and it seems like there is this attitude that it is not even good enough to tolerate them. We must embrace and accept what people do and how they live their lives.”

Starnes said that when he told Rick Warren about this book project, the Saddleback Church pastor told him that he believes the war on religious liberty is going to be the civil rights fight of this generation. Starnes believes it already is.

“If you disagree with someone, you’re a racist or homophobic or xenophobic; that’s not it at all,” Starnes said. “I think when people read this book, they are going to be shocked at all these stories. And maybe someone is going to read this and say, ‘I need to run for the school board,’ or, ‘I need to bring my church youth group to the annual Walk for Life in Washington, D.C.’ We must pray, we must be on our knees, but it will also take men and women of faith becoming politically active, actively taking part in our government to make a change.”

Starnes is also the author of They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick (Creation House) and Dispatches From Bitter America (B&H Books).

 To promote his new book, he plans to launch a bus tour May 11-17, stopping in Spartanburg, S.C.; Atlanta; Nashville; Tulsa, Okla.; and Dallas for book signings, church speaking engagements and media appearances. The author is partnering with Christian Supply of Spartanburg, where Starnes will hold a book signing, and LifeWay Christian Stores for the tour.

Charisma House is supporting the release of the new book with an opportunity for bookstores to win cash prizes.

Participants must register for the contest and submit a photo of their in-store display of God Less America. Upon the determination of online votes for each photo, the winning store receives a cash prize. Two winning stores will receive $2,000 each, and each runner-up will receive $500.

“We are highly anticipating the release of God Less America,” said Marcos Perez vice president of sales at Charisma House. “From a sales standpoint, we believe this contest will engage our partnering bookstores and add to the momentum that is already building for this book release.”

Starnes is thankful for Christian stores that take a stand with the important message in his book and others like it, as well as making available other Christ-honoring products. He enjoys doing signings and meeting the people who believe in his message enough to the buy the book.

“I’m a people person, and if people are going to buy the book, I’m going to stick around to sign every one,” he said. “I think the Christian products industry is still massively important. Given the preference, I would always shop at a family-owned Christian bookstore or a chain like LifeWay rather than go somewhere else. I have paintings and sayings hanging in my office that were purchased at a Christian bookstore. Those items inspire me.”

Starnes encourages Christian retailers to stay in the fight, noting how hard it is to find a Christian store in New York City.

“It’s so important,” Starnes said. “We need you.”

RIAA music awards now acknowledge streaming Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 09:00 AM America/New_York

DuckTheHalls-RobertsonsThe Recording Industry Association of America added song streams to its Gold & Platinum (G&P) Program in 2013, which helped fuel a record-breaking 663 Digital Single Awards—a 25% increase year-over-year and the most in G&P history.

“In a landmark year for our half-a-century-old Gold & Platinum Program, RIAA added music streams to awards to better recognize artists’ commercial success in a transformative marketplace,” said Cary Sherman, RIAA chairman and CEO. 

Among the Christian market music honors were Duck Dynasty’s The Robertsons, which went Platinum with Christmas album Duck the Halls (Universal Records Nashville/Capitol Christian Distribution). Chris Tomlin’s singles “I Will Rise,” from 2008’s Hello Love, and “I Will Follow,” from 2010’s And If Our God Is for Us… (both sixstepsrecords/Capitol Christian) received Gold status in the digital single category.

Laura Story’s “Blessings” (from Fair Trade Services/Capitol Christian’s Blessings) achieved Gold certification in the digital single category, and is her first song to do so. Matt Redman also received his first Gold for “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” from his sixstepsrecords/Capitol Christian album 10,000 Reasons.

Third Day’s 2007 Chronology albums (both Essential Records/Provident Distribution) each received Multi-Platinum status in the video longform category, as the albums are two-disc CD/DVD sets. The Multi-Platinum sales mark for video longform titles is 200,000 copies sold.

The sales thresholds in the album and digital single categories are 500,000 for Gold, 1 million for Platinum and 2 million for Multi-Platinum.

‘JESUS’ film remastered to celebrate 35th anniversary Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:58 AM America/New_York

Cru’s Scripture-quoting movie classic to be available in three high-definition formats at retail and online

JESUSFilmJESUS, the most watched film in history, has been remastered in high definition with a complete new musical score in Dolby 5.1 surround sound. Released 35 years ago, the film has been viewed billions of times.

Retitled The JESUS Film, the classic account of Jesus’ life will have select theatrical showings beginning this month. Additionally, partnering with Cinedigm and Mission Home Video, the high-definition film will be available in Blu-ray, DVD and digital formats in retail and online April 1.

JESUS depicts Christ’s birth, ministry, death and resurrection as told in the Gospel of Luke. Virtually every word Jesus speaks in the film is quoted from Scripture, with 450 leaders and scholars having reviewed the script for biblical accuracy.

“When the original JESUS film was released 35 years ago, it was ahead of its time,” said Erick Schenkel, executive director of The JESUS Film Project, a ministry of Cru. “Yet, while the film has introduced billions of individuals around the world to the person of Jesus, few in the U.S. have ever seen it. We believe this new remastered version will give audiences an accurate picture of who Jesus is and why individuals around the world have chosen to follow Him, shown with production values they have come to expect.”

The film has been recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the Most Translated Film in history, and is now is available in 1,197 languages. More than 200 million individuals have indicated a decision to follow Jesus after viewing the film.

Oscar nod rescinded for inspirational film Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:57 AM America/New_York

Alleged ethical breach disqualifies song sung by Joni Eareckson Tada

AloneYetNotAloneEnthuse Entertainment’s historical drama Alone Yet Not Alone garnered a 2014 Oscar nomination for Best Original Song—but then ran into trouble. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences rescinded the song’s nomination just days after the original announcement. 

Bruce Broughton, who composed the song with Dennis Spiegel, is a member of the executive committee at the Academy and was flagged for sending Oscar voters an email bringing to their attention the underdog song sung by best-selling author and Christian recording artist Joni Eareckson Tada.

While other nominees’ representatives had engaged in similar marketing efforts to draw attention to their songs, the Academy’s Board of Governors felt Broughton’s actions were inappropriate and constituted an ethical breach due to his position on the Academy’s executive committee.

Tada—a quadriplegic who founded Joni and Friends to meet the needs of the disabled—was excited about the nomination as a chance to bring attention not only to the film, but also to people with disabilities like herself. 

“While I can only imagine the disappointment of music writer Bruce Broughton and lyricist Dennis Spiegel in the rescinding of their Oscar nomination, it in no way detracts from either the song’s beauty or its message,” Tada said. “I was humbled and honored to have been asked to sing it for the film and was as surprised as anyone when I learned of the song’s nomination.”

It’s not all grim news, though, as Movieguide announced plans to feature Tada performing “Alone Yet Not Alone” at its Feb. 7 awards gala in Los Angeles. Furthermore, despite the disappointing turn of events for the Oscar hopeful, the movie’s visibility has been greatly increased by the surprise nomination and rare disqualification.

The title-track single is available digitally through iTunes, and the full soundtrack, composed by William Ross, will be available in stores in 2014. DVD release information has not yet been announced. Zondervan released Tracy Leininger Craven’s Alone Yet Not Alone (Zonderkidz) YA book in December.

Alone Yet Not Alone tells the story of Barbara and Regina Leininger and their journey of faith and survival during the French & Indian Wars in 1755. Captured by the Delaware Indians in a raid and transported 300 miles to Ohio, the sisters are sustained by their trust in God and their hope of escape. 

In its limited theatrical release last September, Alone Yet Not Alone became the highest-grossing film on its opening weekend in terms of per-screen average (combining theater and Seatzy ticket sales), reaching $13,396 per screen.

Mandisa, Tye Tribbett excel at 2014 GRAMMY Awards Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:56 AM America/New_York

Capitol Christian artists each receive first two awards

GrammyLogoMandisa and Tye Tribbett each went home with a pair of awards from the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards, held Jan. 27 in Los Angeles. The awards are the first GRAMMYs won by either artist, though each has received nominations in previous years.

Mandisa’s Overcomer (Sparrow Records/Capitol Christian Distribution) won Best Contemporary Christian Music Album, while the album’s title track took home the prize for Best Contemporary Christian Music Song. Mandisa was inspired by Good Morning America host Robin Roberts’ health battle in writing the song.

Tribbett’s Greater Than live album (Motown Gospel/Capitol Christian) won Best Gospel Album, and his song “If He Did It Before… Same God [Live]” was named Best Gospel Song. Tribbett was also celebrating his birthday GRAMMY night.

Tasha Cobbs rounded out the Christian music categories, with “Break Every Chain [Live]” from the album Grace (Motown Gospel/Capitol Christian) winning Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance, passing “Overcomer” and “If He Did It Before… Same God [Live]” among others on the way to the top of the category.

‘ESV Study Bible’ hits 1 million-copy milestone Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:55 AM America/New_York

‘Astonishing’ success to benefit Scripture-distribution ministry

ESVStudyBibleCrossway has announced that 1 million copies of the ESV Study Bible have been sold and distributed worldwide. This milestone takes on further significance as the company has provided more than $1.5 million from the study Bible proceeds to help underwrite Bible ministry distribution projects and the development of ESV Bible resources around the world—including support for the printing and distribution of more than 250,000 Chinese-English (ESV) Bibles in China.

“It is astonishing to see what the Lord is accomplishing with the ESV Bible in general, and with the ESV Study Bible in particular,” said Crossway President Lane Dennis. “In addition to the 1 million ESV Study Bible milestone, more than 90 million ESV Bibles have now been distributed and accessed worldwide in all formats, including print, web and digital.”

First published in 2008, the ESV Study Bible was the recipient of the Christian Book of the Year award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and the WORLD Magazine Book of the Year award, both presented to Crossway in 2009.

The study Bible was created under the leadership of J.I. Packer, theological editor, and Wayne Grudem, general editor, along with a team of more than 90 evangelical scholars and teachers. It was also the first study Bible to be simultaneously published in print and digital formats, and Crossway includes free online access with the purchase of any print copy. 

The study Bible is now available in more than 30 print editions and formats, as well as in multiple digital editions, including the iOS mobile app, e-book formats and global online access.

‘Jesus Calling,’ ‘Duck Dynasty’ titles rank as top sellers of 2013 Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:54 AM America/New_York

Faith-based books found large audience, according to end-of-year figures from Nielsen BookScan

JesusCallingHCSarah Young’s Jesus Calling (Thomas Nelson) dominated Christian-market charts for much of last year, but the New York Times best-seller has another claim to fame. It is one of the best-selling books of 2013 in sales overall. Two Howard Books’ titles by the Robertson clan of Duck Dynasty fame also appeared on the Nielsen BookScan list.

Jesus Calling ranked at No. 7 on the Nielsen BookScan Top 20 for 2013, while Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson and Si-Cology 1 by Si Robertson came in at No. 10 and No. 19, respectively.

On the Amazon Print Top 20 list for 2013, Jesus Calling came in at No. 5, ahead of Dan Brown’s Inferno. Gary Chapman’s perennial favorite, The 5 Love Languages (Northfield Publishing/Moody Publishers), also placed on this list at No. 17, while Rob Elliott’s Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids (Revell/Baker Publishing Group) rounded out the list at No. 20.

Although not published in the CBA market, other faith-based titles performed well. Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard (Henry Holt) landed at No. 3 on BookScan and at No. 10 on Amazon Print, while Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander (Simon & Schuster) sits at No. 4 on BookScan and No. 11 on Amazon Print.

Amazon Publishing launches new Christian imprint Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:35 AM America/New_York

First Waterfall Press titles debut as company aims to publish ‘original Christian content with enduring appeal’

WaterfallPressAmazon Publishing announced the launch in January of Waterfall Press, a new Christian fiction and nonfiction imprint.

Waterfall titles will be published by Brilliance Publishing, part of the group of companies, which offers readers self-help and personal growth books under the Grand Harbor Press imprint.

“Brilliance has over 12 years of experience serving the Christian market as audiobook publisher of some of the most successful Christian authors writing today,” said Mark Pereira, president and publisher of Brilliance Publishing. “We are excited to expand our offering to readers of faith-based material by publishing original Christian content with enduring appeal.”

Nonfiction titles from Waterfall Press ( will aim to provide spiritual refreshment and inspiration to today’s Christian reader, while the imprint’s fiction will include stories in the romance, mystery and suspense genres.

Waterfall Press planned to make its debut with Mark Buchanan’s The Four Best Places to Live (February); Cherie Hill’s When You Need a Miracle (April); and Jay Hein’s The Quiet Revolution (June). Buchanan is a best-selling author, as is Hill, in the self-publishing market. Hein was director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Tammy Faxel, who brings 30 years of experience in the Christian publishing industry through prior posts at Tyndale House Publishers and Oasis Audio, will provide editorial oversight.

Mark Kuyper, president and CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, reflected on the impact of the new imprint for Christian publishing.

“Amazon’s decision to launch a Christian imprint is not surprising given the expansion of their publishing program over the last few years,” Kuyper said. “Of course, this continues the bifurcation of our publishers’ relationships with them as a key retailer and a publishing competitor.”

Additionally, Waterfall will publish shorter content, including works by Bryan Wilkerson (Living Deep, March); Dan Meyer (Discovering God, April); and the editors of Christianity Today (Billy Graham; Leading With Love, April). Several of the books on the launch list—including The Four Best Places to Live and The Quiet Revolution, will be published in collaboration with Christianity Today.

‘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.