Inaugural event held in conjunction with Atlanta gift show off to a quiet start with healthy vendor participation but few stores
Christian retailers convened Wednesday, Jan. 8, for the first CPE at AmericasMart held in conjunction with the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market. The one-day event hosted by Munce Group, the Florida-based retail marketing group, helped to make navigating the gift show easier for Christian retailers and brought in non-gift vendors as well to make time away from the store more productive.
Kirk Blank, president of Munce Group, said that vendor spaces were sold out with 28 of them setting up shop. Exhibitors attending CPE included Abingdon Press, Anchor Distributors/Whitaker House, Art & Soul Works/Gifts That Give Back, Barbour Publishing, Bob Siemon Designs, Bookstore Manager, Bridgestone Multimedia Group, Charisma Media, Christian Art Gifts, Crossway, DaySpring, FaithWords, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Kerusso, New Day Christian Distributors, New Leaf Publishing Group, Rose Publishing, Send The Light Distribution, Swanson Christian Products and WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
Retail participation, however, was weak at the inaugural one-day CPE show.
“We were encouraged by our vendors and encouraged by retailers to put something together so that there would be a common place to meet, a common place for publishers and non-gift vendors to be a part of, and to have it at one place that wouldn’t interfere with the regular flow of the mart,” Blank said. “We worked with the mart to determine that Wednesday would be the best day for that, so we’re still in the process of figuring, is that the right decision, is that the right timing? As soon as we’re done with the show and get feedback, we’re going to figure that out. We are already set for July. We’re going to be here as the mart kicks off, again another Wednesday event, before the show, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Munce Group has scheduled the second CPE at AmericasMart for July 9-10 in conjunction with the next major Atlanta gift market.
Blank pointed out that there is no preregistration at the market, which made it difficult to know how many retailers would show up at CPE. Some wondered if the Atlanta CPE would affect the upcoming CPE in Hershey, Pa., but Munce said that is not a concern.
“Our preregistration numbers are higher this year for Hershey, so we don’t see that as a problem,” Blank said.
At CPE’s breakfast, retailers learned how to navigate the vast space that is AmericasMart from Albert Maslia, managing director-retail services for the mart. With 2,000 permanent showrooms and 4,000 temporaries, Maslia said it would take a full year to go through it all if buyers spent an average of 15 minutes per showroom.
He also advised buyers to know if they were dealing with a company or a rep group when placing orders and to get the order number, ship date and cancellation date specifically noted on each order placed at the show.
Maslia gave other tips on customer service and store layout. He pointed out that the top category in card and gift shops is women’s’ accessories.
At lunch, which was sponsored by Whitaker House and Anchor Distributors, Lorraine Valk, owner of Parable Christian Store of St. Joseph in St. Joseph, Mich., spoke on the importance of Just In Time inventory and of maintaining inventory turns at three on most products. Valk, who joked about being married to a CPA, gave retailers specific numbers to look for and encouraged the practice of daily ordering. She said she orders every morning and it’s the “best 15 minutes of my day.”
Lee Yeckel, sales director for Whitaker House and Anchor Distributors, also spoke at lunch, noting that Whitaker is taking on new authors and new genres with a line of business books and African-American fiction titles. Yeckel said the company is also changing the way bargain book promotions are handled.
He pointed out key authors that have sold well for Whitaker. Myles Munroe, whose new title, The Power of Character in Leadership, released last month, has sold 1.5 million copies for the company, and Guillermo Maldonado ‘s books have sold more than 400,000 copies of his three titles.
The company is also inviting retailers to register to win a vacation in the Bahamas. Retailers could register at AmericasMart or at CharacterInLeadership.com. Four people will win a five-day, four-night stay at a luxury resort.
A number of the exhibitors spoke to Christian Retailing about encouraging Munce Group in this new effort.
“We’re basically here to support the Munce Group and to talk to the stores that have showed up at the gift mart,” said Diane Rogers, sales territory manager who handles international and Spanish sales for Whitaker House and Anchor Distributors. “We’ve already made some new contacts.”
Nola Haney, sales manager at Barbour Publishing, said: “We think it’s a good idea and hopefully with more publicity, more advertising and getting the word out, it’ll grow and be a better show. We look forward to July.”
Daniel Bush, key accounts sales manager for Crossway, was promoting gift editions of the company’s English Standard Version Bible among other books and Bibles.
“We’re excited to reach the market in creative ways and are grateful for Munce for providing this channel to connect with retailers, international retailers or gift stores, so we’re working hard to get our products into the market whatever way we can.”
Steven Ammons, head of sales at Bookstore Manager, was looking to fill a specific need at CPE.
“We’re actually adding more gift vendors to our database, so it’s a way for us to connect with the stores and get an idea of what gift vendors they’re carrying so that we can expand our database to help our retailers,” Ammons said.
Spring Page, senior sales consultant with Charisma Media, said: “I believe that our continuing relationship that we’ve had with Munce the last four-plus years gives us the continuing exposure to the bookstores, and so testing this show was the ability for us to expand into broader territories.”
Rose Publishing also was looking for “new exposure,” said Janene Guy, sales consultant—“maybe new customers who are coming to the gift show that we haven’t contacted at the other CPE shows. And also we wanted to support Munce. We believe in what Munce is doing and wanted to be here and support [them]. It’s a test.”
Margaret Morallo, marketing coordinator at Bob Siemon Designs, thought the show “seemed like a great opportunity to work together with the Munce Group and also introduce new product that we have here at AmericasMart.”
Buyers saw some technological advances this year at AmericasMart. They could take advantage of free Wi-Fi—although there were some challenges with it—and a mobile app available in the Apple App Store and Google Play. The app also has an augmented reality scanner, which allowed buyers to connect with exhibitor information, pinpoint their location and add exhibitors and events from printed materials and signage to their schedule.