Christian Retailing

Bibles focus: New releases launch in many shapes, sizes and formats Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 27 July 2009 01:50 PM America/New_York

Modern takes on Scripture included generating awareness for homelessness and breast cancer, as well as new interactive product


Publishers brought forth the Word in many shapes, sizes and formats during the show.

Crossway, still riding high from the success of its ESV Study Bible, gave a 55% "ECPA Book of the Year" special to retailers ordering the study Bible at ICRS.

The publisher that saw its Bible sales increase 94% in the last 12 months also announced new covers available on its ESV Study Bible , the Aug. 31 release of the Oswald Chambers Devotional Bible with ESV text and the ESV Christmas Outreach New Testament, a Christian retail exclusive.

Other new Bibles being promoted at the show were Zondervan's the Stewardship Study Bible, a Thompson Answer Bible for youth from Hartnell House Publishing, in cooperation with Kirkbride Bible Co., and the Transformation Study Bible with General Editor Warren W. Wiersbe from David C. Cook.

B&H Publishing Group announced a major re-launch and re-branding of its Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) in the coming year.

the christian walk bibleThe Christian Walk Bible, from Word to World Publishing, was heavily promoted during the week with an army of enthusiastic volunteers passing out fliers across the exhibit hall floor. The Bible, from general editor Mathews Vergis, stresses the disciplines of fasting and prayer.

Bold, new modern takes on Scripture also generated attention, including Bibles aimed at generating awareness for homelessness and breast cancer as well as a new interactive product.

Teen-issue authors Michael and Hayley DiMarco, whose bus was parked outside the convention center, were to head out from Denver on an ambitious, long-distance project to give the Bible an "authentic" voice and raise awareness of a growing social problem.

The husband-and-wife team, whose Hungry Planet publishing enterprise has seen more than 30 books released in the last six years, will be traveling about 10,000 miles in the next few months to record the entire New Testament using narrators who are homeless.

Touring the country with their 3-year-old daughter in a 40-foot mobile home, the DiMarcos will be recruiting volunteer narrators for the project through homeless ministries. The New Living Translation will be used for the project, due to be released by Tyndale House Publishers.

The couple will be writing and video-journaling about their trip, and posting resources on their Web site,, which will provide ways for readers to get involved in local community projects. Michael DiMarco said the new Bible recording was intended for the generation to which he and his wife were committed, which "connects with social justice and authenticity, grittiness and rawness."

The Message Solo: Remix Pink (NavPress), arriving Sept. 15, was promoted during CBA's Members Breakfast. The project, a Christian retail channel exclusive, will give proceeds to a breast cancer charity. It also presents shoppers with the opportunity to write personal messages on bookplates included in The Message Book of Hope, a booklet given to those fighting breast cancer. NavPress was also at ICRS to make videos of those affected by breast cancer for a compilation video to be shown later this fall.

The Pink Ribbon Bible, also promoting breast cancer awareness, was announced at the Zondervan/HarperOne booth. One dollar from the sale of each Bible will go to support breast cancer awareness.

Also at the Zondervan booth, the Glo Bible, arriving in October, was presented on video screens. Glo marries a digital edition of the Bible with thousands of articles, photos, animations, videos and maps. Interactive features allow users to customize reading plans and to journal, with access available from any computer and on smart phones.

With a suggested retail price of $79.99, Glo will initially be available only through Christian retail stores, with distribution by Zondervan. "We hope this will motivate stores to pick up on this in a special way," said Nelson Saba, founder and CEO of Glo creator Immersion Digital. Initial reaction to the new product had been "very encouraging," he said. Saba was also the creator behind Tyndale's iLumina, which has sold 600,000 units to date.

"Two entire generations have been born in a digital world who favor digital media over any other," Saba said. "But there’s very little that is good interactive media that connects them with the Bible, that is designed for them. We really felt that the time was right to create a digital Bible that would connect with this generation, as an alternative to paper for them, because they don't use it."

Awards Focus: Winning stores offer lessons in retail excellence Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 27 July 2009 01:49 PM America/New_York

Awards ceremonies honor stores, Tyndale saluted as first Christian retail ‘Channel Champion’

An occasion honoring some of the industry's best was turned into a mini-training session when CBA presented its first Spirit of Excellence Awards to 10 stores.

Trade association President Bill Anderson outlined some of the initiatives for which the stores had been nominated in areas such as customer service, outreach and ministry, marketing and merchandising, as he presented the trophies at the CBA members' breakfast.

Among those he spotlighted were Lorraine Valk, co-owner of Banner Books Parable Christian Store in St. Joseph, Mich., for her "departmental mix, proportionate allocation to categories, ordering and replenishment strategy."

Jim Kregel's introduction of a customer experience survey tool at his Kregel Parable Christian Store in Grand Rapids, Mich., was recognized for "helping them to improve their operation and also to turn the occasional disgruntled customer into a positive fan."

Rick and Susan Lewis, owners of Logos of Dallas, were noted for "memorable customer service," once canceling a prior commitment on their schedule to provide a Sunday afternoon book table for an event.

Other winners were: Bruce and Cindy Anderson, Alpha & Omega Parable store in Rochester, N.Y.; Carl Miller, Majesty Parable Christian Store in Greensburg, Pa.; Tammy Garner, The Master’s Parable Christian Store in Clovis, N.M.; Sue Smith, Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Keith and Brenda Harrison, The Lighthouse Christian Bookstore in Bedford, Ind.; and Sandra Crockett, Inspirations Unlimited in Roswell, N.M.

bill & tina beyerBill and Tina Beyer, owners of the Skia store in Bentonville, Ark.—ICRS 2008 recipients of CBA's Retail Innovator of the Year Award—were announced as winners of the first CBA Jim Carlson National Spirit of Excellence Award.

In the few years since they opened their store, "they have made such an impact on their community that it was impossible to capture it in all one nomination," said Anderson, mentioning "exceptional marketing," including outreach events and concerts.

Earlier in the week, CBA honored Tyndale House Publishers with the association's first Channel Champion award in recognition of the company's support in growing the Christian retail channel.

Tyndale President Mark Taylor received the award, Anderson said, for the way the company's "overall business model positions Christian retailers as their most passionate and dedicated business partners in reaching consumers for Christ."

Anderson noted Tyndale's "wildly successful" channel exclusives, such as the Operation Worship Bible campaign and Campaign Financial Aid, and its exclusive sponsorship of CBA's new Customer Inventory Accelerator program.

Taylor told retailers that "we in Christian publishing recognize that without you we cannot do the things that God has called us to do. ... We hope that we have always been champions of the CBA channel and intend to continue that."

The same awards ceremony also honored a name familiar to many Christian stores, Bible teacher, author and broadcaster Warren W. Wiersbe, whose 160 books—including the popular "Be" series of Bible studies—have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold more than 4 million copies.

Unable to travel to receive the award because of ill health, Wiersbe received the CBA Life Impact Award in recognition of his "devotion to Christ and faithfulness to God's Word," as a result of which "multiplied millions of believers around the globe have discovered the glory of God and have seen Christ come to life in relevant ways."

Also announced at the CBA members breakfast were this year's show booth award winners. Best Design, Books over 300 square feet: David C. Cook; Best Design, Gifts over 300 square feet: DaySpring; Best Design, Retail Support: Design Identity; Best Staff, over 300 square feet: Tyndale House Publishers; Best Design, Books under 300 square feet: Harrison House Publishers; Best Design, Entertainment under 300 square feet: NOTW (Not of This World).

Dates set for Marketsquare Asia, Korean rights fair Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 06 July 2009 02:09 PM America/New_York
ChristianTrade Association International's (CTAI) Marketsquare Asia 2009 is to be held Sept. 6-8 at the Cityview Hotel, formerly the YMCA International House, in Hong Kong. The Korea Christian Rights Fair will be held Sept. 10-11 in Seoul, Korea--the largest rights market in Asia.

Delegates from more than 15 countries are expected to attend Marketsquare, including a number of mainland Chinese publishers who will again be sponsored by CTAI. The largest Christian trade gathering in Asia, Marketsquare will feature an exhibit floor as well as bookseller and publisher/distributor workshops to be taught by former NavPress Publisher Kent Wilson and CTAI Training Director Jack Scott.

Combined show brings together retailers and consumers Print Email
Written by Clive Price in London   
Monday, 22 June 2009 10:34 AM America/New_York

‘Dynamic’ new-look Christian Resources Exhibition rescues a threatened trade convention

United Kingdom


British companies have welcomed the pairing of the UK’s leading Christian trade shows—but have spotted areas where the “marriage” might improve.

The Christian Booksellers Convention (CBC), the long-running trade-only equivalent of CBA’s International Christian Retail Show in the U.S., and the consumer-focused Christian Resources Exhibitions (CRE) came together under one roof, May 12-15 at Sandown Park, Surrey—and under one management entity, the Bible Society.

The two formerly separate events ran across three floors, with separate exhibition areas and seminar programs. CBC’s awards ceremony was combined with a banquet marking CRE’s 25th anniversary. Total attendance for the event was more than 12,433—a 4% increase from CRE turnout in 2008. Out of 372 exhibitors, 80 took part in the trade section—and some companies served trade and retail visitors from their one booth.

“I’m very grateful to CRE for putting this on,” said Director of Integrity Media Europe Jonathan Bugden, former chairman of CBC, “because there was only one alternative—which is to have no CBC event at all.”

Organizers could not afford to go ahead with the trade event on its own this year. Bible Society took over CBC last year, having bought CRE from its founder in 2007.

Bugden said he viewed the 2009 combined event as “a transition year,” and felt CBC’s new managers had done “as good a job as they could have done” for 2009. “But obviously I’m looking for 2010 to be something new and something bigger,” he added. “The last thing I want to do is to be critical of CRE. They’ve rescued CBC.”

Attending the new show as “simply an exhibitor now,” Bugden’s company was promoting, among other things, a unique worship album recorded in Beijing called The Door. Meanwhile, Lindisfarne Scriptorium launched an album of instrumental music Life Journey by Dave Bainbridge and David Fitzgerald, founders of internationally known Celtic band Iona. The recording accompanies a devotional book of the same name by Mary Fleeson.

Lindisfarne Scriptorium’s Mark Fleeson, who has been at CRE for a decade, said the addition of CBC “added a new dynamic ... because we’re used to this as being retail.” He thought the mix had worked, he said, though “not necessarily” for those focused solely on trade.

“I think it’s been a very interesting experiment this year,” said Jean Whitnall, sales and marketing director of publisher Hodder Faith. “Being part of CRE has been very exciting and dynamic—and very busy—for us. But the CBC element has perhaps got a little lost inside the bigger exhibition.”

Hodder Faith was marking the 30th anniversary of the New International Version of the Bible at the show—and celebrating the runaway success of The Shack. “We’ve certainly seen fewer trade customers here than we are used to seeing, and also found it difficult to give trade customers dedicated time which we are used to doing at trade fairs,” Whitnall said. “So it’s a bit of a mixed response, really.”

CRE featured a number of unusual items—such as the world’s first solar-powered church noticeboard from The Church Noticeboard Co., a charity church cookbook launched by celebrity chef Kevin Woodford and a devotional aid for women in painful relationships by counselor Joanne Robinson.

Bible Society Events Director Steve Briars said organizers “did try and create an area exclusively for trade customers” this year. “That was the theory. But some of the exhibitors were already here anyway, like Scripture Union, and they said, ‘We’ll stay where we are and service trade and retail at the same time.’ ”

Briars said he believed the new-look event gave publishers the opportunity to engage with the people who buy their books—as well as those who sell them. “Some people have gone away thinking, ‘This is a real insight,’ ” he said.

Briars and his team are planning “a really significant show” for next year. “We’ve made changes, we’ve improved things, our numbers are growing,” he said. “But there’s also a sense that we just want to take a deep breath and ask the bigger question about how do we develop this for the future, so it continues to meet the needs of the church.”

Meanwhile, CRE Award winners included The Shack by William P Young (Hodder & Stoughton) for Book of the Year. Hodder & Stoughton was named Publisher of the Year, while Kingdom of Comfort by Delirious (Fierce/Kingsway) won Contemporary Album of the Year.


Casa Creación wins again Print Email
Written by Harold Goerzen in Miami   
Monday, 22 June 2009 10:19 AM America/New_York

Strang imprint scoops Spanish industry awards



Casa Creación continued its dominance of the Spanish Evangelical Products Association (SEPA) Awards at the 17th annual Expolit convention in Miami in May, winning three of the six major trophies during the event. Last year, Casa Creación captured seven trophies, including three of the six major awards.

¡El Cielo es tan real!, the Spanish translation of Heaven Is So Real! by Choo Thomas (published in English by Charisma House in 2006), won the Harold Kregel 2008 Book of the Year award for “most inspiring and impactful book.”

Also published by Casa Creación, Aprenda inglés con la ayuda de Dios (learning English with God’s help) by Francisco B. Güell was honored as the Best Original Spanish Work of 2008, making this the seventh consecutive year that the Spanish imprint of Strang Communications—Christian Retailing’s parent company—has won the category.

Casa was also named Publisher of the Year for the fourth time for its third major SEPA Award. A major award also went to Ricky Feliciano of Puerto Rico-based Pura Vida Books for Distributor of the Year.

SEPA and Editorial Unilit President David Ecklebarger told Christian Retailing that Pura Vida—which distributes for Grupo Nelson (Thomas Nelson), Editorial Vida (Zondervan), Editorial Unilit, B&H Español (B&H International), Tyndale Español (Tyndale House Publishers) and Casa Creación—saw “fantastic growth” in 2008 despite the downturn in the economy.

“At Editorial Unilit, we’re doing better working through Pura Vida than with some of the secular distributors,” Ecklebarger explained. “It’s been a positive thing for the whole industry.”

Editorial Unilit won 15 awards—including the Top-Selling Book of 2008, a pocket-sized version of Josh McDowell’s Más que un carpintero (More Than a Carpenter)—and the Top-Selling Reference Book, Fiction Books, Bible Study and Specialized Bible. Editorial Vida won four awards, including Best ad and Top-Selling Annotated Study Bible and Gift Book.

Más que un carpintero also won a Platinum Award for lifetime sales of more than 250,000. In addition, Editorial Unilit captured Platinum Awards for James Dobson’s Cuando lo que Dios hace no tiene sentido (When God Doesn’t Make Sense) and Stormie Omartian’s El poder de la esposa que ora (The Power of a Praying Wife).

Additionally, Editorial Unilit received Gold Awards—lifetime sales of more than 100,000—for Gary Chapman’s Los cinco lenguajes del amor (The Five Love Languages), Joyce Meyer’s El campo de batalla de la mente (Battlefield of the Mind), and Benny Hinn’s Buenos días, Espíritu Santo (Good Morning, Holy Spirit).

Editorial Unilit also garnered Silver Awards—lifetime sales of more than 50,000—for Yiye Avila’s La ciencia de la oración (the science of prayer), T.D. Jakes’ ¡Mujer, ¡eres libre! (Woman, Thou Art Loosed!) and Elizabeth George’s Una mujer conforme al corazón de Dios (A Woman After God’s Own Heart).

Editorial Unilit was also recognized with the Top-Selling Reference Book for Alfonso Lockward’s Nuevo diccionario de la Biblia Unilit (Unilit new Bible dictionary); Top-Selling Bible Study Book for R.C. Sproul’s Cómo estudiar e interpretar la Biblia (Knowing Scripture); Top-Selling Specialized Bible for Biblia de promesas (The Promise Bible) and Best Book Cover for La danza de la restauración (The Dance of Restoration) by Abel Ortega and Melodie Fleming.

Editorial Vida won four awards, including Best Ad and Sales awards for fiction for Frank Peretti’s Esta patente oscuridad (This Present Darkness); Top-Selling Gift Book for Sheri Rose Shepard’s Su pequeña princesa (His Little Princess); and Top-Selling Annotated Study Bible for Biblia de referencia Thompson Reina-Valera Revisada 1960 (The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible Revised Reina-Valera 1960).

Editorial Luz y Vida (Light and Life Publishers) had the Top-Selling Children’s Book with (Smilingüido Bible), while B&H International was recognized for the Top-Selling Text-Only Bible for Biblia Reina Valera 1960 Premios y Regalos (Reina-Valera 1960 Awards and Gifts Bible).

Sociedades Bíblicas Unidas received a Platinum Award for Biblia RV-1960, Serie 60 económica (RV-1960 series 60 low-cost paperback Bible) and Gold Awards for two additional RV (Reina-Valera) Bibles.

Operation Mobilisation founder and author George Verwer—keynote speaker of the May 17 awards ceremony—was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to publishing, evangelism and training in Latin America for more than 50 years.


Event ‘exceeds expectations’ for organizers, vendors Print Email
Written by Harold Goerzen   
Monday, 22 June 2009 10:16 AM America/New_York

Spanish Christian sector sales rise despite downturn, reduced floor space and lagging registrations



Despite the economic downturn, reduced floor space and lagging registrations, sales at the 17th annual Expolit conference—held May 14-19 in Miami—were on the rise, organizers said.

The largest trade fair in the U.S. for the Spanish-language Christian literature and music world drew nearly 5,000 people a day to view the exhibits and attend the nightly concerts, featuring many of the leading Christian Latino musicians. Held at the Doubletree Miami Mart/Airport Hotel and Exhibition Center, Expolit attracted hundreds of booksellers, publishers, distributors and music label representatives along with thousands of members of the general public.

“We were cautious coming in, but pleasantly surprised at the success of the show,” said Peter Cerra, president of the Spanish Evangelical Products Association (SEPA) and senior sales director at Editorial Vida (Zondervan). “The sales on the floor were some of the best we’ve seen in the last few years.”

SEPA Executive Director and Editorial Unilit President David Ecklebarger added: “There was optimism amid the economic crisis. The distributors in Latin America haven’t been hit very hard, even though things haven’t looked that good in the United States with a number of bookstores going under and struggles being faced by distributors.”

Marie Tamayo, executive director of Expolit, said the conference “exceeded our expectations.” “We were thrilled with the response from the public and the publishers,” she added. “Friday (May 15) was the best day for sales that publishers have had in the last four years.”

Wendy Rodríguez, exhibitors coordinator of Expolit, said the number of exhibitors was down from 150 last year to approximately 100, but companies that had booths saw increased traffic. “Some people were afraid there wouldn’t be enough business this year, but some said it was even better than last year,” Rodríguez explained. “The distributors and publishers said they got the business done they wanted to do.”

Tessie DeVore, executive vice president of the Strang Book Group and an adviser on the SEPA board, credited Expolit organizers “for doing a tremendous job in adjusting to the times we’re going through.”

DeVore said Casa Creación—the Spanish imprint of Strang Communications, Christian Retailing’s parent company—had “a great year.” “We scaled back, moving remainders and overstock,” she added. “That strategy has proved very successful. People are looking for good deals, and they’re getting them.”

Tito Mantilla, publisher of Editorial Portavoz (Kregel Publications), said Expolit enabled his company to connect with key contacts from across the Americas and Spain.

“Our sales are up 16% year to date,” he said. “It’s been a combination of tapping into some new markets, increasing our visibility and having some very good new products and a strong backlist.”

Tyndale Español Director Andrés Schwartz added: “Despite the economic crisis, this was a good year for us at Expolit. Orders from distributors and bookstores were up this year with the exception of U.S.-based Spanish distributors, which seem to have suffered the most from the economic crisis. Sales to consumers at the show were about the same as the previous year. The economy has required us and our distributors and stores to be more creative and efficient.”

Tyndale Español used Expolit to release the new Spanish translation of its New Living Translation’s New Testament, Nueva Traducción Viviente, with plans to release the entire Bible translation in 2010.

Keynote speakers during Expolit were Operation Mobilisation (OM) founder George Verwer, pastor and author Henry Blackaby and Argentine evangelist Dante Gebel.

The event’s nightly concerts were broadcast live for the first time across Latin America via DirecTV.

Ecklebarger said this year’s conference fundraising project—OM ministries related to HIV/AIDS among children in South Africa—brought in more than $43,000 from attendees, which included $10,000 in matching funds from Expolit.

The event also provided numerous training opportunities for people in the industry, again offering the SEPA School for Booksellers. A host of smaller workshops and seminars featured topics such as uniting the church and literature ministry, goals and realities of the Christian music industry, and women’s and youth ministries.

‘Webshop’ program for churches to launch Print Email
Written by Clive Price   
Monday, 22 June 2009 10:12 AM America/New_York

IBS-STL initiative will link congregations to its warehouse , offers ‘new paradigm’ for retailers

United Kingdom


Malcolm Stockdale hopes to move the marketplace into the church with customized “Webshops” across the U.K.

The former chief of the Wesley Owen bookstore chain—part of IBS-STL UK—is now busy setting up a new charitable foundation to help churches enter the digital age, with an official launch set for the fall.

By using the online community software of ChurchInsight—whose programming helps non-technical people run Web sites—congregations will be able to host stores on their own Web sites. The retail section will look like part of the church’s ministry, but customers will receive their purchases from the IBS-STL UK warehouse in Carlisle.

“What we want to create is the ability for churches to have self-funding Web sites,” said Stockdale, explaining that churches will receive a commission from sales that originated through their shop. “We’re slowly putting things in place,” he added. “We want to do collaborations with other people. It’s very exciting. I think it’s the future.”

Publishers with whom he had shared the idea were “all excited,” he said. Stockdale has a wealth of experience in the wider trade—he was managing director of Wesley Owen for seven years, and previous to that had spent 25 years working with the major British high street chain Marks & Spencer.

But that time has also been marked by a dramatic shift in the U.K. shopping culture, as people started selling online.

“There’s a huge move toward MP3, video and PDF—all that sort of stuff,” Stockdale told Christian Retailing. “It’s trying to look at what the next chapter is in this whole cycle of selling.”

Stockdale said he believed that the new church Webshops could work alongside the U.K.’s existing brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores. But, he added, stores “have got to be aware there will be other ways of doing business.”

Bookstores could even have their own Web sites and create interactive environments using the Church Insight application, he said. “There are shops that are interested in moving forward,” Stockdale said. “It’s a new paradigm.”

Loss of wholesale service raises concern Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 22 June 2009 10:09 AM America/New_York

International trade leader says foreign suppliers miss ‘nuances’ of market


The closure of a long-established wholesaler has caused concern for some independent Christian retailers.

They fear that the loss of Family Reading Publications (FRP) will add to the challenges they face with some American publishers selling their products exclusively to Australia’s two major Christian chains, Word and Koorong.

“Many independent Christian stores are being forced to close because they cannot be price competitive, with catalogs, because publishers are selling direct to chains without adequate regard to ensuring that all of Australia has fair access to their product,” said Christine Nicholson, of Greensborough Christian Book Centre in Greensborough, Victoria.

She said that U.S. suppliers should consider how their distribution arrangements in Australia impact the industry. “Independents are so important—maybe not in turnover/sales, but in outreach, hence new customers. They shouldn’t be underestimated.”

The end of FRP—which had also provided independents with catalogs—has “changed the dynamics of the trade,” said Fiona Spriggs, owner of Eagles’ Wings Christian Bookstore in Wollongong, New South Wales. “What we do in our smaller independent stores is no less important, but we lose local sales because people can get stock cheaper at the big chains.”

Christian Trade Association International President Jim Powell said he did not believe foreign suppliers intended to add to Australia independents’ challenges, but “it’s easy to say, ‘Let’s just let one of the major retail chains take care of the country for us.’ This approach misses the nuances ... and loses (an) important opportunity to increase the impact and distribution of our products.”

Craig Moulton, co-CEO of The Word Group Australia, said he recognized that FRP’s closure had been upsetting to independents, but some were now able to get better discounts through his company’s Word Australia distribution division than they had from their former provider, depending on the size of their orders.

“We are trying to do things to help stores as much as we can, while at the same time we need to be good stewards of what God has given us to do,” he said. His company—whose Word Bookstores has 19 locations—and Koorong were “not the enemies here,” he told Christian Retailing. In addition, he said, Word Australia had long been the main distributor for Christian music and films in the country, and serviced independents in those categories competitively.

Rod Schumacher, director of export international sales for Thomas Nelson, said since the closure of FRP, his company added CLC-Australia to its distribution network, which includes Word and Koorong.

“We’ve heard from several retailers that they would prefer to order from a wholesaler that is not also a retailer,” Schumacher said. “My goal is to offer retailers a wider variety of sources for Nelson product. Each wholesaler has unique strengths that enable them to serve the market, and I believe that when the retailer has the freedom to purchase from the wholesaler of their choice, the end consumer is better served.”

Looking to extend its reach following the FRP closure is Independent Distribution Solutions (IDS), part of the not-for-profit trust CMC Australasia Group that has represented some publishers and music companies for many years. IDS distributes to more than 300 Christian bookstores in Australia and New Zealand.

“Australasia is a large territory but with a small population,” said IDS CEO Stuart Duncan. “This, added to the fact that less than 5% of the population attend church, makes the economy of scale for distributors into the Christian marketplace very difficult.”

Meanwhile, InterVarsity Press (IVP) has entered into a distribution agreement with Rainbow Book Agencies , based in Victoria, Australia. Effective this month, Rainbow will distribute IVP titles throughout Australia.

“We’re grateful to have this new partnership in place to meet the changing needs of the Australian book marketplace,” said Jeff Crosby, IVP’s associate publisher of sales and marketing.

Interest grows in church store partnership model Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 22 June 2009 10:05 AM America/New_York

Independent-run business on campus seen as ‘a great fit’ for both parties in tough times,

The economic downturn has turned the spotlight on what some believe may be a new model for Christian retailing, bridging the worlds of church and independent stores.

While church bookstores have been a growth spot in recent years, they have not been immune to recent financial pressures, with some closing and others reducing their hours of operation.

That has brought more attention to the unusual partnership that has quietly been forged at Christian Fellowship Church in Ashburn, Va., in the last three years. The church gives free space to former independent store owner Bill Tilley, who runs The Faithful Source there. With reduced overheads for him and no financial commitment to the church, both sides say it is a win-win scenario.

“Having a great bookstore is a value to us,” said executive pastor Phil Holliday. “It’s a convenience for our congregation, and it allows me to focus on ministry. I don’t know anything about buying and selling books.”

Tilley said he had received inquiries from others interested in taking a similar approach, and believed that the model’s time may have come. “There are so many independents out there who have had to close their stores who have the knowledge (churches need),” he said. “It’s a great fit.”

Margaret Umble, owner of J.O.Y. Bookstore in Sinking Spring, Pa., recently opened a bookstore at Spring Valley Church of God in Temple, Pa., after talking with Tilley about his operation. “It’s working reasonably well so far,” she said. “We are not seeing the sales in it that we would wish, but I think that’s just the name of the game today.”

As a long-time independent retailer, she said she was “not a fan” of churches operating their own stores, though she saw the need to have Christian products available there. “This might be the future,” she said of the Spring Valley partnership model.

Opened around services on Sunday and Wednesday, the new church store is managed by Michael Bennett, pastor of counseling at Spring Valley. With no other bookstores in the area, being able to provide resources for people at the church helped extend its ministry, he said.

Church-independent initiatives were “an excellent idea,” said Geni Hulsey, president of the Church Bookstore Network. “I think we will see more independents coming in to churches like this. It takes away the financial liability from the church.”

George Thomsen, manager of The Harvest Store at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside Calif., and a CBA board member, said Tilley’s model was “an excellent option for a church that wants resources for its congregation on church grounds. The church gains the benefit of having good resources, but without the risk and hassle of running a retail business.”

Thomsen said his store had seen significant sales increases in the first four months of 2009 despite California’s having been hard hit by the economy—attributing the operation’s health to continuing to practice “the basics of above-and-beyond customer service, excellent inventory levels and selection, nice merchandising displays and a clean store.”

Hulsey told Christian Retailing she had heard of other church stores also seeing growth, while some were struggling.

The Potter’s Wheel bookstore at T.D. Jakes’ The Potter’s House megachurch in Dallas, has reduced its opening schedule to two days a week, around Sunday and Wednesday services. In Honesdale, Pa., the Free Methodist Church has decided to close the Salt Shaker Christian Store it had run in the town since taking over the former independent business’ inventory in 2007.

“It was an important ministry we wanted to continue, but it was just losing money,” said Dan Pahls, the church’s finance committee chairman. The decision to close had been made reluctantly, but sales were not at a level that made the business sustainable.

Meanwhile, Market Street Square Church of the Nazarene in Chesaning, Mich., has just opened Written Miracles Bookstore in the retail section of a former mall the congregation has leased, where other tenants include a jewelry and collectibles store, and an antique and fine arts shop.

Managed by church youth pastor Jeremy Mayer, the store is privately funded, with a portion of profits going to the church. “We have had a great response from the community so far,” he said. “Most of the people that I have seen so far have not been from the church.”

Liturgical show sees fewer exhibitors due to tough economy Print Email
Written by Terry Walsh   
Monday, 22 June 2009 10:02 AM America/New_York

Annual trade convention for Catholic, Episcopal product industry had stable attendance and steady sales as ‘market tries to find itself’

Organizers of the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit (RBTE) convention reported stable turnout among retailers and steady sales for exhibitors for the 18th annual gathering, held May 26-29 at the Pheasant Run Resort in the suburban Chicago area of St. Charles, Ill.

Held around the time of Book Expo America in New York City, RBTE drew approximately 140 booksellers, roughly 10 less store representatives than last year’s show.

Due to the continuing tough economy, there were fewer exhibitors as the show drew 121 suppliers—down 22% from 2008, organizers said. At least five booth areas in the exhibit hall’s empty back section were converted into meeting areas.

“Our revenues come from exhibitors,” RBTE President and Program Director Bob Byrns told Christian Retailing. “So when exhibitors who traditionally had three booths took only two this year, it hurts our total revenues.”

Chicago-based Loyola Press was notably absent in the six-aisle exhibit hall. “We decided not to exhibit this year at RBTE as we’re putting our marketing dollars into other initiatives,” said Melissa Tomar, director of marketing for Loyola Press.

Veteran bookstore owner Nancy Marshall said the economic downturn impacted publishers and booksellers at RBTE.

“We’re on a roller coaster ride,” said Marshall, owner of Episcopal Bookstore in Seattle and founder of the Episcopal Booksellers Association. “But we’ll make it. I’m sure.”

For newcomer Billy Mitchum of The Cathedral Gift Shop at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Miami, RBTE was an “eye-opener.”

“I’ve done much bigger shows,” he said. “But at RBTE, every single booth is relevant to my store. This experience caters to those religious retailers that cannot buy evangelical product.”

Gift suppliers saw steady traffic, with Episcopal booksellers “a buzz” over DVB New York’s contemporary jewelry line, Mitchum said.

Several exhibitors said they were “pleasantly surprised” that sales from the show were nearly on par with last year.

“I think the market is trying to find itself,” Joe Riley, marketing director at Liturgical Press, told Christian Retailing. “We’ve adjusted our (sales) forecast to be less (for RBTE) this year.”

RBTE’s Dealer Day seminars featured several topics, including “Customer Loyalty: How Do You Keep Your Customers Coming Back to Your Store?” and “Explode Your Sales Even in Tough Times”—both led by Bob Negen of WhizBang! Training—and “The Future of Religious Retailing.”

Chris Weickert, Vineyard Books, Gifts & Church Supplies in Rockford, Ill., said the dealer seminars offered excellent programming that will strengthen the stores. “The workshops offered concrete ideas with a fresh perspective,” he told Christian Retailing.

Paul Fortney, of Viva! Books in San Antonio, said his business was down 10-15%, but this year’s Dealer Day seminars were the best workshops in his 17 years of coming to RBTE.

The show’s speakers included Bert Ghezzi, Esther de Waal, Paul Wilkes, Richard J. Foster, Gayle Beebe, Robin Meyers and Frank Hanna.

The 2010 RBTE convention is scheduled for June 1-4.

Attendance rises for nation’s largest book trade fair Print Email
Written by Becky Garrison   
Monday, 22 June 2009 09:33 AM America/New_York

Christian publishers report ‘pretty good traffic,’ titles with crossover appeal at Book Expo America

Despite the downturn and some religious publishers scaling back their presence at the U.S. book world’s biggest event, Christian publishing houses reported lively traffic during Book Expo America (BEA).

Held May 28-31 in New York City, BEA drew 29,923 people—a 30% increase—compared to 28,494 when the event was in Los Angeles last year, according to organizers. Attendance, though, was down 11% from 2007, when it was last held in New York. With approximately 140 religious publishing companies, the number that exhibited was flat or just slightly down from the 2008 event, BEA officials said.

Baker Publishing Group chose to cut costs by only having one booth, which the company positioned in the African-American pavilion.

“We’ve found over time that we can reach a number of the same accounts we reach at BEA through existing relationships,” David Lewis, director of sales and marketing, told Christian Retailing. “However, our budding presence and meetings with authors and stores interested in the urban market cannot be as easily replicated outside the BEA experience.”

Some of the increased traffic could be attributed to the positioning of Christian publishers’ booths throughout the main exhibition hall instead of placing them in a separate religious section—as in past years.

Football-themed titles were showcased during the expo, with HarperCollins imprint HarperOne previewing Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Mark’s The Long Snapper—the life story of former NFL player and Fellowship of Christian Athletes speaker Brian Kinchen that is to be released in September.

Tyndale House Publishers spotlighted several football-related books, including Uncommon by recently retired NFL coach Tony Dungy; Game Plan for Life by NFL Hall of Fame member Joe Gibbs; First Things First: The Rules of Being a Warner by Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner and his wife, Brenda; and LT & Me: What Raising a Champion Taught Me About Life, Faith, and Listening to Your Dreams by Loreane Tomlinson—mother of NFL star and San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

Christian fiction proved to be a strong selling point to both Christian retail channel and general market booksellers. The publishing arm of the United Methodist Publishing House, Abingdon Press doubled its booth size from last year to accommodate the fall launch of its new fiction line. Best-selling author Karen Kingsbury was on hand to sign copies of the recently released Take One (Zondervan), the first book in her new “Above the Line” series.

Other books with crossover appeal that were promoted at BEA included The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning, Be a People Person by John C. Maxwell and Breathe by Lisa T. Bergren—all published by David C. Cook—as well as Role of a Lifetime: Reflections on Faith, Family, and Significant Living by sportscaster James Brown and Nathan Whitaker (FaithWords) and The Love Revolution by Joyce Meyer (FaithWords).

Brown was on hand to sign galleys and “the response was overwhelming. He had a line for two-and-a-half hours,” Pamela Clements, associate publisher of marketing for Center Street and FaithWords, told Christian Retailing. “The show was quite successful for us.”

Additionally, Free Press—an imprint of Simon & Schuster (S&S)—showcased Joel Osteen’s It’s Your Time: Finding Favor, Restoration, and Abundance in Your Life Every Day, to be released in November. Osteen’s previous Free Press book—Become a Better You, released in October 2007—had a first printing of 3 million copies, the highest for a hardcover book in S&S history, company officials said.

Meanwhile,Harvest House Publishers spotlighted leading author Stormie Omartian’s new prayer book, The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children, and prophecy expert Mark Hitchcock—whose 2012, the Bible, and the End of the World was to be released in October.

Barb Sherrill, vice president of marketing for Harvest House, said the first two days of BEA was “lively with pretty good traffic,” but the last day was much quieter. “The economy may have played a part in that, but it’s also the nature of the show to wrap up and slow down at the end like that,” she said.