Christian Retailing

Downturn, consumer-focused show impacts ICRS Print Email
Written by By Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 04 May 2009 12:45 PM America/New_York
Publishers, retailers and distributors to streamline expenses for CBA’s annual summer event

altPublishers, retailers and distributors are cutting back for CBA’s annual summer show in light of the tough economy.

The International Christian Retail Show (ICRS)—marking its 60th anniversary in Denver, July 12-15—could also be hit by publishers’ investment in the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) inaugural, consumer-oriented Christian Book Expo (CBE)—which produced a disappointing turnout in Dallas in March.

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Christian presence scaling back at Book Expo America Print Email
Written by By Eric Tiansay   
Sunday, 05 April 2009 12:43 PM America/New_York

Citing the economic slowdown, Christian publishers are skipping or scaling back on their presence at the U.S. book world’s biggest event this month.

At press time, 140 religious publishing companies were confirmed for Book Expo America (BEA), which will take place in New York City, May 28-31.

Steven Rosato, director of strategic accounts, sales and industry development for BEA, told Christian Retailing that 50 religious publishers exhibited at last year’s event.

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Publishers count losses after ‘disappointing’ book expo Print Email
Written by By DeWayne Hamby   
Monday, 20 April 2009 12:40 PM America/New_York
Light traffic, low sales leave a question mark over the future of new-style, consumer-oriented event

altFollowing disappointing returns at the first-ever Christian Book Expo, publishers are counting their financial losses—leaving a question mark over the event’s future.

Sponsored by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) and designed for consumers, the show attracted more than 60 publishers and suppliers. Participants prepared for estimated crowds upward of 10,000, but were greeted by around 1,500 registered attendees—including 275 children who were admitted free.

Held at the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas, the March 20-22 event boasted more than 220 Christian authors participating in a range of activities intended to generate exposure for Christian books.

Although evening sessions were geared to what was expected to be the biggest audiences, with seating set up for more than 5,000 seats, it was the event’s daytime panel discussions which drew the highest attendance and attention. Evening session attendance was around 200-400 for each night.

Booth space alone cost some publishers around $9,000 before factoring in expenditure on displays, advertising and product shipments as well as travel and hotel costs for leadership, staff, publicists and authors.

Mark Taylor, president of Tyndale House Publishers, said his company’s plans were to split its resources between CBE and this summer’s International Christian Retail Show, using a smaller booth and fewer staff. Staff travel and expenses, he added, were the most expensive elements of participation.

Rick Lewis, whose Logos of Dallas store was commissioned by InterVarsity Press (IVP) to handle the company’s sales at its CBE booth, said the book fair was “an apparent failure.” He estimated total sales of around $3,000, despite IVP’s large, prominent booth and discount pricing.

Marilyn Largent, senior director of trade sales for David C. Cook, said the company ended up “giving away more books than we sold.”

ECPA President Mark Kuyper, who said he was “hugely disappointed” with the turnout, told Christian Retailing that CBE’s future was to be discussed during the organization’s Executive Leadership Summit in Carlsbad, Calif., in late April. Some ECPA board members had responded positively to him during CBE that it should continue, with a shift in marketing and possibly other “smaller” areas like a venue change or registration costs.

Kuyper also said some publishers, who had expressed disappointment with the turnout, would wait until the show became “more established” before participating again.

If the ECPA board does go forward with another CBE event, Kuyper said, a major area that would need to be re-thought was the marketing plan, which had relied more on publishers’ relationships with consumers to drive the attendance rather than a budget for event advertising.

Thomas Nelson decided last year to redirect some of its marketing strategy away from trade shows and to the new consumer show model. President and CEO Mike Hyatt, chairman of ECPA, said he was “disappointed” with the turnout, but remained “very enthusiastic” about the concept.

“Depending on what my fellow publishers say, I would be for moving ahead with this, perhaps in a smaller venue,” he told Christian Retailing.

 

‘ESV STUDY BIBLE’ NAMED BOOK, BIBLE OF THE YEAR

altHistoric truths and modern technology converged when the ESV (English Standard Version) Study Bible, Crossway Books & Bible’s best-selling new release, took home top honors at the 31st Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) Christian Book Awards.

The Bible, which won Book of the Year and Bible of the Year, was hailed for its blending of Scripture and commentary from a traditional Calvinist perspective with online exclusive content and digital versions—among the first study Bibles to do so. Nearing a sell-out of its third printing, the Bible has also hit the top spot in Kindle sales, Amazon.com’s E-book format. The Bible has also been ranked in the top 10 best-seller lists of CBA and the ECPA.

Crossway President Lane Dennis, who called the recognition “stunning,” said the reaction to the Bible—published in October—had been remarkable, and he credited the “tremendous” team at the Wheaton, Ill.-based company for its development.

“It’s amazing to think about the impact it’s having worldwide, that especially during challenging times, people are turning to God’s Word,” he told Christian Retailing. “It’s His gift—what an honor it is to publish it.”

The awards were presented before an audience of around 150 on the eve of the official opening of ECPA’s inaugural Christian Book Expo.

“This was a memorable evening in many respects,” said Mark Kuyper, president of ECPA. “It was the first time a study Bible earned top honors and the first time we’ve opened the awards presentation to the public.”

The awards were also noteworthy in that top Christian publishers Thomas Nelson, Zondervan and Tyndale House Publishers, all with products nominated and consistent winners, went home empty handed. Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt remarked on his blog that “this was definitely the year for small presses.”

Another Crossway title, John Piper’s Spectacular Sins, was recognized as the winner in the Christian Life category. Titles from The WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group were honored in two categories—Children & Youth: For Young Men Only by Jeff Feldhahn and Eric Rice with Shaunti Feldhahn, and Fiction: The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner.

Winners in other categories were: Bible Reference & Study: Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings by Tremper Longman and Peter Enns (InterVarsity Press); and Inspiration & Gift: Holiness Day by Day by Jerry Bridges (NavPress).

The new 2009 awards’ dinner format allowed “time to unpack” the content of the titles, Kuyper said. Students from the Media Arts department of the Dallas Theological Seminary performed dramatic readings of the titles prior to the winners being announced by presenters that included Jerry B. Jenkins, Janette Oke and Don Piper.

The Christian Book Awards winners were selected from 218 products submitted by ECPA member publishers in 2008.

 

AUTHORS STAR AT NEW BOOK FAIR

Consumers who turned out for the first-ever Christian Book Expo (CBE) came face-to-face with their favorite Christian authors in a variety of settings, including informal book signings, workshops, concert-style events and panel discussions.

“For many years, I’ve gone to trade shows and this is similar to that, except it’s opened its doors to the public,” said author Max Lucado, who gave a keynote address during a CBE general session. “For that, I’m really excited about it.”

Authors also conducted and participated in dozens of workshops throughout the weekend on a wide range of topics such as writing, leadership, youth ministry, marriage, creationism and finances.

Fiction was a top draw, most notably at the Joint Publisher Fiction Showcase. Sponsored by the Christy Awards, a panel of best-selling authors explained their craft to a full room of more than 100 participants and answered questions from the audience. Panelists included Terri Blackstock, T. Davis Bunn, Mindy Starns Clark, Jerry Jenkins, Beverly Lewis, Robert Liparulo, Bill Myers and Janette Oke. Liz Curtis Higgs served as moderator.

Donald Miller, best-selling author of Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What (both Thomas Nelson), said he enjoyed participating in the event because it allowed him interaction with his readers.

“I think it’s a terrific idea and it’s been a great experience to be here,” he said. “One of the great things about the experience—this sounds terrible—but there’s not many people here, you can talk to a lot of people.”

Michael Busch, a Dallas resident and college student, said that as an aspiring writer, the workshops and “culture” provoked his interest. “I came here to observe the culture, hang out and get a feel for the community,” he said. “I went to the workshop by Mindy Starns Clark and it was very good.”

Kristy Allen, a staff member at Dallas’ Concord Baptist Church, told Christian Retailing that her weekend highlights included meeting authors and attending a workshop featuring Lee Strobel.

 
Thomas Nelson and IBS-STL make leadership changes Print Email
Written by By DeWayne Hamby and Andy Butcher   
Monday, 20 April 2009 12:38 PM America/New_York
Executive steps down in publisher’s restructuring, economy forces group’s reorganization

In a move said to be designed to more tightly align the company’s sales, marketing and publishing efforts, Thomas Nelson recently made changes to its executive leadership team. Meanwhile, IBS-STL also recently announced a series of leadership changes for the international publishing and distribution group’s U.K. operations.

altA former Borders executive who joined Nelson four years ago, Tami Heim stepped down in late March as executive vice president and chief publishing officer for the Nashville-based publisher, while Mark Schoenwald—formerly chief sales officer—was promoted to president and chief operating officer. Meanwhile, Michael Hyatt relinquished his title as president, but he will continue to serve as CEO—focusing more on author relations, acquisitions and product development.

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CBA chairman’s ‘new business model’ Print Email
Written by By Eric Tiansay   
Sunday, 05 April 2009 12:35 PM America/New_York
Jim Whitaker closing brick-and-mortar store, but he will stay in business

altCBA Chairman Jim Whitaker—co-owner of New Life Christian Store in Lynchburg, Va.—plans to close his brick-and-mortar shop, but he will stay in business.

“We are not shutting down; what we are doing is closing our present location and transitioning to a new business model,” he told Christian Retailing. “We will continue to serve our church/institutional accounts and others by face-to-face direct sales, Web site, e-mail and phone orders. We are also investigating other innovative avenues of marketing Christian retail product.”

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Breaking new ground in Spanish market Print Email
Written by By DeWayne Hamby and Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 20 April 2009 12:22 PM America/New_York

Puerto Rican distributor sees growth as others note slowdown 

As Christian publishers continue to feel the pinch of consumers reeling in spending due to the global economic crunch, the Latin evangelical market is experiencing growth in some areas.

One leading distributor of Spanish Christian books in Puerto Rico is reporting booming business—despite a recession in the last four years in the U.S. territory located in the northeastern Caribbean.

altRicky Feliciano told of his success with Pura Vida Books—offering encouragement to the U.S. Christian products industry as it faces its own economic challenges—during a buying trip to see American accounts in March.

Meanwhile, with the Spanish publishing industry gathering later this month for Expolit—the largest trade fair in the U.S. for the Spanish-language Christian literature and music world—publishers are also reporting some bright spots in a year of economic uncertainty, while music sales have struggled.

Pura Vida Books—which distributes titles for Grupo Nelson (Thomas Nelson), Editorial Vida (Zondervan), Editorial Unilit, B&H Español (B&H Publishing Group), Tyndale Español (Tyndale House Publishers) and Casa Creación (Strang Grupo Hispano)—the Spanish imprint of Christian Retailing’s parent company, Strang Communications—“has been growing constantly during those four years of a recession—30% growth annually,” he told Christian Retailing.

“This year, we’ve hit it out of the ballpark. We have grown 140% in the first three months because of new open markets,” Feliciano said.

Pura Vida started distributing books to 16 Wal-Mart stores and four Costco locations in January. Pura Vida also distributes to nine Sam’s Club locations, three Borders and 120 pharmacies and hospitals.

“We are the biggest Christian distributor in Puerto Rico,” said Feliciano, who started Pura Vida in 2002, although the company nearly went bankrupt in 2004. Though there are two other Christian distributors in Puerto Rico, “I don’t consider them as my competition. I consider the secular distributors as my competition,” he said. “We found out that non-Christians buy Christian books. The secular market is hungry for Christian books.”

Strang Grupo Hispano Director Lydia Morales said Casa Creación’s sales in Puerto Rico have grown 364% since 2005, including 47% during 2007-2008. Casa Creación’s top sellers through Pura Vida include ,i>¡Cielo es tan real! (Heaven Is So Real!, Charisma House) by Choo Thomas and 23 minutos en el infierno (23 Minutes in Hell, Charisma House) by Bill Wiese.

“We are amazed of the growth that Pura Vida has shown in the last four years with our products,” she said. “Ricky has been able to penetrate the secular market in Puerto Rico and almost quadruple our sales.”

Feliciano noted that Christian books appeal to the mass market in Puerto Rico because of three reasons: their message touches the heart and mind, the good quality of book covers and good price point. “This is how we have competed against secular books,” he said. “We have taken the shelf spaces of secular books in secular stores and filled them with Christian books.”

Feliciano, who has 15 employees—up from a staff of 12 in 2008—expects Pura Vida’s growth to continue. “The reason is there is a hunger in Puerto Rico for spirituality,” said Feliciano, who also owns a Christian bookstore in Mayuaex, Puerto Rico. “A buyer from Sam’s Club asked me, ‘I don’t understand how your Christian books sell.’ I tell him that people are in need. They are looking for comfort and encouragement.”

Larry Downs, executive vice president and publisher for Grupo Nelson, said even in what has been “a difficult year for all involved,” the Thomas Nelson division had seen increases in three areas—business, electronic and fiction titles.

“Fiction is the largest growth area for us,” said Downs, adding that the company is invested in it “heavily” by launching a search for new original Spanish fiction writers. New titles include Donají by Keila Ochoa Harris, Loruhama by César Vidal and olumnas de Humo by Álvaro Pandaiani.

Exchange rates, raising costs of exports to some areas by 50% and heavy returns in the U.S. were some of the challenges faced by the company during an already tumultuous economic year.

“I believe we will see this trend for at least another 12 to 18 months,” Downs said. “We still have six to nine tough months ahead before we see any breaks.”

David Ecklebarger, executive director of the Spanish Evangelical Products Association and president of Editorial Unilit, said the Spanish market outside of the U.S. had not seen a downturn to the extent experienced by the English market.

“The economy in Latin American countries has been up on an average of 5% in the past several years and it was projected to continue,” he said. “I think it’s a wait-and-see on how seriously the economic impact is going to impact Latin America. It could be that it’s minimal.”

One of the areas hit hardest by the downturn was Spanish music, Ecklebarger said, noting a number of companies had shut down or merged—resulting in a decline in registrations by independent artists attending Expolit, scheduled for May 14-19 in Miami. “Spanish music and the recording industry has really been hurt,” he said.

Integrity Music Latin’s Elias Yepez, director of sales/marketing and operations, acknowledged that music sales in general have struggled. But there was still room for growth, especially in the Spanish market.

“The music industry in whole has declined, but that doesn’t mean so have the opportunities,” Yepez said. “Innovation, new presentations, more features, added value and decreasing costs are other aspects to consider in order to avoid riding the wave of the plummeting music industry.”

He said stores could weather the storm by researching top music titles and managing inventory. Yepez was also optimistic that Hispanics were still loyal to physical products.

“A large percentage of the Hispanic market does not buy digital music yet, so retail outlet sales still have the potential compared to Anglo sales at least for the next two years,” he said.

The Spanish retail industry is not “frontlist-driven nearly as much,” Ecklebarger said. “We’ve seen most of our growth in the backlist sales rather than the front end,” he said. “In a lot of ways, that’s good. We’ve got a lot of good, steady books that have been there for years and continue to do very well. Our market is not driven by having one big winner.”

Downs agreed, suggesting bookstores stick to core inventory and introduce new releases “slowly” with good exposure, including endcap placement.

 
Ringing the bell for retail Print Email
Written by By Andy Butcher   
Monday, 20 April 2009 10:31 AM America/New_York

‘Fresh recruits’ give stores a new face and focus, defying economic downturn

altUndaunted by the challenge of the economic downturn, a wave of newcomers to the industry is ringing the bell for Christian retailing.

Among those bringing a new face to the industry is a Canadian trio whose made-over Bell Tower Books is trying to reach beyond traditional evangelical circles by opening up a lounge to the local arts community and carrying some popular general market titles like those featured on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show.

“God is sending in fresh recruits, charging up the whole team like in a basketball game,” said CBA President Bill Anderson of the industry’s new arrivals, reporting an average of 15 new trade association members a month. “One of the main characteristics I observe is their conviction that God has called them. They have a realistic sense of optimism, and a sense of need for more Christian retail stores.”

altLeading the way at Bell Tower Books is Dave Sohnchen, who was manager of the former Christian Publications outlet in Kelowna, British Columbia, that was bought out by Jim and June Brown last year.

The 4,000-square-foot store celebrated a grand re-opening in March, unveiling The Belfry—an informal upstairs meeting area where “bell ringers” who pay a $60 annual subscription can meet and borrow books and other resources supplied by the store’s management team, free of charge.

“I knew that things needed to change somewhat in terms of how we did business,” said Sohnchen, whose store’s new mission statement is summed up as CHIME—communal, holistic, integrated, missional, engaging. “We are trying to engage our culture,” he said.

Meanwhile, New York City’s famous Brooklyn Tabernacle has given new life to its bookstore operations, closing the two former Timeless Treasures locations and replacing them with Bell Tower Christian Gift & Bookstore.

The store is a member of the Munce Group, where sales and service coordinator Danielle Woods said though times were tough, “the rate of retailers looking for marketing help is relatively steady, if not growing.”

Newcomers were motivated by ministry, she told Christian Retailing. “Christian retailers want to keep their doors open so that the lost and hurting can walk through them. What characterizes the average new Christian retailers is an evangelistic heart.”

That is the case with Patricia Hill, whose Christian Books and Gifts ... And Then Some in Philadelphia, is due to open June 1 after two years of preparation. Leaving the corporate world after more than 30 years gave her the opportunity to fulfill the long-held dream—shared with her pastor husband—of opening a Christian store.

The new business would be able to put valuable resources in the hands of church members, she said, and reach out to “those who maybe grew up in church but are not there now, and maybe they will be led to go back to the house of God.

Hill said she was not discouraged by the financial crash that had occurred since she started planning the new store. “We are walking into this knowing where the economy is, so there’s no way to go but up. That’s the way I see it. I know that this is God’s will.”

Nor did last fall’s slump deter Dan and Dayna Panella, who were in negotiations to buy Vine & Branches Christian Bookstore in Lodi, Calif., from Phil Biddle. The pair decided “there would be no better time to buy the business,” said Dan Panella. “I felt that if there is any place people are going to be spending money it should be at a place like this, because hopefully they would be focusing on God instead of the latest video game or whatever.”

With a grand re-opening at the end of March, the 4,400-square-foot store has been given a fresh logo, reorganized with a more contemporary look and re-stocked to reach younger consumers. “We didn’t want people to think that all we sold was Bibles, especially if they had never been in the store before,” Panella said.

Opening Abundant Life Christian Store in Aiken, S.C., at the beginning of the year was a “leap of faith” for Kay Mortimer, an accountant who decided to venture into Christian retail after learning that Haven of Rest, a Christian store that had served the city for almost 20 years, was due to close with the owner’s retirement.

While some Christian products can be bought at places like Wal-Mart, Mortimer said she believed Aiken still needed “a place where the focus is the Word of God and His kingdom.” Customers of the former store a couple of blocks away have welcomed the new business, she said. “I believe the support is there. We are trusting that God is leading us, and He wouldn’t lead us down a path to failure.”

Although the new direction of stores like Bell Tower Books has been welcomed by many, with Sohnchen reporting a good number of first-time visitors, not everyone is impressed. Bell Tower’s new approach was criticized in an e-mail sent to churches in the area that warned the store’s Web site included Wiccan and gay and lesbian materials.

“Anybody who has come to us directly with criticism or concerns have had them quickly put to rest,” Sohnchen said. “We just open up our hearts and what we believe God’s vision is for this store. When they hear and see it, they immediately say, ‘Yes, I get it.’”

 
Leading publishers report layoffs and restructuring Print Email
Written by Staff   
Tuesday, 31 March 2009 09:08 AM America/New_York

Recent changes at these companies made to ‘proactively deal with the economic downturn’

Leading publishers have made moves to streamline and re-organize their operations in the face of the struggling economy and market slump.

David C. Cook laid off 29 people in a late February move impacting its U.S. operations in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Elgin, Ill. The company’s Canadian Distribution unit and the Kingsway music subsidiary in the United Kingdom were not affected.

altCook’s CEO Cris Doornbos told Christian Retailing that although the company was ending its fiscal year June 1 with revenues ahead of last year, it was “positioning for the future and investments that were required for the future.”

Harvest House Publishers, which declined to disclose numbers of employees affected by layoffs in late January, also made internal changes.

“Like many other publishers in our industry, we have had to conduct a small reduction in our workforce to proactively deal with the economic downturn,” said Harvest House President Bob Hawkins Jr. “It was a decision that will enable Harvest House to continue to be very healthy for the years to come, even if the economy does not turn around right away.”

Strang Communications—publisher of Christian Retailing—has also re-branded and downsized. Starting last month, the company began conducting business under three names: Strang Book Group, which includes seven imprints; Strang Grupo Hispano and Strang Media Group—which includes the company’s magazine and Internet properties.

“We will continue to do business under the names of our many imprints and brands,” said Stephen Strang, founder and CEO. “But this more clearly identifies the three distinct groups under which we now do business.”

The company laid off 11 people in February. Previously, seven full-time equivalents were let go in January. The total reduction was just less than 12% of the staff, with none of the nine full-time equivalents who work on Christian Retailing, The Church Bookstore or Inspirational Gift Trends affected.

“We’ve been coping with the same market changes everyone else is facing, plus the technology changes as the Internet becomes a more important part of what we do,” Strang said. “But the layoffs were a response to the current economic slowdown to improve profitability to fund future growth.”

Doornbos said he remained “hopeful and optimistic” while also being realistic, and believed that a society coping with “instability” would turn to Christian products for guidance.

“I think it represents a real opportunity to those of us in Christian publishing,” he said.

 
Digital connections help promote authors, books Print Email
Written by Staff   
Tuesday, 31 March 2009 09:06 AM America/New_York

Blogs and social networking tools tapped to build ‘a loyal following’ among consumers

Christian authors and publishers are increasingly using new technology to bypass traditional methods of connecting with consumers. While in-store book signings and appearances remain popular for local authors and some big-name writers, many are going online to build a following.

The trend has been highlighted by the growth of author-run blog sites and new social media forms such as Twitter and Facebook.

alt“An author needs to be online somewhere—whether it’s a blog, Facebook page or Web site,” Cheryl Kerwin, senior marketing manager for Tyndale House Publishers, told Christian Retailing. “Digital seems to be the trend, and we recommend this to all of our authors, encouraging their involvement in this ‘cost-free’ communication … (which) builds a loyal following.”

Several authors—including Max Lucado, Donald Miller, Mark Driscoll, Robin Jones Gunn, Brandilyn Collins and Tricia Goyer—have signed up with the micro-blogging site Twitter, which not only reveals a glimpse into their lives, but also spreads the word about their upcoming books and projects.

Earlier this year, Lucado rallied his Twitter followers for a prayer campaign for President Barack Obama, quickly gathering more than 280,000 names on his Web site.

Jana Muntsinger, Lucado’s publicist, said the gratification for the author and his fans was “immediate and real.”

“I am seeing more and more high-profile authors, those with busy pastoral jobs and writing/speaking schedules, making more of a concerted effort to engage with readers,” Muntsinger told Christian Retailing. “Authors are blogging and Twittering to make a connection with their fans. … I can only see this trend continuing.”

Goyer, who estimated that she receives about 20 new Twitter followers daily, told Christian Retailing that the “conversation” was important and the 140-word character messages from the micro-blogging site “go a long way.”

“As a GenXer, I understand that people in this generation love connectivity,” she said. “They love a glimpse into my ‘real’ life, and I think both Twitter and Facebook give them that.”

Sometimes, the author-fan connection impacts directly on a book. After Colleen Coble’s readers expressed lingering questions about the outcome of her 2008 book, Cry in the Night (Thomas Nelson), she drafted an epilogue, and with her publisher’s blessing, posted it along with an interview on her Web site.

Books by Jerry Jenkins and Ted Dekker have also sparked enough interest to prompt the creation of new book-related, online communities.

After the release of Riven last year, Tyndale House Publishers commissioned a Web site where readers could post about how the book impacted them.

Fans of Dekker’s “The Circle Series”—Black, Red, White and the upcoming Green—all published by Thomas Nelson, wear circle pendants to book signings, and more than 40,000 have joined an online community. In June, the third staging of The Gathering will draw Dekker fans to Nashville to take part in several activities, including a Q-and-A with the novelist, drama, dance and multimedia elements.

Kevin Kaiser—brand manager for Creative Trust, Dekker’s management company—told Christian Retailing that the event, which he expected to attract more than 500 participants, was started at the request of readers who first connected online.

“They see it not just as a way to connect with Ted, but it’s also a venue for them to connect with each other,” he said.

At last summer’s event, Dekker fans were shown a preview screening of the movie House, based on his 2006 novel co-authored with Frank Peretti. In addition, attendees of The Gathering were given an advance copy of Dekker’s novel Sinner.

Publishers and authors have also held contests and requested input from readers to help shape the actual plot of a book. Randy Singer’s The Justice Game, to be released in July by Tyndale House, solicited reader votes after a viral video of a mock trial included in the book was posted online. After thousands of views and votes, the final verdict will be rendered with the book’s publication.

“I wanted to do something different and get my readers really involved in the story,” Singer said. “This gives them an opportunity to hear both sides of the national gun debate and gets them thinking. Plus, it adds an element of fun to the book.”

This month on a weekend edition of the FOX & Friends morning TV show, FOX’s news and legal analyst Lis Wiehl was scheduled to announce a recipe contest inspired by her new book Face of Betrayal, to be released this month by Thomas Nelson, with submissions coming through her Web site. The winner will be flown to New York later this year to share the winning recipe on the show.

 
ICRS to feature new events, ‘provide real help’ to retailers Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 06 April 2009 09:05 AM America/New_York
CBA’s 60th anniversary show ‘not about breaking attendance records,’ but ‘practical solutions’

CBA’s annual summer show has been shortened, but the trade association is seeking to “provide real help” to retailers by adding several new events and attractions for its International Christian Retail Show (ICRS).

Marking its 60th anniversary in Denver, ICRS is set for July 12-15. The new Heart of the Author Luncheon, to be hosted by Karen Kingsbury, is scheduled for July 14. Besides Kingsbury, several other authors will reveal the stories behind their books, the retailers trade association said.

Additionally, a new general session July 12 will feature B&H Publishing Group author and missiologist Ed Stetzer and R.R. Bowker General Manager Kelly Gallagher, who will provide information on industry trends, research and best practices.

CBA also has plans for an extended ribbon-cutting ceremony July 13, while the new Town Center will feature a new product gallery, merchandising demonstrations, personality booths and food concessions.

Also July 12, Josh McDowell, author of Evidence for the Resurrection (Regal Books) and NFL Hall of Fame member Joe Gibbs, author of Game Plan for Life (Tyndale House Publishers), will speak during the Pacesetter event, which is not a new event. However, it will be followed by the presentation of CBA’s new Spirit of Excellence Awards, which will honor stores for their innovation.

altThe theme of ICRS is “Real Help for Your Business”—an indirect reference to the economic slowdown. CBA President Bill Anderson told Christian Retailing that the anniversary show “is not about breaking attendance records.”

“It is about helping real people with real issues and helping them find practical solutions,” he said. “And it will not be a meeting of the defeated, but of a group of people ... called to the ministry of Christian retail who are experiencing some of the toughest years in the history of our industry.”

Anderson added that ICRS will “provide real help for dealing with real issues in these real hard times.”

“We want to help retailers understand and deal with the realities of our current economic climate, but recognize that they are not going it alone,” he said. “The road may be rough, but it is not a dead-end street. … There are plenty of Christian retail stores who are actually seeing business growth and are more than willing to share what is working for them as well as offer encouragement.”

CBA will also debut “Product Intelligence Tours,” distinguished by product category, which will be showcased on the exhibit floor and exhibitor booths. The tours will enable retailers to learn about various categories of product, while sponsoring suppliers can demonstrate their specific products for buyers.

CBA previously announced plans to shorten its annual summer show from five to four days. Total exhibit time will be reduced by just three hours, while shaving off a day of travel costs, meals and time investment.

 
Suppliers pay ‘close attention’ to new product safety law Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 06 April 2009 09:01 AM America/New_York
Christian companies comply with testing requirements designed to protect children under 12 from tainted products.

Christian gift suppliers are up to speed with a new federal law designed to protect children from tainted products.

Vendors contacted by Christian Retailing said they were paying “close attention” to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), passed by Congress in August 2008 after Mattel Inc. recalled more than 21 million toys imported from China in 2007. Many were found to have dangerous levels of lead.

CPSIA bars the sale of goods, including toys and clothing that contain more than 600 parts per million of lead marketed to children 12 and under. The law was to go into effect Feb. 10, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) approved a year stay of enforcement Jan. 30 for certain testing and certification requirements for children’s products manufacturers and importers. Violations could mean shutdowns and fines.

“We are contacting all suppliers and asking them to confirm their CPSIA compliance, so that we can identify fully compliant suppliers on the CBA Web site and at the International Christian Retail Show,” CBA President Bill Anderson said.

According to the retail trade association, 82 suppliers so far have completed a survey on its Web site, noting that the companies were in compliance with CPSIA.

Hans DeMildt, manager of Right Way Christian Bookstore in Orange City, Fla., said he was not overly concerned about any impact from the new law.

“I asked one of our big gift suppliers, and they said that they were compliant,” he said. “I haven’t had any inquiries from customers (about CPSIA). I feel confident that the products we carry are in compliance.”

Although testing can range from a couple hundred dollars to $4,000 per item to comply with CPSIA, vendors said the cost was not a major issue.

altGeorge Nizynski, president of Lighthouse Christian Products, said the company was paying “close attention to all the CPSIA rules and regulations.”

“We have always followed CPSC standards and testing requirements for our children’s products and other consumer products,” he said. “Lighthouse pays an extra commission that ranges from 15% to 20% to our Far East representative offices, (which) have staff that monitor and manage our quality and safety levels on our products throughout the entire production cycle. … This extra cost is a significant investment that we have always made.”

Laura Lung, president of Bob Siemon Designs, said the company’s products “have been lead-free even before this new law.”

“We’ve been very proactive to let our customers know that our products are lead-free,” she said. “About a year ago, we let our customers know that this legislation was coming. Additionally, we provided information (about CPSIA) at trade shows and on our Web site. … Personally, we’re happy that there’s this requirement now.”

Julie Kaempfe, owner of infant apparel company His GEM, said she received some calls from stores inquiring about CPSIA.

“Our apparel is safe,” she said. “Our products are tested overseas in Bangkok, Thailand, and Hong Kong. They meet the requirements of CPSIA.

“We plan to put a copy of our General Conformity Certificate on our Web site, so people are appeased that we don’t have lead,” Kaempfe added.

Kerusso Vice President of Marketing Chris Rainey said only the apparel company’s toy products, including “Praise Ponies,” “God’s Girlz” and “Friction Powered Trucks,” were largely impacted by CPSIA.

“We are in compliance to conformity of the regulations, but have not completed third-party testing to receive certificates on all items,” he said. “We do have these on most all jewelry items, and we will continue to get third-party testing accomplished on all items required by (the) end of 2009, which will meet the February 2010 requirements by CPSIA.”

Rainey added that Kerusso had conducted third-party testing on its jewelry items in the last two years.

“While our jewelry isn’t designated as children’s product and therefore isn’t affected by this new law, we’ve taken the extra steps, precautions and costs to make sure all of our products are safe,” he said. “Much of our jewelry has certifications from third-party testing organizations.”