Christian Retailing

Leading church-affiliated stores close Print Email
Written by Andy Butcher & DeWayne Hamby   
Wednesday, 18 February 2009 04:11 PM America/New_York

Online retailing growth, economic downturn cited as key reasons

Two leading church-affiliated stores recently closed.

Regarded as one of the largest Christian bookstores in the country and advertised as the largest in the South, Pathway Bookstore in Cleveland, Tenn., shut its doors Jan 14.

Operated by the Church of God (CoG), the Pathway store ran for many years in a smaller location at the organization’s publishing house building in Cleveland before the Pentecostal denomination opened a reported $2.5 million, 30,000-square-foot facility in August 1999.

“Due to the uncertainty of the economy and after much deliberation, the leadership of Pathway Press, its board of directors and leadership of the Church of God have made the difficult decision to close Pathway Bookstore, effective immediately,” said Scot Carter, director of CoG’s Department of Communications.

Pathway Bookstore—which will continue as a convention store for the denomination—directed customers with gift cards and layaways to a Web site at, which CoG will continue to maintain, CoG officials said.

White Wing Christian Bookstore, located near Pathway Bookstore, has reported an increase in sales since the closing of Pathway. Store manager Cliff Anderson told Christian Retailing that White Wing planned to expand to accommodate new customers.

Meanwhile, The Garden Bookstore at Houston’s First Baptist Church in Houston—a leading member of the church bookstore movement—was due to close by the end of February as part of cost-cutting moves at the church.

geniThe 2,000-square-foot store with a staff of four was founded 16 years ago by manager Geni Hulsey, president of the Church Bookstore Network since it was founded in 2006.

Steven Murray, director of communications at the historic Southern Baptist church, told Christian Retailing that the decision to close the store had not been an easy one as it had been “ministering to our church family” since 1993 under (Hulsey’s) “faithful leadership.”

But the store’s ability to remain financially viable had been impacted by the growth in online retailing, and the recent downturn in the economy had seen consumers looking for deeper discounts.

“All of this, coupled with giving to the church running behind budgeted needs, has led the church to take steps to prevent being overspent this fiscal year,” Murray said. Action steps had included eliminating several positions in the church, cutting the budget for the rest of the year by 20% and closing the bookstore.

Gifts remain welcome growth area Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Wednesday, 18 February 2009 03:56 PM America/New_York

Many stores report category ‘steady or up,’ despite challenges

Despite the challenges associated with carrying gifts, Christian retailers say the area has been a bright spot for them in recent times and contributes to the continued vitality of their stores.

Christian Retailing’s Vital Signs study of this important category found two-thirds of stores reporting that their gift inventories were “steady or up” in the last couple of years, with the average number of SKUs held in inventory agrapht around 750.

Gifts sales as a share of total revenues have remained steady or increased in 65% of stores. One in five retailers said gifts accounted for more than 40% of total sales, with many of this group also dedicating the largest amount of space set for the category.

Consumers who took part in the survey said they purchased an average of 14 gifts annually for others and an average of 10 items each year for themselves.

Retailers and consumers differed on the need for specific Bible content on gift items. Just under half (45%) of retailers said the presence of specific scripture references on products was “extremely important” when they selected inventory, and they estimated that 66% of their stock was “scriptural” in this way.

However, only 30% of participating shoppers said they preferred gifts with specific Bible verses, looking instead for items that were more generally “inspirational.”

Read the full Vital Signs survey report exclusively online at

Stores looking for the silver lining Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Wednesday, 18 February 2009 03:53 PM America/New_York

Economic slump may have ‘good news’ benefits, say retailers

Although consumers continue to pull back on discretionary spending in a troubled economy, more people are looking for spiritual help in hard times.

That’s the hope of many Christian publishers and retailers, who told Christian Retailing that Bibles and books offering biblical financial and other help have seen a spike in sales in light of the harshest economic crisis since the Great Depression. They say the resurgence in spiritual matters has been similar to the renewed interest in God after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Phil Biddle—who recently sold his Vine and Branches Christian Bookstore in Lodi, Calif.—said Bible sales were “extremely strong” at Christmastime, increasing at least 7% from the previous year.

“The times are … tough enough that people are starting to pay attention and want the comfort of God’s Word,” he said.

gabby pylesGabrielle Pyles, manager of Christ Centered Book & Music in Fort Myers, Fla., added: “In the financial times that we are in, people do not know where else to turn but their Creator. Sometimes these times are the only wake-up call that people will listen to in order to truly find out where their source of strength comes from.”

Pyles said top sellers for her store included Financial Armageddon by John Hagee (FrontLine/Strang Book Group), The Shack (Windblown Media/Hachette Book Group USA) and the Fireproof DVD, as well as materials related to the movie.

Matt Baugher, vice president and publisher of Thomas Nelson’s Practical Living & Spiritual Growth publishing unit, said the empty and helpless feeling caused by the economic downturn was driving “people both consciously and subconsciously to messages of hope and assurance.”

“General titles on spiritual growth and theology might be a bit down in sales, but titles which concentrate on practical and spiritual assistance in troubled times are rising to the top,” he said. “Our biggest seller in this regard would be What in the World Is Going On? by David Jeremiah. We view it as nothing less than providential that this book released when it did last October.

“People are a little worried right now, and they want to know what the Bible has to say about tough times and what these indicators might mean from an eternal perspective,” Baugher added.

He noted that financial expert Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover continued to sell “extremely well” in both mainstream and Christian stores.

John Johnson, national sales director for Tyndale House Publishers, said Surviving Financial Meltdown by Ron Blue and Jeremy White was generating lots of interest. Co-published with Focus on the Family, the book was part of CBA’s Campaign Financial Aid initiative, which seeks to provide consumers with biblical financial help through their local Christian bookstore.

Bill and Tina Beyer, owners of the trend-setting Skia store in Bentonville, Ark., made a special purchase of several financial books and workbooks.“We are passing the lower costs on to our customers and sales have been robust,” Bill Beyer said.

Backing up the positive outlook of publishers and retailers, sales of religious books increased 3.5% in December, according to the Association of American Publishers.Sales of religious books previously decreased 9%, 25.6%, 11.8% and 10.8% for the months of November, October, September and August, respectively.

Serving ‘God on the go’ Print Email
Written by Staff   
Wednesday, 18 February 2009 03:45 PM America/New_York

Suppliers meet increasing appetite for bite-sized Bibles and spiritual sips

lead imagePublishers are stepping up efforts to reach modern consumers with the “still, small voice” of God in the midst of increasingly busy lives.

Bite-size Scripture verses, devotionals and books for mobile devices like MP3 players and cell phones are helping to provide spiritual refreshment for time-pressed Americans—a trend recently spotlighted in the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.

“Pastors have reported that the number one reason people don’t read the Bible is they don’t have time,” said Jon Wilke, spokesman for Faith Comes By Hearing, a ministry that provides free audio MP3 messages to cell phones.

On the retail front, the GoBible, a portable, self-contained MP3 audio Bible, saw sales growth of 70% in 2008, totaling 50,000 units, in its second full year of release. Andrew Block, president of GoBible, said the convenience of the device was the key to its success.

“I think there’s a lot of people out there who haven’t yet taken the plunge to hand-held technology, and what we offer is a very convenient, easy-to-use product that has the entire Bible laid out,” he said. “We’re exposing a whole group of people to the latest technology without them being intimidated by the technological know-how.”

The recent successes of dramatic audio Bibles in MP3 format from Thomas Nelson (The Word of Promise New Testament, The Word of Promise: Next Generation New Testament) and Zondervan (Inspired By… The Bible Experience) have also tapped into the market of busy readers. Zondervan also launched its Symtio downloadable audiobook program in retail stores last year.

“Today, the format that wraps the Word of God is irrelevant,” said Jeremy Johnson, vice president and associate publisher for Thomas Nelson’s Bible Group. “What’s important ... is connecting the Word of God to His people.”

New technology has increased the options for publishers who have already been trying to cater to the needs of busy people. In recent years, the need for speed has seen publishers roll out smaller-sized and portioned-printed books and Bibles, such as Tyndale House Publishers’ One Year devotionals, the “One Minute Bible” series from B&H Publishing Group and smaller compact-sized Bibles from publishers like Zondervan and Thomas Nelson.

“Publishing the Bible in various formats—both print and electronic—to meet people where they are allows us to continue our mission as Bible publishers in getting the Word of God into the hands of more people around the world,” Johnson said.

Thomas Nelson is one among several now offering free use of its translations—New King James Version (NKJV) and New Century Version (NCV)—on mobile devices in a partnership with

Tyndale House has contracted with MPS Mobile, a mobile content provider, to deliver devotions from its popular One Year series with New Living Translation (NLT) Scriptures. The publisher already offers its NLT as an eBook in the MS Reader and Mobipocket formats compatible with devices like the Amazon Kindle and Palm PDA. A version for the Sony Reader is in process.

Crossway Books & Bibles has been using the Twitter Internet site and social networking tool to provide a verse a day from its popular English Standard Version to more than 2,000 “followers.”

Nelson's ‘Next Generation’ receives two Audies nods Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 09 February 2009 03:23 PM America/New_York

Thomas Nelson's received two nominations among The Audies' 2009 finalists, announced today by the Audio Publishers Association.

Following the format of the star-studded, dramatic audio Bible production The Word of Promise: New Testament Audio Bible, Next Generation features voice talent familiar to younger audiences, including Cody Linley, Jordin Sparks, Corbin Bleu and Annasophia Robb.

Same vision, sharper focus, better service Print Email
Written by Staff   
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 01:55 PM America/New_York

andyTraining for my first race in more than a quarter of a century, I have discovered that while the goal may be the same, the way of achieving it needs updating. Times have changed and it’s not going to be enough to try to run the way I always have; I need to run smarter.

We’ve been bringing a similar mind-set to Christian Retailing in recent months as we have re-evaluated the way we serve our industry. The same end is in sight to when the publication was started more than 50 years ago: helping suppliers and retailers succeed as they create and distribute materials that celebrate the life-changing message of the gospel.

We’re still doing that by providing information and inspiration that together, we trust, help you make wise business decisions. But we recognize that we need to enhance and advance the ways in which we do so, in the light of ongoing changes both within our industry and more broadly in the world at large.

Our Christian Retailing print editions will remain at the core of our efforts, but we are supplementing them with digital and online initiatives that we believe will offer further benefits.

Wider audience
The magazine has been available digitally for several years now and will continue to be so. This format—with print-a-page, forward-to-a-friend and link-to-advertisers functions—offers anytime-anywhere access and is especially helpful to overseas readers.

But now we’re going to be using the digital edition to further extend the reach of the magazine. For instance, we recently made our 2009 Vacation Bible School guide, published with the Nov. 10, 2008, issue of Christian Retailing, available to 100,000 pastors.

This was done through an e-mail offer in association with Ministry Today magazine, a sister title in the Strang Magazine Group that has already seen a strong response to digital issues. An e-mail introducing the first-ever online version of the magazine late last year recorded an open rate of 45%—three times the norm—and a click-through level 14 times higher than typical.

With this level of interest in mind, we are also making the digital edition available directly to consumers, many who want to know more about the latest Christian products available. We believe these kind of initiatives will benefit suppliers and retailers alike, as information about new Christian products is made more widely available.

Greater visibility
Because of its format, though, content of digital issues is less likely to turn up in many online searches. So we are now additionally posting all the articles from each print issue directly online at our Web site, This further heightens our visibility—and, hence, that of Christian products and their providers—on the Web.

Our Internet presence also enables us to more helpfully present information. For instance, we have added a Media Appearances Calendar that will allow you to see at a glance which Christian authors and artists are appearing on television or radio on specific dates. The new Retail Focus department brings together important ready reference material, including a suppliers’ directory and our seasonal new product listings.

Easier access
Other existing online features have been made more navigable: Industry Radar tracks how other media is reporting on the Christian products world and its people, while Industry IQ offers a quick test on how much you know about this business and its history.

Our twice-weekly Christian Etailing newsletter will still be distributed by e-mail and posted at our site, but we have also been adding even more up-to-date news and information on the Web. You’ll find blogs about industry issues and news, and product categories.

Extra features
Additions also include weekly round-ups of Christian retail promotional offers to help stores keep abreast of what others are doing, the latest key personnel news (Transitions) and a brief guide to the most important and interesting new blogs from around the industry. We will also be reviewing new business books of particular interest to our industry.

As the place and importance of traditional industry events continues to change, we are making use of the Web to bring some of the benefits of attendance to those who are not able to participate in-person, for one reason or another.

Extended help
Following our own The Gathering 2009, last month, we have posted short “virtual tour” videos from our exhibitors to give non-attendees a taste of what they missed—and also provide them with an opportunity to take advantage of some of the showtime offers.

We ran a beta test of this new service after the International Christian Retail Show last summer, with many of the dozen participating suppliers reporting noticeably increased cyber-traffic as a result.

More connection
We are also introducing a Community section, in which we are endeavoring to provide some of the sense of personal connection and care that has always been one of the most appreciated dimensions of live industry events.

We’ll be posting photos and information about stores from around the country, encouraging retailers and suppliers to pray for one another and foster the sort of family spirit that is a vital part of our world. Please join in by sending us some photos and information about your efforts.

Having said all that, you won’t find a lot of flashy gimmicks and whiz-bang effects at our new Web site. We know that you are busy and are looking for specific help or encouragement in some way when you visit, not just wanting to while away some time.

So we have worked hard to make the site clear, easily navigable and above all functional. Let me know what you think and how we might make further improvements to better serve you. Drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

New-look Gathering’s prayer launch helps ‘set for success’ Print Email
Written by Staff   
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 01:32 PM America/New_York

Intercession, inspiration and interaction create ‘positive spirit’ at training-and-trade event

Retail and supplier representatives gave a strong thumbs-up to the new-look winter trade show that opened the Christian products industry year, last month.

Launched with an industry-wide prayer rally, The Gathering 2009 drew more than 200 church and other Christian retail store representatives to The Ramada Orlando Celebration Resort & Convention Center in Kisssimee, Fla.

Sponsored by Christian Retailing magazine, the event featured more than 20 workshops and almost 90 exhibitors. Publisher Dave Condiff said he was pleased with early feedback to the fifth annual Gathering—formerly focused on church bookstores but this year expanded to include independent stores.

“We’ve heard some great reports from people who told us that they feel that the event has set them up for success for the coming year—both spiritually and practically,” he said. “Given the economic climate, we’re very happy not only with the attendance but the positive spirit so many people have commented on.”

While overall attendance was down some from last year’s event, a special daylong training program for prospective stores that preceded The Gathering program drew nearly 50 participants.

CBA President Bill Anderson and Munce Group Chief Operating Officer Kirk Blank joined leaders of the Church Bookstore Network in turning to God to ask for wisdom, help and encouragement in facing the challenges of the struggling economy.

They took turns in leading prayer for stores, staff, suppliers, authors and artists, churches, pastors and the media during a 90-minute prayer rally that launched The Gathering.

prayer wallSome of the participants brought with them photos of their stores and staff, which were posted on a prayer wall created at the back of the meeting room along with written prayers received from others in the industry unable to be at The Gathering in person. Handwritten prayer requests collected from attendees during the prayer meeting were added to the list.

Inspirational contributions came from authors Steven K. Scott, Tullian Tchividjian, Dannah Gresh, Harry Kraus and Don Cousins. Music guests were Dennis Jernigan, Wintley Phipps and Thomas Miller & The Gateway Church Worship Band.

Communication coach Tony Jeary—author of a forthcoming book from Standard Publishing—gave away crisp new $1 bills in his presentation telling retailers how to increase their impact on customers, while children’s market expert Mary Manz Simon organized a giveaway of key new children’s products for her market trends seminar.

Industry consultant and author Jim Seybert gave a sneak preview of some key findings from a survey of inspirational gifts trends, conducted for Christian Retailing’s “Vital Signs” series and to be published next month.

Thirty artists and authors took part in a special dessert reception, signing copies of their new releases and meeting store representatives in the exhibition hall. Among those who took part were worship leader and recording artist Ron Kenoly and Feed the Children founder and President Larry Jones, each introducing new books.

The participating writers, musicians and artists were introduced by President George W. Bush impersonator John Morgan, who also spoke about My Life as a Bush ... and My Heart for Imitating Jesus (Creation House), the book he has written about his unusual ministry.

At the close of The Gathering, organizers made $50-$100 cash awards to more than 30 store representatives who completed more than 35 supplier visits and placed qualifying minimum orders, as part of the exhibition’s “Amazing Race” promotion.

The Gathering: Spiritual emphasis appreciated
Arriving concerned by the struggles of running her store, Anette Campbell, co-owner of independent Notes of Love Christian bookstore in Ormond Beach, Fla., appreciated the spiritual emphasis of The Gathering.

“I have never been in a Christian conference feeling such a presence of the Holy Spirit as this one, and I have attended a few,” said Campbell, who also went away with Kirkbride Bibles worth around $900 retail, after winning one of the several supplier drawings made.

Another independent store representative, Hans DeMildt, manager of Right Way Christian Bookstore in Orange City, Fla., said The Gathering was the only industry event that he would attend this year.

“The economy is part of it, but this is what a show is about,” said DeMildt, whose store is a member of the Munce Group. “The combination of having church bookstores and Christian retailers together makes sense. We’re all in ministry together, trying to accommodate our customers.”

For Pat Walter, manager of Connections Bookstore at Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colo., The Gathering was “a good event. It’s always refreshing to spend time with other church bookstore managers. I get charged by the connectivity with like-minded people.”

In the exhibition hall, first-time exhibitor Courrege Design, which gave away 100 examples of its scripture art featuring a handmade cross, opened around 50 new accounts, according to co-owner Beverly Courrege. “It’s been wonderful for us,” she said. “It’s a really intimate atmosphere.”

The Gathering was “a really good show” for New Day Christian Distributors, whose display included the new “Things Not Seen” T-shirt line, said Joanna Price, director of marketing and promotions. “We opened up a lot of new accounts from the prospective stores that were coming in and wrote a lot of good orders.”

At STL Distribution North America, Vice President of Christian Market Sales Terry Draughon said: “This is perhaps the most excited group we have seen at a Christian trade show in the last couple of years.”

The Gathering: Stores, suppliers honored

Multiple-award winners Bill and Gloria Gaither added a nonmusical trophy to their collection, at The Gathering—in honor of their groundbreaking Christian retail initiative.

The pair’s Gaither Family Resources store in Alexandria, Ind., received Christian Retailing magazine’s first Independent Store of the Year Award at The Gathering 2009 in Kissimmee, Fla.

The presentation was made to manager Eric Scott during the annual awards ceremony at the event. The award was given in recognition of the store’s “outstanding contributions in the development of Christian retail.”

With around 10,000 square feet of floor space, the store that was opened in 1996 is centered on 16 “life centers,” which group different kinds of resources around common themes or needs, rather than in traditional categories. The 30-plus staff range in age from teens to their 70s, to be able to connect with a wide range of shoppers.

The Gaither award preceded five presentations by The Church Bookstore magazine.
Large Church Bookstore of the Year: The Living Word bookstore at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky. Manager, Sara Peters.
Medium Church Bookstore of the Year: Northland Bookstore at Northland, a Church Distributed in Longwood, Fla., near Orlando. Manager, Steve Bruton.
Small Church Bookstore of the Year: Books of Hope at Community of Hope Lutheran Church in Rosemount, Minn. Manager, Heidi Macias.
Salesman of the Year: Scott Etheridge, inside sales representative for Thomas Nelson.
Vendor of the Year: David C. Cook.

The Gathering:  ‘Virtual’ tour extends benefits
Christian retailers unable to attend the first major trade show of the year have been given an opportunity to make sure they don’t miss out on some of the benefits of being there.

Video presentations from almost 90 exhibitors at The Gathering 2009 are being offered online by event organizers
Christian Retailing.

The informal short reports filmed live at the event feature key new products for the coming year and details of specials offered at the show, with some participants extending their specials.

The Web-based Virtual Trade Show Tour is just one way Christian Retailing is using the Internet in new ways to serve retailers and suppliers, said publisher and Gathering organizer Dave Condiff. The “virtual tour” can be seen at the Christian Retailing Web site,

“We wanted to help some of those who wanted to attend The Gathering, but were just unable to do so, for one reason or another,” Condiff said. “In just a few minutes, retailers can get a feel for some of what they may have missed at the event, and link directly to suppliers’ Web sites to find out more.”

See more photos from the event in our exclusive online gallery, at www.christian

CBA initiatives to help stores compete more effectively Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 01:26 PM America/New_York

Retailers trade association also to recognize ‘as many stores as possible’ with new ‘Excellence’ awards

CBA has launched two new initiatives intended to help member stores compete more effectively with other retail channels. Meanwhile, the trade association has announced a new award to recognize stores for their innovative and excellent efforts

CBA Connect will give retailers online access to training and support resources while CBA Consumer Intelligence will help them understand their customers better.

Parable Christian Stores is the first retailer group to join the CBA Connect platform, which rolled out last month. The online platform will bring together all CBA’s training programs and enable users to interact with one another, swapping information, according to a report in CBA’s January Retailers+Resources magazine.
The service is “an integrated information and marketing tool that helps retailer-and-supplier training partners communicate more effectively, and helps stores place more products into customers’ hands,” the article said.

randy  ross“We decided to partner with CBA in order to streamline our efforts rather than using multiple training (Web) sites,” Parable’s Family Entertainment and Online Merchandiser Randy Ross told Christian Retailing. “This collaborative effort allows vendors to work with CBA as a single contact for product training disbursement, and allows Parable to focus training on our material rather than general product info. This partnership is a win for CBA, Parable, and most importantly, to the local store.”

Meanwhile, CBA Consumer Intelligence, an alliance with R.R. Bowker, will “dramatically change the way the industry responds to consumer tastes and preferences through merchandizing, marketing and product development,” the CBA magazine said.

Drawing from information gathered regularly from around 300,000 consumers, the service will report on consumers’ spending habits and decisions according to their designation in different Christian groups, from “active” through “professing” to “cultural.”

The data will help retailers improve their category management, and help identify “new selling opportunities … track performance against competition, and monitor market share by category, channel or publisher.”

CBA also recently launched Custom Inventory Accelerator (CIA), which equips stores to refine their inventory mix for maximum profitability by matching its in-stock data with CBA’s CROSS:SCAN sales data.

CBA said one store in the field test reported a 12.8% sales increase in book sales and 16% in overall sales in August compared to August 2007 after using CIA to identify high-performing inventory not previously stocked. Another store more than doubled Bible sales in September using the tool.

CBA also recently announced its new  Spirit of Excellence Awards. On a monthly basis from January until May, CBA will award stores for their innovative and excellent efforts.

“Unlike previous Store of the Year awards, the new CBA Spirit of Excellence Awards are designed to acknowledge not just one store every year, but as many stores as possible that are conducting exceptional retail practices and obtaining winning, measurable results,” CBA said. “We want the entire industry to know the creative, unique and new things retailers are doing to be successful.”

At the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in Denver this summer, all stores that have won awards during the first half of the year will be eligible for the Jim Carlson CBA Spirit of Excellence grand prize award.

‘Economic climate’ impacts trade events calendar Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 01:24 PM America/New_York

Retailers, suppliers and publishers adjust their presence at Christian product industry shows

The Christian product industry’s trade show calendar is being rewritten for 2009 because of the continuing economic slowdown. Organizers have postponed, scrapped and shortened planned events.

Meanwhile, several retailers, suppliers and publishers contacted by Christian Retailing have said they will skip or cut back their presence at trade shows.
“As far as 2009, I’m not going to any shows,” said Elaine Todd, owner of Living Branches in Winchester, Va. “Two years ago, I would have never dreamed (of that). But that’s what lack of revenue will do.”

Thomas Nelson scrapped plans in December to hold its second Open House reception for key Christian retail accounts, scheduled for April 13-15. The three-day event has been pushed back to 2010, when it will become a biennial happening.

“We are already beginning plans for the 2010 Open House and do not anticipate it being cancelled,” Thomas Nelson President and CEO Michael Hyatt said. “That being said, we will continue to monitor the economic climate to confirm that it will be a prudent investment of resources for our vendors and Nelson.”
The Nelson move came after CBA announced that it had cancelled plans for a West Coast location for its Industry Conference, scheduled for Feb. 4, because of lack of support, though the Jan. 14 one planned for Atlanta went ahead.

CBA had previously announced that it will shorten its annual summer show—long the centerpiece of the Christian products industry—from five to four days in a cost-cutting move as well as response to feedback from exhibitors. Marking its 60th anniversary in Denver, the trade association’s International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) will be held July 12-15, 2009.
Just like 2008, Hyatt said Nelson would not exhibit at either Book Expo America or ICRS.

“For Thomas Nelson, these shows provide very little return on a very significant investment,” he said.

Hyatt noted that Nelson will participate in the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) inaugural Christian Book Expo (CBE) in Dallas, March 20-22.
“CBE is not a trade show; it is a consumer show,” he said. “It was created with the intention of reaching customers, both old and new, with the inspirational message of Christian books, Bibles and other resources.”

mark kuyperECPA President Mark Kuyper said CBE and ICRS “have completely different purposes and structure by design, so they are really non-competitive.”

“But for some publishers there will be a question of resources available to do both,” he said. “For those publishers, I’m sure they will choose which one to attend based on their unique strategies and goals. We hope both (events) will provide enough value to help our publishers and retailers be as successful as possible in the coming year.”

ECPA has projected “a very moderate attendance at CBE of 15,000 to 20,000,” said Kuyper, noting that 60 exhibitors had signed up by January for CBE.

Meanwhile, ECPA announced plans last fall to move its Publishing University from a physical event to multiple online Webinars for 2009.

The Webinar format will allow ECPA to tailor the matter to meet pressing industry needs, recruit previously unavailable or higher-profile presenters and schedule the seminars quickly, association officials said.

Unlike other publishers who are decreasing their participation in industry events, Standard Publishing was “increasing the number of trade shows we will attend, consistent with our strategy of increasing our channels of distribution,” said President Larry Carpenter.

Standard would attend The Gathering 2009, the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit (RBTE), the Frankfurt Book Fair, The London Book Fair and Marketsquare International this year.

“We also plan a major presence at CBE,” Carpenter said. “We are cutting back our footprint at ICRS and BEA, so our overall trade show expenses do not go up significantly.”

Gift companies were also cutting back on trade shows. Brian Adkins, CEO and founder of Scripture Candy, said his staff contingent for ICRS this summer will dwindle to four—including himself—instead of the 12 people who traveled to the Orlando, Fla., show in 2008. Brownlow Gifts President Paul Brownlow said his company would have a smaller booth at ICRS in Denver.

Dicksons Vice President of Marketing Steve Mohler said the company would participate at ICRS, but it would not attend other trade shows this year, including the Munce Group’s Christian Product Expo (CPE) Hershey, held last month in Pennsylvania.

Last fall, Munce Group scrapped its CPE Regionals West show, which would have been held normally in January—citing a glut of trade events scheduled for that timeframe.

Marketing, Christian publishing veteran Murray Fisher dies Print Email
Written by Staff   
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 01:21 PM America/New_York

Former retail manager ‘played a critical role’ in boosting circulation of ‘Charisma’ magazine

murray fisherMurray Fisher, a widely respected veteran of the Christian publishing world, died Jan. 6. He was 75.

A former retail manager who turned to Christian publishing more than 40 years ago, Fisher headed circulation, marketing and publishing efforts at three leading Christian companies before founding his own business, Longwood Communications, in 1992.

Leaving J.C. Penney in Detroit, where he was a sales and merchandising manager, Fisher joined Christian Life Publications in Wheaton, Ill., in 1963. He served as circulation director there until 1970.

Working in advertising for the next few years at the Russ Reid Advertising Agency and J.B. Lippincott in Philadelphia, Fisher became vice president of marketing at the Christian Herald Association in New York in 1978. He oversaw marketing for the association’s books, magazines and four book clubs.

A circulation consultant to Strang Communications’ Charisma magazine from the 1970s, Fisher joined the Lake Mary, Fla., company—which also publishes Christian Retailing magazine—full time in 1985. Through 1992 he was publisher of Strang’s Creation House book division—now the Strang Book Group, which includes Charisma House, FrontLine, Realms, Siloam and Casa Creación.

“Murray Fisher played a critical role in helping the circulation of Charisma grow when it was a very small magazine,” said Stephen Strang, owner of Christian Retailing and Strang Communications. “Years later I was so honored to have him full time on staff to head up Creation House. But Murray was more than a consultant or employee.

“He was a mentor and a friend,” Strang added. “He was always a godly man and will be long remembered and missed.”

At Longwood Communications, Fisher published novels and non-fiction and served as agent to several authors. Among the books he published were one for former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and a nurse’s account of her service after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City.

Married for 56 years, Fisher is survived by his wife, Donna, three children and two grandsons. He was a founding member and elder at Vista Community Church in Orlando, Fla., where a memorial service was held Jan. 10.

Berean cuts store roster by nearly a third Print Email
Written by Staff   
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 01:18 PM America/New_York

Regional chain slims to 18 outlets ‘to survive the economic downturn’

Berean Christian Stores is cutting the number of its locations by almost a third. Stores are to close in six states, reducing the Cincinnati-based regional chain to 18 outlets.

bill simmonsThe move was a strategic business decision, said President Bill Simmons last month.
“We have a lot of great stores, but there are some that we cannot afford to operate in today’s economy,” he said.

The closures include three long-established stores acquired from independent owners when Berean embarked on an expansion program a couple of years ago.
In 2006 it bought Macon Christian Store in Macon, Ga., from former CBA chairman Chris Childers, and Wellspring Christian Bookstore in Louisville, Ky., from Ward and Anita Wells. The following year, Berean took on The Living Water Christian Bookstore from Wayne Pence.

Also being shuttered are the chain’s two other Indianapolis market locations and stores in Wooster, Ohio; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Fullerton, Calif.
Simmons declined to talk about specific locations, but said that the closures were to begin in January and would mostly be completed by March 1.

The decision had been made in November, he told Christian Retailing, and was intended “to make sure we have done everything we can to survive the economic downturn,” he added: “If we plan for the worst and do better than that, then it’s all icing on the cake.”

Meanwhile, Family Christian Stores has closed its outlet in San Diego, although the company declined to comment. Last month the company’s Web site store locator listed a total of 298 stores in 36 states.

In an interview with The Daily Times in Salisbury, Md., to mark the opening of the chain’s new store there, in December, Family’s Director of National Marketing and Promotions, Alex Mosoiu, commented on some of the changes in the Christian retail market in recent years.

“Christian retail has undergone a significant shift in the past 10 years: It used to be a destination business—stores like (ours) carried products no one else did, so customers would be willing to travel greater distances to find them,” he told the newspaper.

“Today, the landscape is dramatically different than 10 years ago; our products can be found in multiple places,” he added.

As a result, Mosoiu said, “location becomes incredibly important, as customers are less willing to drive out of their way. As part of being good stewards, we look for effective real estate locations that fit our model.”

With the economic climate as it was, Mosoiu said, “we are making strategically sound new store and relocation decisions in order to maximize the number of customers we can serve.”

Meanwhile, LifeWay Christian Stores—a division of the Southern Baptist Convention—added nine stores, while closing two stores last year, according to LifeWay Christian Resources Media Relations Manager Chris Turner.
“Our current store count is 151, with the likelihood that number will increase in 2009,” said Turner, who declined to elaborate on the chain’s plans for this year.