|‘Pockets of opportunity’ for stores|
|Written by Staff|
|Tuesday, 27 January 2009 01:14 PM America/New_York|
Customer profiles reveal potential growth areas for business
Although many Christian retailers are struggling with the bleak retail economy, one industry expert believes there are “pockets of opportunity” for stores willing to ask hard questions and change according to the needs of their customers.
The message of hope was offered by Kelly Gallagher—general manager of business intelligence at publishing information company R.R. Bowker—who presented information from the company’s Consumer Information Research panel during the CBA Industry Conference .09, which drew 110 retailers, publishers and industry leaders to Atlanta last month.
Citing an aging customer base at Christian retail and stores “losing numbers of consumers,” Gallagher told attendees that reaching a younger generation was the “key to moving Christian retailing forward.”
Painting a portrait of the average Christian retail customer, Gallagher noted that 64% were women, 72% were over the age of 40, 46% had an annual income of more than $50,000 and 70% were Protestant believers—with 57% of those actively practicing their faith.
Additionally, Gallagher revealed that 22% of Christian book buyers were Catholic or Mormon, while the final 8% were identified as non-Protestants.
He also observed that women accounted for 68% of fiction sales in the general market, but they made 89% of such purchases in the Christian retail sector.
Other presentations at the Jan. 14 conference also highlighted change, whether focusing on emerging technologies like cell-phone marketing or giving the customers more options.
In his closing remarks, CBA President Bill Anderson said the turnout had “surpassed” the CBA goal for the conference. He told Christian Retailing that CBA was “definitely” planning an Industry Conference for 2010. “What the format is, I don’t know,” Anderson said.
Suzanne Millen, promotions planner for In Touch Ministries in Atlanta, found the sessions helpful, especially in regard to reaching younger customers.
CBA Industry Conference 09 was held following AmericasMart’s Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market, and just before the Christian Trade Association International’s Marketsquare International.
Just like last year, CBA worked out an agreement with the gift convention. Christian gift vendors who exhibited at AmericasMart were identified with CBA signage outside their booths, a benefit new business owner Kim Humphries of Hold That Thought in Decatur, Ala., found extremely helpful. “Most of our really good contacts came from that sign,” she said.
But other exhibitors such as Abbey Press expressed disappointment with the traffic at AmericasMart, estimating a sales decline of 25% from last year’s show.