Christian Retailing

Thomas Nelson to distribute to Canadian retailers Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 08 December 2008 03:22 PM America/New_York

Move made by publisher after largest Christian distributor in Canada filed for bankruptcy

In the wake of the largest Christian distributor in Canada recently filing for bankruptcy, Thomas Nelson has offered to distribute its products directly to Canadian Christian retailers.

Ontario-based R.G. Mitchell Family Books (RGM), which began operations in 1934, unexpectedly closed Sept. 15—causing some U.S. publishers to scramble to find other sources of distribution in Canada.

Brittany Lassiter—Nelson’s international marketing specialist for international sales—told Christian Retailing that the company notified Canadian bookstores via e-mail Oct. 1 regarding distributing books, videos, software and Bibles directly from the Nashville-based publisher’s warehouse.

Digital content focus at publishers' event Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 08 December 2008 03:10 PM America/New_York

Teen panel offers young consumer insights at ECPA’s conference

Christian publishers exploring digital content opportunities were given food for thought by a group of Christian teens who revealed some of their personal media habits, last month.

Overturning some assumptions, the young participants in a panel session at the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) Publishing University (PUBu) conference in Chicago said that despite the other media formats available to them, they still enjoyed reading books and shopped at Christian stores.

But the books they chose were ones that “tell stories,” noted ECPA Information and Education Director Michael Covington.

A humble credit plan Print Email
Written by Staff   
Thursday, 11 December 2008 02:27 PM America/New_York

If you’re concerned about your business this Christmas season, you’re certainly not alone—but let me suggest a simple credit solution that may help see you through the days ahead.

While the government’s recent economic bailout package ran to several hundred pages, mine consists of 17 words.

They’re found in Luke’s gospel, when the angels tell a group of surprised shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

That may not sound like much of a plan, but it seems to me that the story of the first Christmas includes some helpful and reassuring reminders in a time of uncertainty.

Let’s face it, by modern-day marketing standards, God got the whole incarnation thing backward.

There was no major launch package or rollout plan. Sure, He let a few need-to-know folk in on the program in advance, but for the most part He saved the announcement until after the fact. More of a confirmation than a promotion.

But I see some wisdom there: No one was able to receive kudos for something that really was beyond them.

Too often that seems to rather be in contrast to the way things work in our industry. We like to—or try to—make things happen.

We have focus groups and branding specialists, big publicity campaigns and the like. God’s revelation somehow ends up getting presented more as our genius.

Now I’m not knocking business smarts and professionalism. God’s people should be among the best at what they do. Marketing and advertising has its place, of course.

But sometimes, it seems to me, we are in danger of squeezing Him out and relying too much on our own best judgments and efforts.

That’s never more true than in times of difficulty, when it’s all too easy to try to fix things by just working harder or longer.

That sort of determination and attitude is commendable. But it can mask an unspoken doubt, the secret fear that actually God can’t really be trusted and it’s all down to us.

While “can-do” attitude is good, there is also an appropriate time for some  humble “can’t-do” honesty, too, turning us back to dependence on God.

Consider for a moment that two of the biggest happenings in our industry in this last year have been, if not entirely accidental, then at least hugely unexpected successes.

This time last year, hardly anyone had heard of The Shack, sort of self-published and quietly shipped out of a California garage by a couple of industry newbies. The book from a neophyte publishing house has, of course, gone on to sell more than 4 million copies and create the kind of buzz that long-established companies envy.

Incidentally, the men behind The Shack will be telling more of some of their own wonder—and the lessons they believe are to be learned from their remarkable success— in next month’s issue of Christian Retailing, as they debut our new guest column series.

Then there was The Love Dare, which catapulted onto the New York Times best-seller list as the movie from which it was drawn, Fireproof, astounded the Hollywood elite with its near-$30 million success at the box office.

The pro-marriage manual was merely a plot device in the film until someone thought that they could sell a few of those in real-life, and the race was on to produce an actual manuscript in time for the movie’s release. Sales were inching toward 1 million in a matter of weeks.

So much for great planning. Each of these cases reminds me that, like Christmas, on occasion things seem to happen almost despite, rather than because, of us, and we only discover how significant they are afterward. We have no bragging rights.

Some may point to both The Shack and Fireproof and sniff, arguing that they are not of as high a standard artistically as some secular creations.

There may be some merit to that, but not enough to completely dismiss the fact that each seems to have touched many people at a level that other works—for all their big budgets and high-minded “creativity”—have failed to do.

Both The Shack and Fireproof/The Love Dare remind us that we do well not to judge things merely by human standards, nor to credit ourselves too much for any success.

The men involved in each of these remarkable projects have cheerfully and gratefully acknowledged God’s hand on their efforts, and expressed their desire to be good shepherds of what He initiated.

Which appropriately brings us back to when the angels interrupted the shepherds’ night shift that first Christmas.

The angelic announcers made the proper order of things clear from the start: “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14).

And once that had been established, there was to be “peace to men” on whom His favor rested—even in the midst of great turmoil.

May this, ahem, modest proposal, be your experience this Christmas.

Digital publishing emphasis grows Print Email
Written by Andy Butcher   
Monday, 08 December 2008 02:23 PM America/New_York

Non-print offerings expand, with retailer backing

With a growing number of Christian publishers stepping up their digital publishing emphasis, Christian retailers are cautiously optimistic about the impact of the push.

Zondervan’s October announcement that it would serve as the exclusive distributor of the Reader Digital Book by Sony to the Christian retail channel spotlighted the non-print focus.

In addition to Zondervan and Thomas Nelson, Baker Publishing Group and David C. Cook are increasing the number of titles they offer to Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle users.

Audience fears for R-rated 'horror' Print Email
Written by Andy Butcher   
Thursday, 11 December 2008 02:14 PM America/New_York

'House' release reignites industry debate over content limits

 Fears that an R rating for “Christian horror” movie House could scare away some of its intended audience seemed to have been realized with a modest opening in theaters last month.

But though the film based on the book by leading Christian authors Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker finished in only the 24th spot in its opening weekend, it did reignite debate within the Christian products industry about what are appropriate boundaries for content.

Finding hope in God's Word Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Monday, 08 December 2008 01:52 PM America/New_York

New releases, creative marketing spur Bible sales growth 'in uncertain times'

Christian retailers and publishers are putting their hopes in the Bible to help reverse downward sales trends in a foundering economy. 

The Book Industry Study Group (BISG)—which analyzes trends in publishing—reported earlier this year a steady market gain in the Bibles category in the last few years and estimated that sales from Bibles, testaments, hymnals and prayer books reached $795.2 million in 2007. BISG predicted that the market would generate $823.5 million in sales this year.

Christian market braces for 'soft holiday season' Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay and Rhonda Sholar   
Monday, 08 December 2008 12:23 PM America/New_York

Publishers, retailers use creative marketing promotions to counter downturn economy

With the economy continuing to struggle, Christian publishers, distributors and retailers are warily optimistic about the upcoming holiday season—tightening purse strings and implementing innovative marketing promotions to entice consumers who continue to pull back on discretionary spending.

Verne Kenney, Zondervan’s executive vice president of sales, said the company “had a solid first quarter,” but was “experiencing softer sales in the first couple weeks of October.”

“While we are in the midst of some very challenging economic times, Zondervan is optimistic about the upcoming holiday season,” Kenney told Christian Retailing.


Christian publishers moving toward ‘digital revolution’ Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 08 December 2008 12:14 PM America/New_York

Publishing houses, retailers aim to meet ‘consumers’ desire’ for more electronic content

A growing number of Christian publishers are stepping up their digital emphasis, with Zondervan recently announcing significant moves to expand the company’s digital-content ventures.

Christian retailers, though, seem cautiously optimistic about the impact of the digital push.

“I’m excited about (the emphasis) because I want to be there,” Bruce Anderson— owner of Alpha & Omega Parable Christian Stores, which has three Rochester, N.Y., locations—told Christian Retailing. “Part of it is because I don’t want to be left behind by the digital revolution. We have to change as our customers change, and we must be on the forefront of the digital revolution.”