CBA, the Association for Christian Retail, moved its annual convention to Nashville this year. The location, the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, along with significant funds given to CBA member retailers to pay for show expenses were factors that drew Christian retailers to the Unite convention.
CBA reported that more than 1,700 people, a 10 percent increase over last year, attended the July 8-11 trade show. Representatives from 35 countries also attended.
Although the gift section of the exhibit floor appeared to be full, some gift companies either did not attend Unite or went from one show to the next as Unite and the Atlanta gift show at AmericasMart overlapped.
“For the most part, we sold out our booth space,” CBA President Curtis Riskey said.
CBA is also in the very early stages of establishing strategic alliances and is challenging retailers and suppliers to look at the industry in a fresh way.
“Many great things are birthed in times of great fire, turmoil and crisis,” said Eddie Roush, the new chairman of CBA Service Corp., who has invested $1 million in CBA, including retailer show reimbursement. “Many Christian retailers are suffering because they have not yet adopted new ways of marketing their businesses, and at CBA’s Unite 2018, we have provided them new tools, insight and inspiration in order to thrive.”
Roush is also president of The Roush Foundation, which helped to organize and underwrite Unite 2018.
“We feel we need to rebrand Christianity,” he added. “We have taken the holy name of Jesus and diluted it, where people have lost hope in His power to give hope and new ideas to our business owners who are struggling. We have come to interrupt our industry for the good of furthering the cause of Christ.”
Most of the training at the show was offered free of charge for retailers, who took advantage of the opportunity to learn from inside and outside experts on retail topics.
“We had so many people not only sign up for education workshops but also attending,” Riskey said. “A lot of years we would measure somewhere between 20 and 40 on average who would be attending a session. This year there are many that averaged well over 100.”
Riskey was encouraged by the increase.
“We’re talking a lot about change,” he said. “There’s change needed, because obviously you can’t expect to do the same things and expect different results. But when I see those folks taking workshop sessions and things like that, people are starting to realize they do need help and are seeking it. Hopefully they found a lot of really good things here.”
CBA brings Unite back to the same location next year, June 25-28.