Christian Retailing

CBE: Light traffic means low sales Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 23 March 2009 03:49 PM America/New_York
altLow attendance for the Christian Book Expo (CBE) translated into disappointing returns for publishers and suppliers exhibiting at the show.

Chris Conver, a trade and academic sales representative for Westminster John Knox Press, said although it was "hard to measure" whether or not the event had been worth it for the company-due to contacts made for future purchases-his booth's total sales for the weekend were "less than $1,000."

"Did we earn our money back? I don't think so," he said. "Would we come again? Probably."

Rick Lewis, whose Logos of Dallas store was commissioned by InterVarsity Press to handle the booth's sales, called the book fair "an apparent failure" and estimated total sales of around $3,000 despite the company's large, prominent booth and discount pricing. Lewis cited the lack of marketing, especially in the Dallas area, adding that he had "heard nothing about this event" through local media.

Family Christian Stores, which provided retail support for 14 of the publishers' booths, declined comment on sales amounts.

Some publishers such as David C. Cook and Thomas Nelson made plans to sell their leftover product to area stores to eliminate further shipping costs. Cook, which made a "considerable dollar investment" in the event, according to Marilyn Largent, senior director of trade sales, ended up "giving away more books than we sold," she said.

Some publishers, including Cook and Thomas Nelson, rolled out their large-scale-style booths used during CBA's International Christian Retail Show (ICRS), but a few publishing houses, such as FaithWords and Baker Publishing Group (BPG), relied more on tables and more low-key marketing.

Dan Balow, publisher for Oasis Audio, said the show floor looked too much like a trade show, with the attention focused on publishers instead of the products. He told Christian Retailing his company sold several hundred dollars worth of products, but he would at least downsize the booth at a future CBE. "We probably didn't need this type of booth," Balow said.

Some publishers, including BPG and Tyndale House Publishers, diverted some funds from their 2009 ICRS plans for CBE and will go to CBA's summer trade show with smaller booths and staff. Speaking for Cook, Largent said the expo "wouldn't affect our ICRS plans at all."

Although it wasn't sales-oriented, Zondervan's "Bible Across America" tour bus was a draw in the exhibit hall, allowing attendees to contribute a handwritten verse to an upcoming 30th anniversary handwritten edition of the NIV Bible. Booth workers reported 5,000 verses were contributed during the weekend.