Christian Retailing

Christian retailers urged to 'engage' churches Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Thursday, 24 March 2011 03:07 PM America/New_York

Christian retailers have been urged to forge stronger relationships with local churches to ensure their stores' survival and the continuation of their ministry.

The appeal comes from CBA Executive Director Curtis Riskey who expressed concern that some struggling stores do not have good links with pastors and congregations in their areas.

In an editorial in the April issue of the trade association's Retailers + Resources magazine, Riskey notes that in some cases "the store is thought of more like an adversary than a partner." But Christian stores are an extension of the local church in many ways, he said, providing "many powerful resources that change lives."

Developing the potential for partnership means rethinking old-school marketing approaches, Riskey writes. "If you host a pastors' breakfast as a marketing strategy, you might as well serve powdered eggs and cold toast. It's like those boring time-share meals where you eat free in exchange for 90 minutes of commercial and a hard-sell pitch for dessert."

However, "if you host a pastors' breakfast as a way to build relationship through your testimony of like mission and to hear from pastors about their needs, then even powdered eggs might become eggs Benedict."

Just being a product supplier doesn't work anymore, Riskey says. "Churches increasingly are decentralized with many decision-makers at larger churches, and both large and small churches face relentless cost pressures and time constraints."

In the new retail environment, he adds, "it's about transformation and relationship, not about the purchase. The purchase comes as a result of the knowledge, trust and engagement the store creates as added value—something that can't be duplicated online or in a discount store. It's not just about the cheapest transaction.

"Knowing how to help your churches grow or fulfill their ministries will help you fulfill yours."