Christian Retailing

ICRS: Atlanta show reflected on reaching millennials Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 26 June 2014 04:05 PM America/New_York

DobsonFamily-ICRS-webThe 2014 International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) convened for four days in Atlanta, June 22-25. Attendees this year—numbering slightly higher than last year (buyers rose by 2.4%)—praised ICRS for important discussions and networking opportunities.

The industry is seeing significant cultural shifts in consumer shopping habits and fluctuations in church attendance, especially among millennials, ages 18 to 33—a focus of this year’s show for Christian retailers and ministry leaders.

“Group Publishing’s Jeff Michaels said it in an ICRS training session: The market has shifted from boomers driven by price, to millennials driven by branding, local loyalty and relationship,” said Curtis Riskey, president of CBA. “And small Christian stores are in that sweet spot.”

In her role as manager of Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, CBA Chair Sue Smith found the overall show to be helpful.

“To connect with people that think like me, have the same business issues I do and the strength that comes from being with fellow Christian retailers is priceless,” Smith said.

She was not alone. God’s Song author Sandy Betgur said it was valuable to meet her fellow exhibitors.

“[It’s] not just meeting the booksellers, but other exhibitors stopping by and sharing ideas about how our products could fit in,” Betgur said.

Riskey believes there is “no substitute for in-person meetings” at ICRS.

“You’ve got dynamic people all driving toward the same goal and mission,” he said.

This year’s new Change A Life Festival—free and open to the public Sunday—featured a daylong lineup of top Christian musicians, comedians and personalities, headlined by Duck Dynasty stars Phil and Alan Robertson. The festival benefited Buckhead Christian Ministry, reaching out to poor and needy in the Atlanta area.

“We leverage the trade show to do good in the community—just as the stores, increasingly, are part of, and giving back to, their communities,” Riskey said.

Monday launched with a general session panel with authors Ravi Zacharias, Philip Yancey and Ryan Dobson addressing the question: “Where is Christianity going?”

“That was a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” Riskey said. “Titans in Christian thinking at time when Christianity is in upheaval, and we have a flood of requests for the audio. Each person, from a rare and unique perspective, says God’s in charge—and sent the audience out with hope.”

CBA presented Family Talk’s Dr. James Dobson, about to release his “Building a Family Legacy” series of videos and books, with the ICRS Lifetime Achievement Award. 

“His impact on the Christian retail world can’t be understated,” Riskey said. “His radio interviews alone drove tens of thousands of people to Christian bookstores.”

Training sessions at the show ranged from selling Christian rap to the Hispanic community to new media. Workshops ran from trends in Christian fiction to children’s literature to Christian films and related products.

ICRS 2015 will be held June 28-July 1 in Orlando, Florida. Next year marks the end of legacy contracts for CBA and the beginning of new show concepts. Arrowhead Conferences and Events, a ministry of Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), is assisting the Christian retail association with completing contractual obligations and moving into the future. CBA is revamping its convention strategy to lower costs and add more value for exhibitors and attendees.