Christian Retailing

Nielsen research, panel review state of Christian market Print Email
Written by Natalie Gillespie   
Tuesday, 28 June 2016 10:49 PM America/New_York

JimCarlsonAward-ICRS2016Four of the Christian products industry’s CEOs shared their thoughts on the future of Christian retail and its challenges at Tuesday’s mid-day general session at Unite 2016.

The gathering began with the presentation of the annual Jim Carlson Spirit of Excellence Award, which was presented to Carl and Becky Ahshizawa, owners of Logos Bookstore of Hawaii in Honolulu.  The couple turned to crowdfunding earlier this year to keep their store open beyond 2016, raising more than $100,000 with a GoFundMe account in order to renovate and move the store to a new location.

“This is a total surprise and an honor,” Carl said. “I think really all here are deserving of this. We all have a great ministry serving our communities.”

Following the award presentation, Nielsen’s Director of New Business Development Kristen McLean walked attendees through a look at BookScan statistics that compared ABA sales from 2014 to 2015 and offered a look at the Christian market as well.

“If you look at what ABA has done since Borders closed, it is really remarkable,” McLean said. “ABA has added 61 stores, gotten 16 new owners for existing stores and now has 1,712 members and 2,227 locations. It took the market a year to get it together after Borders closed and then it really started to grow.”

McLean said independent bookstores on the ABA side had to understand what customers wanted–an experience in retail–and give it to them.

“The stores also articulated to their customers exactly what those customers were doing by making that purchase in their store,” she said.

McLean looked at various types of customers and believes that "professing Christians," often called "Chreasters," are the "future of this business."

Following her analysis, CBA President Curtis Riskey led a panel discussion with Christian Supply and Covenant Group President Chuck Wallington, Provident Music Group President/CEO Terry Hemmings, Tyndale House Publishers President Mark Taylor and DaySpring President James Barnett. The men shared with attendees where they believe the Christian market is headed.

Wallington applauded the vendor community that has "really bent over backwards" to serve Christian retailers. By and large, he said, vendors have been "very supportive" despite the fact that Christian retail can be described as "expensive," "fragmented" and "like herding cats." He added that "the big thing we do for them is discoverability."

On the vendor side, Hemming said his music company is trying to “connect the creative components to the consumer” and could use input from retailers on what value adds will help customers buy physical music product.

“If retailers could let us know what their customers want, what formats, what kind of value adds, that would help us tremendously,” Hemmings said.

Taylor added that retailers need to ask themselves if they are meeting their customers’ needs. Wallington agreed.

“If they go somewhere else that is not part of the kingdom and have a better experience, then we have failed,” Wallington said.

To close the session, CBA awarded two $250 Visa gift cards as part of its $50,000 in UNITE Rewards. Winners included Ken Goeckner of Lifeline Christian Books & Gifts in Effingham, Illinois, and Sam Walker of Parable store Sonlight Books in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.