Christian Retailing

Hip-hop, science fiction cited as Christian product trends Print Email
Written by Taylor Berglund   
Wednesday, 29 June 2016 07:32 AM America/New_York

NewDay-VeggieRideAlongCBA’s Christian Product Trends workshop gave retailers attending Unite 2016 a hint at the future of Christian retailing.

The event hosted key industry figures, including Ed Leonard (New Day Christian Distributors), Cynthia Ruchti (American Christian Fiction Writers), Dan Lynch (B&H Kids) and Kevin Traub (Zonderkidz), who highlighted product trends in retail.

Leonard said that hip-hop and gospel music were booming genres for music sales. He said CDs were beginning to see strong sales as a “gift-oriented product type,” which shoppers buy for friends or family. Leonard also explained that New Day is expanding rapidly, particularly in the book market, and that recent changes in distribution—alluding to several high-profile closures—have led to strong industry demand for New Day to fill the void.

Jay Schield, who handles product acquisitions for New Day, discussed the toy market with Greg Fritz, senior vice president of home entertainment and consumer products at Big Idea, and Allison Narins, specialty store account manager for Melissa & Doug. Schield noted that millennial parents are moving away from electronic devices and toward “family bonding products”—games, puzzles and toys that unplug and encourage the family to spend time together. Narins demonstrated what these toys could look like. Fritz unveiled new VeggieTales products for release this holiday season, including the Christian market’s first ride-on toy.

Ruchti addressed shifts within the book market. She said genre fiction is expected to grow in the Christian market, particularly science fiction, fantasy and thriller novels. She also said to watch newly formed Gilead Publishing. Gilead is employing an aggressive strategy that has been dubbed “revolutionary” by some industry commentators: The company intends to add 100 new novels to the market “within the next few sales cycles.” Gilead believes that any fiction slumps in the Christian market are only due to the lack of compelling material. If Gilead executives are right, Ruchti says the results could change the Christian fiction industry for good.

Children's author and expert Mary Manz Simon explained that shopper demographics may change in the next few years. Fathers want to shop with their kids in order to spend valuable time with them—and dads have different buying habits than moms. Simon said men want to feel like they’re actively buying a product rather than having it sold to them. She also said grandparents are another important demographic. Finally, she showed her upcoming children’s books, First Virtues and First Feelings, which will be published by B&H Kids.

Lynch provoked the largest reaction from the room when he showed off the new Bibleman animated reboot. The videos will be accompanied by a significant merchandising push, because, he says, there is no bigger trend than superheroes. Lynch also gave release dates for Priscilla Shirer’s "The Prince Warriors" trilogy, which will conclude in February 2017.

Traub predicted that coloring books would continue to sell well into 2017 and beyond. He expects similar success for journaling Bibles. New coloring books and journaling Bibles from Zonderkidz were heavily featured. He also showed off new branding and art design for The Beginner’s Bible; the new look will take effect Oct. 4.

In addition, Traub said retailers need to be aware of increasing diversity. By 2060, nonwhites will make up nearly 60 percent of Americans. As such, Zonderkidz’ imprint, Blink, will tell relatable, modern stories featuring ethnic minority protagonists. Three such titles—Dark Sons, A Girl Named Mister and Black, White, Other—will release Jan. 3, 2017.

A few speakers spent time promoting new product lines. MaryLou Alexander from Ingram highlighted a new line of customizable journals and notebooks. Alesha Wiese debuted her new brand, Boyfriend Bears, which encourages purity among preteen and teenage girls. And Pilleauxtalk’s Beth MacChesney showed her company's lines of pillows with inspirational or scriptural messages.

Along with other speakers, Ruchti expressed optimism about the future.

“What if the best ideas are on the horizon, just coming into view?” she asked.