Christian Retailing

CBA recasts retail show to unite Christian products industry Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 30 June 2016 03:17 PM America/New_York

ArkEncounter-AnswersInGenesisFrom content creators to church bookstore managers, the Christian products industry met in Cincinnati this week for CBA’s UNITE 2016. Otherwise known as the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS), the recast convention drew a total of 2,114 professionals June 26-29 at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Last year’s attendance for the Orlando, Florida, show was much higher at over 3,000 total.

CBA President Curtis Riskey welcomed how attendees responded enthusiastically to the theme of UNITE 2016.

"No single group is large enough on its own to do what needs to be done to move this channel into the future that is possible," he said. "What might happen if the Christian products industry could become a model to the rest of the world, that we are seen to do things differently?"

CBA, The Association for Christian Retail, said the show was “right-sized” this year to keep in step with changes in trade shows and with the Christian products industry. Exhibitors set up more than 200 booths of varying sizes this year, but gone were the significantly sized company exhibits of previous years. Unlike previous years, there were no booth awards at UNITE 2016.

In an effort to unite all involved in the creation and distribution of Christian products, CBA chose to suspend business on the show floor at lunchtime Monday and Tuesday to gather attendees for two-hour keynote presentations and discussions on such topics as engaging the culture for Christ and dealing with seismic shifts in business (Read some comments here about the General Session schedule.)

“Our goal for that was to bring the industry together, to break bread together as suppliers and retailers and industry professionals and all those folks together, and then let’s talk about industry issues,” Riskey told Christian Retailing.

UNITE 2016 followed soon after the release of CBA's annual State of the Industry report, which revealed a net loss of 24 stores but a sales dip of less than 1 percent for Christian independent retailers last year. At Tuesday’s General Session, Nielsen BookScan's Director of New Business Development Kristen McLean reported that Christian publishing had been growing since 2010, with Christian retail accounting for around 17 percent of category sales.

CBA and Content Media Group partnered to bring exclusive products and higher margins to Christian retailers who are members of the association (See our story here on that partnership).

CBA also partnered with the American Booksellers Association (ABA) to provide members with resources to help them lobby for changes to level the playing field against Amazon. Nearly half of states do not collect sales tax on Amazon purchases, which, together with property taxes lost as consumers began to shop more online, costs communities almost $1 billion in 2014, it was reported at one session.

At Unite 2016, five retailers won $1,500 cash cards in Unite Rewards grand prize giveaways.

“We wanted to do things to help stores make the decision to come,” said Riskey, a former Christian retailer. “First off, because many stores have challenges with staffing (and) obviously the expense of coming to something else, so we wanted to do what we could to help offset the costs for them. So we made a decision early on that we were going to dedicate $50,000, and that was CBA’s dollars, to basically help offset costs for stores to come.”

CBA members also enjoyed a VIP Member Experience at The Ark Encounter in partnership with Answers in Genesis. The theme park that has a replica of Noah's Ark supports evangelism and will open July 7. Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, also addressed attendees at Monday's General Session.

Attendees donated more than $3,000 and suppliers gave six pallets of educational materials, Bibles and other resources to this year’s local Ministry in Action partner, BLOC, Believing in Living One Christ.

At the 2017 show, CBA expects to have “further innovations to the format to continue to meet changing industry needs.”

“We’re in constant change at CBA, and I think our intent is really to try to do the best thing for the most people and the various audiences we represent,” Riskey said. “Certainly everyone has a voice, and we hear from them and appreciate hearing from them. But what we then have to do is step back and say, OK, what is the best decision for the greatest number of people? Or we may modify a decision and say maybe this works for this group but doesn’t for that group, so we’ll figure out how to make it right for everybody as best as we can. And that’s our intent.”

The show will return to Cincinnati next year, June 28-30.