Christian Retailing

CATEGORY KEY: Reaching African-American consumers Print Email
Written by Rebecca Irwin-Diehl   
Monday, 05 April 2010 10:14 AM America/New_York
RebeccaIrwin-DiehlDid you know:

Black Americans are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group in the nation to report a formal religious affiliation?

African-Americans comprise the largest racial minority market in the U.S.?

By 2013, African-American buying power is projected to reach $1.24 trillion—a 35.7% increase from 2008?

The question then becomes how to develop the relationships that are key in this new market. Two rules are golden in the African-American Christian community: Keep it real and keep it gospel. If you are authentic about wanting to learn more about your African-American sisters and brothers and if gospel ministry is your priority, then you should find your local black clergy and congregations willing partners.

Consider these strategies for connecting with African-American Christians in your area:

Do your homework. Find out who the African-Americans in your region are. The U.S. Census Bureau and Web sites such as offer quick demographic information by ZIP code, and you can get a fairly good idea of denominational affiliation by checking your local phone book for churches in your area.

Make the first move. Contact the African-American churches in your area. Invite pastors and ministry staff to develop proposals for workshops or events to be held at your store. Ask about authors or musical artists in their congregation who may have books or CDs that you could accept on consignment, and suggest related events that include a signing.

Get to know the pastor. The black church pastor remains one of the most influential people in the African-American community. Reach out to local African-American clergy, and ask ministry-centered questions:

What spiritual or practical issues interest or affect your church members?

What topics are you exploring in Bible study, sermon series or new ministries?

What Bible version do you—and most church members—use?

Which authors do you frequently quote or recommend?

Which Christian music artists are popular with the youth or the choir?

Pay attention to faces. Not just the faces of customers or community residents, but what faces appear on your shelves on book and CD covers and on the figurines, artwork and other merchandise in your gift section? Consider adding multicultural and African-American products in a special section or intermingled with your other resources. At least offer a catalog with special-order options and incentives.

Invite new customer loyalty. When you talk with local pastors, ask what kind of loyal customer program is most appealing. Perhaps a coupon made available in the church bulletin that says, “Pastor Jones sent me,” or a church member discount card in exchange for a certain number of congregational e-mail addresses? Even better, offer to donate a percentage of sales on purchases made by congregation members to a specific ministry of the church.

Rev. Rebecca Irwin-Diehl is editor of Judson Press. Call 800-458-3766 for a catalog or visit

CATEGORY KEY: Drawing in the comic book consumers Print Email
Written by Steve Blount   
Friday, 05 March 2010 12:17 PM America/New_York

CATEGORY KEY: Drawing in the comic book consumersIf you want to increase book business at your store, you might take a lesson from many libraries. They have been adding both comics and graphic novels to their shelves to draw different groups of readers, citing increases in circulation of 40% or more as a result.

Faith-based comics and graphic novels provide a way of drawing young customers—often a problem group for Christian stores. Comics and graphic novels appeal to an increasingly media-savvy public, as well as to reluctant readers and to those for whom English is not their primary language.

With their shorter format and lower price points, comics are an economical option for young people, and serialized stories can entice repeat buyers.

While mainstream comics and graphic novels are dominated by superhero characters and plots, the scope is expanding to include much more sophisticated subject matter. Genres include biography, history, science fiction, mystery, romance, adventure, memoir, humor, politics—and inspirational and faith-based.

To make the most of this opportunity:

Know the difference. Comic books offer pictures for context, introduce plot and sequencing, while engaging the reader through the character's dialogue. The result is a story that engages readers at a richer level than straight text. Graphic novels are a longer version of a comic book with a more complex storyline.

Determine needs. Find out what's available that would be appropriate for your customers or that might draw new customers into your store. Consult with distributors, search online to see what's popular and talk with some of your current customers.

Place carefully. Consider positioning comic books and graphic novels near your store's music department or another area that already naturally attracts young customers.

Promote well. Announce your comics and graphic novels department to your customers and to the community, using social media as part of the approach. Offer giveaways and plan fun events to create traffic.

Kingstone Media Group was launched in response to the opportunities presented by these contemporary formats. Some comics—like the epic “Babylon,” “The Christ” and “Lion of God” (about the apostle Paul) series—do have overt religious content. Others—like 2048, a sci-fi thriller—read and look like mainstream material, but have a faith theme.

Find out more about Kingstone resources at

Steve Blount is COO of Kingstone Media Group.

Category Key: Catholic consumers-finding the right Bible Print Email
Written by Laurie Perolio-Bullinger   
Friday, 15 January 2010 03:51 PM America/New_York

Laurie-Perolio-BullingerSince its explosion in the late 20th century, the Christian book market has witnessed a wide range of Bible products as demand continued to increase.

As a religious book retailer, you're often faced with a variety of buyers who are searching amid a wide array of diverse products. For instance, when a shopper walks into your bookstore with little or no Catholic knowledge and wants to buy a Catholic Bible as a gift, how do you determine which to offer?

Your role as the "religious book expert" is to identify the gift recipient's needs prior to making your recommendations. There are a number of different types of Catholic Bibles available depending on the gift recipient's age, need or specific event. From medium- to large-print to pocket guide Bibles, the offerings are endless.

Listed below are demographics along with suggested Catholic Bible resources:

Adults: The New American Bible (NAB) is the version most often used at mass. It accurately translates the original text into modern English. Family Bible editions are also widely available.

Adults may also enjoy a Bible study book that focuses on a topic of interest such as how to's, prayer, the saints, the rosary and more.

For adults entering the Catholic faith, a Catholic Answer Bible including the official NAB translation and information about Catholic beliefs and practices, with their foundations in Scripture, might be helpful.

Teens: Young readers will enjoy an NAB Bible that includes prayers, faith basics and extras tailored specifically to them. Areas of interest could also include confirmation and the saints.

Children: There are a wide variety of age-appropriate Catholic children's Bibles, including editions for first communion, Lent, Easter, Advent, Bible stories and the sacraments. Be sure to recommend titles with friendly illustrations and explanations.

Your product knowledge and keen selling abilities lend credibility as a solid and reliable religious book retailer. The more you learn about your products, the better prepared you are in delivering the ideal customer experience in meeting their needs.


Laurie Perolio-Bullinger is direct marketing manager for Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic publisher of periodicals, books, curriculum, tapes, software and educational materials.

Category Key: Grab this growth area Print Email
Written by Rich Peluso   
Friday, 15 January 2010 03:50 PM America/New_York

"Home Entertainment" is movie industry jargon for the various forms films take as they come into a consumer's home. Originally just VHS, now it encompasses Blu-ray, DVD and an ever increasing number of digital solutions, streaming services and more.

The massive growth in home theaters and media rooms as families seek high-quality and impact entertainment at home holds significant sales potential for Christian retailers. Even churches are following this trend. The Barna Group reports that 88% of U.S. churches with greater than 250 members now have large screens used for playing multimedia and film for services.

And for the shoppers in your store, what's being played on many of those home entertainment and church systems? Faith and family films.

Unfortunately, far too many Christian retail stores are still squeezing DVDs into old music fixtures or sticking them spine-out on shelves in the back of stores at a time when the DVD category in the Christian retail market is experiencing sales 60% greater than 2008 (based on Nielsen SoundScan overall year-to-date top video unit sales Jan. 1-Oct. 15, 2009, versus the same period the prior year).

It's time to grab this category by both horns. Here are a few simple ideas to help grow and further develop your store's home entertainment sales:

1. Make a statement. While some stores may not have huge selections of home entertainment products, try pulling them together with music and software, creating a "Recorded Media" or "Enrichment, Education and Entertainment" section. A buyer or department manager focused on this new "department" will become more efficient, and highly specialized and responsive to new products and customer needs.

2. Expand offerings. If your selection in these recorded media product lines is lacking, expand the selection—now. They're out there. One important goal for any retailer is to be relevant, and shoppers want a wide selection of movies, music and other recorded media content.

3. Shout it out. Now that you're ready to grow your sales, tell your customers about the incredible new selection by including in local advertising, mailers/catalogs, out-of-store and in-store signage and on your Web site.

4. Provide value. It's next to impossible to compete with big box retailers on price. The only real weapons against them are selection and service. The competition is hit- and new release-driven, and finding even the most family-friendly movies requires navigating offensive and inappropriate content in the stores. A dedicated faith and family recorded media section in a Christian store will be able to offer the best content, in stock and in a trusted and safe environment. Try experimenting with things like "movie of the week," selling a selected film at or below cost, encouraging multiple purchases and leaving a "low price" message in the minds of your customers.

5. Grow with your customers. Don't stand still. Consider adding high definition DVD products (Blu-ray), more software formats (PSP, Apple, Nintendo DS), expand the audiobook footprint and add a wider selection of family-friendly or even challenging and thought-provoking films for parents/adults.

Rich Peluso is vice president of Affirm Films, the faith-based label of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.