Christian Retailing

Category Key - Soundtracks: a strong niche market Print Email
Written by by Mark A. Stevens   
Monday, 28 June 2010 04:18 PM America/New_York

For a Christian bookstore, soundtracks are like milk and bread to a grocery store—they are staples that no Christian retailer should be without. What began as a small specialty—type product has evolved in the past three decades into a powerful ministry tool in churches and numerous other venues.

Having been in the Christian soundtrack business for more than 30 years and having talked to thousands of singers who use tracks on a regular basis, I am convinced that what these people are looking for from a retailer is breadth of title selection and availability.

This is important because, as one of the most exclusive products in Christian retail, soundtracks are typically not sold in any other retail outlet. This exclusivity allows stores to build strong niche markets.

In fact, because of deep discounts offered by suppliers, tracks have become one of the highest profit centers for Christian retail stores. Additionally, traffic from soundtrack customers often results in add-on sales of other merchandise.


Combine inventory with technology

Soundtrack buyers often wait until the last minute to purchase tracks. Unfortunately, if a retailer does not have sufficient inventory, these customers will not look to that store as a soundtrack source, and loyal repeat customers are lost.

With the addition of in-store burn machines, retail stores are able to offer a larger selection of tracks. While this technology is certainly great, retailers must never forget the importance of having physical inventory. The top soundtrack stores in the United States have learned to create a balance between physical product and technology applications.


Selection is key

Because of widely diverse music tastes in today's society, it is important to have well-rounded selections from various music genres, even though certain regions lean more toward one style or another.

Remember, the most successful retailer is one who creates selection, selection, selection.


Position for maximum impact

Place new releases front and center in your soundtrack department. Use any and all promotional materials from suppliers in order to showcase these new titles, ensuring that they capture your customers' attention.


Mark A. Stevens is CEO and president of Christian World Inc.

Willow Creek leader attunes to 'whispers' of God Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Monday, 28 June 2010 11:38 AM America/New_York

Though best known as a leadership expert, pastor Bill Hybels believes that the greatest fruitfulness is found in a Christian life open to the quiet "nudges" from God that can sometimes upend the best-laid plans and programs.

The founder and leader of the famed Willow Creek Community Church looks at how to become more sensitive to the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit ThePowerofaWhisperin The Power of a Whisper (978-0-310-32074-6, $22.99), releasing this month from Zondervan.

Hybels shares stories from his own life and the lives of many members of his congregation, intertwining them with lessons from the ways God spoke to Bible characters such as Elijah, Samuel and Paul, to illustrate how it is possible to detect what he describes as "the quiet whisper of the transcendent God."

Subtitled "Hearing God. Having the Guts to Respond," the 400-page book suggests that those inner promptings that can all too easily be dismissed are often intended to offer affirmation, admonition or a call to action. Hybels also presents a five-part filter of discerning questions: Is it from God? Is it Scriptural? Is it wise? Is it in tune with your character? What do others you trust think about it?

Far from encouraging over-dependence on feelings, Hybels contends that straining to hear God's whispers should cause Christians to press deeper into His Word to seek confirmation of what they are sensing.

Drawing on personal experiences as a parent and times of struggle and challenge in his ministry, Hybels also reveals how "divine direction" has been the catalyst for Willow Creek's taking pioneering stands on issues like women in ministry, immigration and racial reconciliation. He asserts: "When people hear from heaven, they are rarely the same again."

For more information, visit To order, call 800-727-3480.

Drawing closer in 'last sight' love Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Monday, 28 June 2010 11:36 AM America/New_York

Authors of 'One Month to Live' return with a new 30-day challenge


LoveAtLastSightThe New York Times best-selling authors of One Month to Live are back with another 30-day plan in Love At Last Sight: Thirty Days to Grow and Deepen Your Closest Relationships.

The new book by Senior Pastor Kerry Shook and Chris Shook, co-founders of Woodlands Church in The Woodlands, Texas, helps readers focus on their key relationships—spouse, children, close friends—with the aim of deepening each. Instead of what they call "love at first sight," the authors are encouraging a "love at last sight" mentality.

With regard to marriage, Chris Shook said: "Love at first sight is the idea that you meet that one and fall in love and that's it. As Kerry and I found out in our 26 years of marriage and in raising four children, we found that love is really what happens in the in-between times, what you do in the tough times and in the times when you aren't filled with butterflies and roses and music.

"We want the last time that we see each other, we want us to be more in love than ever before," Shook added. "Since that's our goal, it means working on that every day."

Readers are challenged "to think of three key relationships in your life—and it could be family members, friends, co-workers—and tell them they are important to you," Shook said. "Find people in your life that mean a lot to you and then really focus on those three relationships during the first 30 days, and we hope that after that month, this will become a lifestyle, a 'love at last sight' lifestyle."

The book divides the 30 days into four weeks and the four keys behind the "love at last sight" lifestyle: being all there, acting intentionally, risking awkwardness and letting go.

The first key encourages being "totally engaged in the moment," Shook said.

"Kerry and I are just normal, average people, and it's so easy to get distracted by everything that is going on around us and not being fully there for the people we love, to really give them our full attention. I think of times when our kids were little and I might be reading or looking at the computer, and they would ask a question or they needed to talk and I wasn't really all there for them. I'm just kind of giving half an answer or helping them at the same time I'm thinking about something else. Multitasking isn't the most efficient way to do relationships."

In the "Crowded" chapter related to the second key, the Shooks talk about the importance of intentionally creating space to build relationships.

"If you're not willing to make plans with intentionally scheduling your own life, there are plenty of people who would be so happy to do that for you," Shook said. "Our list gets so filled up with things that other people thought we should be doing, our responsibilities and schedules and appointments, and we really weren't doing things that were important to our relationship—because the bottom line is, our relationships are the most important things in our lives."

As with their previous book, Love At Last Sight can be used by an individual, group or whole church. Drumming up interest among churches, Shook said: "There are actually many churches who did a campaign for One Month to Live who have already expressed a lot of interest in doing this as well, so we will be launching and meeting a lot of churches this fall with churches across the country."

As one part of the book's launch, the Shooks are encouraging participation in a Facebook Fast on Aug. 25.

"We do feel like it's really important to recognize that we're becoming too dependent on social-networking sites to conduct everyday affairs of relating to each other, to the people we love," Shook said. "So we are encouraging a national Facebook Fast where for a day you don't go to social-networking sites and only use your computer for necessary things that day for work or school or whatever—not texting if possible, but calling people or seeing them face to face."

For more information, visit or To order the book in hardcover, e-book or audiobook format, call Random House at 800-733-3000.

New Release Listings Print Email
Written by Staff   
Friday, 18 June 2010 03:12 PM America/New_York

Click through the categories below to see a list of new releases for the categories listed.

NOTE: Product descriptions are supplied by publishers and other suppliers, and are not edited by Christian Retailing.

Bibles Books
Catholic/Liturgical Children
Curriculum DVD/Video/Software
Gift Books Gifts
Music Spanish
Teens Now Available

Does your company have new products coming to the market? You can add them to our New Release Listings:

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Meet the Artist: Anita Renfroe Print Email
Written by Production   
Friday, 11 June 2010 02:37 PM America/New_York

With what she calls "estrogen-flavored" comedy, Anita Renfroe has made a name for herself, from her take-off of the "William Tell Overture" to appearances on ABC's Good Morning America to her best-selling DVDs and books. This month she has another DVD—Big Ol' Sweet Iced Tea—releasing from her label, Blue Bonnet Hills, and Word Distribution.


Where does the title to your new DVD come from?

"We saw on a restaurant down in South Florida that had this big door on it that had sweet iced tea, which is one of our favorite things as Southerners. ... So we came home from that trip to Florida and I found an old door at a salvage shop and I tried to recreate that door from down there. ... So we were trying to think of a title for the DVD and we were thinking, well, what's really important to our family, and of course, our core value is sweet tea. So we went and took a picture with the door that I painted 10 years ago."


So it was filmed in a historic theater?

"Yes, it was right outside of Marietta, Ga., in a really tiny town called Acworth—it's a suburb of a suburb. I love to tape, when I do my DVD projects, in the Atlanta area because quite frankly I just love to sleep in my own bed the night before."


What do your fans have to look forward to on this DVD?

"Lots of new comedy. ... Quite frankly, it's all from my life. The great thing about real life and your comedy coming from real life is that there's constantly a wealth of new material. ... So this time there's stuff about secrets of Miss America, I watched a documentary on that and it was so hilarious. ... I'm a grandmother, so there is stuff on there about that. A couple new parodies that I think people are going to enjoy—we have a couple out there already going viral."


What does Beyoncé think of the parody of her song "Single Ladies"?

"I would hope she would think it's hilarious. No one can touch her in the dance moves, but you know, I'm Baptist and basically all the dance moves have been bred out of us genetically, so yeah, I hope she would just enjoy it for the comedy."


What inspires you?

"My kids are my No. 1 source of comedy. My husband is unintentionally funny. ... What tickles me is just life in general."


For an extended audio version of this interview, visit the specialty blogs at

Meet the Artist: Mike Nawrocki Print Email
Written by Production   
Friday, 11 June 2010 02:32 PM America/New_York

Nawrocki_MikeCo-creator of VeggieTales and now vice president of creative development for Big Idea, Mike Nawrocki oversaw the production of this month's release, Sweetpea Beauty—A Girl After God's Own Heart, the first-ever VeggieTales episode just for girls.


How did the idea of a girls-only episode come about?

When General Manager Leslie Ferrell, offered a woman's perspective and said, "Let's make a show about inner beauty." To be honest, it's not the first thing a development team of three guys would think of. But we embraced the challenge and, being fathers of daughters ourselves, created a couple of stories that we would love for our own daughters to watch.


What did you do differently to reach this niche audience?

We didn't really change much of what we usually do in that, with any story, you want to try to write from a place of experience and truth. You need to speak to your audience with the story you are telling—whatever the niche. As male writers, we needed to rely on the input and feedback of our wives, daughters and female co-workers.


Isn't the message of Sweetpea one that boys need to hear, too?

Absolutely. Boys are also under a tremendous amount of pressure in our culture to "look good." The message that God looks at the heart and not on our outward appearance is also important for boys. As Petunia says (in closing), "Anyone can learn a thing or two from a princess story, Larry."


Will there be other targeted episodes, and if so, on what kind of topics?

We're currently working on an episode where we are partnering with World Vision on a lesson in serving others.


How did Nichole Nordeman come to write a song for Sweetpea?

She has some huge fans at Big Idea. Because of how she has addressed the topic of true beauty in the past, both personally and professionally, we felt that her unique perspective as a singer-songwriter—in addition to her role as a mother of two small children and her love of VeggieTales—would be a great fit. We were so thrilled when she agreed to write a song for the show and were absolutely floored when we heard it. "Beautiful For Me" is a wonderful and moving song that captures the lesson of Sweetpea Beauty perfectly.


How is today's VeggieTales audience different from the one in your beginning in the early 1990s?

People are much more visually sophisticated than they were at the birth of 3-D computer animation. Twenty years ago if it was computer animated, it was cool. VeggieTales benefited from that early wave of enthusiasm. As I go back and watch the shows, I notice the stories and lessons hold up well, but they look very rudimentary. Visually, we've had to improve as the art form has improved, and our audience's expectations have grown.


Will there be another full-length VeggieTales movie?

We have a script for The Bob and Larry Movie, which tells the story of how Bob and Larry met, that we would love to make into a movie when the time is right.


For an extended audio version of this interview, visit the specialty blogs at