Christian Retailing

California church store rebrands, builds sales Print Email
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Monday, 09 June 2014 03:54 PM America/New_York

Crossings-HuntingtonBeachNew focus highlights service, marketing and connecting with customers

First Christian Church of Huntington Beach recently relaunched and rebranded its bookstore and coffee shop, which was formerly a combined concept called Main St. Coffee & Books. Now, the California bookstore and café are two separate entities—Crossings Christian Books and Gifts and Red Car Café.

Jon Michell, director of retail and food services, believes that branding the store and café separately gives them their own identities. The rebranding started last fall.

“In the random conversations that we’ve had with guests as they are walking through, they love the change, the fresh idea and the new look,” Michell said.

Michell said the changes are subtle with new graphics and logos as well as fresh paint. A three-quarter wall separates the two spaces, which make up an approximate 1,000-square-foot area.

Crossings stocks a mix of Bibles, study tools, devotionals, fiction and nonfiction titles as well as music and gifts.

When the café and store were one entity, “they had the same hours, and one crew did everything,” Pastor of Communications Matt Walker said. “We had cross-trained baristas that were also working in the bookstore, and we felt like they both needed their own identity to excel with what we are trying to do, so we split the two entities.”

Now, anytime anyone looks up a product, whether online, on social media or by phone, they are dealing with two separate places, he said.

Since the relaunch, there is one part-time bookstore manager who oversees the store along with a dozen volunteers that act as frontliners and handle day-to-day operations. In the café, there are about five paid hourly employees.

The store serves as a central location for staff and volunteers aiming to impact the community.

“People can go anywhere and buy books,” Walker said. “They can go online to websites like Amazon. They can find it at other retailers they like, but we’re offering those connection points for our guests. We are their local bookstore. We offer a level of service and kindness that we feel really goes a long way for what we’re doing at Crossings.”

Walker said that the church as seen a “huge difference” with the rebranding.

“Because we are branding our bookstore as a bookstore and a gift shop, we are gaining higher traffic, people are more intrigued because of the separate branding, and we are finding people are seeking out a bookstore that is an actual facility rather than something that’s online with no connection points,” he said.

The rebranding also allows for more direct promotions for each fan base such as a customer loyalty program in the café or a newsletter with new releases.

“We’re finding with Red Car Café that our coffee and café business is also increasing, due to the fact that people are finding what they want where they want it,” Michell said. “We felt like we were trying to do too much with one staff. By separating the two, we are able give them more individualized attention and the community is definitely responding.”

The Bookstore at Lake Pointe gets needed face-lift Print Email
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Tuesday, 28 May 2013 05:15 PM America/New_York

LakePointeTreehouse‘Flexibility’ was key as store underwent remodel as part of a church-wide revitalization plan

A recent remodel and renovation has given The Bookstore at Lake Pointe a face-lift. Improvements to the approximately 1,500-square-foot location in Rockwall, Texas, include greater visibility as well as new fixtures, displays and shelving, not to mention the ability to incorporate new features in areas like the children’s section.

“We added a treehouse, which is a lot of fun,” said Bookstore Manager Jill Sledge. “It’s a two-story clubhouse that’s made to look like a tree. Upstairs, we play a kid’s video and we have books available for them to read. We also have several beanbag chairs up there so they can go hang out, read or watch a movie while their parents shop.”

With the entire church undergoing a renovation, the bookstore was a part of the makeover. Located in the church’s south foyer, the family-friendly store was closed after Easter last year for the improvements. In the meantime, it operated out of a temporary space that was a fourth of the store’s original size. The modernized store marked its progress with a Dec. 1, 2012 opening.

Advising other stores that have a remodel on the horizon, Sledge pointed out that adaptability is key. 

“Everything is constantly changing,” she said. “The name of our game last year was flexibility and that has served us well.”

Last renovated in 1996, the store was in need of an update. 

“We were working with older fixtures that were outdated,” Sledge said. “Now, we have new fixtures. The store is nice to shop in and you can see all of the product.”

The improved, shopper-friendly atmosphere has been a good change for the store, which started as a book table and became a store in 1996. 

The primary change is that the store now opens to the main foyer of the church. Before the remodel, access was limited because of a wall that separated the store from the foyer. A staircase that blocked the store from the foyer was moved to the back of the store, providing an increased, expansive view.

“This has opened us up to the high-traffic areas of the church, so that the bookstore can be seen,” Sledge said. 

The store’s product mix includes books, Bibles, Bible covers, DVDs, church supplies and children’s items as well as resources by the church’s pastors, Steve Stroope and Todd Phillips; music by the Lake Pointe worship team; and gifts by Forgiven Ministry (largely jewelry and artwork made by local crafters). The store also offers gently used books. 

All proceeds from the store go back into the ministries and missions of the church. Monies are used is to fund camp scholarships for students, for example. 

“Nannette Preston started Forgiven Ministries about two years ago. The products are donated to the church, sold through the bookstore and 100% of the sales go toward to the missions of the church. The same is true with our used book program,” Sledge noted. “These programs have been well-received by our customers, and we have been able to give back thousands of dollars.”

The Bookstore at Lake Pointe serves a 10,000-member congregation.

Seeds store supports guest speakers Print Email
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Tuesday, 28 May 2013 05:18 PM America/New_York

GiftsAtFrontResource center builds on interest in Willow Creek’s visiting authors

Church bookstore founder George Lindholm had a passion to get Bibles, books and other resources into people’s hands to help them grow spiritually. Planting and nurturing new life in Christ was the idea behind the name of Seeds Resource Center, a ministry of the Chicago-area multi-campus Willow Creek Community Church.

Seeds is managed by Bookstore Director Jennifer Acanfora. A 5,000-square-foot location with an extension called The Branch that operates in the church’s main lobby Saturdays and Sundays, Seeds blossomed out of an increased need for Bibles and messages by Bill Hybels, founding and senior pastor.

Serving a congregation of more than 20,000, one of the store’s key ministries is to support guest authors who speak at the church. 

For instance, when the church focused on a series called “Celebration of Hope,” highlighting compassion and justice issues, North Park Theological Seminary professor and author Soong-Chan Rah spoke. 

“He had a brand-new book out, The Next Evangelicalism from InterVarsity Press,” said Receiving Manager Brad Lasater. “We were able to get that in, feature it and have it for sale. We try to feature what is both new and relevant.”

When an author visits, the store finds out what books have been released on the topic the author is addressing, including the speaker’s recent titles. 

When Gateway Church pastor and author Robert Morris came to speak, Seeds had a big promotion with several tables set up in the lobby. 

“Fortunately, his church was able to get us a large quantity of four of his titles,” Lasater said. “One of them focused on the message he was speaking about and he gave quite an inspirational message. We were able to offer the congregation a good price, at a discount, and we sold quite a few of them.”

Willow Creek is bringing in several guest speakers this summer, including Craig Groeschel, John Ortberg and Henry Cloud, so the store will be fully engaged in helping to sell their books.

Living Word, church radio outreach work in tandem Print Email
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Tuesday, 28 May 2013 05:20 PM America/New_York

LivingWord-CashWrapSales at Southeast Christian’s store increase as listeners tune in on air

Readers of the Zondervan best-seller Not a Fan may be acquainted with Southeast Christian Church, where author Kyle Idleman is teaching pastor. Messages from Idleman and Senior Pastor Dave Stone are heard regularly on three local radio stations—with revenues from The Living Word store supporting the radio outreach. 

“We are on three different radio stations, WHAS Radio, WFIA and Shine,” said Dena Meade, ministry leader at The Living Word Ministry. “The intent is to get the gospel out into the city.” 

Throughout the week, messages are broadcast on air during morning and evening drive times, reaching commuters.

In part because of the radio ministry, The Story (Zondervan), subtitled “The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People,” has moved very well at the store. The Living Word sold and gave away more than 10,000 copies when Southeast went through an eight-month, church-wide study.

“There are people who have come by The Living Word bookstore as a result of hearing a message on the radio or on television,” said Cary Meyer, director of communications and creative arts. “They wanted to pick up a book because they wanted to follow along. These are people who aren’t church members, or attending, but they are listening to the radio.”

The store at the Louisville, Ky., church was built out of the vision of Judy Russell, former president of The Living Word. It opened during the Christmas season of 1998, after the church moved into its third and current home at 920 Blankenbaker Parkway. Russell and her husband, founding senior pastor Bob Russell, retired in June 2006, and Stone now serves as senior pastor of the 22,000-member congregation. 

Under the leadership of Pastor Russell, the radio ministry was established in the early 1980s and was followed by the opening of the store. 

Prior to the store’s opening, the church operated a resource ministry, which funded all of the radio broadcasts. The resource ministry sold recorded sermons and was able to generate ongoing funds to cover the radio costs. 

“Even if listeners never walk in the doors of our church, they will call in or get online to order a sermon to give away,” Meade said. “We have also seen a lot of people come forward, visit our church or come to know the Lord through our radio ministry.”

Accommodating parents means store must move Print Email
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Tuesday, 05 March 2013 11:25 AM America/New_York

Saddleback store changes location, product mixSaddlebackCarts

Saddleback Church Bookstore is a store on wheels. Last July, the Orange County, Calif. church led by Rick Warren made some changes to its open-air operation, moving to a patio location outside the doors of the worship center. 

“We have A-frame carts that we use to display products and we have them set up in rows,” said Bookstore Supervisor Kyle Wilke. “On top, we have toppers that say Bibles or Small Group Curriculum, and others. We also have flat-top carts for accessories and jewelry. The whole bookstore we push out. It is all on wheels and mobile.”

The advantages of having the new, long narrow set-up of 75-100 square foot by 25 square foot is that it allows a lot of people to move through the store at the same time. When a service lets out, customers can get in and out quickly, store traffic flows easily and people don’t feel claustrophobic. However, the only overhead covering is an awning, which can be a downside when it rains. Although, it’s sunny 99% of the time, the church is exploring permanent options such as an enclosure.

The old store space is now being used as a family pavilion. Previously, the approximate 100-by-100-square-foot store was outside, but under a roof.

“The reason for the move was we found out that a lot of families were sitting outside during the service,” Wilke said. “This reflects on a new parenting trend, with parents not wanting to drop off their kids at the children’s ministry, which is a bummer, because we have an outstanding children’s ministry. But, instead of having them sit out in the middle of nowhere, we created a family pavilion with couches, televisions and a play area so parents can watch the service, while they hang out with their children. There are volunteers stationed there who are knowledgeable about the different children’s ministries, and they can direct families to the appropriate places.”

The move meant that store inventory had to be streamlined. The store now rarely stocks new release books, unless the church hosts a guest speaker who is an author. Saddleback’s store funds a food pantry and benevolence fund at the church, and they haven’t suffered a loss as a result of the changes.

“We had to refocus,” Wilke said. “To give you an idea with the A-frames, we downsized to about half. I have nine or 10 carts now, and I used to have 20. We eliminated a lot of material, especially books, with the move, but our sales haven’t changed that much.”

Keeping outreach at the forefront Print Email
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Tuesday, 05 March 2013 11:23 AM America/New_York

The Global Bookstore at Mariners Church gives backMarinersApparel

The Global Bookstore at Mariners Church, a 3,500-square-foot shop in Irvine, Calif., serves a 12,000-member congregation. For the past 10 years, the store has been able to help fund a variety of outreach initiatives. 

Global Bookstore does more than
$1 million in annual sales, said Bookstore Director Andrea Devin.

The store was founded when Mariners Outreach Founding Pastor Laurie Beshore came up with the idea of starting a bookstore that would give its proceeds to outreach. There are four major initiatives: meeting needs that are both critical and practical; standing in the gap for the poor, marginalized and forgotten; challenging, equipping and empowering the people of Mariners Church; and engaging a global movement. The store’s signage, bags, hangtags and logo convey these initiatives. Customers may also visit the website to learn more about the store’s emphasis.

The name “Global Bookstore” is more about the mission and purpose of giving all of the net proceeds to outreach ministries than it is the product mix. 

“One of the reasons our customers shop in the store is to support all of the outreach ministries,” Devin observed. “They are given a bag stuffer at the checkout that explains the four initiatives and it tells where their money is going.

The store’s inspirational boutique evolved out of knowing customers’ needs and what they would want to wear or give as a gift. It started with Christian apparel and jewelry. However,  now customers want more of a mix, including tops, cardigans and pull-on skirts. Accessories like scarves, handbags, make-up bags and headbands as well as Christian and costume jewelry are also popular.

“A customer may be purchasing a birthday gift for a friend who is not a believer. The boutique gives her a place to shop for that gift. If it’s a scarf, she can also purchase a greeting card with scripture, and the hangtag on the scarf will let her know that the gift was purchased at the Global Bookstore, ‘Where all the net proceeds go to Outreach,’ ” Devin said.