Christian Retailing

Church store sees lives changed at mall kiosk Print Email
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Tuesday, 05 March 2013 11:21 AM America/New_York

Initiative with break-even sales pays off in souls saved through staff’s ‘non-offensive approach’CalvaryChapelOceanside_MallCartMen

Manager Robert Villegas of Calvary Christian Store and his team have discovered an effective way to evangelize—by starting a kiosk at the mall. An outgrowth of the store at Calvary Chapel Oceanside in Oceanside, Calif., the kiosk began operating at Westfield Plaza Camino Real Mall in Carlsbad, Calif., in 2011 and has grown its business since then.

Stocking the kiosk with popular items served as a tool that opened the door for store staff to talk with shoppers about Jesus. It put them in front of thousands of shoppers in a high-traffic area that typically reaches several million people a year—and it paid off in spiritual and financial terms. 

In November and December 2011, more than 115 people prayed to receive Christ at the kiosk. In terms of the bottom line, sales in 2012 averaged about $26,000, which Villegas said was break-even. He believes the life-changing impact had far greater value than the sales. 

“I would tell my staff to smile, wish people ‘Merry Christmas’ and say, ‘Hey, can I show you something really cool?’ Then bring them over to the cart and use the product and the Word on the product to share the gospel. That becomes more of a non-offensive approach,” Villegas said.

Eye-catching items drew shoppers to stop at the kiosk. Among them were baby bodysuits from Little Disciples with phrases such as “Jesus Loves This Baby,” or “Born to Worship.” The cart was also stocked with Christian T-shirts on mannequins with big, bold messages; Spirit & Truth Christian Jewelry Designs’ products with scripture, popular books and music. 

Villegas said there was interest in the products from the first day the kiosk opened.

“We had shirts from NOTW that said ‘Know Jesus Know Peace,’ and shirts with ‘God is Good All the Time, All the Time God is Good,’ ” he said. “The catchy messages stood out. You see this one little cart in the midst of the other stores and carts that screams Jesus and it threw people off. They are walking, they see it, boom, and said ‘What is this?’ This was a great way to minister to people in the midst of the craziness and commercialism at Christmas time.”

Serving a church of 2,500 to 3,000, Calvary Christian Store continues to grow its annual sales to more than a projected $500,000 this year. The 2,700-square-foot store recently added Saturday hours, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., and it has become the second-largest selling day of the week.

In working with the church leadership, the goal has been to solidify business, make it strong and minister to the church body. Additionally, the store wants to branch out, build the brand of the store and the church within the community and share Christ. In the future, they hope to work with the local Chamber of Commerce, and reach out to tourists and the military.

“The idea is to get outside of the church walls and use the vehicle of retail,” Villegas said.

Northland church store moves into new space Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Friday, 14 December 2012 03:07 PM America/New_York

NorthlandNewStoreNew location for 25-year-old store ties in with a re-emphasis on resourcing the church

Northland—A Church Distributed in Longwood, Fla., recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its bookstore. A September event commemorating the milestone with discounts and drawings attracted attention from customers—and some surprise.

“You’ve been here that long?” became a familiar refrain as Manager Donna Duckhorn and her team chatted with customers. Describing them as “impressed” that the store had been in business that long, she said: “I think we’ve just been a staple and they count on us being here when needed. They expressed gratitude for the years of service and wished us 25 more years.”

Publishers and other vendors responded well to Duckhorn’s email requesting items for the drawings Monday through Thursday, which encouraged shoppers to come in at slower times. Customers submitted tickets for the drawings, and the tickets were then saved for the grand prize drawing of a fall picture from Dicksons, which was part of the inventory.

Near the time of the store’s celebration, however, came a big change. Northland—a congregation with about 15,000 in attendance, including 4,000 online—opted to use the space the bookstore had occupied for connecting with first-timers and new believers and as a small chapel. When the church was considering the move, Duckhorn was asked to be a part of the process.

In mid-November, the store made the transition and now occupies what was the church’s hospitality suite and storage area, which is about the same space as its previous location’s 1,800 square feet, but also is more centrally located.

The store is re-emphasizing its purpose, which is to resource Northland church rather than to compete with area stores.

“That’s always been the leadership’s direction for the store, as it was never designed or intended to be a full-fledged one-stop gift shop,” Duckhorn said. “Resources are our focus to help bring God’s people to spiritual maturity.”

Still, the move is an adjustment, and there have been some layoffs. Two of the store’s part-time, paid employees lost their jobs, another part-timer was moved to a different department, and a full-time assistant manager was added and filled by Abi Mills, a former part-time employee. 

The store is planning a celebration to honor the ministry of those who are leaving. Along with providing scheduling and reference help, Duckhorn said she also appreciates the fact that the church is allowing time for these staff reductions, “letting people transition through the end of the year.”

The store also plans to be more “strategic” with its buying, opting for different vendors than area Christian stores use, Duckhorn said. “We’re going to go a little deeper on meaningful pieces like purity rings and higher-end jewelry.” 

Some areas are being expanded, too, including Bibles, the teen and pre-teen section and the small group study section. There is also a new, comfortable reading area for customers.

Passages store staff ministers with Spirit-led sensitivity Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Friday, 14 December 2012 03:22 PM America/New_York

SusanWilson-PassagesGateway Church bookstore team reads select books that aid in its ministry to customers

Passages Manager Susan Wilson and her team continue to meet the often critical needs of their customers. A jobless nurse whose husband had had an affair and an out-of-state pastor whose wife had left him are among those who recently walked into the store at the Southlake, Texas, campus of Gateway Church. 

To help prepare her staff for such encounters, Wilson selects a book about every two months that she believes would assist them in ministry. 

Each of the nine staff takes 20 minutes a day alone to read the book until they have all read it. Then, in a monthly newsletter, they share highlights of the book with the store’s volunteers.

“When we finish, we each write a paragraph or two describing how the book touched our lives or how the Holy Spirit spoke to us through the book,” Wilson said.

Some key titles staff members have read are How to Stop the Pain by Dr. James B. Richards (Whitaker House), The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson (Zondervan) and Greater by Steven Furtick (Multnomah Books).

A benevolence fund also is built into the budget, allowing staff to give products to any customer as they sense God’s leading.

“It’s not just about giving them that book and blessing them because they can’t afford it,” Wilson said. “It’s about listening to the Holy Spirit about what book to give, give it to maybe the richest person that lives in Southlake, Texas, just what he needs at that time to turn his life around.”

When the unemployed nurse came in, the first priority was “hugging her and telling her how much she was loved, that God loved her, that He knew this was going to happen before she ever knew about it, and He was going to be her support,” Wilson said.

After praying with her and taking her to the back of the bookstore where she could relax, a pastor was called to minister to her further and tell her about the church’s “freedom training.” The store also gave her some books and CDs. When she returned the next weekend, Wilson “didn’t even recognize her,” she said, noting the transformation that had taken place.

The pastor who came from out of state to visit the store was distraught that his wife had left him out of the blue. 

“He said the Holy Spirit had told him that morning to drive to Gateway Church and that he would receive healing,” Wilson said, sharing that he testified to that healing in a letter he later wrote to the store. 

“It’s phenomenal when, I guess, we’re God’s ‘yes’ people, and we’re His hands and His feet,” Wilson said.

Multicultural store serves South Jersey Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Friday, 14 December 2012 03:26 PM America/New_York

KingdomBookstoreGifts-LivingFaithBookstore Manager Gwen Halimon has heard new visitors to her church say many a time that her South Jersey store is the “best-kept secret” of the area—and that’s something she plans to change.

Kingdom Bookstore at Living Faith Christian Center in Pennsaulken, N.J., opened its doors in October 2007 to continue its church members’ “spiritual growth and supplement the teaching that they were receiving from the pulpit ministry,” Halimon said.

Founded by late pastor Lamont McClean and his wife, Constance McClean, who is now senior pastor, the Philadelphia-area multicultural church sees more than 2,000 in attendance for Sunday services. 

“People from the outside, they’re very surprised if they’re not members of this church and they come for a particular event and they see a bookstore,” Halimon said.

To get the word out, the store posts information on the church marquee visible to commuters as they head into Philadelphia. It also runs spots on Praise 103.9, a major market gospel station in the metro area.

With approximately 3,000 square feet of space, including a café with table seating for 50, Kingdom Bookstore was designed by Integra Interactive. The ministry aims to cast a wider net to serve its community, especially since there is only one other independent store still in the area and because four local Christian independent stores have closed in the last three years.

Kingdom Bookstore also has a strong focus on gifts.

Most of the store’s gifts—anything from cards and door knockers to pillowcases and apparel—are functional and have scripture or Christian symbols in their design. Along with the usual companies in the Christian gift market, Halimon hunts for closeouts or unique items from “companies that are not the norm.”

Despite being a multicultural church, “our congregation doesn’t tend to buy things that are very ethnic,” said Rosemary Robinson, church administrator. “They go for the Christian products, but not things of a specific ethnicity.”

The store stocks a significant number of books and a wide variety of Bibles as well as DVDs and CDs, some signed by artists who hold concerts at the church—an outreach that likely will keep bringing in future customers.