Christian Retailing

Christian presence scaling back at Book Expo America Print Email
Written by By Eric Tiansay   
Sunday, 05 April 2009 12:43 PM America/New_York

Citing the economic slowdown, Christian publishers are skipping or scaling back on their presence at the U.S. book world’s biggest event this month.

At press time, 140 religious publishing companies were confirmed for Book Expo America (BEA), which will take place in New York City, May 28-31.

Steven Rosato, director of strategic accounts, sales and industry development for BEA, told Christian Retailing that 50 religious publishers exhibited at last year’s event.

“It looks like it will remain flat or just slightly down,” he said.

Rosato added that some evangelical companies, including B&H Publishing Group, will have a smaller floor presence at BEA.

“They will be there in a 10-by-10 booth, but (B&H) used to exhibit in a larger presence,” said Rosato, noting that B&H had a 20-by-20 foot booth last year and 50-by-20 foot space in 2000. “They have been at BEA for 35 consecutive years.”

Meanwhile, Thomas Nelson will again skip the show just like last year.

David Lewis, director of sales and marketing for Baker Publishing Group, said that the company was streamlining its participation at industry trade shows this year. “As a result, we will have a single booth at BEA this year,” he said.

Gospel Light Vice President for Sales and Marketing Bob Bever said the Ventura, Calif.-based company was also “making some reductions in our presence at BEA this year due to the current economic climate” in the general market.

“Additionally, we have found that BEA has limited benefit for us in reaching the buyers in the accounts with whom we work the closest to reach the ABA channel,” he told Christian Retailing. “Especially in a year like the one we are facing, it is imperative that we measure the payoff to our involvement and investment in these events.

Despite its reduced presence at BEA, Gospel Light was committed to “looking for opportunities to increase our presence and impact in all channels,” Bever added.

“We attend BEA with an eye to finding those new opportunities to expand the readership of Christian books,” he said. “It is our hope that we can find additional distribution relationships to develop in the general market.”

A first-time exhibitor at last year’s expo, Bridge-Logos Publishers will skip BEA.

“We have held back from exhibiting at BEA again because we felt the value wasn’t there, especially in the current economic situation,” Bridge-Logos Executive Vice President of Marketing Steve Becker said. “We are however leaving the door open for traveling there for meetings. Last year we found more people trying to sell to us than we had trying to buy.”

altDavid C. Cook Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Global Operations C. Ryan Dunham said the company will maintain its existing presence at BEA.

“We believe that what we have done in the past is the right approach and the right level of investment,” he told Christian Retailing. “BEA is key … in allowing us to meet with many of our general trade booksellers as well as general market accounts in one place. … While we work hard to ensure that our resources are as widely available as possible, the general trade re-sellers have become an increasingly larger part of our business.”

Dan Balow, publisher for Oasis Audio, said that his company will also have the same size of exhibit space as last year’s event because its “major customers”—public library groups and general trade customers—attend BEA.

“Since we started a general trade imprint—SpringWater—in early 2008, we have expanded our sales in the general market,” he told Christian Retailing. “The general trade line is about 15%-20% of our product each year.”

Balow, though, anticipated more Christian publishers would skip or cut back at BEA. “Many publishers attend that show out of habit,” he said. “when they look at what it brings back, they think strongly about pulling out.

“The interesting note here is that many general trade publishers are skipping the show as well. Every publisher is re-evaluating where they spend their marketing dollars.”