Christian Retailing

Countdown to Christmas Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 27 July 2009 02:36 PM America/New_York

Summer show finds suppliers, retailers looking for a healthy holiday season

christmas in julyIt wasn't the official theme, but "Christmas in July" summed up much of the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in Denver, last month.

With the event itself heralded as an early gift, successful beyond the expectations of many, suppliers and retailers found an increased emphasis on the forthcoming holiday season as both groups looked to Christmas—typically the sales peak of the year—to help make up for poor returns thus far.

"The Christmas season is very critical this year for both retailers and vendors," Steve Pickering, co-owner of Lemstone Parable Christian Stores in Marion, Iowa, told Christian Retailing. "I don't think it's going to be a bang-up Christmas, but it will be better than last year."

Standard Publishing put up its Christmas tree early to help promote what it hopes will be a successful tie-in to Disney's A Christmas Carol, the Jim Carrey-starring movie adaptation of Charles Dickens' seasonal classic, in theaters Nov. 6.

With a cover echoing the film poster, A Christmas Carol: Special Edition will release in September in an initial 15,000-copy print run. The $7.99 paperback will feature the original Dickens text with Christian insights and devotional questions for groups and families by Stephen Skelton, author and creator of a series of TV-related Bible studies.

"We think we are the only ones who have discovered the connection (with the film)," said Standard President Larry Carpenter. "When the 'Narnia' films came out, there were many different books."

Carpenter told Christian Retailing that the Skelton edition would "meet a lot of needs from a market perspective, from people who simply want to buy the book because they have seen the film to those who want to find out more about the Christian symbolism."

Although not promoted as highly, there was another tie-in book on offer at ICRS—Ebenezer: The Final Years of Scrooge. Donna Lee Howell's imagining of Scrooge's final years with what Anomalos Publishing called “a message of Christian redemption," was available through STL Distribution North America.

There were Christmas trees, too, at the show floor center to promote one of the next Christian retail channel exclusives.

Crossway Director of Sales Bill Anderson reported high interest in the company's "Share the Good News of Christmas" program, which aims to see more than a million evangelistic invitations delivered to homes this holiday season.

Crossway has produced special gift bags containing a white-cover Christmas edition of the ESV New Testament, a customizable invitation to a local church Christmas event and a coupon that provides free access to the online edition of the ESV for a month. Fifty-pack boxes of the outreach sets are being made available to stores for $35 each, with free freight for three or more boxes.

Retail price for the sets, available only at Christian retail stores, is $1 per bag. "We believe that this initiative will do two things," said Danny Lee, Crossway's key accounts manager. "We will really reach the lost with the gospel, and it will bring the churches back into stores."

Also hoping for strong Christmas sales is Big Idea, which premiered its next major release at the July 12-15 Denver event. The 45-minute Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving is to be cross-promoted with the annual Operation Christmas Child gifts-for-the-needy shoebox campaign and will feature a free-gift-with-purchase exclusive for Christian stores.

Displaying at ICRS for the first time was Burton and Burton, a well-known general market company expanding its inspirational gift offerings with new Christmas lines of tableware, angels and a children's nativity.

"We have been watching the inspirational category grow, and we have been looking for better ways to serve our customers," said General Manager Steve Casso.

Another debut exhibitor in Denver was Ashley Tarter, looking for supporters for her Campaign for Christmas that has distributed more than 200,000 "It's OK to Wish Me a Merry Christmas" badges since it was founded in 2007 to challenge the move toward talking about "the holidays" instead of Christmas.

Meanwhile, first-time exhibitor Christmas Caroloke was a popular hangout for attendees, who were encouraged to sing along to yuletide songs.

Disney has been promoting its big new movie with a 40-city train tour. "The Dickens story speaks broadly to everyone about the true meaning of Christmas," said Jody Dreyer, senior vice president, marketing for The Walt Disney Studios.

"We think families will enjoy Disney's A Christmas Carol and the great message of the spirit of Christmas," she added. "We look forward to the launch ... and the family programs that will accompany the opening."