Christian Retailing

Jerry B. Jenkins honored Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:58 PM America/New_York

Logos bookstore association honors author J.I. Packer

JerryBJenkins-AWSAJerry B. Jenkins took home the Lifetime Achievement Award Sunday afternoon at the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA, 2014 Golden Scroll Awards. Jenkins, who also was keynote speaker, received a standing ovation at the event, one of many awards presentations at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) this year in Atlanta.

In the Nonfiction Book of the Year category, Wounded Women of the Bible by Dena Dyer and Tina Samples (Kregel Publications) and Unexpected Love by Julie Zine Coleman (Thomas Nelson) tied for first. In Fiction, Eva Marie Everson’s Slow Moon Rising (Revell/Baker Publishing Group) tied for first place Novel of the Year with C.W. Shutter’s The Ohana (River Ranch Publishing).

Abingdon Press was named Publisher of the Year, while Tyndale House Publishers’ Katara Patton was honored as Nonfiction Editor of the Year and Stephanie Boene for Fiction Editor of the Year.

AWSA also recognized Arlene Pellicane as Member of the Year, and best-selling author Kathi Macias presented the Beyond Me award to Grace Fox for exemplifying the heart of Christ through her outreach.

The Christian Authors Network (CAN, also presented its awards during the AWSA event. The CAN Nonfiction Book of the Year first-place award went to Kathy Collard Miller for Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), and Ruchti picked up her second award of the day (after taking second place Golden Scroll for Nonfiction) as the CAN Novel of the Year first-place winner for All My Belongings (Abingdon Press).

Author Cynthia Ruchti of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW, announced the finalists in 11 Carol Awards categories. Carol Johnson, the pioneer editor for whom the award is named, opened the news conference. The group’s CEO, author Colleen Coble, announced Robin Lee Hatcher as the ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

The Carol Award winners will be presented during the 2014 ACFW National Conference in St. Louis at the Sept. 27 gala.

The Association of Logos Bookstores ( presented its Book of the Year winners at a Saturday evening store event. Becky Gorczyca, executive director of the retail group, presented the awards.

Author of the Year—chosen for the writer whose body of work exemplifies the power of books to change lives forever—went to J.I. Packer. Category book winners were: Fiction: The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg (Tyndale House Publishers); Christian Living: The Question That Never Goes Away by Philip Yancey (Zondervan); Christianity/Culture: The Global Public Square by Os Guinness (InterVarsity Press); Theology, Doctrine, Reference: To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain by Matt Chandler with Jared C. Wilson (David C Cook); Spirituality, Devotional: Living in Christ’s Presence by Dallas Willard (InterVarsity Press); Youth: Hot Chocolate With God Devotional by Camryn Kelly with Jill and Erin Kelly (FaithWords); and Children’s Picture Books: My Mama & Me by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley. —Johnson

Children’s Products Workshop continues to draw crowd of retailers after 20 years Print Email
Written by Natalie Gillespie   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:50 PM America/New_York

Educator Dr. Mary Manz Simon reports on significant growth in kids’ market, honored by CBA with special reward

MaryManzSimon-MarkHallColor and creativity were two of the hottest trends in children’s products at the 2014 International Christian Retail Show in Atlanta.

Children’s gift items are bright and bold this year, with CBA newcomer Stephen Joseph displaying backpacks and lunchboxes in primary reds and blues for boys and hot pink, orange and lime green among the colors for girls. Color and creativity were also on display at DaySpring, which is introducing more Crayola products, including Color Wonder and new Dry Erase, into the Christian market.

“Active engagement is extremely strong this year,” children’s trends expert Dr. Mary Manz Simon told retailers at her annual Children’s Trends workshop, which celebrated 20 years this year with free snacks, prizes and a large number of product giveaways. “It’s all about kids doing things.”

Simon said that since the former emphasis on promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) for children has been replaced by STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), children’s products that encourage interactivity and imagination are engaging consumers.

In that vein, Cactus Game Design is seeing success with its Apples to Apples Bible Edition and Cranium Bible Edition games, while Talicor just introduced The American Bible Challenge Board Game, based on the popular game show. Even some picture books have become interactive, with Zondervan’s Love Letters From God by Glenys Nellist (Sept. 9) outfitted with “envelopes” glued onto the pages filled with letters to the reader.

In her workshop, Simon cited a CBA store survey in which retailers reported that children’s Bibles and Bible storybooks are the fastest-growing category of kids’ products. Simon said that Hollywood has helped to drive that trend, and with even more faith-based films planned for release this fall, the category should continue to grow.

“We have seen a wave of biblical epics which have generated huge box-office sales,” Simon said. “The Bible has become a water-cooler focus.”

Zondervan introduced at ICRS its updated NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers, which now features full color and more pages that offer biblical insights, trivia and engaging elements. The hardcover design is also holographic.

Simon encouraged retailers to host events in their stores—from tapping into nationally recognized designated days like Grandparents’ Day to hiding eggs with coupons or candy during the Easter season—because the children’s department is a natural fit for fun.

“An event gives the impression that good things are happening in the store,” she said. “And excitement feeds excitement.”

Simon reminded retailers that today’s consumers are savvy researchers and are more likely to buy in-store if they have already learned about the item online, seen a video about it or heard other moms recommend it. She said retailers should ask suppliers for video clips they can use in-store and run on their websites in order to educate the consumer.

Customers also are heading into brick-and-mortar Christian stores because of coupons, the CBA survey showed. Catalog, online and emailed coupons were redeemed frequently and kept consumers coming back.

“Coupons still rule,” Simon said. “They remain the most effective promotional device available, so continue to do what you’ve been doing to save your customers money.”

Although coupons are important, Simon also said that Nielsen data revealed consumers of children’s products are no longer looking for the lowest-priced children’s items. Today, parents and other customers of children’s items are looking for personalized products and gifts that best fit the occasion or need.

“During the recession, price equaled value,” Simon said. “The post-recession customer has redefined value to include content and relevance. You know what? That’s great news for us.”

CBA and the Association of Logos Bookstores surprised Simon during the Children’s Trends Workshop with special awards to celebrate two decades of the training event. In the past 20 years, suppliers have given away more than $100,000 in free product to retailers in attendance; and Simon has invested more than 60,000 hours in preparation for the popular workshops. —Natalie Gillespie

Gift makers offer fashion, fun with wide-ranging lines Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:45 PM America/New_York

Runway sees new Christian fashion, while Fair Trade focuses on the cause shopper

Kerusso-GodsNotDeadFrom Fair Trade to Made-in-USA items, gift products have a broad reach, as could be seen at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS).

Traffic from countries such as China, Korea, Nigeria and New Zealand was high at Halle Joy, a Texas-based company known for its handbags. This year, however, the trend for the company is jewelry. Design Director Curtis Downs said the sterling silver program of carded pendant necklaces is what’s new this year.

“A good percentage of our product this year will be jewelry,” Downs said. “More of the chains that we worked with have requested the jewelry over the bags, so we followed the demand. Women buy more pieces of jewelry than they would a handbag.”

The pendants with a $25-$39 price point come on cards with scripture or inspirational sayings. There are also some mother-daughter sets, and “a lot of really feminine and dainty pieces in the sterling line,” Downs’ wife, Jara, told Christian Retailing.

There were a number of apparel companies exhibiting as well, including Not of This World and Kerusso, which shared CBA’s Gift & Specialty Items booth award with Scripture Candy.

Kerusso held its annual 3:16 event, which drew a crowd for products tossed into the crowd and giveaways from drawings. Two big prizes given were the Left Behind display with product and $500 cash.

Along with new caps and “Cherished Girl” long-sleeve tees, Kerusso was highlighting its Left Behind movie-inspired products, including shirts, caps, stainless-steel tumblers and wristbands.

Kevin Sumner’s company, 1Eighty Apparel, was at ICRS as an exhibitor for the first time but not with a big booth. Geni Hulsey invited Sumner to set up a booth in the Church Store Connection area.

“It tends to be a better market for us because a lot of independent stores don’t understand a $20-or-higher-price point T-shirt,” Sumner said of church stores.

Bringing his 25 years of retail experience to the show, he finds it “encouraging to see a lot of new apparel vendors, which means there’s more selection,” said Sumner, who also advised church stores to buy several brands, giving consumers more options.

LifeWay Christian Stores and some larger church stores have been consistent with offering his product, and he plans to expand his reach through a distribution partner.

One company had a daily fashion show at the Creative Pavilion stage on the show floor. Christians in Fashion presented the Cool Revival Runway Show where Christian designers showcased their collections. The fashion show featured the work of models, stylists and hair and makeup artists.

Contributing to fashion was one of the more unusual gift products at ICRS, a museum-quality umbrella ($15.99) from Swanson Christian Products. The company had success with one last year and opted to bring out three new umbrella designs at a much lower price point than what would normally be seen in the general market.

One clothing company, Saved by Grace, is dedicated to assisting homeless families in shelters across the nation. The company made a donation of 1,000 garments to Atlanta’s Buckhead Christian Ministry, the ministry CBA designated as the recipient of the ICRS 2014 offering.

Saved by Grace recently launched the Grace for Two Project, which provides clothing to homeless families in shelters through a buy one, give one model.

“This is a big show, and we are thrilled to provide our clothing line as an example for how Christian organizations can impact their local communities,” said co-founder of Saved by Grace and GF2P Lauren Breiding.

There was “a sense of community” at the show, Halle Joy’s designer said, and Carpentree’s Sherry Morris agreed.

“We’re excited to always meet with our retailers and just make those connections that are so important for us in our industry,” said Morris, director of marketing. “We’ve seen some new people on the floor who are interested in starting new stores. It’s been very fun to visit with them and be able to teach them a little about Carpentree merchandising.”

Bob Perryman, senior director of product with DaySpring, said the new “Premium Collection” cards, which retail for $4.99 to $10.99 each, were “resonating pretty much across the board with all of our retailers.” Picking up on cues in the card industry, DaySpring opted to create high-end cards for special occasions, available this fall.

Another unusual DaySpring line caters to middle-aged or older customers with a product range featuring journals and books.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest in our ‘Hope for the Heart’ line, which is really about helping people along their path to wellness,” Perryman said. “So, as you think of an aging population, really just as we all age, we want to live well and finish well, so a lot of the products there really resonate with that.”

In addition, DaySpring was promoting its children’s products tied with the Crayola brand and its U-Neeks brand, which has a new app that is free for download.

Lighthouse Christian Products, which was celebrating its three Christian Retailing’s Best awards, had a good show.

“They appreciate the fact that we are constantly refreshing our lines and that we put scripture on all of the products that we make,” said Ed Nizynski, vice president of sales. “They appreciate the booklets of the gospel that we add to our products, and they thank me all the time for our customer service that we render.”

The company has had success with its Ark of the Covenant sculpture and is now making a “very large” version of it as well as a Spanish version, Nizynski said.

Abbey Press said the retailers who came to the show “came here ready to spend” and that the company was “pleased with what the response is with our product,” said Sue Ann Kloeck, director of trade marketing.

Abbey’s “Blooming Blessings” kitchenware was its “No. 1 hottest seller” at ICRS. Crosses and mugs did well along with new professions gifts themed around careers.

Cynthia Glensgard of Global Handmade Hope urged retailers to use cause marketing to attract loyal customers, noting that Fair Trade “embodies Christian values.”

But, she cautioned, because of its higher price point, “You can’t put it next to a product from China and expect it to sell.” —Johnson

Parable Group provides data services to CBA Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:41 PM America/New_York

Association members also will benefit from partnership

The Parable Group, provider of marketing services and real-time information and analytics, announced June 24 an agreement to provide analytics and enhanced insight for CBA and its members.

Under the agreement, Parable will provide CBA members and CROSS:SCAN reporting stores with enhanced analytics through the ParableConnect data platform. This base-level data partnership will deliver many benefits to CBA member stores for free, enabling them to seamlessly store and process real-time transactional data.

“We are excited that CBA asked us to improve its capabilities and provide their users with compelling and actionable analytics,” said Erik Ernstrom, manager of business intelligence for The Parable Group. “Users will enjoy expanded functionality on CROSS:SCAN, powered by our data platform, which will provide the opportunity to run best-sellers reports by quantity sold, by dollars, by receipt count, and allow filtering by product type and category, region, vendor and more.”

Parable currently powers data services for retailers affiliated with various marketing groups while safeguarding and protecting the integrity of retailers’ individual data. Data partners transmit data to Parable, which transforms it into actionable insights on ParableConnect—helping retailers improve inventory selection, drive more transactions, increase sales and optimize their marketing spend.CBA-Parable

Through the new partnership, CBA members and CROSS:SCAN reporting stores will receive enhanced analytics with zero expense but can choose to upgrade.

“Easily accessible and visible data will help our industry better understand customer trends, adapt to their needs and project need more effectively and profitably,” CBA President Curtis Riskey said. “It will be especially important as retailers try new strategies and need to monitor results in a dynamic retailing marketplace.”

Riskey said he is confident that security barriers and legal protections are in place to protect retailer data from being shared.

CBA is requesting existing CROSS:SCAN reporting companies to connect with Parable to renew data security and operational agreements. CBA Service Corp., a separate company, will be involved in providing enhanced services to suppliers offering data reports and analysis for Christian-retail channel use and application. —Johnson

Learning how to attract Hispanic shoppers Print Email
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:37 PM America/New_York

My Healthy Church leaders see ‘big opportunity’ for retailers

Retailers had an opportunity to learn how to expand their customer base and increase traffic and sales during a special workshop at June’s International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. Fred Ichniowski, senior sales director, and Roberto Cortez, associate, both with My Healthy Church, led the “Attracting Hispanics to Your Store” workshop.

ICRS-HispanicCortez greeted the attendees in Spanish to help stress the importance of knowing the Hispanic customer base, being able to communicate with them and the value of forging relationships in the community.

Cortez encouraged retailers to make their Spanish-language product easy to find.

“If you have Hispanic product, flaunt it,” Cortez said. “You have the products they need.”

The presenters also addressed communication, marketing investments, advertising and the resources that are helpful in reaching Hispanic customers, such as Spanish-language cable television.

“As a retailer, every customer that walks into the store is an opportunity to make a sale, and the more sales you generate, the better off you’ll be as a retailer,” Cortez said.

“I’ve been involved in the CBA industry for over 20 years, and this has been the biggest opportunity that has been untapped in the industry,” Ichniowski said. “Over the past five years, it has expanded dramatically, and it will continue to expand.”

This is “The Big Opportunity” to reach a demographic that’s not being reached right now, Ichniowski said.

Participants from among the several-dozen retailers in attendance asked questions from a retail and ministry standpoint such as, “What is the future?” and “How are we able to tap into [the Spanish market]?”

“I think the industry as a whole needs to open their eyes and wake up to the opportunity that the fastest-growing segment of our society is in the Hispanic community, and that those folks are looking to be served, and inside that community, building relationships is the most important thing,” Ichniowski noted.

“If Hispanics see they matter to you, they will shop your store,” Cortez said.

The presenters also shared beneficial data, including a 2012 Nielson report that said: “Any company that wants to develop and grow in the United States has to attract the Hispanic consumer. It’s a must.” —Ginny McCabe

Global guests interface at world-focused sessions Print Email
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:33 PM America/New_York

CBA honors apologist and author Ravi Zacharias with first-ever International Lifetime Achievement Award

CBA honored author and apologist Ravi Zacharias at the International Welcome dinner Sunday, June 22 with the International Lifetime Achievement Award. This is the first time CBA has presented the award for international ministry.

Guests from around the world gathered at the Hilton Atlanta for the International Christian Retail Show’s International Welcome program. Attendees took part in meetings that focused on networking, ongoing education and encouragement from top industry leaders.

Australian recording artist Peter Furler, former Newsboys frontman and son of missionaries Bill and Rosalie Furler, and The Peter Furler Band opened the morning worship with songs including “I Am Free” and “Blessed Be Your Name.”

Zacharias presented the keynote message as part of the worship session. He challenged those in attendance to “Keep doing what you’re doing,” as he spoke about the importance of staying true to one’s calling and the value of impacting the world for Christ.

“It’s always thought-provoking and good to hear him speak so clearly about the problems of the world at this time, and also since we come from the part of the world where we address these kinds of things on a daily basis,” said B. Paul William, director, Devtech Publishers and Printers from India. “His message is so relevant to many countries and to the U.S. It’s always good to know a person who addresses those issues at a higher level.”RaviZacharias-GaryWilkerson

CBA President Curtis Riskey welcomed international attendees to the luncheon and encouraged them.

“I would like to welcome you here and let you know that we’re listening, we want to hear from you, and we want to help you in any way possible,” Riskey said. “We also will be talking with you at International Marketsquare when it opens on Monday. I want to thank you for doing your part and for fulfilling your calling to all the people around the world.”

Gary Wilkerson, president of World Challenge—an international mission organization founded by his father, David Wilkerson—then spoke to a ballroom full of guests. As a worldwide leader, and lead pastor of The Springs Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Wilkerson presented a message titled, “World to Challenge” and urged guests to go out into the community and into the world.

“Jesus can do anything. There’s nothing that’s impossible to God,” Wilkerson stressed. “The Jesus that helps you serve around the world is the same Jesus that will help you in your own personal life and the situations you face—with your marriage, in your relationships, finances and in your businesses, and with your children.”

Ramon Rocha III, director of publisher development at Media Associates International in Carol Stream, Illinois, presented an afternoon training session. In his role, Rocha oversees training programs and helps publishers become financially viable.

“Challenge [the] status quo and strive for excellence in all you do,” Rocha said during the training session. “Make excellence your habit, it’s not just a single act. Everything we do should be done in a Christ-honoring way.”

“The internationals bring such a global perspective to CBA that we wouldn’t have otherwise,” said CBA Board Chair Sue Smith.

On the show floor, international rights meetings were active.

“From an international perspective, we’ve been really busy,” said Jason McMullen, director of ministry services and publishing director of the Modern English Version Bible.

Jeff Crosby, associate publisher and director of sales and marketing with InterVarsity Press, said he and his colleague in international sales, Diana Verhagen, “had a very full dance card of strategic meetings with customers both in the U.S. and beyond.” —McCabe

United Methodist house buys new property Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:31 PM America/New_York

UMPHLogoNashville-based publisher to move headquarters next year

The United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) announced July 11 the purchase of the Lake Front Office Park in the MetroCenter business district in Nashville and is in the planning stages for a major renovation of the buildings. UMPH paid $9.25 million for the property, which includes the estate of the late Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams and investment company Corner Partnership. UMPH anticipates moving in 2015 to the new property, where its distribution center is already located.

The current headquarters building and adjacent properties occupying more than seven acres across from the Music City Convention Center has been divided into four parcels, two of which have been sold. The third and largest parcel, the site of the UMPH headquarters building and parking lots, is under contract for a sale that will be finalized at the time of the move to the new offices. The fourth parcel is being retained as a parking lot.

“The United Methodist Publishing House has been delighted to headquarter its ministry in Nashville for generations,” said Neil Alexander, UMPH’s president and publisher. “Our resources help people around the world know, love and serve God. We will continue and expand that work from our new home in the inner core of our vibrant and growing city. Plans are shaping up to breathe fresh life into what will be a creative center for Christian publishing and resource distribution for years to come.”

Alexander recently announced his plans to retire. The UMPH board is looking for a new publisher in what is expected to be a two-year process.

UMPH has approximately 400 employees at its Nashville headquarters. —Johnson

BroadStreet Publishing, Authentic partner Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:27 PM America/New_York

Carlton Garborg teams up with Jerry Bloom for new company

Broadstreet Blk-cropped 300-pxBroadStreet Publishing Group has announced its partnership with U.K.-based Authentic Media, a division of Koorong, a Christian retailing and distribution company based in Australia.

Newly formed BroadStreet is led by Carlton Garborg, former president of Summerside Press and Ellie Claire, along with Jerry Bloom of Publisher’s Factory Outlet and Paul Bootes of Authentic Media.

The company’s focus is to create meaningful, inspirational products that share God’s truth with quality, beauty and creativity. BroadStreet will publish nonfiction, fiction, a new Bible translation and a line of content-driven journals under its Belle City Gifts imprint.

“The heart of BroadStreet is to tell great stories that will bring people closer to Jesus and to present messages of truth through beautifully designed products,” Garborg said. “It’s been a joy to see this venture take shape with the partnership of Jerry and Paul. The blend of our collective experience in packaging, sales, distribution and retail gives BroadStreet a solid foundation to build upon.”

Paul Bootes, managing director of Koorong, said: “Carlton Garborg and Jerry Bloom are industry veterans and have assembled a talented and experienced team. BroadStreet is destined to be a significant force in Christian publishing.”

Fall book titles from BroadStreet include Falling Into Heaven, Bloodline and Mountain Man, the latter from  a regular on A+E’s Duck Dynasty.

The Passion Translation, a new Bible translation from Dr. Brian Simmons, is in development. Simmons published several books of the Bible, and BroadStreet will release seven of them, including simultaneous e-book editions, in October. The New Testament will be completed by 2017 with the whole Bible expected to follow in eight years. —Christine D. Johnson

Former Gospel Light head relaunches Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:22 PM America/New_York

Bill Greig III and wife Rhonni bring new trade strategy and distribution set-up to new church resource company

RhonniGreig-BillGreigBill Greig III, former president of Gospel Light, and his wife, Rhonni, are resetting their direction with an innovative new publishing company called, which is also its domain name.

This transition came about as the Greigs sensed a shift in this season of life. Bill took a sabbatical from Gospel Light in 2013 to consider the couple’s future direction. Going through multiple transitions, not the least entering the “empty nest” stage of life, the Greigs sensed that God was shifting them into a new season. Bill believed that God was leading him to leave Gospel Light—a company founded by Henrietta Mears and handed down to his care from his father and grandfather—and to implement a new virtual-publishing model with a new team in place.

Confirmation came when he presented his ideas to Rhonni, and she told him of a dream she had had a year earlier of a virtual publishing company with limited infrastructure, but with significant impact found by combining new technology and social media with the truths of the gospel.

Bill was reminded of a ministry based in Forest, Virginia, in the Lynchburg metro area, Church Growth Institute (CGI), founded by Larry Gilbert. After initial inquiries, the Greigs found elements of their new publishing model already in place at CGI—a strong mission and position in an important market niche, foundational biblical resources used by thousands of churches, a value proposition that allows customers to choose between “free” and “premium” resources, more than 5 million users of the “Team Ministry” Spiritual Gifts Inventory, over 700,000 customer email addresses, a leading web domain and a profitable e-commerce store.

CGI’s missing elements were a trade strategy and a distribution partner, as for 36 years, its resources had only been available through direct sales to churches and individuals.

“When I saw how was connecting their resources with their end consumer, I saw the potential for God to use these systems, with some upgrades and fine tuning as well as partnering with wtrade distributors and bookstores to reach many more churches and individuals,” Greig said.

With the new company in place, all resources are available to trade accounts through Advocate Publisher Solutions at Send The Light Distribution. Retailers can find more information at

The primary trade strategy for the relaunch is to update the best-selling “Team Ministry” spiritual-gift resource line with expanded editions and formats that work best in bookstores. Five new products in the line are expected to ship in December with a Jan. 1, 2015, publication date.

“ publishes the top Spiritual Gifts Inventory available, and we are delighted to see it finally available for retailers to access and offer to their customers,” said Darren Henry, president of Advocate Distribution Solutions, a division of Send The Light Distribution. “Bill and his team are doubtlessly going to build upon its already incredible success and introduce new products that will help Christians everywhere gain insight and growth in their church and spiritual lives. Send The Light is proud to offer these items!”

The Greigs have embraced their new assignment as co-owners and partners.

“It has been a year of trust, faith and experiencing God’s unmerited favor as we have leaned into this new endeavor with Christ as our foundation and sustainer,” Rhonni said.

Bill sees a bright future for the company.

“The entrepreneurship gifting my father fostered in me, along with my strategic and visionary strengths helped me to see that with some innovation, the Lord’s blessing and wisdom, has only opportunity and growth ahead,” he said.  —Johnson

Author Lisa Wingate appreciates relational retailing Print Email
Written by Ann Byle   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:08 PM America/New_York

Christy Award-nominated novelist sees great benefit in Christian retailers’ customer connections

LisaWingateAtIrenesFlowers-CreditCarlaVallejoLisa Wingate has published more that 20 books, but never has she dreamed the entire plot of one of her novels—until The Story Keeper, that is. Her newest novel with Tyndale House Publishers is out this month and promises as much emotion and drama as The Prayer Box (Tyndale, 2013), which was one of her two Christy Award nominees this year.

“I dreamed the plot, woke up and wrote it all down,” Wingate said, referring to The Story Keeper. “I wrote out a synopsis and was going to meet with my editor the following week at the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference. This was a different book than what I had planned, but I told her I really wanted to write this book, and she was fine with that.”

Wingate, who lives with her family in Texas and makes her own prayer boxes (to hold prayer requests or favorite scriptures), is no stranger to writing novels. Her first, Tending Roses, was published in 2001 with New American Library (NAL)/Penguin Group USA and is now in its 21st printing. Its first home was in ABA stores, but these days it’s also carried in Christian retail stores as a Penguin Praise title. Sales are at about 200,000 copies, Wingate said.

“The ABA publishers said they loved it, but it had too much church stuff,” she said. “The CBA publishers were saying they loved it, but it’s not historical fiction and nobody gets saved. But NAL published it as women’s fiction. It was a crossover book before there was any such thing.”

Nearly 15 years ago, when Tending Roses released, it was brick-and-mortar stores such as Barnes & Noble selling the book to readers who were “looking for gritty novels with a faith element, and a lot of readers wanted that.” Wingate has sold more than 1 million copies of all of her titles since then.

These days the author “loves being an ambassador for Christian fiction” and is eager to meet readers at signings and share her story.

“What I love about my books being in Christian retail is that the stores are so relational,” she said. “When I go to a signing at a Christian retailer, the people are so much more interested in talking about the book and finding out about your journey. Readers know the cashiers well and are frequent customers.”

Christian retail stores have helped to boost sales of Wingate’s books.

“Christian retailers have been great for my books,” she said. “One of the biggest things is that retailers know authors who are similar and are able to recommend my books. I hear a lot from readers who say they found my books when they asked about other novels. That’s the skill of the retailer knowing their books well.”

Tyndale is eager for readers to discover Wingate, who also has been published by Bethany House (Baker Publishing Group). To increase awareness ahead of the release of The Story Keeper, another of her Carolina books, Tyndale offered The Prayer Box at a deep discount. The company included the first chapter of The Story Keeper in the $5 copies of The Prayer Box and promoted it through marketing group catalogs.

Stores such as the two Kregel Parable Christian Stores in west Michigan took advantage of the promotion. The stores sold 40 copies in June and 35 in July, plus ordered ahead.

“Our two stores sell a lot of fiction, and we have a lot of fiction readers on staff, so it’s easier to recommend books, especially Lisa Wingate’s books,” said Jeremy Fleming, manager of the two stores. “The nice thing about the $5 book is it introduces people to an author they wouldn’t pick up if only seeing the name on the shelf.”

Fleming, who stocks all of Wingate’s books, plans to reserve feature space for The Story Keeper when it releases.

“She’s a very good writer, and we want to get her name out based on previous purchases and reader recommendations,” Fleming said.

Wingate herself participates in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book” campaign, which takes place several months prior to the release of each book. Early copies of the book travel around the country in “Sister Circles” of readers, who interact on the Sisterhood’s Facebook page, get acquainted via email and leave their thoughts in the margins of the shared books.

TheStoryKeeper“These women become ambassadors for the book and begin driving early word-of-mouth for The Story Keeper. They spread the word within their book groups, church groups and local areas, thereby driving sales for local Christian bookstores or favorite Christian online retailers,” said Cheryl Kerwin, senior marketing manager for Tyndale. “This year, over 130 women participated in 23 Sister Circles, and The Story Keeper traveled from coast to coast.”

Wingate is also going on a seven-state book tour that will include church, community and store events. CBA retailers will sell books at some of the events.

Family Christian, Mardel, LifeWay and Parable Group stores all do well with Wingate’s books, as do a number of ABA retailers in the Outer Banks, North Carolina, where her Tyndale books are set, and at SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) stores in Texas and across the South.

Tyndale has purchased targeted online media that reaches previous buyers of Wingate’s books and Christian-fiction buyers.

Wingate is “quickly becoming one of our most popular authors,” Jan Stob, senior acquisitions editor for fiction, told Christian Retailing. “Her fan base is growing, and she’s becoming popular because she finds unique ways of getting the word out about her books.”

LisaWingate-JumpPageShe has released two e-books, both tied to her Tyndale titles. The Sea Glass Sisters is a prelude to The Prayer Box, while The Tidewater Sisters is a postlude.

“These are nice little discoveries for her rabid fans, whether a longtime fan or a new fan via her Tyndale books,” the Tyndale editor said. “They have sold well.”

Stob pointed out that there are underlying themes to Wingate’s Tyndale books, though each can stand alone. Wingate has a third print book and a third novella under contract, and “we’re hoping to extend that,” she added.

“Readers are discovering her beautiful prose, but they will also recognize themselves or people they know in these stories of women struggling with their pasts,” Stob said. “Lisa’s writing makes you stop in the middle and savor the imagery or a phrase. You can read them over and over again.”

Wingate remains committed to finding and keeping her readers, especially those who shop at Christian retail stores.

“Retailers are passionate about connecting books to readers who will love them,” Wingate said. “They are smart about positioning my books near other books readers like, which is so valuable to me. It all goes back to the relational aspects of Christian stores. Bookselling is incredibly different when there are close relationships there.”

ICRS Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down 2014 Print Email
Written by Christian Retailing Staff   
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 02:34 PM America/New_York

Thumbs up:

  • Convivial atmosphere—friendly retailers, vendors and publishers at the show.
  • Many publishers were eager to meet and work with international companies.
  • Meet the Authors of Our Daily Bread: The well-planned and well-advertised event gathered more than 500 guests.
  • Plenty of high-profile authors to draw lines at book signings.
  • Christian Fiction Trends—Interesting presentation and a nice touch to have authors meet directly with guests for a half-hour.
  • To kids’ gift company Oodles World for introducing “His Armor,” a line of products for tween and teen boys, an underserved demographic. The line debuted titanium sports necklaces, carabiners, sports socks and other fun products.
  • To Dr. Mary Manz Simon for 20 years of educating retailers on the latest trends in children’s products, for always recruiting lots of suppliers to send retailers home with free products and for receiving honors from CBA and Logos Bookstores.
  • To Dusty Wells, senior vice president of national accounts for Word Entertainment, for 32 continuous years at CBA shows—and for still having every one of his name badges!
  • To CBA for hosting several events that went beyond retailing, including a filmmakers summit and a pastors’ gathering in partnership with RBC Ministries that saw great attendance from the surrounding area.
  • To Dr. James Dobson for receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from CBA for his groundbreaking work through Focus on the Family and for his sense of humor as he posed with his life-sized standee on the show floor.
  • To Affirm Films for creating a comfortable screening suite that offered groups of up to 20 retailers screenings of upcoming films, not to mention the fun take-home favors like T-shirts, mini footballs and snacks.
  • To publishers, distributors and film companies for bringing more personalities to the show. It is important for retailers to meet their customers’ heroes, and ICRS 2014 had plenty of “star power.”
  • To Good Works Make a Difference owner Helena Cho for making her CBA debut with wrap bracelets and soy candles that are fashion-forward, priced competitively and displayed on modern fixtures. Even better, the Los Angeles-based Cho donates 25% of her net profits to charity.

Thumbs down:

  • Convention center location—Hall C was far enough away as to be a problem for some show attendees getting there at times.
  • Shuttle service—Shuttle didn’t ever show up at one hotel supposedly on the ICRS route.
  • Unattended workshops—The Selling Christian Rap workshop had no one in attendance--except two reporters. Too early? Too far from the exhibit hall? No interest?
  • Overwrought security: Good security is crucial at a convention, but when security doesn’t let in ticketed attendees to events and replies with gruff “no’s,” perhaps it’s a bit too much.
  • One new product showcase presented the history of Gospel Light. Where was the new product?
  • To a couple of the Christian films that still look, well, pretty cheesy. Just because the door has opened at the box office doesn’t mean that we should subject the public to sub-par plots and production quality.
  • For exhibit floor stages that were stuck in the corners of the exhibit hall. These stages offered everything from valuable workshops to award programs to fashion shows—and would have generated show excitement had they been placed in the middle of the floor.
  • To slightly overzealous CBA workers who scolded children’s character Rippy for standing in the aisle just outside his booth.
  • For poor social media promotion about the show. Correct hashtags and Twitter handles were not promoted adequately.