Christian Retailing

Looking up, looking ahead Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 07 September 2009 10:21 AM America/New_York
Independent Christian stores optimistic as they reset themselves for the future

point of saleTimes may still be tough, but there's a new sense of optimism among independent Christian retailers who are repositioning themselves for the future.

Combining a renewed focus on the big picture of their mission with heightened attention to the small details of their business, stores across the country are looking ahead with quiet confidence.

Wholesalers 'very pleased' with business from ICRS Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Friday, 07 August 2009 04:50 PM America/New_York
New products and 'enticing' specials 'help bring in people' during 'tough economic times'

Despite a significant drop in attendance and many exhibitors reducing their presence at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS), distributors reported good business.

Now known as a ministry of Biblica, STL Distribution North America (STLD) downsized by a third, but still had one of the bigger presences on the floor—combined with some of the distributor's partners.

Berean emerges from bankruptcy Print Email
Written by Staff   
Friday, 07 August 2009 04:47 PM America/New_York
Former customers become new owners of longtime regional chain

Berean Christian Stores, one of the industry's oldest regional chains, has emerged from bankruptcy under new ownership.

The 18-outlet business that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June has been bought by Joseph and Deanna Gimelli, former owners of a northern California winery. The sale for almost $2 million was finalized last month.

'Amazon Challenge' wins back online sales Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 24 August 2009 04:45 PM America/New_York
Baker Book House price-guarantee program draws interest

A pioneer Christian retail store has found a way to win back business lost to the Internet.

Baker Book House's Amazon Challenge has boosted its income from local church accounts and drawn interest from other stores wanting to replicate the program.

Launched last year at the well-known Grand Rapids, Mich., store—which dates back 70 years—the initiative promises to beat the leading online retailer’s rates if the congregation will agree to make its purchases through Baker Book House.

Ex-trainer 'continues integral role' with CBA Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 24 August 2009 01:28 PM America/New_York
Mike Hockett starts consulting firm, which has partnership with retail trade association

mike hockettLongtime retail trainer and consultant Mike Hockett was a familiar face at ICRS, but in a new role. The former CBA staff member was in Denver as head of his own new consultancy.

Along with Chief Operating Officer Dorothy Gore and Director of Finance Becky Kennedy, Hockett was let go in May by CBA as part of a restructuring intended to "reset" the association for the future.

Hockett then began his Colorado Springs, Colo.—based Strata Consulting, serving as president and senior consultant. CBA entered into a contractual arrangement with Strata, as several of his company's consultants—including Bill Flandermeyer, Jo Ann Panter and Beverly Miller—led workshops at ICRS.

Hockett "continues to play an integral role" in serving retail trade association members, utilizing CBA Consulting Services and the CBA Custom Inventory Accelerator," association officials said. "Through this partnership, CBA will continue to offer training and business solutions that meet the needs of retailers."

A month before he left CBA, Hockett was part of the Christian Music Retail Conference—held during the Gospel Music Association's Music Week—as he gave a talk on how to train music sales staff.

Hockett has more than 30 years of retail experience in the areas of training, technology, operations and store management—working for various companies, including Family Christian Stores, Lemstone Books, Sears and Dollar Tree.

"Small- to medium-size businesses need affordable consulting," Hockett said in an introduction to Strata’s new Web site. During nine years with CBA, he "developed a concept to make consulting affordable. I found independent contractor consultants with retail experience and experts in other types of business to provide consulting on an as needed basis."

Hockett is co-developer of CBA's Custom Inventory Accelerator, an inventory tool that maximizes long-tail backlist through localized product assortments. This tool helps retailers identify crucial backlist product by category or department to meet local customers' preferences and demands.

The tool incorporates budget realities so retailers gain optimum return on inventory investment with available dollars. Some test stores doubled category sales with Hockett’s consulting and the Accelerator tool.

Product Intelligence Tours offer strategies and tools Print Email
Written by By Andy Butcher, DeWayne Hamby and Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 24 August 2009 12:56 PM America/New_York
Presentations provide retailers with merchandising and marketing tips for store departments

product intelligence tourCBA's 60th summer convention debuted a series of Product Intelligence Tours. Sponsored by suppliers, the 30-minute presentations offered retailers merchandising and marketing tips in the areas of apparel, Bibles, fiction, gifts, home entertainment and music.

CBA's 'industry portal,' Symtio's 'tremendous growth' Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 24 August 2009 12:50 PM America/New_York
Association's platform provides online training for frontliners, digital provider undergoes makeover

symtio cardChristian bookstore representatives learned about a new technology-based initiative from CBA to help frontliners and were introduced to a summer makeover for Symtio, a retail digital content system, during the convention.

The retailers trade association touted its CBA Connect—which provides online training for store workers—as "an industry portal, and the way of doing business in the future," according to CBA President and CEO Bill Anderson.

Making more of networks Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 24 August 2009 11:31 AM America/New_York
New 'social' approach to business is emphasized at CBA summer convention

social newtworking-twitterChristian retailers were urged to tap into the benefits of social media at last month's International Christian Retail Show (ICRS).

Though actual attendance was down for the July 12-15 event at the Denver Convention Center, the CBA show found a broader audience through participants' use of digital services like Twitter and Facebook.

Special markets create an interest Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 24 August 2009 11:22 AM America/New_York
Demographic shifts, historic election cited for rise in inquiries

While some general categories may be flagging because of the economy, representatives of niche markets at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) were crediting it and a historic election for increased interest in opportunities they offer to Christian retailers looking to set themselves apart.

Editorial Unlit exhibited in the international marketsquare for the first time, as part of downscaling its presence at the show and also connecting more directly to the global rights community, where the growth is.

Attendees encouraged to keep 'focus,' pray for industry Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 24 August 2009 11:15 AM America/New_York

Well-attended, newly organized prayer session 'uplifting and encouraging' for retailers in 'tough days'

While a shortened schedule may have tempted attendees to focus solely on business at ICRS, they were encouraged not to lose sight of the ministry aspect of their efforts.

anne graham lotzDuring the opening Worship Now! session, author Anne Graham Lotz issued a spiritual challenge to attendees to remember the cross and ministry in the midst of the business and deals of the show. That theme resonated throughout the event and was underscored with a well-attended, newly organized prayer session on the exhibit floor.

'Phenomenal' business for growth category Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 24 August 2009 11:08 AM America/New_York
Suppliers find stores in 'thoughtful but optimistic' mood at show

Although the economy continued to be unstable, Denver—the site of CBA's 60th summer convention—proved to be truly the Mile High City for several gift suppliers.

bob taylor"It's been phenomenal business for us," Bob Taylor, CEO of Things Not Seen (TNS) Clothing & Accessories, said of the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS).

"The first day of the show for retailers is usually a day of looking and gathering their thoughts. But our existing major accounts came by and increased their orders (on the first day). We also added eight to 10 new retailers."

Taylor cited the increased business to his apparel company growing its T-shirt line by 40% as well as adding a Moral Art boutique-style line for the show. TNS was one of only four strictly apparel suppliers at the convention, he added.

"It's been night and day compared to last year's show (in Orlando, Fla.)," said Taylor, who decided to exhibit ICRS at the last minute. "I'm amazed at the difference. It's been a great show."

Usually a strong draw, the gift category had a smaller presence this year in part because the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market was held around the same time as ICRS.

But Heinrich Johnsen, president of Christian Art Gifts, said that business during the first day of the show was "so busy that we didn't have enough reps." The company launched several new products at the show, including journals, Bible covers, water bottles and a tween girls line called "Little Miss Grace."

"This show is still bigger than anything else in the Christian product industry," Johnsen said. "We love ICRS. This is the highlight of our year."

Ed Nizynski, vice president of sales for Lighthouse Christian Products Company, said the company "definitely sold more." "Our total sales were up 20% over last year's show," he said. "International business played a good part of the results."

Besides offering no minimum orders for buyers, Lighthouse released several products at ICRS as well as 24 new items for Christmas, including a Yuletide version of its popular Cups of Encouragement.

Sherry Morris, marketing manager for Carpentree, said the company's sales increased more than 25% over last year's convention.

"ICRS exceeded our expectations this year," she said. "We found all the retailers careful and thoughtful in their approaches to buying, but optimistic about the future. One of our best-selling verses at the show was 'All things are possible with God.' "

Carpentree introduced several products with lower price points at the event, including boxed giftables, place mats, coasters, mugs, a Christmas line, Master's Forge items and home décor featuring stretched canvas.

DaySpring's sales were up 10% over last year's show, as the company launched several "Really Woolly" products, tote bags and expanded sound cards, said Director of Communications Brenda Turner.

"Our international bookings were up 3% over last year," she said. "Our booth had a great deal of energy and excitement."

P. Graham Dunn President Peter Dunn said sales figures were "roughly the same" as last year's event. But sales exceeded expectations "as our expectations were low," said Dunn, who launched a laser-engraving program for retailers at ICRS. "The show was well-attended. We plan to come back for 2010 in St. Louis, although we will reduce the size of our booth slightly."

Brian Adkins, CEO and co-founder of Scripture Candy, said his company broke even for ICRS.

"For a person who wasn't expecting anything because of the economy, I was pleasantly surprised by what we wrote in orders," said Adkins, who had a staff of three people compared to nine employees in 2008. "The people who came wrote orders."

Brownlow Gifts President Paul Brownlow agreed. "It's been a good show," said Brownlow, whose booth size was half from last year's convention. "It will probably be down compared to Orlando, but it's been better than I expected. The international market here is strong and good. That's what made this a good show for us. It’s a good place to connect with (international buyers)."

Bill White—director of sales for NOTW (Not of This World) apparel—said his booth had "nonstop traffic" throughout the show.

"Overall our sales were even with last year," said White, noting that NOTW's new Canvas T-shirts line had "a huge reception" at ICRS. "However, our international orders were a much bigger proportion of the total compared to last year."

Kerusso introduced new displays at ICRS, including the Kidz Light House Apparel Center. Vice President of Marketing Chris Rainey said that although Kerusso's domestic business was down 15% at the show, international sales were up 15%.

"The retailers and suppliers who were at the show were there to do business," he said. "Although traffic and attendance were down, the spirit of those attending seemed to be up and hopeful that even though the future looks much different, it's still bright if you are willing to change."