Christian Retailing

CBA role a ‘'huge sign' of acceptance Print Email
Written by Staff   
Thursday, 24 September 2009 11:06 AM America/New_York
Church stores celebrate colleague's appointment, report 'healthy' progress

Church bookstores celebrated another step on their journey to an integral place in the Christian retailing world with news during the show that one of their own will be the next chairman of CBA.

george thomsenGeorge Thomsen's appointment as chairman-elect, taking on leadership of the trade association's board in October 2010, was welcomed as further recognition of the church store's increasing significance.

'Boom not gloom' at smaller ICRS Print Email
Written by Staff   
Tuesday, 28 July 2009 10:04 AM America/New_York

Retailers and suppliers upbeat about 'energy'

Despite attendance being down significantly on 2008, last month's International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) drew overwhelmingly positive verdicts from suppliers and retailers alike.

Total professional attendance for the event at Denver's Colorado Convention Center, July 12-15, was 1,903, down 20% on last year. The 534 international attendees—from 56 countries—represented a 28% drop on the number for 2008.

CBA declined to disclose how many individual stores were at the show, with President and CEO Bill Anderson saying that the important figure was the people "doing business" at the show. Total attendance and exhibitor personnel figures were not disclosed, as they were in previous years.

While attendees returned home upbeat, questions remain about the future shape and format of what has long been the centerpiece of the Christian product industry's calendar.

Denver participants attributed the buoyant 2009 mood to several factors: generally low expectations coming into the event, a positive attitude from those who were there and changes to the event—including one less exhibition day and a shrinking of the floor that fostered a sense of busyness.

Some expressed the belief that with many suppliers having reduced their booth space this year, the event—which in 1999 saw a total attendance of almost 15,000—had "right-sized" itself after several years of declining numbers.

carlton garborg"Everybody was quoting doom and gloom (before), and instead it was more like boom," said Carlton Garborg, president of Ellie Claire Gift & Paper Expressions, one of many suppliers reporting good business. "We really had a great show. It was very encouraging."

For Anderson, the turnout was something to "feel very good about," especially in the light of other trade shows’ attendance being down as much as 40% because of the economy. "The trade show is a reflection of our industry, which has been going through consolidation and compression," he said.

He credited suppliers for helping draw retailers to Denver with special offers for the show. More than 70 of the more than 250 exhibitors backed the show's "Real Help for Your Business" theme by offering exclusive event specials that could collectively save stores $11,000.

Shirley Norwood, co-owner of Living Water Bookstore in Paris, Texas, for 32 years, was one of those for whom the suppliers' package was "a great help." She and her husband downsized their store by half this year "just to stay alive. The economy has hit us really hard."

The reduced scale of ICRS meant there were no big supplier evening events or receptions as in previous years, with a raft of movie premieres the main offerings. Also notable by their absence were general market buyers who for years have attended ICRS to keep up with what is happening in Christian publishing.

The comparative lack of glitz—with fewer author and artist appearances and signings, too—put more emphasis on business and training, which included the debut of a series of Product Intelligence Tours. Six half-hour presentations offered practical tips on how stores could maximize the potential of their apparel, Bibles, fiction, gift, home entertainment and music categories.

Announcing that ICRS will be in St. Louis, June 27-30, next year, Anderson said discussions were taking place with others about the possibility of some sort of collaborative event in the future.

"What that looks like and how soon is undetermined, because the organizations that we would think to work most closely with also have events and commitments with contracts. So we are working both fronts," he said.

Any new event would "have to make sense not only to the organizations, but (also to) the exhibitors and the attendees. ... One of the great things about hard times is that it drives home the value of looking at things differently," Anderson added.

Mark Kuyper, president of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), who visited ICRS and found member companies pleased with the "energy" at the show, said the organization was "interested and willing" to talk about possible collaboration.

The ECPA had approached other groups, including CBA, the Gospel Music Association (GMA) and National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), in the early stages of preparing for its Christian Book Expo—held last April—he said, "so we have been looking at collaboration before."

"We are certainly willing to explore it," Kuyper added. "There are obvious benefits and challenges; we just need to see how they work together." GMA and NRB declined to comment.

CBA was not the only one celebrating an anniversary in Denver. Others included Kregel Publications, also 60 years; Dicksons, 65 years; and Abbey Press, 45 years.

'Virtual Show' brings suppliers, stores together Print Email
Written by Staff   
Tuesday, 28 July 2009 09:56 AM America/New_York

Magazine's major new, Internet-based initiative 'on the right track'


vcrs home pageRetailers unable to attend this year's ICRS are being given the opportunity to take advantage of some of the specials presented during the event, as part of a major new industry initiative launched by Christian Retailing.

Twenty-four Denver exhibitors are taking part in the first Virtual Christian Retailing Show, which runs July 20-Aug. 31. Within the first couple of days, the virtual show had more than 500 visits.

The exhibitors are presenting products and extending some special offers to buyers online through the magazine's new Internet-based service. The six-week virtual show features Webinar training for stores, author and artist release parties and a new social networking forum through which retailers and suppliers can connect for fellowship, encouragement and business.

"It's no secret that the place of trade shows in our industry has been changing in recent years," said Christian Retailing Publisher Dave Condiff. "Suppliers and retailers alike are having to consider the cost of attending such events, but they still have a need to connect—and we want to help provide that opportunity."

The virtual show has been developed following a pilot program after The Gathering 2009, sponsored by the magazine in January. Eighty vendors recorded 60-second booth presentations at the Jan. 7-9 event, which were then posted online and viewed more than 5,200 times by more than 750 different visiting stores.

"The results confirmed for us that this was a great method for helping bring suppliers and stores together," Condiff said. "We believe that this is an innovative and cost-effective way forward for everyone."

Bill White, director of sales for NOTW (Not of This World) apparel, said the virtual show was "a very cool idea." "For its cost, it looks like a very good value," he said. "I'm excited about exploring it."

David Lingner—president of the apparel company Christian Outdoorsman, which did not exhibit at ICRS—said the virtual show was "on the right track."

"People can't afford to take the time or money to travel," he said. "Why should they when you can bring the show to them via the World Wide Web?"

Further virtual shows will follow the ICRS one, spotlighting seasonal and other special-focus selling opportunities. Stores will be able to access the information 24/7 at

Sales, mood up despite smaller turnout Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Tuesday, 28 July 2009 09:38 AM America/New_York

'Whole atmosphere' of show 'very positive' for suppliers and retailers


Although attendance was significantly down and the exhibit floor shrunk from last year, positive sales reports and an upbeat mood were the common verdict of suppliers, distributors and retailers at the show.

Mardel Christian & Education President Jason Green, a CBA board member, said: "It was a great show for us" and that it "exceeded expectations."

Joanna Price, director of marketing and promotions for New Day Christian Distributors, added: "We did fantastic. This is the best show we've had in years."

Price noted that the new VeggieTales Crocs shoe was "the biggest hit of the show for us." "We doubled our orders from ICRS in Orlando, Fla.," she added. "This was like Christmas in July."

Bob Taylor, CEO of Things Not Seen Clothing & Accessories, said the convention was "phenomenal." "I'm just blown away by how well we did in sales," said Taylor, who decided to exhibit at the last minute. "I'll definitely be in St. Louis for the next show. I can't wait."

Standard Publishing President Larry Carpenter said the company was "much more busy than last year," adding: "We've had tons of international business and interest."

Carpenter attributed the upswing in sales to a number of factors, including Standard's author event during the show that drew 250 retailers.

"We had so many retailers say that 'we appreciate you doing this because so many publishers were cutting back,' " said Carpenter, noting that Standard also received a boost from releasing new trade titles. "The retailers were rewarding us for giving them a good time."

David Lewis—director of sales and marketing for Baker Publishing Group, which had reduced its booth space by a third—said the traffic was better than expected.

"The mood was 200% better than expected," he said. "People were optimistic talking about the future. The whole atmosphere of the show was very positive, though that doesn't mean we will be going back to a bigger booth (next year).

"The low expectations helped make it seem so positive for sure," Lewis added. "We wrote some business but that's not been the main reason we come to the show for a long time."

First-time ICRS attendee Annette Rajskup said she placed a number of orders. "There's a lot to take in, but it's digestible," Rajskup, who started Hanford Bible and Gifts in Hanford, Calif., with her mother in December 2007, said. "I'll definitely go to the next one.

"If I have to, I'll close the store to be able to come," she added. "We are not in this battle alone."

Bookstore manager next chairman of CBA Print Email
Written by Staff   
Tuesday, 28 July 2009 09:34 AM America/New_York
george thomsenChurch bookstore manager George Thomsen is to be the next chairman of CBA. He will become chairman-elect in October, taking on leadership of the retail trade association's board when current Chairman Jim Whitaker's term expires in October 2010.

Thomsen, the 55-year-old director of the Harvest Store at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., was voted into the position during CBA's board meeting last month.

Thomsen, who has been on the CBA board for two years, said he was honored by the appointment. "I feel very blessed to be on a board that I feel is so strong, and has a lot of talent and gifting from the Lord," he told Christian Retailing. The board "knows its role in the industry and in CBA, and is willing to roll up its sleeves and do the hard work for the good of the association, and the good of the industry."

Thomsen's store was named a Jim Carlson CBA Store of the Year Impact Award winner in 2007 and was also awarded the Large Church Bookstore of the Year trophy by The Church Bookstore magazine in 2008.

Married with two children and one grandchild, Thomsen also serves as a consultant to other stores, and is a former director of planning and development for the Professional Golf Association (PGA). He was also executive director of the PGA's California branch.

"I would like to continue to see our industry pull together as brothers and sisters in Christ, and the work is already starting," he said. "We shouldn't have any kind of division. We should not be working at odds. The reality is that we are competitors, in a way, but we are all together in doing the work of the kingdom."

Music focus: Osmond announcement creates a stir for quieter category Print Email
Written by Staff   
Tuesday, 28 July 2009 09:26 AM America/New_York

New and general artists like Phil Stacey and Ray Stevens fill void of big-name Christian performers


marie osmondIn contrast to recent years where music companies sponsored late-night concerts and brought in their most popular artists, at this year's show, marquee Christian music artists were mostly MIA—leaving a void filled by new and general market artists like Phil Stacey, Marie Osmond and Ray Stevens.

Osmond's appearance, to promote an upcoming inspirational CD scheduled by Word Distribution, created a buzz. After greeting a large crowd of retailers at the company’s booth, she met with key retail accounts, explaining the inspiration for the project. Osmond said she felt "moved by the Spirit" to record the CD, getting on her knees in prayer before ultimately realizing it's "what I needed to do."

Osmond said she was a longtime listener of Word music artists, but had previously felt that the "barrier with me as a Mormon" prevented the possibility of a recording. She said she hoped that people would realize "it doesn’t matter what denomination (you are)," but that she wanted to bring people to "my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

Osmond's appearance and the news of the CD sparked somewhat of an informal debate as to whether or not products by Mormons should be included in Christian retail. Industry researcher Kelly Gallagher previously reported that up to 7% of store sales come from Mormon shoppers.

Mickey Nuttal, owner of Sonlight Christian Books and Gifts in Grand Junction, Colo., told Christian Retailing that "if she’s a Mormon, I probably wouldn't stock it. If you're going to be a Christian store, be a Christian store."

Lois Friesen, owner of Faith & Life Bookstore in Newton, Kan., however, said she would judge the CD on its own merits and definitely consider it "if it's not contradictory" to Scripture.

Osmond's appearance at the Word booth was one of a few music artist appearances during the week, which also included country artist Ray Stevens, Sonicflood, PureNRG, Britt Nicole and Go Fish.

Provident Music Group artists—including Stacey, an American Idol finalist with a new Christian market release, and worship leader Matt Maher—were featured in the week's events but did not schedule signings since Provident-Integrity Music Distribution did not have a presence on the floor.

The Gospel Music Association (GMA) once again sponsored its opening night Power of Music, featuring Stacey, PureNRG, Go Fish and vocal trio Selah. GMA President John Styll introduced the event, telling the crowd that Christian retail was "crucial" to the distribution of Christian music. Comedian Jeff Allen (Apostles of Comedy) served as the evening's host, entertaining the crowd with humorous stories of family and faith.

"We present the Power of Music event ... to demonstrate music's power to move people, but also to encourage retailers personally," Styll said. "We want to make sure that they understand that the Christian retail channel is a critical component of the Christian music distribution system."

Maher, formerly an independent worship leader who signed with Provident a few years ago, also led the Sunday morning Worship Now! event. He said connecting with retailers has been the biggest benefit of being a signed artist.

Retailers curious about marketing music in their stores were also given the option to attend one of two Product Intelligence Tours on music sponsored by EMI CMG. The seminar, led by Les Coughran, gave retailers the inside scoop on the company's new Now Hear This promotion as well as tips on creating a buzz through social networking led by retailer Gunnar Simonsen.

Movies focus: Inspirational films enjoy 'great awakening' at convention Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 27 July 2009 02:53 PM America/New_York

'Off the chart' sales, screenings emphasis boosts category with a high profile and against-the-grain growth numbers


Inspirational films emphasized their importance as a growth category with a high profile and against-the-grain numbers.

A raft of premiere screenings—from documentaries to tear-jerking dramas—was the main evening attraction in the absence of traditional publisher receptions and music events, scrapped as part of suppliers' downsizing.

Meanwhile, retailers heard that DVD sales at Christian retail stores increased a remarkable 90% in the first six months of the year. The astonishing growth rate was revealed by Bob Elder, executive vice president and chief operating officer at media agency Propeller Consulting.

Speaking at a Product Intelligence Tour session on the home entertainment market, Elder added that even discounting sales of mega-hit Fireproof, DVD sales had still risen by 23% year to date.

Elder also noted how the Christian DVD category has changed since it began as children’s viewing-based. In 2007, 74% of the top-selling videos were kids, with only 3% feature films. By last year, feature films accounted for 62% of the market, and the top three selling films of 2008 were all feature-length releases.

Elder's encouraging message was echoed by former EMI CMG Distribution President Rich Peluso, who was back at ICRS in a different role—as the newly appointed vice president of Affirm Films, the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) division created to produce movie projects for the faith-based community.

Peluso took on the role after serving as a consultant to SPHE for two years, during which time he helped bring Faith Like Potatoes—an award-winning biopic about an African evangelist—to an American audience.

"I think there’s a great awakening to the power of film to deliver a message of truth," said Peluso, who was in Denver to meet with filmmakers, authors and agents as well as key accounts and marketing partners. "When Christian retailers close their books on 2009 and look back at the factors that were their business drivers, Fireproof will be in the top one or two or three. The numbers are off the chart."

Stephen KendrickThe men behind Fireproof—brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick—also visited ICRS, telling how they had heard from many retailers that the DVD release and their best-selling tie-in book, The Love Dare (B&H Books/B&H Publishing Group), had helped keep the stores in business.

Stephen Kendrick said he and his brother had been thrilled with the way the two projects had not only impacted countless marriages, but also had supported Christian bookstores. "Our prayer from the beginning has been, 'Lord, bless everyone who partners with us, who has a part in this journey,' " he said.

The pair revealed that they had recently received the green light for their next film project, through a process of prayer and discussion with other leaders at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., where Fireproof and their earlier films were made.

They declined to say what the new project was, other than "like the others, we want to impact families, to deal with issues that everyday people are going through," Alex said. "It's more about impact than entertainment."

Scriptwriting of the new project will start soon, with production due next year and a theatrical release planned for early 2011.

Alex Kendrick was a keynote speaker at the International Christian Visual Media (ICVM) conference that preceded ICRS, where Fireproof picked up four of the group's top annual awards. Some of the more than 150 ICVM attendees stayed on for ICRS to promote their films and seek distribution deals.

Among first-timers at the show was Joe Nasser, a longtime TV film producer who debuted his contemporary movie adaptation of What Would Jesus Do?, inspired by his personal battle with cancer.

"We got a strong welcome," said Nasser, whose WWJD company won CBA's best small booth staff award. "It sure beats dealing with Hollywood."

Tissues bearing author Karen Kingsbury's name were handed out to the audience at the premiere of the film version of her Like Dandelion Dust. Another first showing was for Big Idea's Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving DVD, a VeggieTales release due out in October.

His FOX television schedule prevented Oliver North's planned appearance at ICRS, but he was still featured at the show—as part of The Samaritan, which debuted there.

Telling the miraculous story of a Texas attorney's fight to help a Romanian defector—also to be a book by the same name for B&H Publishing Group's new Fidelis Books imprint—the Banias Entertainment documentary is due to release in the U.S. next year.

Another 2010 release premiered at ICRS was evangelism and church resource organization Outreach's To Save a Life. The film about an all-star athlete forced to make major changes in his life to help others is to be preceded by several October releases at retail, including a novelization and interactive audio devotional.

International focus: Global market experiences 'sobering and joyful year' Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 27 July 2009 02:45 PM America/New_York

CBA President Bill Anderson tells foreign delegates their work is 'never more important'

SASAsiansApproximately 280 guests heard about "a sobering, exciting, sad, and joyful year" during the Christian Trade Association International's (CTAI) annual International Vision Celebration (IVC).

"Due to the economic crisis, we lost friends who had played major roles in the industry," said Sylvester Ejeh, CTAI's vice chairman. "Others have grown and even increased market share. Overall, our membership has held steady. It seems the world economy hasn't impacted some countries—especially in the Global South—at all, but most countries have been hit."

During the association's annual report to members, Ejeh added that Western publishers and suppliers "are seeing international Christian product sales—which have held steady or grown as their home markets shifted—as more important than ever."

Owner of Edysyl, a bookstore, distributor and publishing house in Nigeria, Ejeh noted that CTAI will hold its first Marketsquare Africa conventions next spring.

"This unique show will start in Ghana, journey to Nigeria and close in Kenya," he said. "We will be in each country for three days, visiting stores and suppliers, providing workshops and exhibiting products appropriate for Africa. God is moving in that great continent, and we want to be sure the right products are there."

CBA President Bill Anderson encouraged the delegates. "The work you are doing is never more important (because) of the chaos in the world," he said. "What feels like pressure in our industry creates opportunities. Thank you for the great network of gospel-promoting (work) that you're doing."

Well-known German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke—the IVC keynote speaker whose autobiography, Living a Life of Fire, is due to be released by ER Productions in October—added: "I salute you all who spread the Word of God across the whole world."

The event encouraged Ify Nwosu, owner of Divine Christian Bookshop in Warri, Nigeria. "There's a lot less people here," she told Christian Retailing. "I know it's the economy. God is still great. I know the situation is going to change."

In addition to a special offering of $7,827.74 taken at the Worship Now! event, CTAI received an offering for $1,284 to sponsor 60 Christian retailers from mainland China to travel to Hong Kong to get vital training at Marketsquare Asia, to be held Sept. 6-8. It was the third year in a row that offerings were taken for Chinese Christian retailers.

During IVC, CTAI honored Gospel Literature International President Georgalyn Wilkinson for her 50 years in ministry and for her organization distributing more than 3,000 titles in 70 languages. Additionally, the association recognized Mathews Vergis, who published The Christian Walk Study Bible in India.

CTAI President Jim Powell said more than 50 international vendors conducted business in the Marketsquare area.

"What pleases me is that more and more companies that sell product and rights internationally recognize Marketsquare is the place to be," he said. "I had nearby exhibitors tell me that their international business was up nicely this year, with buyers walking by so often."

Powell said he was surprised by CBA's figures that revealed 534 international attendees from 56 countries, representing a 28% drop from last year.

"There is no question that this is a tough year, but the right people still came," he said. "One of the most frequent complaints I received from international buyers was ... losing a buying day at ICRS."

Meanwhile, IBS-STL launched a new identity, including a new name—Biblica—to reflect its expanding vision and focus for transforming lives through God's Word. Announced around the time of the convention, the new name is part of a re-branding process that began with the merger of the International Bible Society (IBS) and Send the Light (STL) in 2007.

Keith Danby, global president and CEO of Biblica, said the new name was born out of 18 months of planning and developing a vision for the organization's third century of ministry.

"This year we're celebrating our 200th anniversary, and we see that as a springboard to a new era of Bible ministry," he said. "We believe Biblica—the name and the organization—are well-positioned."

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."

Children's focus: Non-print products build young market Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 27 July 2009 02:20 PM America/New_York

Veggie Crocs, thumball games lead the way


Despite the recession, several distributors and game companies at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) reported strong sales of children’s products and toys.

Joanna Price, director of marketing and promotions for New Day Christian Distributors, said the company was "overwhelmed" with the response to the new VeggieTales Crocs shoe.

"It was the largest response to our kids' products in recent history," she said. "We knew that they would be a hit, but we were surprised with how big of a hit they were. We received many, many orders. It's exclusive through us for the CBA market, so the retailers knew that they couldn't get it anywhere else."

Price also noted that New Day had good sales from Fisher-Price's Noah's Ark and Little People nativity set, for which the company more than doubled its order due to strong response from last year’s show in Orlando, Fla.

nicole hancockTalicor President Nicole Hancock's company launched at the convention several VeggieTales puzzles as well as Bible and Ten Commandments thumballs—interactive game balls where players catch the balls and then respond to the topic under their thumb.

"We sold a bunch of thumballs, and the Bible DVD Trivia Game and the Ungame did well for us," she said. "Our orders were up a lot compared to last year's show. This was a very successful show. I thought the overall mood of the show was positive. I've been to other trade shows lately that were pretty gloomy, but this was very upbeat."

Steven Kaye—owner and managing director of Creation By Design, a Bible-based trading card company and first-time exhibitor—said business was great.

"I sold over 100 units—which is significant for a product people mostly have not heard of—and made many spectacular relationships that I believe will lead to great results," said Kaye, who started Creation By Design in January.

Cactus Game Design President Rob Anderson reported plenty of interest in his company's Bible-based games and toys, which received interactive play from retailers' youngsters. Cactus Game launched a new Redemption trading card game set at the convention.

"Nothing sells a game like a demo," Anderson said. "There are people here and they're writing orders. I'm certainly not disappointed that I came. We're pretty much walking out of here with a smile.

"So far this year our sales are up 10% over last year, and our expenses are down about 20%," Anderson added. "Game sales historically do well in recessions. Parents see games as relatively inexpensive repeat entertainment."

Children's market consultant and author Mary Manz Simon, who again hosted the popular Children's Product Trends (CPT) event, agreed.

"The 'hyber-nation' trend, which I spoke about at (CPT) plays right into the game trend," she said. "Parents are looking for things to do as they hunker down at home, so I'm not at all surprised (that) game sales were up. Compared to previous years, there were fewer new children's product releases this year at ICRS."

During the children's workshop, Curtis Riskey—CBA's strategic solutions executive—shared consumer data from CBA's report Know Thy Customer.

"Children are a key customer group for Christian stores," said Riskey, who ran a Christian bookstore for eight years. "About half of active Christians reporting to the CBA consumer intelligence surveys have children at home, and nearly 40% are younger than 12 years.

"About a third of all children's books are purchased by households with children younger than 5, even though they comprise only about 14% of total households. More than 40% of children's product buyers are from adults-only households."

Meanwhile, Digital Praise Sales and Marketing Vice President Bill Bean announced at the show that there would soon be a standalone guitar addition available for the company's very successful Guitar Praise set. Before ICRS, the company introduced its first iPhone game, Dance Praise.

Cloud 9 Games offered a sneak preview at the show of JAMband, the first Christian band PC-based game that allows players to sing and play guitar, bass or drums to hit Christian music.

Books focus: Fiction remains the big story and main draw at show Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 27 July 2009 01:58 PM America/New_York

Category identified as entering 'golden age,' with wide range of genres and great potential for more sales


Christian fiction, identified as a growth area of publishing, was once again spotlighted during this year's show in seminars, luncheons and signings.

Marketing the category was the subject of a Product Intelligence Tour led by Bethany House Publishers' Steve Oates, who told those in attendance that fiction buyers are the most frequent purchasers in Christian stores.

In a "Know Thy Customer" seminar, Christian fiction was identified as now entering its "golden age," with a wide range of genres and great potential for more sales in Christian retail stores.

Rebeca Seitz, author and owner of Glass Road Public Relations, teamed up with consumer research specialist Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publisher services for R.R. Bowker, to present findings from recent surveys.

"Active Christians"—those with strong beliefs and involvement in a local church—made 53% of all fiction purchases at Christian retail stores, but only 17% of the novels they bought from all sources was Christian, attendees heard. The rest were general adult fiction titles—pointing to a great opportunity for Christian stores to recommend more Christian fiction to their core buyers, Seitz said.

Fiction was also the focus during Saturday's pre-ICRS Christy Awards, celebrating its 10th year. Nine awards were handed out in a variety of fiction categories, including the splitting this year of Contemporary Romance and Historical Romance, replacing the Lits category. The awards were downsized from a dinner show to a dessert reception, but managed to keep nearly the same attendance of 160, Director Donna Kehoe said.

karen kingsbury-icrs09Best-selling novelist Karen Kingsbury hosted the new Heart of the Author luncheon, which gave retailers a behind-the-scenes view of books from fiction and nonfiction authors. She opened the event telling the room comprised mostly of retailers that "we love and appreciate what you're doing. We are not down, and we are not out. ...We consider you our co-workers."

Along with Kingsbury, who revealed the inspiration behind her upcoming novel Shades of Blue (Zondervan), which centers on the abortion issue, 18 other authors gave attendees a peek inside their newest releases. Participants included Terri Blackstock, Jamie Carie, Patti Hill, Arron Chambers and Brenda Garrison.

Kingsbury revealed that as a teen she was pressured to drive a friend for an abortion appointment and recently met with that friend years later to seek her forgiveness. Blackstock said the inspiration for her upcoming novel Intervention came from struggling with her daughter's addiction.

Deborah Reilly, manager of Together in His Name bookstore of North Hampton, N.H., said the stories behind the books would help her guide customers in making product decisions, especially in light of the personal stories some of the authors shared.

"I already know some people who have to read some of these books," she said. "We go through some hardships so we can share with others."

Making a personal connection was a priority for authors doing book signings throughout the week. Authors doing signings included Kingsbury and other fiction authors Beverly Lewis, Tamera Alexander, Brandilyn Collins, Robin Jones Gunn, Blackstock and Lori Copeland as well as nonfiction authors Gary Chapman, Anne Graham Lotz, Kevin Leman, Tom Osborne, Don Piper, Sen. Jim DeMint and Stephen and Alex Kendrick.

The Kendricks, co-authors of The Love Dare which sold more than 3 million copies, are currently working on The Love Dare Day by Day Devotional, which is due to come out before Christmas from B&H Publishing Group. The book will offer daily studies and reflections and a weekly dare for couples who "want to take the love dare to the next level," Stephen said.

With 23 years' marriage experience and 10 children between them, the Kendricks will then work on The Love Dare for Parents, with hopes of having it in stores before Christmas next year.

FaithWords promoted the newest release from Windblown Media, publishers of megahit The ShackBo's Café by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch, arriving Sept. 25.

Chapman's success with The Five Love Languages, underscoring the importance of backlist, was celebrated with a VIP reception given by Moody Publishers. Steve Lyon, publisher, spoke on the book's sales and the need for its continued success, pointing to a recent Time magazine cover story on the state of traditional marriage.

John Hinkley, marketing director, followed with the news that Moody will re-launch the book in January with its "most aggressive marketing in a decade," including new covers and an interactive Web site where readers can take the love languages assessment test.

"We hope to reach the younger generation," he said. "Our goal, our vision, is reducing the number of divorces."

In addition to royalty publishing, self-publishing, recently heralded by World magazine as a "bright spot" in an otherwise "gloomy" environment, was represented by a number of companies promoting their authors and services, including WinePress, which held a publishing gala and B&H Publishing Group's CrossBooks, which made its trade show debut.

Phil Burgess, CrossBooks director, said since the division debuted just nine weeks ago, 23 titles have been published by established authors such as Ken Hemphill, as well as first-time authors.

"We built this around what authors are wanting and what retailers are wanting," he said, adding that in the current climate, some authors are facing difficulties in getting published because of the risks associated with unsure sales.

Burgess, who said he was surprised to see interest from several "big name" authors during ICRS, said he believed the division will succeed because of a win-win-win strategy.

"We want retailers to win, the author to win, and we want a great product," he said.