Christian Retailing

CBA: Christian store sales up in 2013 Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Monday, 09 June 2014 02:48 PM America/New_York

New report says consumer buying patterns see dramatic market shift

CurtisRiskey-Official_200Christian stores sales were up 2.9% in 2013 over 2012, according to the 2014 CBA State of the Industry Report, but consumer buying patterns shifted dramatically in 2013, according to the Christian retail association.

Fourth-quarter 2013 sales were down 6.9% in 2013, but sales were up 12.6% in the second quarter and 8.8% in the third, according to data from CBA’s CROSS:SCAN sales-reporting service. The association noted several factors affecting Christian retail sales: earlier shopping for Christmas, economic uncertainty and limited fourth-quarter product-release performance.

The number of Christian store closings also rose. Closings increased to a 49 net loss in 2013 from 39 in 2012. The loss is less than 2011’s peak of 63 stores. The loss of mid-level chains drastically cut store counts, including the closure of 38 Cokesbury stores that consolidated into one Internet-only store (not counting 19 seminary stores).

On the positive side, 18 new stores opened in 2013, up from 15 in 2012. A significant percentage of stores still have longevity; about 63% of Christian stores have been in business more than 15 years.

As with many retailers, store traffic and sales remain critical issues for Christian stores. Retailers reported using more social media, e-marketing and event marketing to drive traffic. 

Retailers also are becoming more intentional about building mission and purpose into overall store strategies. The number of stores with dedicated church relations programs increased 9% in 2013 over 2012, and 73% of respondents said they support a ministry program in some way.

Overall product category shares remained constant in 2013. Stores reported books and Bibles as about 60% of total sales. Gift and specialty categories increased as a share of overall sales, up about 6% in unit share and about 3% in revenue share.

Church supplies had the largest category increase for the year, but other increases were attributed to increased lifestyle merchandising. Categories such as kitchen/dining and apparel saw increased share, along with ties, tote bags, backpacks, bags/purses, hats and bath and body items.

While observing the overall retail landscape, CBA President Curtis Riskey is encouraged to see what Christian retailers are doing differently to draw more traffic into their stores.

“We are happy to see sales up overall at Christian stores, although we realize that not all stores are seeing the same outcome. It is encouraging to see Christian stores committed to sharing their success with their local community and church causes, and to experiment with new retail approaches and lifestyle merchandising. It is a sign that retailers are seeking ways to innovate in challenging times.”

CBA added select data to the report this year from a CBA Christian-supplier CEO survey. About 32% of CEOs responding reported flat or no growth. Most reported growth rates of less than 5%, and 28% of respondents reported 10% or more.

According to the report, future retailing is expected to be dramatically different from today as stores become more about personal engagement, in-store experience and missional purpose rather than competing on price.

New “click and collect” strategies in partnership with suppliers are forecasted to help retailers capture transactions from suppliers’ direct-to-consumer marketing. Physical stores increasingly will support supplier fulfillment and warehousing in the value chain. —Johnson

Whitaker House adds more African-American fiction Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 04:29 PM America/New_York

Best-selling author Vanessa Miller’s success led Pennsylvania publisher to expand urban line

VanessaMillerCropped_200Whitaker House is expanding its offerings of fiction aimed at African-American readers, signing two veteran authors and launching three urban series.

“Whitaker House has had such great response to Vanessa Miller’s books we felt the time was right to expand our line of fiction aimed at the growing market of black romance readers,” said President Bob Whitaker Jr.

Popular inspirational urban-romance authors Pat Simmons and Tia McCollors each signed contracts for three-book series, starting with the release of Simmons’ No Easy Catch (“Carmen Sisters,” April) and Tia McCollors’ Friday Night Love (“Days of Grace,” May).

After wrapping up the “Morrison Family Secrets” series with the February release of The Preacher, the Politician, and the Playboy, Miller will launch the “My Soul to Keep” series in June with Feels Like Heaven.

Miller’s “Second Chance at Love” series has topped the Black Christian News Network’s best-seller list as well as finding success on the best-seller lists of Essence magazine, the Dallas Morning News and the Atlanta Examiner.  —Jeremy Burns

Wanda Brunstetter receives career award Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 04:28 PM America/New_York

‘Romantic Times’ honors Barbour Publishing author

WandaBrunstetterNew York Times best-selling author Wanda E. Brunstetter was presented with a 2013 Romantic Times (RT) Career Achievement Award at the May 13-18 RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans. The Barbour Publishing author was honored in the Inspirational category.

Known for her Amish fiction, Brunstetter has written over 60 books that have sold more than 7 million copies.

Many of the popular author’s books have become New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, CBA and Christian Book Distributors best-selling titles.

RT’s more than 50 reviewers who work in the women’s fiction industry choose the winners and nominees for the best books of the year and authors for their complete body of work. —Jeremy Burns

More states institute online ‘Amazon tax’ Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 04:28 PM America/New_York

Study says brick-and-mortar store sales grow in the aftermath

18250624Md_Istockphoto-iPandastudio_200The recent implementation of what some researchers call the “Amazon tax” has led to a more level playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers, according to a study by three Ohio State University economists.

The study focused on the purchasing habits of nearly 3 million households in five states that began a permanent collection of taxes on Amazon purchases since 2012—California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia—and found that Amazon purchases declined by 9.5% after the new state laws’ implementation. Amazon’s loss was brick-and-mortar retailers’ gain, however, as the decrease in Amazon purchases led to a 2% increase in purchases at physical stores. Further, the study found that only Amazon purchases were affected by the new tax laws, as sales from online operations of competing retailers—including those with brick-and-mortar counterparts—grew 19.8%.

Sales tax equality has been a contentious issue with retailers since Amazon began cast its shadow on the retail landscape. In states where Amazon does not have a physical presence, the online retail giant was not required to collect sales tax, putting brick-and-mortar retailers in that state at a pricing disadvantage.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance and other retail groups and industry representatives have pointed to Amazon’s exemption from sales tax collection as one of the keys behind its marketplace dominance. —Burns

Community supports Psalm 121 store Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 04:25 PM America/New_York

Outdoor music events at minister’s Southeast Ohio store a hit

Psalm121-StoryTellers_200Residents of one Southeastern Ohio town have a new place to enjoy each other’s company and purchase faith-building products—Psalm 121 Discount Books & Gifts. Started in mid-2013, Psalm 121 was part of the revitalization of Logan’s downtown.

The owners, semi-retired United Methodist minister Randy Hardman and his wife, Frankie, who worked in banking for years, have served small churches in the area. Together with employee Jessica Enderle, they now bring a hometown feel to their 1,200-square-foot store that offers books, Bibles, gifts and children’s products, including educational toys.

When Dr. Hardman, known as “Pastor Randy,” reduced his time at the church, the couple considered how they might best spend their time.

“The Old Testament talks about putting out a fleece and letting God’s Word come back to you, and so Frankie and I decided we wouldn’t talk about it for a week and just listen to what people said,” he told Christian Retailing. “So, as we were about our business, we came back a week later and said, ‘Well, what did we hear?’ Both of us had heard more than a dozen times from other people that Logan needed a Christian bookstore, so we said, ‘OK, God, that’s what it’ll be.’ ”

The building they chose was just being built early last year, but they both felt it was the right location.

“Downtown is beginning to blossom and re-grow,” Hardman said. “We’re getting new businesses in. We were one of the first ones.”

Along with hosting a children’s time with teachers reading to about 30 youngsters and allowing bake sales and car washes to benefit churches, the store started a music-on-the-patio night. Having invited local artists to perform once a month, the schedule soon got booked up and later it was changed to a once-a-week event held outdoors, weather permitting.

“We went from August clear to as cold as we could stand,” Hardman said. “Our poor artists were standing out there frozen trying to sing. This year we’re already basically booked up for the whole season.”

The couple thinks it is part of their calling to “strengthen local ministries,” Hardman said, noting that one way they accomplish this is through the tithe.

“Any time a church comes in and buys, we give 10% back to the church as our tithing for them coming to us,” he said. —Johnson

Illinois Family store kept from closing Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 04:24 PM America/New_York

Local faith community helps reverse chain’s decision

FC_Logo_PV_4c_200Family Christian Stores has announced that its South Holland, Ill., store will remain open, thanks to the efforts of Mayor Don De Graff, landlord Ralph Edgar and the Rev. Glenn Bone. The store at 550 E. 162nd St. was set to close, but will remain open in its current location.

The store in the Village of South Holland had announced it would close May 31. However, after a rallying of the village’s clergy, mayor, business leaders and residents, the store has been saved.

“As soon as I heard that there was some possibility of Family Christian closing, I knew immediately that it should not happen,” Edgar said.

Pastor Bone said that the store played “an intricate part in the lives of my family and many of the families that we serve,” and added that “we look forward to working with them.”

The town’s motto—“Faith, Family, Future”—is prominently displayed on the water towers in South Holland. De Graff said that these values encompass every aspect of the community he’s served since 1994.

“We are proud and thankful for the retail stores in our community, especially as it relates to the history and quality of the Family Christian stores.” De Graff said. “We want to create quality opportunities for our business partners. We really want Family Christian to be a part of the Village of South Holland because of who we are as a community and the products that [Family Christian] sells.”
Edgar said that when the community heard of the possibility of the store closing, it set off a wave of communication within the faith community.

“I know Family Christian corporate heard from so many of our South Holland residents who were urging Family Christian not to close,” the mayor said.

Family Christian President and CEO Cliff Bartow commended the community for taking a stand for the store, one of the chain’s 270 stores in 36 states.

“Just look at what the South Holland leaders and community did,” Bartow said. “Their support and desire to do good are inspiring. Together we will work to provide resources that help people find, grow, share and celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ.”

Steve Johnson, senior marketing manager for the chain, said that the chain is “grateful for the privilege” of working with leaders who are helping Family “ensure that South Holland families would continue to have ready access to the faith resources they need.”

Edgar said that the mayor and his staff are “making the community well aware of how valuable it is to have Family Christian here.” —Johnson

Moody Publishers names new vice president of publishing Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 04:20 PM America/New_York

Thirty-year veteran Paul Santhouse promoted to key position

PaulSanthousePaul Santhouse, a 30-year veteran in the publishing industry, was promoted in May to the position of vice president of publishing at Chicago-based Moody Publishers.

“Paul has been uniquely gifted and prepared by God to lead Moody Publishers at this time,” said Greg Thornton, senior vice president of media, who oversees Moody Publishers and Moody Radio. “With great respect for the legacy and ministry of this publishing program, Paul has a compelling vision for the future and the staff to make it happen.”

During his time at Moody, Santhouse has served on the marketing team, as an acquisition editor and director of acquisitions. In 2012, he began serving as publisher.

"I have always appreciated Moody’s commitment to the Word and to the work of the church around the world," Santhouse said. “Moody Publishers has enjoyed an enduring season of growth and innovation under Greg Thornton’s wise leadership, and I look forward to supporting the ongoing work of our team as we help readers around the world know, love and serve Jesus Christ.” —Johnson

David C Cook announces key hire, promotion Print Email
Written by Burns   
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 04:19 PM America/New_York

Publisher names new editorial director and associate publisher

IngridBeckDavid C Cook has appointed industry veteran Ingrid Beck as the editorial director of trade books and hired longtime publishing professional Tim Peterson as associate publisher of trade books.

Beck started with David C Cook as an assistant editor before moving into the position of developmental editor, working primarily with the Honor Books line. Her role later expanded to managing editor and author relations manager for the trade books team. Prior to her appointment as editorial director, Beck held the position of senior managing editor. Her new position also broadens her role into the acquisition and development of new titles.Tim-Peterson

“Ingrid has long brought a creative and consistent leadership presence to our team,” said Alex Field, publisher of trade books & media for David C Cook. “Her reputation among her peers and within the industry is widely recognized, and this promotion is well-deserved.”

Before joining David C Cook, Ingrid worked with River Oak Publishing—which was later purchased by David C Cook—and then with Bordon Books as managing editor.

“It is a great joy and privilege to collaborate with our authors and the Cook team to birth great books that transform lives,” Beck said about her promotion.
Peterson comes to David C Cook from Baker Publishing Group where he worked for the Bethany House imprint as an acquisition editor. Prior to that, Peterson was a marketing director for Baker Publishing Group for nine years, and he also spent several years as a sales manager with Zondervan.

“David C Cook has a long legacy of inspiring and instructing the body of Christ,” Peterson said about the move. “I’m pleased to join this team which has faithfully reinvented that legacy during one of the most challenging and exciting eras in publishing history.”

Field sees Peterson as “a fantastic addition to the growing David C Cook trade books team,” he said. “We’re excited for the future, especially with Tim helping us to strategically build a forward-looking publishing program.” —Burns

Val Buick joins Lighthouse Christian Products Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 04:18 PM America/New_York

Executive held role at Inspirio and Family Christian Stores

ValBuickLighthouse Christian Products Co. announced the hire of Val Buick as executive vice president and CEO.

“We are very excited that Val decided to join our team,” said George Nizynski, president and co-owner of the company with his wife, Pat. “We cannot think of anyone more highly regarded in the Christian gift industry. We have known Val for approximately 18 years. She was our first gift buyer at Family Christian Stores. Val will focus on helping Lighthouse expand its product offering into new and additional categories.”

Buick said she was “thrilled” to be a part of the company.

“I look forward to working closely with the wonderful and talented people to grow Lighthouse into the future,” she added.

Buick comes to Lighthouse from RBC Ministries where she was director of marketing. Prior to RBC, she was senior vice president at Inspirio, the gift group at Zondervan. —Johnson

Mary Manz Simon reflects on changes in the children’s market Print Email
Written by Production   
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 04:17 PM America/New_York

Children's author-educator finds pluses and minuses in kids’ products in the last 20 years of Christian publishing

 Twenty years ago, CBA-released trade books had a “Sunday school look.” Today, most of our products are visually competitive with general market releases.

 As inventory in brick-and-mortar stores shifted to include more gifts, retailers relocated their children’s department so it was not adjacent to breakables. As a result, the children’s department is often buried at the back of the store.

 When adult authors down-aged into the children’s space, picture books became even more text heavy. In recent years, there has been a significant improvement, as word counts continue to drop.

 Publishers have become excellent trend-spotters. Twenty years ago, a theme would appear in Christian retail at least two years after launching in the general market. Today, products in Christian stores reflect what’s trending in every aspect of publishing and production.

  This fall, VeggieTales in the House (DreamWorks Animation) is slated to become the latest chapter in the Big Idea success story. In previous years, some retailers credited their survival to Veggie releases. However, some children’s video series have missed an opportunity to grow due to the increasing dominance of licensed Veggie products.

 New Day Christian Distributors has pursued aggressively prime general-market toy companies Melissa & Doug, Playmobil and Fisher-Price. As a result, CBA retailers can offer products, some of which have generic Christian content, from these quality brands. In addition, the bar for toy excellence in our channel has been raised in the past four years.
 The homeschool section in Christian stores has paralleled the growth of this educational market.

 Because Christian market publishers typically have smaller print runs, our publishers continue to limit the number of novelty elements in books because of high production costs.

 Two product categories—children’s Bibles and Bible storybooks—have been criticized as being over-published. However, retailers say this is a growing sales category. As our publishers offer such incredible variety, customers can find products to meet their needs.

 Kerusso did retailers a great service with the introduction of their small footprint children’s T-shirt merchandiser. Many of the “holy hardware” companies have followed their example with display units that attractively (and neatly!) display product in a small space.

 The tween section is still looking for a home at bricks and mortar. Too often, books for 8-to 12-year-olds are still shelved dangerously near books for younger children.

 After church-based stores were accepted and acknowledged as legitimate, children’s products got a boost from this new sales channel, thanks to the consistent presence of children and family ministry at the congregational level.

 In a nod to the experienced-based shopping experience demanded by today’s consumers, most stores now offer at least a table/chairs, TV and play space for children.

See p. 22 to learn more about attending Mary Manz Simon’s children’s product workshop, celebrating 20 years at the International Christian Retail Show this year.

Cambridge Bibles’ sales and distribution reverts to Cambridge Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 04:11 PM America/New_York

Baker Publishing Group refocuses on original works as partnership ends

CambridgeBibleBaker Publishing Group has been the North American distributor for Cambridge University Press’ Bible publishing since July 1990. Twenty-four years after starting the partnership, Baker and Cambridge Bibles have agreed to move sales and distribution back to Cambridge.

Dwight Baker, president of Baker Publishing Group, said the move signals a refocus for his company.

“We plan to focus exclusively on our mission, which is to publish original works,” Baker said.

Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing David Lewis added: “It has been a privilege and an honor to be able to sell Cambridge Bibles to the North American market for the past several years. We are confident that Cambridge will do an excellent job of supplying these wonderful Bibles to the market going forward.  We wish them every success.”

Cambridge University Press, which is part of the University of Cambridge, started accepting orders in early June. —Johnson