Christian Retailing

Category Key: Keys to selling large wall décor Print Email
Written by Bob Spooner   
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 10:03 AM America/New_York

BobSpooner2012Running a Christian bookstore in this economic situation requires careful inventory control, planning and marketing, just to name a few of the retailer’s intensified jobs. Here are a few ideas others have used to market wall décor in a niche that is still buying strong.

Try calling on existing church accounts and asking about future sermons or study series, then work with your favorite wall-décor manufacturers to uncover pieces that may fit well as tie-ins. Many customers will purchase art as a reminder of something they’ve heard in church or Bible study that profoundly touched their hearts.

Another largely ignored possibility that has picked up steam lately is working with churches to design large custom pieces for their foyers or other areas. One retailer recently purchased two stretched-canvas framed prints for a church, ordered by a member of its congregation. Deb Graham of Prestonwood Church in Plano, Texas, placed work from Robert Spooner Galerie all over the walls of the congregation’s three campuses. And Lois Breeden of Flint Baptist Church in Flint, Texas, commissioned an original on canvas by Betty Spooner as well as many other pieces for the church vestibule. The tickets are quite large, while most of the research and design is done by the manufacturer.

Additionally, retailers should ask their manufacturers for samples of frames and mattes or other products they may use to customize wall décor for their customers in-store, or use other custom design tools they may have available.

Even for the artistically challenged, these methods of selling bigger wall décor items can be fun, while engaging customers in a personal way that will bring them back to the store time and again.

Bob Spooner is director of marketing for Robert Spooner Galerie, based in Allen, Texas.


Category Key: Gift books require the personal touch Print Email
Written by Jean Christen   
Tuesday, 11 September 2012 02:23 PM America/New_York

JeanChristen_Credit_JulieJohnsonUnlike most book formats and greeting cards, gift books are still being purchased the old-fashioned way—by direct contact with the customer. Here are a few tips I’ve seen work well:

If it ain’t broke … 

The past few years have been difficult for gift retailers, so if you’re still in business, know that you are doing a lot of things right. Always seek to improve, but don’t tamper unnecessarily with something that is working. If gift books are selling well from a floor display, for instance, continue to use it, but try mixing in a couple of titles with other displayed merchandise for added sales opportunities.

Location, location, location

Successful gift-book retailers offer their customers multiple opportunities to see the same book throughout the store. Use a book display, but also group gift books by theme with other gift products. Gift books are a great way to fill holes or freshen up existing displays. If a holiday or seasonal occasion is coming, display a book or two near the point of purchase.

Know thy customer

Find out what brings your customer to your store so you can stock accordingly. Is she looking for a book by a particular author/artist, or to celebrate an occasion or comfort a friend who’s struggling? As the majority of gift-book buyers are women, don’t be afraid to embrace and cater to the feminine side of your business through special events—perhaps a tea party focused on a tea-themed gift book. Offer signed copies when possible.

Try something new

If you’ve never sold gift books, know that not all with the word “God” or “prayer” in the title are biblically sound. Start with a publisher you know you can trust. Most major Christian publishers offer gift books. Look for the best deal—consider minimum opening and reorders, shipping costs, product and display specials, and 100% satisfaction guarantee so you can try certain titles risk free.

Agree in prayer

Many retailers have benefitted from answered prayer. Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer for your business and your customers. If you don’t already do this, take a few minutes while your store is closed each day to center on God and acknowledge Him while considering your customers.

Jean Christen is managing director, gift and children division at Harvest House Publishers.

Improving Your Customer Service Print Email
Written by Doug Fleener   
Monday, 15 August 2011 09:13 AM America/New_York

Concentrate on seizing those important ‘Moments of Connectivity’Fleener_Doug

In customer experience management, we often talk about Moments of Truth. The term was coined by Jan Carlzon, who managed the Scandinavian SAS Airlines. He used it for those moments in which important brand impressions—for good or bad—are made.

In retail, Moments of Truth occur in key interactions:

  • on the phone
  • when a customer enters the store
  • when he/she is engaged by an employee
  • at checkout
  • leaving the store
  • in follow-up cards, emails, newsletters.

Along with a store’s products and environment, these moments add up to the customer’s experience.

At the staff level in specialty stores, we can drill it down another level to what I call “Moments of Connectivity.” Those happen by taking advantage of key interactions to connect with the customer. A meaningful connection is one that develops trust, demonstrates a commitment to the customer and leads to a more enjoyable experience.

Many of these key interactions overlap with the Moments of Truth, but there are also some additional engagement points.

1. First engagement.  Sadly, many stores short-circuit right here by ignoring customers or opening with “How may I help you?” 

The goal at this point is to:

  • Demonstrate your priority to customer service/experience.
  • Let your customer know you’re glad he/she came into your store.
  • Create a welcoming environment.

2. The transition from welcoming the customer to developing the relationship.  Many customers want to be left alone, but more often than not, it is because of the quality of the first engagement.

We want to learn about our customer and the reason for his/her visit. Notice the word “reason,” not “need.” Too often we disconnect from the customer if they don’t state a need.

Remember this: It’s all about the customer and their connection to our store, our products and the reason for the visit. Our questions and comments should be leading us to establish that connection.

Great sales associates don’t small-talk; they establish a relationship. They engage with purpose. They show sincere interest.

3. Showing or recommending the product. The most successful sales associates establish a very strong connection here. They continue to learn more about their customer in relation to the products. They aren’t shy with their professional opinion, but at the same time they never forget that the goal is to help the customer purchase the right products for them.

If an associate hasn’t connected with the customer before this, the chance of truly connecting while showing the products is low.

I’ve seen a number of people who establish a number of wonderful connections with the customer and then disconnect when showing/recommending products.

They either didn’t learn enough about the customer before showing/recommending products, or they have unresolved issues about being in retail sales.

Forget customer service, it’s all about the connection and experience.

A former director of retail for Bose Corp. and an independent store owner, Doug Fleener is president of retail and customer experience consulting firm Dynamic Experiences Group. Learn more at

Category Key: How to Boost Christmas Sales Print Email
Written by Marilyn Largent   
Wednesday, 27 July 2011 11:03 AM America/New_York

Largent_MarilynStaff recommendations of products always help, but at this busy time of year, there may be too many shoppers to assist in person. 

Another way to engage guests is with shelftalker reviews—short and simple, handwritten and signed by a staff member. “A fast-paced suspense story that kept me up all night! Made me realize God is always in control!” signed Cheryl. 

In the children’s area, where out-of-town grandparents and relatives may be purchasing gifts, a shelftalker like this could be helpful: “Teaches children ages 4-8 that we can talk to God anywhere, anytime,” signed Amy. 

Some children’s titles, like The Action Bible, will nearly sell themselves if shoppers see the interior art, so have a copy open. 

Staff rewards

Incentivize your staff to read and talk about the books in your store by recognizing the staff member in front of other staff and maybe give a Starbucks’ card occasionally. Let each participating staff member pick out his or her favorite book of the week, then highlight and sale-price it for customers.

Guests in specialty stores expect higher-level service and atmosphere—especially at Christmastime. Fragrant wassail, seasonal music and a few Christmas cookies can help create a hospitable environment. 

Cross-promotion of products—DVDs with books and gift items, for example—will assist a guest in the gifting mindset. Stack books on tables in tree-shaped pyramids. 

Consider gift-wrapping items you expect to sell a good number of during the season, with some stacked on display ready for purchase and gifting. 

Private sales

Private sales for your top customers are really the time to pull out all the stops—with food, music, free drawings and more. The best time to do this is off-hours on your slowest day of the week and early in the season so you are on their minds and they can visit several more times before Christmas. You want guests 
to stay as long as possible, so consider putting a jigsaw puzzle out on a table ready to play.

Tent cards can be reminders: “Don’t forget the babysitter,” “Grandma would love this” or “Perfect for a co-worker.” Hand guests a printed sheet with suggestions. 

Asking each customer about an impulse item at checkout—“Would you like to add a copy of ___ for just $4?”—can really add up. Change these out every week so there is always some new surprise deal. 

Check with various publishers for overstock or even out-of-print items at 80%-90% off to make great margin on this add-on item.


Marilyn Largent is senior director, trade sales at David C. Cook.

Category Key: Making The Most Of Value-Priced Books Print Email
Written by Shalyn Sattler   
Wednesday, 29 June 2011 02:51 PM America/New_York


In this price-sensitive economy, many customers are looking for budget-friendly book options. Thankfully, there are numerous value-priced titles available in the market today. The key is to find the most effective ways to capitalize on them. Here are some ideas to boost your sales of value-priced books.

Placement of your value-priced book selection is key. Create a display near the front entrance of your store and near your registers. Those are the best places to catch impulse purchases. Be sure to label your section with a nice big sign that says “Bargain Books,” “Great Deals” or something similar. There’s no reason to beat around the bush. Your customers are looking for great buys and you need to highlight them as clearly as possible.

Many publishers, like Barbour, will offer a discount if you purchase budget-priced books in case lots, so why not take advantage of it? You can pass your savings on to your customers by making the prices even lower. Or you could use the inexpensive books as giveaways. Send them to your VIP shoppers, use them to create a holiday-themed gift basket or keep them handy as door prizes. You’ll create some buzz and promote the titles all at the same time.

Contact your local churches to let them know that these titles would make affordable gifts for their Sunday school classes, pastors, congregation members, administrative assistants and Bible study groups. And if you feel you are able, offer them a special, church-only discount. You have the potential to receive some nice orders and also to start building valuable relationships.

Take your assortment of value-priced books and turn it into an event. Group fiction, puzzle books, kids’ books and so forth, and create a “Summer Reading Sidewalk Sale.” The themes you can choose from are endless and can be catered to your specific book selection. Regular sales events will give your shoppers something to look forward to and will bring them back to your store again and again.

Barbour best-selling Value Books are priced at only $1.99 each.


Shalyn Sattler is director of trade marketing at Barbour Publishing.

CATEGORY KEY: Increasing your Bible software sales Print Email
Written by Marianne Gelski   
Wednesday, 23 March 2011 03:46 PM America/New_York
Category Key-Marianne GelskiWhen it comes to Bible software, many Christian retailers experience great success selling it, while others struggle. Successful stores consistently offer a good selection, maintain the category with proper merchandising, face the product outward and train their staff to use the category. 

Nate Richards, manager of Dicksons Bible & Book Store in Highland Park, Mich., is proactively selling Bible software to his customers. He set up a computer in his store, put Bible software on it and personally shows his customers how to use it. His software sales have jumped from nothing to an average of 2%-3% of his overall sales.

“Software has become a significant category in my store,” Richards said. “You’d be amazed at how many people don’t know these time-saving tools are available.”

The market potential is there—eight out of 10 people who walk into your store have a PC or laptop computer. Regarding competition, Christian software is a category that only Christian retailers offer. There is no competition with Sam’s Club, Barnes & Noble or Wal-Mart in this category.