Christian Retailing

4 priorities for church store managers Print Email
Written by Trevor Olesiak   
Wednesday, 06 January 2016 02:30 PM America/New_York

Keep these things top of mind to remain financially viable

TrevorOlesiak-LoftWhen I first began overseeing the bookstores and coffee shops at Celebration Church in 2011, I wrestled with whether I was leading a business or a ministry. To me, the two felt mutually exclusive.

Determining whether your store is a business or a ministry is not a problem to solve but a tension to manage. I believe the ultimate success of a church bookstore is determined by how well this tension is managed.

In the last several years, I have found four main things I need to do well for our store to fulfill its ministry purpose—and remain financially viable. Consider these:

Don’t lose business during your store’s remodel Print Email
Written by Rachel Savage   
Wednesday, 15 July 2015 02:44 PM America/New_York

How to serve your customers well during a major transition

RachelSavage-NoCreditThe large banner across the papered doors announced, “In late November ~ The Chapel Store becomes Watermark Christian Store. Visit our temporary location in the Chapel.”

Understanding today’s church store environment Print Email
Written by Robbie Halstead   
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 02:45 PM America/New_York

Congregation-based stores must find their focus to maximize sales

As I reflect on my entry into the world of Christian retailing over 20 years ago, I’ve pondered the transitions that have made our industry what it is today. Let’s dig a little deeper into these changes as I offer some suggestions that church bookstore managers can put into place now to maximize success.

‘Small store with a big heart’ offers enjoyable customer experience Print Email
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Wednesday, 05 November 2014 09:28 AM America/New_York

Houston’s Encouraging Word welcomes shoppers with focus on ‘ministry and love’

Encourager-ChatChurchgoers and community members regularly gather at Encouraging Word Bookstore in Houston, not only to shop, socialize and relax, but to benefit from the store’s ministry.

“Members of our church love to come in here, grab a cup of coffee and hang out while they are waiting for the next service, or they meet a friend in here,” said Jodi Jones, store manager. “It’s a connection point a lot of times.”

Complete with a Keurig drink maker in a coffee nook as well as comfortable chairs, the store provides a place to chat.

“Our assistant manager, Anne Marie Herzberg, is very outgoing,” Jones said. “This is something that has evolved and grown naturally. It’s not something we dreamed up or that was part of a business plan. We started in a room about the size of a bedroom, and we have continued to grow. We’ve more than doubled our space, and the church has provided us with a location that is right off of the sanctuary with glass windows and more visibility.”

The store serves Encourager Church where Fernando and Angie Ruata are senior pastors. With about 900 members, there are two services Sunday morning and a prayer-and-worship service Wednesday. The store is open those two days, with sales on a typical Sunday ranging from about $750 to $800.

“If you think about our priorities, it’s about ministry and love,” Jones said. “That’s the vision of the church, too. Visitors come in, and they always make comments about how friendly our church is. We know that we are often the first place they stop, and we’re the first people visitors talk to even before they get to the information desk or to a greeter. We’re a small store with a big heart.”

Herzberg agrees.

“This is a very nonthreatening place to meet people,” she said. “Guests come in and strike up conversations. It’s a good beginning to being part of this church.”

Jones and Herzberg believe the store should be more of a ministry than a retail outlet.

“Everything in our store is discounted 20%,” Jones said. “So, people know when they come in here that they are going to get something that can help them with their walk with the Lord, and we are not trying to make money off of them.”

Herzberg added: “The bottom line isn’t the bottom line for us. It’s not about the sales; it’s about the connection. The sales are a byproduct rather than it being the other way around.”

Volunteers build a strong ministry Print Email
Written by Rose Seeley   
Wednesday, 05 November 2014 09:26 AM America/New_York

So you want to build a volunteer team? Or perhaps you already have a team but seem to be stalled in the areas of growth or motivation and commitment. Maybe you’re not sold on the benefits of using volunteers but are compelled by church culture or your bottom line to do so.

While there are many challenges to working with volunteers, the benefits are definitely there and worth considering. Besides inventory, staffing can affect your store’s bottom line more than any other item. It’s also a blessing to work with so many brothers and sisters in your church family, see them thrive and grow, and become more connected to their home church.

RoseSeeleyBuilding your team can start with something as simple as just asking for volunteers. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most powerful ways is to ask personally. Many people have not stepped out to serve because they’re undecided where to serve or may be a little timid. Approaching someone in a friendly, no-pressure way and asking them to volunteer is often just the push they need to finally jump in and commit.

You may want to get others to ask on your behalf. Your current volunteer staff is a good source of recruiting new volunteers. There are other ways to ask; just use your imagination!

When asking for volunteers, one thing to keep in mind is that often friends and family prefer to serve together because it’s more convenient and fun.

Once you have identified new team members, get them signed up and started quickly while they are still eager. If their enthusiasm wanes, they may change their minds or be snatched away by another ministry.

Keep your team growing and thriving with ongoing training. Create a positive, fun environment in which people can serve. Make certain to be generous with appreciation. Training is a continual task, and gestures of appreciation will build confidence in your volunteers.

A positive environment keeps them looking forward to serving, and knowing how much they are appreciated keeps them from leaving.

Working with a volunteer team can be limiting but often is necessary. It’s a big job to do right. But the rewards—from the relationships you build to the opportunity to increase profits—can make the challenge well worth it!

Rose Seeley, retail services director, Cottonwood Church, Los Alamitos, California