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our hope You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope. PSALM 119:114
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S P R I N G 2021
V o l u m e 67, N u m b e r 1
SERVING THE CHRISTIAN PRODUCTS INDUSTRY WORLDWIDE
by Christine D. Johnson
FOUNDING EDITOR AND PUBLISHER
couldn’t put up with a draining battery in my cellphone any longer, so I splurged. But out of the box, it was a mystery as to how to charge my new phone. I wasn’t sure if I needed clear guidance or the right equipment, so I headed to a local store. I purchased the accessories that solved my problem, but instead of an explanation, I got exasperation. I was told what I had been doing to charge my previous phone should still work, but how? I should have guessed this experience wasn’t going to go well when the associates assumed I was with a male customer who walked in about the same time. Clearly they weren’t watching who got out of what car through their store’s large windows. In retail, customer awareness is everything. Then the rep serving me got distracted by the game on TV; at least he said “sorry” for that. When I made my purchase and thanked him, I got ... silence. No “thank you for your business.” No “have a great day.” Apparently he wanted to get back to the game. I’m thankful my phone will charge now, but more importantly, you, as Christian retailers, start your transactions with a biblical worldview. You value your customers—and it shows. CR
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Consider these top-selling books for your store.
By Lorraine Valk A Christian store owner answers questions about the Christian retail business.
By Erik Ernstrom Get the most out of your point of sale, the store’s central nervous system.
By Kevin Ferguson Count it all joy as you reflect on God’s goodness to the Christian retail industry in 2020. EDITORIAL CONSULTANT Mary Manz Simon ADVISORY BOARD David Almack, acquisitions director, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey David E. Austin, executive vice president, Bridgestone Multimedia Group, Alto, Michigan Bill Greig III, president, ChurchGrowth.org,
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By Justin Paul Lawrence Engage thoughtfully with the issues as you speak to a hurt and broken world.
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Britt Beemer and James Dion offer guidance in today’s economic climate.
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Inspirational gifts offer hope and joy.
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Anthony and Kathy Balistreri expanded their unique Racine, Wisconsin, store. See how small habits can make a big difference in your store.
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Lifeway’s Nashville building under contract
Staff to continue mostly remote work to better steward resources Life way C hris tian Resources has entered into a contract for the sale of their building in downtown Nashville. Contract terms, including the sale price, have not been disclosed. Lifeway President and CEO Ben Mandrell said he is excited about Lifeway’s future workplace and the prospects of settling into a new work environment. “Lifeway is moving forward, building fresh vision, and getting prepared for a new season of ministry to churches,”
Lifeway will vacate its Nashville building. Mandrell said. “This has led us to think strategically about selling our large building downtown, fully embracing remote work as
the norm, and moving into a new era of creative and collaborative work.” Mandrell said he and other Lifeway leaders have
been looking at options for their headquarters since the summer of 2019, well before anyone knew COVID-19 was on the horizon. “One of the first questions I asked when I took this role was ‘What should we do with this building?’ A study completed last year showed we were using the building at only 60% occupancy on a daily basis,” Mandrell said. “We want to be wise stewards, so it makes sense for us to do all we can to make the best use of our resources, including our
The Parable Group reports unexpected holiday increases among independents
Anchor, New Day to distribute Capitol CMG products
Christian retail stores points over the same period have rebounded at an in 2019. encouraging rate. Drawing “Most bookstore news on data reported to and industry chatter in ParableConnect, 2020 described same-store sales the struggle of were up 4.7% bookstores and in independent declines in sales,” stores from Nov. 1 said Greg Squires, to Dec. 24, 2020, president of The as reported by Parable Group. U.S. Christian “Our bookstore retailers across data show othermarketing wise, as retailer groups, church sales after the Greg Squires stores and other March-May independents. shutdowns have continued More importantly, 72% to comp prior year’s sales. of independent Christian This highlights the resiliency stores were up or flat during and tenacity of independent the eight weeks leading up Christian retailers who’ve to Christmas. Some stores persevered and champiachieved double-digit oned their mission to equip growth, while some fell by their local communities double digits. But overall, with hope-giving and lifesales were up nearly 5 changing resources.” CR
Capitol Christian Music closely with them for a more Group recently announced streamlined approach to an expanded distribution better serve you,” according relationship with Anchor to CCMG’s website. Distributors and New Dusty Wells, New Day’s Day Christian director of sales, Distribution. is “absolutely Anchor and thrilled” with the New Day are arrangement. distributing all “We have repCapitol CMG resented their physical titles product to our to independent accounts for Christian retail years, and this stores, effective new opportunity Dusty Wells Jan. 4, 2021. of helping get CCMG has had “an their wonderful selection of incredible partnership music and DVDs is exciting that has lasted for many for all of us here at New years with both Anchor Day,” he said. “Our team is and New Day,” so this is a ready, and we will continue continuation and expanto give and do our very best sion of that partnership. with our customers with “Both companies offer a representing Capitol along full-service model, and we with our other exclusive are excited to work more music companies.” CR
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L I F E W AY
LIFEWAY continued on page 12
Major Christian media company to launch EMF Publishing
First title from former ‘American Idol’ star Mandisa to release in 2021 Educational Media Foundation, the Rocklin, California-based parent organization of K-LOVE and Air1 radio, AccessMore podcasting and WTA Media, will add book publishing this year. EMF Publishing will launch in 2021 with K-LOVE and Air1 book imprints. Led by the publishing and literary team at WTA Media, EMF Publishing will partner with other EMF media brands to release new book titles. EMF CEO Bill Reeves is excited to move into book publishing. “People are hungry for positive and encouraging media,” Reeves said. “EMF currently offers messages of hope through radio, streaming and
live events. Adding book imprints further expands EMF’s media offerings to those looking to grow or deepen their faith. EMF Publishing will allow us to bring lifechanging content to even more people.” EMF’s first title will be a memoir, Out of the Dark by American Idol alum Mandisa, releasing March 16. The Christian recording artist, who has been candid about her long-running battle with depression and anxiety, will recount in her new book her struggles alongside recent steps she has taken to overcome these challenges. She also will be launching a new podcast on
AccessMore about mental health, race, relationships and worship. EMF Publishing also will release a book on fatherhood by Christian artist Michael W. Smith as well as a book project from the Christian comedy duo Tommy Woodard and Eddie James, “The Skit Guys,” which will chronicle amusing stories about friendship. EMF will partner with Dexterity, a Nashville-based publishing company, for product creation and distribution. Dexterity is an Independent Book Publishers Association member and provides publishing services powered by the Dexterity Collective, a community of publishing professionals. In 2019, EMF acquired the assets of WTA to create WTA Media LLC, a leader in faith-based films and publishing, and in 2020, launched the AccessMore podcasting network. CR
Longtime Eerdmans president dies at 97
Trailblazing publisher William B. Eerdmans Jr. was ‘responsible for some very important books’ William B. Eerdmans Jr., “Not for Bill the idea who led the Wm. B. Eerdmans that publishing should Publishing Company for more cater to the latest trends. than 50 years, died Nov. 13. He The point was to lead, was 97. not follow,” said longKnown to many as “Bill,” time Eerdmans EditorEerdmans was born in 1923 and in-Chief Jon Pott. “Bill’s started work at the company command of his field when he was 13. He became was impressive, and president of the Eerdmans Pubhis singular publishing Bill Eerdmans lishing Co. in 1963, taking over achievements were many from his father, Bill Eerdmans Sr., who and great. ... But it was Bill, the deeply founded the company in 1911. committed but high-spirited publishing Eerdmans is remembered both as a personality who somehow counted friend to all and as a trailblazing pub- for most, in the books and authors lisher who broadened the company’s list he directly pursued and in the heady beyond its Reformed Protestant roots oxygen he provided for the rest of us. He to comprise books on ecumenical and knew his work, but he also thoroughly interfaith dialogue and on race, gender relished it, from restaurant idea to finand other social issues while continuing ished book, from dizzying first authorial to publish the scholarly titles for which encounter to plunk of the final product the company has long been well-known. on his overburdened desk.”
Eerdmans’s wife, Anita, who took over as president and publisher of the company in 2014, said: “Bill loved joking around, and sometimes you could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he tried to come up with the perfect clever phrase for the moment. Yet he also took his work very seriously. Until the last few years, most evenings would find him with an Eerdmans book or a potential Eerdmans book in his lap, even on vacations! He was responsible for some very important books and series that we published over the years, and our longtime interest in religious perspectives on important political and cultural issues grew out of his own personal concern about those issues.” The family held a private graveside service but expects to have a public memorial service when large gatherings are safe. CR
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INDUSTRY HIGHLIGHTS HCCP acquires Thompson Chain-Reference Bible assets Zondervan to assume stewardship of the popular brand from Kirkbride HarperCollins Christian Publishing announced on Dec. 3, 2020, its acquisition of the Thompson ChainReference Bible product assets from Kirkbride Bible Company. Zondervan publishing group, under the direction of Vice President and Publisher Melinda Bouma, will steward this Bible brand. The Thompson ChainReference Bible is a topical study Bible that has been in publication for more than 100 years and has editions in five translations: King James
Melinda Bouma Version, New King James Version, New International Version, New American Standard Bible and the English Standard Version. “Zondervan is honored to uphold the Thompson
Chain-Reference Bible’s legacy,” Bouma said. “It’s a timeless resource that brings us new opportunities to reach Bible readers who are interested in the study of topics linked throughout God’s Word. With this Bible, the Kirkbride Bible Company has helped people from around the world to have a more engaged and enriched relationship with our Creator,
and we are thrilled to now carry that work forward. We are committed to invest and revive this innovative reference Bible and expand its distribution.” Kirkbride President and CEO Michael Gage is pleased with the agreement. “On behalf of my family and in honoring the legacy of Dr. Thompson, I’m grateful for the missional alignment with Zondervan Bibles in reaching more people with the Thompson ChainReference Bible, now and in the future,” Gage said. CR
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth named general editor of new study Bible Holman Bibles ‘honored’ to extend this opportunity to Revive Our Hearts founder and author Revive Our Hearts founder and author Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will serve as general editor for the study notes in a new Bible from Holman Bibles (B&H Publishing Group). The project, which is underway now with a 2024 target release date, will feature the Christian Standard Bible and fresh content leveraging Wolgemuth’s Bible teaching ministry. Revive Our Hearts has impacted women worldwide. As the lead Bible teacher, Wolgemuth brings a passion for Christ and His Word to the ministry’s digital outreaches, conference messages, books and her two daily syndicated radio programs. The new Bible project reinforces the ministry’s commitment to 8
the transforming power His Word for themselves and of Scripture. to experience its life-giving “From the time I was a impact in a greater way. young girl, the As this project Word of God is launched, I’m has been a cherdeeply grateful for ished gift and the opportunity to foundational to partner with the every aspect of exceptional team my life and minat Holman Bibles istry,” Wolgemuth to publish a devosaid. “As I have tional study Bible soaked in and which will magtaught Scripture Nancy Wolgemuth nify Christ and through the reflect His truth years, my heart has become into the hearts of readers increasingly enthralled by around the world.” the beauty of Christ and Andy McLean, pubawed by the ‘old, old story of lisher for Bible & Reference, Jesus and His love.’ Now, as Holman Bibles, is glad many of my personal reflecWohlgemuth is on board. tions and teaching notes are “Through her books, podto be published alongside casts and speaking events, the Christian Standard Bible there are millions who have text, I hope to encourage benefited from Nancy’s others to plumb the riches of faithful ministry over the
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decades,” McLean said. “All of us at Holman Bibles couldn’t be more honored at the opportunity to extend the Christ-exalting legacy Nancy’s ministry has come to represent through the publication of a CSB Bible featuring content captured from her years of walking through Scripture.” The study and devotional resources to be published alongside the CSB text will include notes and insights from Wolgemuth’s ministry, devotional content from her meditation and journaling of the Word, and articles and callouts from her teaching featuring key themes, profiles of men and women of Scripture and an emphasis on the grand narrative of Scripture and the person and work of Jesus. CR
Kathie Lee Gifford celebrates big sales of Israel book Thomas Nelson imprint W Publishing Group announced in January that The Rock, the Road and the Rabbi: My Journey Into the Heart of Scriptural Faith and the Land Where It All Began by Kathie Lee Gifford with Rabbi Jason Sobel has sold more than 500,000 copies in print, audio and digital formats. “The journey of faith Kathie Lee Gifford shares in The Rock, the Road and the Rabbi and the revelatory insight into Hebrew language, culture and heritage shared by Rabbi Jason Sobel have opened many readers’ eyes to a deeper understanding of God and the Bible,” said Damon Reiss, vice president and publisher of W Publishing Group. “It’s fantastic to
see this story continue to resonate and inspire new readers every day.” Released in March 2018, the book was an instant New York Times bestseller. It wasn’t until Gifford began studying the biblical texts in their original languages—along with hiking the ancient paths of Israel, guided by Sobel—that her study took on new meaning. The book chronicles this journey. “It’s deeply humbling to see this book get into the hands of those who may have never been to the Holy Land and who may never get a chance to walk where Jesus walked,” Gifford said. “I pray this book continues to ignite readers to start their own rabbinical studies of the Bible.” CR
Mary DeMuth becomes Books & Such agent Mary DeMuth, bestselling author, speaker and writing mentor, joined Books & Such Literary Management as an agent. The agency’s founder and president, Janet Kobobel Grant, announced the addition Jan. 1. “When Mary first approached me about possibly becoming an agent with Books & Such, my first thought was, ‘What a splendid idea!’” Grant said. “I’ve known her for decades, and I’ve long respected her as an author,
DEMUTH: MELANIE GRIZZEL
Brian Thomasson joins The Good Book Company The Good Book Company has to have him join our team.” announced the appointment of Brian Thomasson has 20 years of experience Thomasson as vice president of editorial. in acquisitions and concept development Thomasson will oversee the conand has worked on books tinued development of TGBC’s with bestselling authors in publishing lineup, focusing parthe general and Christian ticularly on the acquisition of markets across a broad range key adult trade books and conof genres. He held positributing to the strategic vision tions at WaterBrook Multand priorities for the company’s nomah and NavPress before editorial approach. working most recently as “We are thrilled that Brian executive editor at Baker has chosen to join TGBC,” said Publishing Group. Carl Laferton, executive vice “Ministry-minded and Brian Thomasson president publishing at The mission-driven, The Good Good Book Company. “He will be a Book Company’s focus centers with my key part of continuing our trajectory own, and with the heart of God for our of rapid growth as we seek to serve the world,” Thomasson said. “I am deeply honchurch worldwide with biblical, acces- ored to join the leadership team at TGBC sible and relevant titles. Brian brings in their good work going forward.” a wealth of experience and a proven He started at TGBC on Feb. 1 and will track record in finding and acquiring work remotely from his home office in faithful, impactful books. I’m excited Monument, Colorado. CR
speaker and someone who gives freely of her publishing knowledge to others. Her warm, caring interest in those who are creating publishing careers will stand her in good stead as an agent, as will her publishing relationships. I’m proud to add her to our agency.” For years, DeMuth has been sharing what she knows about publishing with new and established authors. “Through these years as an author of now more than 40 books, both fiction and nonfiction, I’ve learned resiliency,” DeMuth said. “I’m unafraid to try new things. If anything, this is my superpower in helping authors navigate the intricacies of the publishing and platform journey.” CR
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INDUSTRY HIGHLIGHTS Noble Marketing adds IntegriTeam gift vendors IntegriTeam owners Tom and Vickie Propst have concluded their service to Christian stores and retired their brand. For more than 25 years, they “represented the biggest names in our boutique industry, including Roman, P. Graham Dunn and GT Luscombe, to name just a few,” said David Terry, a sales rep with Noble Marketing, which took on the vendors that IntegriTeam represented. “About three years ago, a strategic partnership was explored and considered between Noble and IntegriTeam, but that never materialized to the fullest potential.” In 2020, Noble supported Tom and Vickie to proceed with securing contracts with Roman to cover parts of the U.S. market. “With King + Cross and Decision Designs, we signed an exclusive 50-state solution for those vendors,” David told Christian Retailing. This was a new direction. “We approached our publishers, and they were supportive of this effort, even though Noble had been exclusively books for our entire 20-year history,” David said. “Thankfully, our publishers were able to see the benefits of getting into gift accounts that
we previously had not been into. So even though it might seem counterintuitive, the reality of having both gifts and books to sell results in the increase of the sales of both.” Noble Marketing now has an additional road representative and a full-time sales assistant to help with customer service issues and backlist ordering. By spring, David hopes to have yet another representative on the road. “Ted Terry, founder and director of Noble Marketing, has fully embraced and welcomed the addition of the gift vendors,” David said. Noble Marketing continues “in the same spirit with which Tom and Vickie operated IntegriTeam—to support our stores with products they need and, in turn, help our vendors connect their products to our stores,” David said. “Ted Terry always put it best: ‘The death of the salesman was his inability to adapt.’ Noble Marketing has adapted, and we welcome these changes. We are fully confident that as a result, our stores will be better served; our vendor partners will be better served, and our beloved Christian retail market will be better served.” CR
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Indie publishing group gets new leadership Sarah Bolme, founder will allow the association and director of the to continue to provide Christian Indie Publishing outstanding services Association, has and resources stepped down to to indepenpursue another dent authors calling. and small Susan Neal publishers probecame its new ducing Christian director Jan. 1. books.” “Susan is a A successful highly compeIndie author tent and sucwith her own cessful author, publishing publisher and Susan Neal company, book marketer,” Neal has sold Bolme said. “Her enthu- over 15,000 copies of her siasm, vitality and ideas book 7 Steps to Get Off CIPA continued on page 14
Christian Book Services announces new president/COO Shane Crabtree took on the roles of president and chief operating officer at Christian Book Services LLC, effective Jan. 1. Larry Carpenter assumed the role of chairman and remains chief executive officer. Carpenter will continue to focus on overall strategic direction, manuscript acquisition and author relations, while Crabtree will pick up the day-to-day management of book production, printing, sales and distribution. Crabtree started with the company in 2018. He has coordinated all product setup, data dissemination and sales reporting and worked on book production. As a result, the company has launched a significant effort in creating audiobooks. He has used his technological expertise to streamline and upgrade reporting systems and project tracking. “Shane has made a huge contribution to our company,” Carpenter said. “He is a book lover. He loves the process of finding good books, working with our authors on the production of the books, getting the books printed and working with our exclusive distributor, Ingram, to get the books sold and distributed. We are proud to recognize Shane’s contribution to the company with this promotion.” CR Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
New partnership honors John Stott’s legacy on 100th birthday Church statesman and influential author remembered as ‘pastor to the world’ InterVarsity Press (USA), IVP fields of biblical studies, theology, have with one another but what we have (UK), Eerdmans Publishing, Langham social criticism and leadership,” Boyd in common. He never aimed to win so Partnership and Faithlife have partsaid. “Although he wasn’t employed much as to be winsome. In this, he was nered to honor the legacy of the late as a scholar (Can one ever be?), Stott truly pastor to the world.” author John R.W. Stott, commemo- moved easily in academic circles— Stott was also the New Testament rating what would have been his 100th but perhaps more importantly helped editor and a major contributor for the birthday in April. others to do so. He boosted the highly acclaimed Bible Speaks Today Together, these organizations will ‘street cred’ of Christian thinking on commentary series. He is best known release commemorative editions of both sides of the Atlantic and of the for his many books, especially Basic Stott’s books, highlighting articles equator ( just the kind of ambassador, Christianity (InterVarsity Press and and sermons, and Eerdmans), which sharing tributes and has been translated reviews from thought into more than 63 leaders. These celebralanguages; Christions of his work will tian Mission in be highlighted on the the Modern World forthcoming “John (InterVarsity Press); Stott 100” website Your Mind Matters (johnstott100.org). (InterVarsity Press); Stott has written and The Preacher’s more than 50 books, Portrait (Eerdmans). including various Bible InterVarsity Press studies and commenpublished a biography taries, and his books of Stott titled Basic have sold millions Christian by Roger of copies around the Steer. As Stott’s main world. InterVarsity publisher in the U.S., Press will be releasing InterVarsity enjoyed a centennial edition In his writing and preaching, John Stott sought to unite believers. a wonderful partnerof Stott’s The Cross of ship with the man Christ on April 13. they knew affectionHe served as rector of All Souls I can’t help thinking, that we could ately as “Uncle John.” Church in London. He was also a benefit from these days once again). “Some authors and books are inexprincipal framer of the 1974 Lausanne His deep legacy is not only in his tricably linked to InterVarsity Press Covenant, a defining statement for books but in his many students throughout its seven decades of hisevangelical Christians. Time also once and apprentices.” tory,” said IVP Publisher Jeff Crosby. named the well-known preacher and Andy Le Peau, an editor at “Such is the case with John R. W. Stott evangelist one of the “100 Most Influ- InterVarsity Press for more than 40 and books like The Cross of Christ and ential People in the World.” years, highly respected Stott. Basic Christianity among many others. Jon Boyd, editorial director at IVP “One aspect of John Stott’s multi- In his slim but powerful volume Your Academic (USA), sees Stott as an effecfaceted ministry that I deeply admire Mind Matters, Stott wrote that ‘Knowltive bridge builder. was his role as a Christian statesman— edge is indispensable to Christian life “All the most interesting thinkers a decidedly vanishing breed,” and service. If we do not use the mind are bridge builders if not boundary Le Peau said. “He never sought to divide which God has given us, we condemn breakers, and Stott built bridges of believers, to win over people to the par- ourselves to spiritual superficiality.’ That conversation and insight everywhere ticulars of all his viewpoints. Rather he characterizes the profound work of this he turned his attention, whether worked to unite Christians in the basic man, whose birth 100 years ago we are across the institutional barriers of convictions of the faith. Stott did not joining with other of his publishers university and church or into the emphasize the differences Christians in celebrating.” CR S p ri n g 2 0 2 1 / / / CH R I S T I A N R E TA I LI N G
LIFEWAY continued from page 6
corporate office building,” Mandrell said. “The decision to sell our building is a strategic one.” Lifeway will occupy a portion of the building until it determines a location for its new headquarters. “We’re definitely moving to a new work environment,” Mandrell said. “Our new space will be designed specifically around a healthy blend of strategic meetings and team collaboration, as well as the flexibility of working from home. Like other companies are doing as a result of COVID, we’re reimagining the corporate
office for the future of work. “We are moving away from the idea of a ‘headquarters’ to a fully mobile and agile workforce that intentionally gathers to build strong relationships, celebrate what God is doing and share ideas.” In March, Lifeway’s Nashville-based employees moved to fully remote work as the city implemented a number of restrictions due to COVID-19. Connia Nelson, Lifeway’s chief human resources officer, said Lifeway was well prepared for the remote work model.
“Before Lifeway moved to Capitol View, we saw the need to support an increasingly mobile workforce,” said Nelson. “We’ve had a robust work-from-anywhere strategy for the last few years, which positioned us well for Nashville’s saferat-home orders put in place in March.” “Our employees have told us they have a better work-life balance and are still highly productive in this new work environment,” Nelson said. “We have a number of employees juggling work with caring for family members and
helping their kids with distance learning. We want to make sure they have the flexibility to still perform at their best while juggling these responsibilities.” Mandrell said employees will continue to work remotely the majority of the time and will come to the building for strategic meetings. The new environment will offer conference rooms, casual meeting spaces and drop-in work stations. Lifeway has not announced a timeline for closing on the current building or for moving to a new facility. —Carol Pipes
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Order Today and Receive: • 55% Discount • 90-Day Billing • Free Freight • Free Floor Display Includes 3 copies of Encouraging Words for Men and 6 copies each of other 5 titles (27 total units) ISBN: 978-1-64352-992-9 Retail Value: $296.73 Your Net Cost: Only $133.53
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Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Phone: 1-800-852-8010 / www.BarbourBooks.com
INDUSTRY HIGHLIGHTS Lifeway launches major rebranding effort
Lifeway Christian Resources unveiled a new logo and began a significant update and refresh of its website in January. This is the first major rebrand since the organization changed its name in 1998. “The new logo and visual elements reflect a new season of ministry for Lifeway,” said Lifeway President and CEO Ben Mandrell. “Our brand promise
is true to the legacy of Lifeway and affirms our commitment to serve churches and provide fuel to their ministries.” The rebranding effort includes new looks for the website lifeway.com, as well as various subbrands, including Lifeway Kids, Lifeway Women and Lifeway Worship. “ We intentionally incorporated the cross into our name so it would be ever present and central to our identity,” said Jon Emery, director of marketing.—Carol Pipes
Sugar and Carbohydrates. She also won first place in the 2020 Christian Authors Network Crown Awards for Outstanding Broadcast Campaign. “I am very excited about leading this 250-member group of Christian indie authors and small publishers,” Neal said of the group that represents, promotes and strengthens small publishers and independent authors producing Christian materials. Neal has added monthly mastermind groups, bimonthly
Take-Action Workshops and a new website, christianpublishers.net, to what the organization offers its members. In January, the TakeAction Workshop titled “Improve Your Books’ Amazon Rank” was to teach authors how to expand their book’s categories and keywords. “That’s how my book, 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates, became a No. 1 Amazon bestseller and sold over 7,000 copies last year. It is still No. 1 a year later.” CR
How God protects and provides in ways you could never think of
Robert Pemberton 978-1-7283-6658-6 Paperback | $10.99 978-1-7283-6657-9 E-book | $3.99 www.authorhouse.com
In the autobiographical sketch, Provision, author Robert Pemberton illustrates the raw reality of life through a spiritual lens. After losing his wife to cancer, he shares his journey of overcoming adversities by never losing faith in the Lord. His third book will show readers that even though life may present devastating situations, God will protect and provide in unthinkable ways.
VOLUME III Freedom in Christ Christ paid the ultimate price so you could be free. Embrace the freedom that comes through the redeeming power of Christ in you! .
Order by phone or online:
800-749-6500 LifeInTheSpiritBooks.com Real Authors, Real Impact
Visit us on Facebook & Twitter
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L I F E W AY
CIPA continued from page 10
New logo incorporates the cross into brand name
NEW FEATURED TITLES Pathways to a Closer Walk
The Odyssey of King David
Bible Analogies to Nourish Our Personal Relationship with God James A. Blaine
God’s Broken Vessel Dr. Sam Mayhugh and D. Paul Thomas
Newport Beach, CA
978-1-9736-5626-5 | Paperback | $9.95
978-1-6642-0150-7 | Paperback | $31.95
This Bible study guide-- for individuals or small groups-provides questions and directives for discovering deepening truths about our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Each lesson concludes with a time for reflection and prayer.
Whether you want to learn more about this young shepherd who became king of Israel or need encouragement to overcome life’s sorrows and challenges, you’ll be inspired by The Odyssey of King David.
The Last Bloodline
Janice M. Barlow Wilmington, NC
Developing Character for Ministry Leadership Philip J. Rasmussen
978-1-6642-0239-9 | Paperback | $19.95
Beatrix Conoway, a little girl living in the fourteenth century, has her fate sealed by the blood flowing within her veins. Little does she know that her blood will also determine the fate of the entire world many centuries later.
978-1-6642-0361-7 | Paperback | $17.95
Pastor Rasmussen draws on his experience working closely with pastors and students to outline obstacles in developing church leaders.
The Lord’s Prayer
Reggie’s Tree House
How Jesus Taught Us to Talk to Our Father Terry Myers
978-1-9736-8470-1 | Paperback | $11.95
978-1-6642-0436-2 | Paperback | $11.95
In Reggie’s Tree House Pastor Steve helps his neighbors (people and animals) learn about Jesus Christ and how to live out Christianity. Containing prayers and basic teachings of Christianity, the story is a blend of whimsical characters and their adventures.
Learn to pray as Jesus taught His disciples. This easy-to-read book examines each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer. Great for devotional and group study, for both new and mature believers who desire a deeper relationship with Father God.
Available now from Ingram
1 ELIJAH BIBLE STUDY BOOKPriscilla Shirer (Lifeway Church Resources) 9781087715421
1 FORGIVING WHAT YOU CAN’T FORGET -Lysa TerKeurst (Thomas Nelson) 9780718039875
2 FORGIVING WHAT YOU CAN’T FORGET-Lysa TerKeurst (Thomas Nelson) 9780718039875 3 100 FAVORITE HYMNS(Thomas Nelson) 9781400218998 4 JESUS CALLING-Sarah Young (Thomas Nelson) 9781591451884 5 BEGIN AGAIN-Max Lucado (Thomas Nelson) 9781400226474 6 THE ARMOR OF GOD-BIBLE STUDY BOOK Priscilla Shirer (Lifeway Church Resources) 9781430040279 7 DAILY IN HIS PRESENCE(Ellie Claire Gifts/Worthy Publishing) 9781633260542 8 THE HARBINGER II-Jonathan Cahn (FrontLine/Charisma House) 9781629998916 9 JESUS ALWAYS-Sarah Young (Thomas Nelson) 9780718039509 10 MATCHLESS BIBLE STUDY BOOK-Angie Smith (Lifeway Church Resources) 9781535952309 11 THE FORGIVENESS JOURNAL-Lysa TerKeurst (Thomas Nelson) 9781400224388 12 THE BEGINNER’S BIBLE-(Zondervan) 9780310750130 13 PEACE FOR EACH DAY (LARGE TEXT LEATHERSOFT)Billy Graham (Thomas Nelson) 9781400224111 14 THE BAKE SHOP -Amy Clipston (Zondervan) 9780310356387 15 FINDING I AM BIBLE STUDY BOOK-Lysa TerKeurst (Lifeway Church Resources) 9781430053521
3 BRONCO AND FRIENDS: A PARTY TO REMEMBER -Tim Tebow (WaterBrook) 9780593232040 4 GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD -Jennie Allen (WaterBrook) 9781601429643 5 ELIJAH BIBLE STUDY BOOK-Priscilla Shirer (Lifeway Church Resources) 9781087715421 6 JESUS CALLING -Sarah Young (Thomas Nelson) 9781591451884 7 THE BIBLE IN 52 WEEKS -Kimberly D. Moore (Rockridge Press) 9781641528153 8 DISNEY CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN (Igloo Books) 9781800228672 9 RELATIONSHIP GOALS -Michael Todd (WaterBrook) 9780593192573 10 FORGIVING WHAT YOU CAN’T FORGET STUDY GUIDE -Lysa TerKeurst (Thomas Nelson) 9780310104865 11 THE HARBINGER II -Jonathan Cahn (FrontLine/Charisma House) 9781629998916 12 EMPTY OUT THE NEGATIVE -Joel Osteen (FaithWords) 9781546015994 13 THE BEGINNER’S BIBLE -(Zonderkidz) 9780310750130 14 BOUNDARIESHenry Cloud, John Townsend (Zondervan) 9780310351801 15 BEGIN AGAIN -Max Lucado (Thomas Nelson) 9781400226474
16 IT’S NEVER TOO LATE-Kathie Lee Gifford (Thomas Nelson) 9780785236641
16 NEW MORNING MERCIES -Paul David Tripp (Crossway) 9781433541384
17 THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES-Gary Chapman (Northfield Publishing) 9780802412706
17 LIVE NOT BY LIES -Rod Dreher (Sentinel) 9780593087398
18 LIVE IN GRACE, WALK IN LOVE-Bob Goff (Thomas Nelson) 9781400203772 19 BETTER BIBLE STUDY BOOK-Jen Wilkin (Lifeway Church Resources) 9781535954112 20 ACTIVE DEFENSE -Lynette Eason (Revell/Baker Publishing Group) 9780800729363 This bestseller list is based on actual Christian store sales for January 2021, reported to The Parable Group, the largest source of Christian retail sales data. All rights reserved. Distribution and copyright © 2020 The Parable Group. parablegroup.com
2 PRAYER JOURNAL FOR WOMEN Shannon Roberts (Paige Tate & Co.) 9781941325827
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18 THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS -Clement C. Moore (Running Press) 9780762424160 19 WHEN WOMEN PRAY -T.D. Jakes (FaithWords) 9781546015598 20 THE NEXT RIGHT THING GUIDED JOURNAL Emily P. Freeman (Revell/Baker Publishing Group) 9780800739775 This bestseller list is based on NPD BookScan data for January 2021. NPD BookScan’s U.S. Consumer Market Panel currently covers approximately 85% of the print book market and continues to grow. Copyright © 2020 The NPD Group Inc. All rights reserved.
Fall in love with God’s Word all over again Immerse: The Reading Bible Immerse is a Bible developed to be read, without the interruption of chapter or verse breaks, notes or headings, in the beautiful New Living Translation. Immerse enables you to easily read and understand the Bible. It’s the entire Bible in six volumes, created with the look and feel of paperback books.
Immerse yourself in the world’s greatest story
TRADE EDITIONS AVAILABLE NOW
(March 15, 2021): Messiah (New
Testament), in standard and large print editions, and Beginnings (Pentateuch). The remaining four books will release August 2, 2021. Great for churches and small groups. Gather others to read these books as a book group, keeping the same reading schedule and learning together.
CREATED IN ALLIANCE WITH
TYNDALE, Tyndale’s quill logo, New Living Translation, NLT, and the New Living Translation logo are registered trademarks of Tyndale House Ministries. The Reading Bible is a registered trademark of the Institute for Bible Reading. Immerse, Immerse the Reading Bible, and Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience are trademarks of the Institute for Bible Reading.
By Lorraine Valk
Get answers to your retail questions
o doubt, 2021 will have its own challenges just as 2020 did. How are you preparing? I’ve been out and about, safely connecting with other Christian retailers and attending the Atlanta gift show. I’m happy to share some of the things I learned. Please email your questions to email@example.com. For now, I hope this will uplift you and benefit your store: I’m new to Christian retail. How do I decide what to stock? Computers, when properly utilized, are excellent tools to show prior sales history, even after a short period of time. It takes the “gut instinct” out of reordering. With historical data, I know that my yellow highlighters outsell other colors 3 to 1, which is good to know when ordering a new style or brand. When ordering a new title from a major author, I always look at how many copies I sold of their last book the first three months after release. That’s a really good starting point for a reasonable quantity to order. Additionally, peeking at our distributor’s stocking level gives another unbiased glimpse at projected sales. Also, when meeting with a gift sales representative, ask what the most frequently reordered items are. I carry items that I wouldn’t choose to have in my home or to give as a gift, but they retail well. Sales reps usually know what has sold and been reordered by other stores in our region, giving me confidence to try some. As owners, we should always try our best to support our reps by verifying they get credit when we order via fax, at shows and so on. Rest assured, no matter how “well” you order, you’ll invariably have some items that do not fly off the shelves. Move them first—product placement 18
is key—and then mark down. I avoid birthstone items and things with names or initials on them. I hate being stuck with remaining items that take a specific buyer to get rid of. Ever had a keychain with “Edgar” on it? Not how I want to tie up my inventory dollars! Keep pricing in mind too, making sure you have choices for everyone with various price points and themes/seasons like First Communion and Easter. Lastly, watch general market trends
“My peers in Christian retail have recommended what have turned out to be some of my best ‘surprise’ sellers.” and adapt. I’m considering trying men’s soaps, bath bombs and pins. I will start with modest numbers of these products and see how they do. The items that sell first will warrant reordering. Just because you tried 12 of a type of item (three each of four styles) and find yourself with three remaining after three months doesn’t mean they aren’t bestsellers—maybe the problem is the sentiment or color. Reorder the others and not the yellow one, for example. Purposefully build areas where you observe strength. What about the baby department? Add a few baby books. Sympathy? Add windchimes, clinging crosses and/or cross merchandise with some books. If you’re not sure what sells, check at our distributors and search by popularity. My peers in Christian retail have recommended what have turned out to be some of my best “surprise” sellers. Read trade magazines, watch what friends post on Facebook and use
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your reps to help move your product mix from ho-hum to fantastic. What did you learn in 2020? Here’s what I learned—and relearned—in 2020: • God is bigger than my problems. • Release worry since it’s all His anyway. • Provision sometimes looks different than expected. • Facebook videos get easier with time and practice. • Great customers will do anything to support you. • Empty shipping boxes become a hot commodity during a pandemic. • Your bottom line can grow with things you never expected (masks and individual Communion sets?). • The range of concern during a pandemic will always be wide. Extend grace. • It is possible to have the front doors closed and still never “catch up”! • Watch for opportunities to buy fixtures/inventory from other stores. • Focus on the positive; release the negative. It’s a waste of time. • Send a card, call, text or email. It can change someone’s day. • Never be too busy to listen. • Focusing on what is in front of you and learning to adapt is paramount. • Prayer can change my attitude. Again, it’s all His. Surrender! CR Lorraine Valk is owner of Parable Christian Store of St. Joseph, which contains both a Hallmark Gold Crown Store and a P. Graham Dunn Gallery, in a small community on the shores of Lake Michigan.
ASK LORRAINE Draw on Lorraine’s expertise by sending her your Christian retail questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW FEATURED TITLES The Psalms from a Christian Perspective
Daily Devotions for a Great Life
Rev. Dr. George L. Earnshaw, Ph. D.
Vero Beach, FL
978-1-9736-6600-4 | paperback | $30.95
978-1-9736-9370-3 | paperback | $24.95
A commentary on all 150 Psalms illustrating how they served as theological foundation for Christianity and a scriptural basis for the praise and prayer of the Christian Church. Jesus quoted the Psalms more than any book in the Old Testament.
Dare to use this 365-day planner for five minutes each day to let it inspire you to do less on your own, and infuse fullness of life, connected more intimately with the One who wants only His best for you.
Truth Cries Out Clinton Bezan
God: The Financial Genius
978-1-9736-8384-1 | paperback | $19.95
As western culture struggles to find truth, our values, attitudes and very identities are under the threat of being lost and time is running out. Now more than ever, humanity is in desperate need of a savior!
Austin, TX 978-1-9736-9468-7 | paperback | $11.95
Cynthia Flynn teaches you how to live under God’s financial blessing and protection. Your journey will take you into the miraculous.
The Study Guide for the NIV Bible
My Pop The Cop
Virginia Beach, VA
978-1-6642-0130-9 | paperback | $13.95
978-1-9736-6635-6 | paperback | $38.95
The Study Guide for the NIV Bible is designed to help you to study the Bible as you read through it. The author has devised this study guide based on her desire to encourage Christians to read and study the Bible.
Available now from Ingram
My Pop The Cop shares the story of a loving relationship between a little girl and her father, who is a police officer. Learning the role of police, the sacrifices they and their families make, will improve their success, their safety, and community relationships.
By Erik Ernstrom
Start over with your point of sale
fter being in the industry for almost 40 years, I still have a lot to learn. I cannot stay stagnant. I must be willing to try new and innovative methods if we are to survive.” The quote above came from a recent survey of Christian retailers in response to a question about what 2020 taught them. What great humility amid an amazing stat of running a store for four decades! You have to be doing something right for your store to be around that long. But to also realize that innovation and learning are still key? What a fantastic point of view. I want to challenge you along those same lines, specifically about your in-store technology. I recently heard about a store owner who refers to his POS system as the central nervous system of his store. What a great way to think about it. It’s the brain and spinal column of your store. If your physical nervous system doesn’t function at full capacity, your body can’t work correctly. Parts won’t communicate with other parts, and vital organs could begin to fail. The same goes for your store’s nervous system. If your POS isn’t handling all the pieces as well as it could, your store won’t perform at peak efficiency. How do you use your POS? Is it just a glorified cash register? Are you sending a check each month for support/maintenance but aren’t taking full advantage of what you’re paying for? Or are you trying to use it to its fullest capacity? And does your POS tie together the three biggest parts of your store’s functions: customer management, inventory control and sales tracking? I mention a “glorified cash register” because all POS systems handle sales. So we’ll remove that one from the equation. And we’ll skip the customer management portion for today. Not everyone is in a marketing group—even though you should be—so we’ll hold off on that for
a future article. Let’s focus, instead, on inventory management. Not every POS system handles inventory. Even for those that do, not every owner uses it as they could. Don’t get me wrong. You can manage a store without inventory management tools, but it’s vastly simpler, quicker and just
“Syncing your website on-hands with your in-store POS is no longer an option when it comes to serving your customers.” plain better if you have a computerized system doing it for you. Let the software that never forgets and can’t get weary keep track of what you sell. Let it help you remember what to reorder and how many. And use it to notify you when it’s time to mark down titles and/or return them. My father, a 40-year high-school woodshop teacher, had a sign hanging in his classroom: “There is no mechanical problem known to man that cannot be solved with brute strength and ignorance.” Growing up in his house, I learned to be very handy. And whenever I find myself without the right tool to do a job, I think back to that sign. It used to take me a few minutes to decide whether purchasing the right tool was worth it. But no longer. Using the right tool for the right job means it gets done better, correctly and much faster, which means no “fixing” a mistake later and also having more time with my family. It’s the same in your store. The fewer parts you have to manhandle, the better. If you’re managing your inventory through brute force, you’re going to fall
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behind competitors who let their POS do the heavy lifting. Would you rather spend more time with your customers? You could even free up time to look for additional titles your peers are selling but you don’t have. Another necessary innovation for indies has become even more apparent due to the pandemic. Syncing your website on-hands with your in-store POS is no longer an option when it comes to serving your customers. Multiple studies point to how many customers check a website before visiting the actual store. They show that 80-90% of customers “shop” your store online first. With recent changes in shopping behavior, customers are even more careful with how much time they spend in-store. I wouldn’t be surprised if that number has climbed into the 90th percentile. So, does your POS information feed to your website daily? Can your customers easily reserve a product to pick up in-store later? And do you have a simple mechanism to email or text them when it’s ready to pick up? If not, these are all areas for improved service and innovation you should implement. If you were installing your POS system today, you would take full advantage of it, especially considering the investment of time and money you put in to make it happen. Maybe it’s time to “start over” and find ways to strengthen your store’s central nervous system. Imagine the impact you could have if you made it healthier. CR Erik Ernstrom has worked in the Christian products industry for almost 30 years. He has managed an independently owned Christian retail store and a customer service department that served 300 Christian retail stores. Since 2007, he has managed the business analytics department of The Parable Group. Call 805-329-4005 or email erik.ernstrom @parable.com with your feedback.
© J O S E P H D O M I N G U E Z . A LL R I G H TS R E S E R V E D .
How your POS compares to the central nervous system
Jesus, Josiah, & Me by Max Davis
You Might Be a Pharisee IF... Christian Antisemitism by R.T. Kendall by Michael L. Brown
From Passover to Pentecost by Cynthia Schneider
Hope for This Present Crisis by Michael Youssef
Readers will learn about a supernatural encounter with a nonverbal, autistic boy that proves undeniably that Jesus is real and fully-present.
Your customers will learn the twenty-five signs of pharisaism, why it angered Jesus, and the steps to rid the sin from their heart and mind.
Readers will discover how antisemitism is a dangerous and shocking tide on the rise, and it could be present in their church today.
Your customers will be encouraged to enter into a new place of intimacy with the Holy Spirit as they embark on this powerful fifty-day journey.
Are we under siege? Are we waging a war for our soul? Send your readers on a seven-step spiritual journey to restoring sanity in a world gone mad.
978-1-62999-889-3 US $16.99
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Just Pray by John F. Hannah
Take It Back Joy in the War by Dr. Tim Clinton and Max Davis by Daniel and Amber Pierce
New Normal by John Lindell
New Normal Study Guide by John Lindell
Miracles of Jesus by CBN-Superbook
Many Christians look to other people to give them what only prayer can. Readers will learn how to deepen and intensify their life through prayer.
Readers will embark on a journey that will challenge them to redefine culture’s definition of masculinity and see biblical examples of true manhood.
The world is in the midst of crisis and chaos. Equip your customers with the tools to use joy as a weapon and the spiritual strength to overcome.
Follow Joshua and the nation of Israel as they find out what it takes to live in the land of blessing God has prepared for them.
Your customers will dive deeper into John Lindell’s New Normal with this study guide designed to help readers discover God’s best for their life.
Chris believes that a mysterious street magician has supernatural powers– until Chris meets a true miracle worker!
978-1-62999-953-1 US $16.99
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Resources to help grow your customer’s faith in God
Contact your representative for special programs, discounts, and offers.
By Kevin Ferguson
Accentuate the positive
See what God has done and shift your thinking
ing Crosby used to sing a song with an incredibly catchy tune, “Accentuate the Positive.” The lyrics are likely coming to your mind right now: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive/ Eliminate the negative/ Latch on to the affirmative/ Don’t mess with Mister In-Between/ You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum/ Bring gloom down to the minimum/ Have faith or pandemonium/ Liable to walk upon the scene.” Faith or pandemonium? Does it feel that way when your store is short on foot traffic, when COVID locks you down, when you look at your books? Bing’s song is biblical. Songwriters Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen go to the Old Testament for some of the best examples in history of the need for a positive perspective. Neither Jonah nor Noah knew what was coming, but in life’s rearview mirror, they could see God was sovereign. Maybe 2020 stirred those feelings within you. We can all learn from the outcomes of Jonah’s bigfish encounter and Noah’s ship-building experience. God was there through it all. It’s easy to murmur, but we need to build up the body of Christ. One way to do that is to reflect on what God is doing in stores. My wife, Krista, and I didn’t think we’d end 2020 on a positive note in our two stores. We had to hunker down, go strong and give God glory. We joined forces with some other retailers to do just that. During COVID restrictions, I did a video for my customers every morning. I wasn’t the first, but the idea caught fire with retailers, including Lorraine Valk, Danny Vera and Mary Rajasekhar. We would call each other daily, pray together, seek each other out and encourage each other as we sat in our empty spaces, waiting for curbside pickups, waiting for the opportunity to deliver, waiting for the opportunity to 22
mail. But the dark circumstances of the pandemic opened doors. We could say we were shut down, we weren’t making money, customers weren’t coming in. On the other hand, we learned new ways of connecting with our guests. Despite missing some holidays— Easter, Mother’s/Father’s Day, confirmation and graduation—our customers came through for us. Our sales from June and July were higher than we anticipated, and coming into the fall, things were beginning to open up. Our
Christian Products operated. We purchased all of the product, split it and drove it cross country. I also picked up his laser engraver shelving, Lorraine bought the engraver, and Rodney bought fixtures. We also helped Lorraine reset her store for a new look. I followed Rodney to his store, and we unloaded his product. And then I drove my rental back and we reorganized our Centralia store, which is now 6,700 square feet with a full laser center. Many stores are buying together
“The Christian bookstore’s mission has not changed. We’re here to live out the great commandment and the Great Commission.” customers were buying what we had in stock. With each new challenge, we stepped forward in faith and prayed together. Bob Munce from the Munce Group and Christian Retail Association has been powerful and pastoral. The Parable Group has been outstanding in giving us encouragement and data through ParableConnect. God’s orchestration, design and timing all contributed to our success. We had moved our store from Corvallis, Oregon, to Albany, Oregon, we partnered with Hallmark, and for the year, we did around $100,000 and $19,000 in Hallmark only for December. With the P. Graham Dunn laser program in our Centralia, Washington, location, we had yet another store within a store. Rodney Mackrill, Lorraine and I formed a business to help navigate stores through closure free of charge. Unlike some companies that liquidate for a huge fee, we ask that we get first right of refusal of products. For instance, we bought out the store that Lighthouse
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now. More collaboration means better buying power. Sadly, heartache also came as some fell ill with COVID or other illnesses. Although some recovered, others passed on to glory. Some retailers also closed their stores. When Chuck Wallington closed Christian Supply in Spartanburg, South Carolina, you could almost hear a collective sigh as an era ended. And after 37 years, Barry and Ann Berglund closed their large store, Parables Christian Bookstore in Omaha, Nebraska. The Christian bookstore’s mission has not changed. We’re here to live out the great commandment and the Great Commission. When the odds are against you, know that God is bigger and leave your worries behind. CR Kevin Ferguson and his wife, Krista, own Willamette Valley Christian Supply, incorporating Hallmark Gold Crown, in Albany, Oregon, and Christian Outlet in Centralia, Washington. Learn more about their stores at christiansupplyandoutlet.com.
BOOKS by Vinson Synan and Amos Young
"The Truth About Grace endeavors to study grace from a historical and theological perspective, looking into all aspects of the current movements and trends." – Dr. William M. Wilson, President of Oral Roberts University
Featuring perspectives of leaders from a range of cultural, pastoral, and theological backgrounds, The Truth About Grace opens the discussion to more than a dozen scholarly contributors, tackling topics such as grace and the security of the believer; grace versus works; and tongues as a manifestation of grace. Synan brings you the key voices on this hot topic, from hyper-grace critic Michael Brown to Singaporean pastor Joseph Prince, whom some consider a leading voice in the hyper-grace movement.
EMPOWERED21.COM/BOOKS SERVING A MOVEMENT. EMPOWERING A GENERATION.
be drawn into cripture cr crip S
Discover God as the great artist, the grand designer.
450 artist’s sketches—including 150 portraits, plus many animals, flowers, plants, and trees mentioned in the Bible
TYNDALE, Tyndale’s quill logo, New Living Translation, NLT, and the New Living Translation logo are registered trademarks of Tyndale House Ministries.
By Justin Paul Lawrence
Address complex issues with careful book selection
ave you ever seen something coming from a long way off? Our vision is tuned to see things both far and near, but sometimes it takes coming closer to a thing to realize whether what is coming is a friend or foe. This is no less true when we approach new ideas in the world around us. The nature of society is to change, as humans continue to discover new ideas. However, it can sometimes take more than a snap judgment to see whether new ideas are resonant with the life of a believer or not. Every part of society takes a different amount of time to assimilate new ideas. While the connectivity of the web allows more rapid dissemination, our created brains still have a set rate at which we can take in new ideas. This is true of societies as well. Often, when you investigate supposed overnight successes, you realize it took many years and lots of hard work to get to that point! For 26
example, “Waymaker,” the current No. 1 CCLI song by Nigerian gospel singer Sinach, was originally released in 2015 and only began to become popular in the U.S. in 2018 and later. In my work, I’ve been able to see some of this slow dissemination and assimilation firsthand. I’m now the sales and marketing director for InterVarsity Press but have been selling Christian books in one way or another for two decades. I believe that my current press has a unique angle on this interesting process that could be illuminating for stores. Since 1947, IVP has been the publishing arm of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a university and college student ministry. Because we have always had this connection as employees of a campus ministry, we’ve naturally been on the forefront of hearing about ideas that have not yet been disseminated more widely. Whether it was some of the issues
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BIBLICAL GUIDANCE ON DIFFICULT ISSUES But what does this mean for the retailer? Of course, every store is different, but increasingly, books about complex social issues from a Christian perspective have moved from a dusty political side shelf to the front table. Witness how well Jemar Tisby’s Color of Compromise sold this summer in Christian stores or how quickly Austin Channing Brown, Marlena Graves or Kaitlin Curtice have become part of the conversation. Even books like Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self and Phil Robertson’s Jesus Politics or Christopher J.H. Wright’s ‘Here Are Your Gods!’ enable readers to figure out the antecedents of the problems in contemporary Christian life. Even beyond political life, believers are looking for thoughtful guidance
P H OTO BY A LE X I S B R OW N O N U N S P L AS H
around the civil rights movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s or issues of gender identity in the 2010s, we often publish books that are a few years ahead of the conversation in the wider church. I used to be a buyer for a Christian store, and often an IVP book on a topic would mean that I’d see several books on the same topic from other publishers in subsequent years. Still, being a first mover can be an uneven experience. Many early online shopping concepts failed miserably in their first iteration but have come back stronger as the idea and experience have percolated. (For example, compare pets.com to the Chewy app or waiter.com to DoorDash.) We’ve found that some IVP books that equip our staff at one time are hard sells to the trade market in a particular decade but later have amazing afterlives. For example, George Yancey’s 2006 book Beyond Racial Gridlock had its best year ever in 2020, as so many believers sought to make sense of the complexities of the issues raised in the wake of the events of early June.
on gender identity, social media use, blended families, immigration, creation care and the gun debate. While you might have skipped over these titles before, increasingly there’s clamor for them among a younger, media-connected readership. Some might object that these sorts of books lead stores away from the core mission of Bible study resources. Yet more and more churches are teaching classes not only on Scripture study but also in how to integrate faith and daily life. Mental health, marketplace theology and cross-cultural understanding are just three topics that have found a lot of traction as Christians attempt to have the right tools to deal with the complexities of 21stcentury life. As society becomes more post-Christian, the church has more and more foundational issues to deal with before pastors can begin to properly train people in the faith. Thoughtleading books can be a good part of that equation as the best of them contain biblical thinking on these complicated issues that can give the contours of following Christ. How do you find these books? Increasingly, they will arrive from your normal publishers as these issues have proven to be interesting to readers in all sorts of communities. However, if you want to go deeper to fill out your backlist, there’s been a wonderful series of lists compiled by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association at christianbookexpo.com/topics/aoc/. Also, they’re showing up on award lists and are often one of the major drivers of long-term backlist sales. For example, recent Christianity Today Book Awards have dealt extensively with these topics. Sara Parker Rubio’s Far From Home, the story of a refugee child, was the Children’s category winner in 2020. In 2021, Sheila Wise Rowe’s Healing Racial Trauma won in Christian Living, while Jasmine Holmes’ Mother to Son won the CT Women category (with an honorable mention for Accessible Theology from World). Esau McCaulley’s Reading
While Black was named The Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year (and was also a Baker Book House Book of the Year). Clearly, these types of books are finding a readership both in and out of the church. I do think that we’ll see some new topics emerge even more in the next few years. Publishers are only now beginning to address artificial intelligence and the complexities and ethics of data science. Food justice as well as back-to-the-land and simple living are making inroads with Gen Z as cottagecore idealizes rural life and becomes a logical reaction to our highly online lives. The polarization
through high-volume channels, it also can be detrimental to smaller stores that rely on longer time horizons for books. Also, these books can be partisan, and some peter out after about 150 pages. Your store might want to focus on books that enable real life change and likely will be passed along to friends. Also, you still need to know your core audience. A store in Seattle might do very well with creation care resources, but these might be a harder sell in Texas oil country. The reverse might be true for books on gender identity. (Still, I could be wrong. I’d love it if Christians in all parts of the country
“Online life and polarization as well as the isolation of the pandemic make books on anxiety, depression and self-care needed now more than ever.” of American political life calls out for someone to charitably explain the motivations of the right to the left and vice versa. Online life and polarization as well as the isolation of the pandemic make books on anxiety, depression and self-care needed now more than ever. Meeting needs in your community at this important inflection point can pay dividends in deeper relationships over the next few years. Finally, much like the dissemination of Sinach’s Nigerian hit, we’re likely to see books by Christians from the majority world begin to make inroads onto U.S. Christian bestseller lists in the next five years. PITFALLS IN THOUGHT LEADERSHIP There are a few pitfalls in thought leadership, though. First, not every book that claims to change paradigms really does. Much ink is spilled on each political crisis, especially in the U.S. Although this can be lucrative for publishers who can push out
thought deeply and well about all the challenges facing the church in the future.) If your business can figure out some of these challenges, there could be some important side benefits. Books that help with thought leadership are natural choices for book groups or Sunday school classes. They also tend to be potential adoptions by colleges and other institutions for one-campus, one-book programs and classroom use. They also extend conversations among your customers and enable kingdom influence to extend to all of life. Book topics might change, but the need for Christians to be engaged thoughtfully with the issues of the day so as to speak to a hurt and broken world does not. I am hopeful that more readers and publishers will enhance their discipleship by working out faithful ways of thinking about the advance of God’s kingdom in all areas of life. CR Justin Paul Lawrence is senior director of marketing and sales for InterVarsity Press.
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James Dion Dionco Inc.
By Christine D. Johnson
C. Britt Beemer America’s Research Group
Retail in lean times
How to move forward in a strained economic climate
etailers have been faced recently with a formidable time in which to do business, so Christian Retailing consulted two experts who will help us anticipate the future of retail in general and Christian retail in particular. C. Britt Beemer and James Dion offer their thoughts on navigating these unusual times. Beemer is chairman and CEO of America’s Research Group, a consumer behavior research and strategic consulting firm headquartered in Orlando, Florida. Dion is founder and president of Chicago-based Dionco Inc. He is the author of Retail Selling Ain’t Brain Surgery, It’s Twice As Hard; Start and Run a Retail Business and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting and Running a Retail Store. CR: How has the pandemic affected small businesses? How are they coping? Beemer: What’s happened on the retail side is kind of sad because it’s almost like a jack-in-the-box. These governors will let somebody stay open 28
for a month, then shut them down like a jack-in-the-box. The head pops up, then you have to slam the lid down. The head pops up, you slam the lid down. I find it to be very disturbing actually because what they’re really doing is guaranteeing the long-term demise of the small guy in favor of national chains like Walmart, Target and so forth. Target and Walmart are able to stay open all the time because they have things that are considered essential. If you’re a bookseller, there’s nothing in your store that says you’re essential. You have 50 different states with 50 different governors, all having their own plan or course of action. Some retailers have done a good job of going through this phase because they already had an online presence. But the question is, how do you get someone’s attention? Historically, the Christian bookstore buyer has been older and, therefore, not necessarily online driven. We did see over the pandemic period, about 8% more Americans started online shopping, so before the pandemic, you had somewhere around 48-50% of people who ordered online regularly. That went to about 58%
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during the pandemic, and it’s held up. So, once the consumer gets hooked on that ease of shopping online, it gets to be a bigger task and opportunity. Dion: The pandemic has not been good to small retailers. It’s really opened up a tremendous divide, even a bigger divide between the little guys and the big guys than there was before because the little guys were woefully unprepared for e-commerce. They had been dancing around it and ignoring it for years and years and years. And then when it came time, it became absolutely critical for their survival. Most of them did not have any systems in place to manage it, so not a good outcome for a lot of them. CR: Have you seen some good examples of customer service? Beemer: That’s always been one of the paramount strengths of the Christian bookstore because most of them are smaller-size stores, and usually they’ve got one of the owners involved in the business. But the problem is when you look at the definition of customer service. Ten years ago, that definition involved some kind of a personal contact in a store. For those under 35, their customer service is when can I get it, by tomorrow or the next day? I don’t think customer service is purely a delivery window, but that’s where a lot of consumers under 35 have put it. Amazon, in their growth curve, is really starting to redefine what customer service is, particularly online, which is why they’re now offering same-day delivery on some items in major markets. So if I could have predicted the worst calamity for retail, we’re in it. The older consumer doesn’t feel like they want to shop outside much, so this is the perfect storm. Dion: Some of them did rush and get on Shopify and attempt to get a method for their customers to place orders. Then they were able to do curbside pickups and get product out there a number of other ways. Despite the creativity of an awful lot of these retailers, it’s like a restaurant that had 40 tables inside and all of a sudden, they’re expected to survive with five tables outside. The economics
don’t work. And so you get 50-60% of your demand cut, and an awful lot of your expenses roll on. You’re still paying rent, in most cases. With most small retailers, the salaries are really miniscule because it’s often the owner and the owner’s husband or the owner’s wife or the family who are running the business. But even that, the money they make out of it literally puts food on the table, so if you’re not making any money on it, it’s very difficult. Being small, a lot of them had no idea they could apply for the loans the government was offering. Some did apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans and got them, and it’s helping them survive. The true customer service you have is the ability as a Christian bookseller to truly, truly relate to your customer and to bring them the sustenance they need through the Word and not only selling Bibles but also selling excellent Christian fiction and nonfiction, and acting as a guide to the customer. CR: How should we be using social media? Beemer: It should work really well because our research says it does a great job selling things under the $50 price point range. That’s where Christian retailers have the vast majority of
you’re cheaper, they really put that in their mind: If I decide to buy that, I’ll go there because they’re even cheaper than Walmart. The No. 1 thing consumers want to see online is your live inventory levels. It helps them decide whether they need to buy today, or they can wait a few weeks. That’s something I would love to see more retailers do, but the trouble is I never see that on these cookie-cutter-type websites. The other thing is it’s interesting that books are highly driven today
CR: What other tips would you like to share with retailers? Beemer: If I were in the marketplace, I’d find out which Christian schools have events sponsored by
“Customers are looking for deals during this time, so there may be opportunity to increase cash flow through some opportunistic sales.”—James Dion online, largely because that’s where Amazon’s greatest strength was at the beginning, but the Christian book buyer may not be using that same vehicle as much because they’re older and more conservative in their values. But we’re really in an applecart upset. Nothing that was great yesterday is going to be great tomorrow. There’s a great quote by Wayne Gretzky. They said, “Why were you such a great hockey player?” He
“You have to go where the fish are. If you’re a Christian retailer, your fish may be in the pond. You let Walmart go to the ocean.”—C. Britt Beemer their items. The trouble is that social media’s real impact is that age group 45 or under. There are so many Christian retailers whose audience starts at 45 and goes older. So if you use social media, you need to use it in a way to educate the consumer on what you have in the store and the fact that you’re pricecompetitive. The consumer under 35 loves to see comparison ads, your price versus the other store’s price, and when
website. And because each one has a different shopper base, you put together something that’s got a 25, 35 or 40% market share opportunity and leverage yourself off the other people there. At this point, anything can work if it’s marketed properly.
said, “I always skated to where the puck was going.” I think we are skating to where the puck has been versus where it’s going. CR: Do you see stores that want to integrate other businesses? Beemer: I haven’t seen it, but what small retailers can do is put together a group of small businesses and wrap them up under one heading at a
different companies and either sponsor an event or buy a full-page ad in their annual or yearbook. Because of the limited advertising dollars people have today, it’s hard to go out there and bombard the marketplace because you never have the budget to do it. You’ve got to be strategic. You have to go where the fish are. If you’re a Christian retailer, your fish may be in the pond. You let Walmart go to the ocean for those people, but you’ve got to make sure you’ve covered the people in your small pond near you. CR: How would you advise those who still have major restrictions in their states? Dion: There are all kinds of ways to get involved in the community in a virtual manner. Churches now in most states allow at least 10 or 20%. The most restrictive is at least 20% of capacity of the church, and some are even at 50 or 60 or 70%, so people are worshipping in churches, and so there are ways to connect with people in a very safe way. You have to, as a business owner, begin with that premise, that my first duty is to protect life. And then my duty is also to sustain life by bringing them the Word, and the two are not
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RETAIL CONTINUED mutually exclusive. I just need to find creative ways, whether it’s using Zoom, other mediums, email marketing. Email marketing has been around for so long and continues to be a very effective form of marketing and often is cost effective too, but you have to have a message in there and something the customer is really going to benefit from opening. CR: What further suggestions would you give Christian retailers for 2021? Beemer: If I owned a Christian bookstore, I would have the most incredible Christmas display in my window and outside. You’d have thought you were landing on O’Hare runway. The Christian retailer has never tried to leverage the Christmas experience visually to the consumer in the marketplace. And then use that photograph of the store on the website to remind people that if you drove by my store, this is what you saw; this is where I am. You’ve got as many as half of consumers who have no idea where there is a Christian bookstore because the stores are becoming invisible. Do you think I’d spend $1,000 on Christmas lights and decorations to make my place stand out like you couldn’t believe? They’ve got to get noticed because if you don’t know they exist, how could you consider going there? So I still think that’s a great opportunity to do for at least three weeks of the Christmas season. The other thing I would do is get together with the person who oversees the ministerial council in each community and try to get on the program and visit with all the ministers at one of their events. Tell people what you have, what’s available. Give every minister in attendance a 10% discount they could give to their church members. Going to that meeting a few times a year was a big plus for my clients because they were able to benefit by knowing which churches supported them in reality. Dion: The strongest form of advertising for Christian retailers is the most old-fashioned of all, word of 30
CH R I S T I A N R E TA I LI N G
How the TRUE STORY of a
mouth. If you really take the time to develop community, get involved with local churches, get involved with local pastors, offer free books for Bible study groups, go deep into your community where you become a resource for them, that is still the strongest form. You can’t afford television; you can’t afford newspaper; you can’t afford magazines. Even social media advertising is expensive for a small retailer. You have to go back to what you are truly good at and view it as a ministry. It’s a 12-hour-a-day job and sometimes thankless, but it’s a calling. I’m very optimistic about 2021 because of the vaccine, but retailers cannot rely on that. I would not be super optimistic as far as a business plan, saying, “Oh, yeah, my store is going to be open, and I’m going to be having customers coming into the store in May or June.” In some communities, that may be possible. I’m thinking more end of summer, early September, October, we’ll be back to “normal.” But the real question is, how do I get from here to there? No. 1, cash is king. Keep your eye on your cash flow because nothing else counts if you can’t put food on the table. What are my pessimistic sales numbers going to be? What are my rather high operating expenses going to be? And really develop an understanding of when the real cash crunch is going to come although it may already be there. And how do I mitigate some of that? Can I do some clearance of old inventory? Customers are looking for deals during this time, so there may be opportunity to increase cash flow through some opportunistic sales. How do I strengthen my own self? It’s a depressing time to be a retailer, so I need to keep my own spirits up, to fuel my own fire. I need to read, have time to contemplate throughout the day, meditation time, prayer. In many cases, the Lord will lead you if you listen. CR Christine D. Johnson is the editor of Christian Retailing. CH R I ST IAN R ETAI LI N G
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How gift vendors and retail stores are adjusting in 2021
lthough 2020 had significant challenges for both Christian retailers and the vendors that supply their product needs, some remain positive about the future. Les Jones, executive vice president of sales at Genesis Marketing Group, is one of those vendors. “I am excited for the Christian market,” Jones said. “I have seen it be resilient over the last 30 years, and 2020 was no different. Stores stepped up, and some had banner years as they were blessed by being creative and thinking differently. When any business gets stagnant, it leads to bad things. I look forward to what God will do in 2021. The world is looking for a hope and purpose more than ever, and we have that hope and have a purpose to share it.” As the industry looks ahead to 2021, we examine trends in the gift world by checking in with several supplier representatives, including Jones; 32
John McKinney, president, Swanson Christian Products; Gary Rovarino, founder and CEO, Spirit & Truth Christian Jewelry; Keith Schwartz, president, Divinity Boutique; and AnnJanette Toth, B2B marketing manager, Kerusso. How is the gift industry changing, and how does that impact sales in Christian retail? Jones: The changes to retail in general are impacting the gift market as well. We see great demand for inspirational gifts as the consumers have not changed, but where they can shop has. This is a great time for Christian stores to review how they make products available to consumers. One delivery method, brick and mortar, will not work anymore. 2020 saw the necessity for drive-thru Christian stores as consumers drove up and their order was delivered to their vehicle. Live presentations directly to
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consumers. Creativity flourished. McKinney: This is a very challenging question, as the Christian gift industry is experiencing a monumental and extended period of time where not only are the customers’ gifts needs changing, but so is the way they are purchasing. While many people have transitioned to a new “workfrom-home” lifestyle—at least for now—their gifts needs are moved to making that home office or extra room more comfortable and establishing an inviting work environment. This is done perhaps by repainting, bringing in some new furniture, etc. But they may also be looking for more home decor types of products to provide a constant source of encouragement. Examples of some of the items that we are seeing increased sales on since the spring of 2020 are wall decor, tabletop decor, candles and even coffee mugs and drinkware— things that are used to provide comfort and ease while spending more time at home. Puzzles have also hit an all-timehigh demand. In fact, manufacturers across the U.S. have been unable to keep up with demand, and finding puzzles has become very difficult for the wholesaler, retailer and even the consumer. Rovarino: Internet sales are becoming more important than ever. Having a good internet presence is becoming crucial not optional. Spirit and Truth has been rebuilding a completely modern website viewable at liferingsplus.com, which includes personal interaction videos. It is currently a work in progress but viewable online. We hope to find a way to then extend it to our store carriers to be able to capture extended sales-through. We are working out a program for that, so it’s in development. Schwartz: The industry is rapidly changing, and while brickand-mortar stores are struggling, consumers are still actively searching for Christian product through online retail outlets. Stores need to proactively change how they interact with customers to meet their needs in a changing world. Here are examples
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GIFTWARE CONTINUED of what I believe stores need to do to be successful and what I am seeing as successful in the general market: • Facebook Live events. Connecting to consumers through online social media is big right now. Creating a way to connect to customers and introduce new product since folks aren’t wanting to come out and shop in store as readily. • E-commerce: Are you expanding and developing your website? • Adapting to people’s needs: Have you started to do curbside pickup? • Creatively adapting: Have you created gift baskets that can be delivered locally from your store? • Shopping services: Have you signed on with Instacart or other shopping services to provide your customers an easy access to shop and buy? • Adapt the model to work in 2021: Have you expanded your store to offer more product lines that people want in addition to providing Christian gifts? With the evolution of online stores carrying Christian product, Christian retail stores need to be creative and multifunctional. Adapt the store to meet the needs of the 2021 consumer. Boutique and Christian bookstore? Hallmark with a Christian bookstore inside? Car wash and Christian bookstore? Retailers will need to figure out unique formulas that meet their needs, but one thing is for sure. In today’s retail environment, stores need to proactively find ways to generate traffic, create interest and expand their audience. With Amazon absorbing a portion of Christian book sales and streaming services having absorbed Christian music, stores need to expand the audience—and revenue streams—beyond the core shopper by appealing to people in more ways. Everyone goes to a drugstore, so if the Christian bookstore is part of the drugstore, they will have more traffic, and more people who will purchase on impulse. They can do this without losing the identity of their Christian bookstore and without sacrificing their morals or beliefs. If retailers aren’t pivoting to make themselves relevant 34
today, consumers will go to online retailers and Amazon. Toth: The gift industry has changed in terms of consumer behavior with more consumers doing curbside pickup. And sometimes gifts can be about impulse buying. However, we have been seeing an increase in inspirational products that offer hope, so there are some Christian retailers with our
sell pre-COVID are no longer selling well, while new categories have begun to emerge. The problem is that most gift vendors in our industry have counted on the same types of product lines to drive our sales at the foundational level. Now we have to rethink and redefine who our market is and how to remain a key vendor in the days to come. I think we all know we can’t continue to operate
“The way purchasing has changed over the past year will force many suppliers, vendors and retailers to completely rethink and perhaps overhaul their operational model.” products who have seen an increase in new customers and current customers buying more in their stores. How are the challenges in the retail environment affecting gift vendors? Jones: The vendors saw the same impact of COVID in 2020, and inventory levels were greatly impacted. Many vendors reduced purchase orders or canceled them all together. This created lower inventories for stores to purchase from, and some stores may have missed out as they waited till their normal time to purchase Christmas, for instance. I believe we will see some effects of that in 2021 as well. I would encourage stores to order earlier than ever and then change their purchase order if necessary. Vendors have fewer dollars and people resources as they have had to reduce manpower in 2020. Vendors also need to change how they interact with retailers, utilizing digital more, 24/7 ordering online and so forth. McKinney: Because our time from concept to market for gifts is typically six months, the ability to forecast what the economy is going to do, what the effects of COVID will continue to be and how the industry will bounce back when all of this unrest settles down is very difficult. Categories that used to
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as we did in the past if we expect to come out of this on the back side in a favorable condition. Rovarino: Store temporary and permanent closures are affecting gift vendor cash flow, which results in a smaller variety of new releases. Spirit and Truth has a strong history of over 20 years leading the Christian jewelry market and is therefore able to continue our stride in releasing new styles regularly despite the major decline in 2020 cash flow. World events have been affecting supply chains for manufacturers. But Spirit and Truth is very strong through this crisis, and we have maintained and held and not discontinued any of our special programs that support our retailers such as our life support program. Any stores that can weather the storm will pick up customers from surrounding areas that have lost a store presence. Spirit and Truth will be a crucial help to any stores that desire to go the distance. Our retailers that are still in business are showing high sales of our products as a result of picking up these surrounding customers who have lost a nearby store. Schwartz: The vendor community is shrinking or pivoting along with the retail community. With fewer stores focused on Christian gifts in the world, vendors are struggling to
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What trends have you observed of late in the gift industry? Jones: Personalization is still very hot. Stores need to better utilize online marketing for their personalized merchandise. Made in the USA has gained ground again in 2020. Many consumers are looking for gifts that are functional. McKinney: The honest answer to this question today is—there are no trends. What we used to be able to see and predict just isn’t available today. Hopefully, in three to six months we can begin to see where all of this is headed and how we need to move forward. But currently, some gift vendors are patiently waiting for the smoke to clear so we can see what is left to work with. What will that look like, it’s simply too early to tell. The way purchasing has changed over the past year will force many suppliers, vendors and retailers to completely rethink and perhaps overhaul their operational model. That in itself could dictate the new trends for the future. I believe that one of the newest trends will not be product driven specifically, but will be operational. I believe retailers will have to become more in 36
tune with their consumer. Many buyers have always bought the same products over and over, never looking at or considering anything new. Stores have been comfortable and not willing to take any risk. Unfortunately, going forward, if the store owner/manager fails to engage his customer and buy what the customer is wanting to purchase, we will likely see more stores close their doors. Stores
This well-built display appeals to wedding gift shoppers. have to stop buying what “they” like and purchase those products their customers are demanding—that will be the new bottom line. Rovarino: I foresee that people are engaging one another less and less, due to the social impositions of federal and state and local mandates. This affects gift giving since interaction is minimized. People are shopping more for themselves than for others. Schwartz: At Divinity Boutique, we have always supported the idea of gifts with a purpose. We don’t really publicize or promote that we founded and solely support an orphanage in the Dominican Republic, but we are raising eight to 10 kids today, and we plan to expand to up to 16 kids within the next year. The Hearts and Hands 501(c)(3) charity that we founded is the sole sponsor of the orphanage and the purchases of our products help support putting food on the table for those kids. From a product standpoint, we have
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been doing more Made (embellished) in the USA product. We have our own in-house equipment. We can produce product that is localized, customized and personalized with low minimum order quantities. Retailers can come to us to create unique and one-of-a-kind gift programs for their stores. Toth: Some of the key trends we have been seeing in the industry are T-shirts and sleep pants, with more people working from home. Also, pet products are on trend with an all-time high of pet adoption with people staying home. We are seeing a trend for products with hope and inspiration as we walk through this timeframe. What one or two new products or lines are you excited about for Christian retail? Jones: Genesis is introducing some new vendors to the Christian market in 2021. Duncan & Stone Paper Co. has a line of motherhood and pregnancy journals and prayer cards that are unique. Also, Fames Chocolates from Brooklyn, New York, brings Old World recipes and mouthwatering chocolates to the Christian stores. I think these two will be very good vendors for the market. Rovarino: Spirit and Truth is excited to maintain the course with our standard category lineup of Scripture rings, necklaces and bracelets but also introducing new lines. Schwartz: At Divinity Boutique, which is now represented nationally by Genesis Marketing in the Christian market, our biggest launch in years was our “Man of God” product line. It is the biggest and best launch in men’s gifts the industry has ever seen. Toth: We are super excited about our new “Paws & Pray” line that includes leashes, collars, dispenser bags and more for your pet. These inspirational pet accessories appeal to shoppers who love their faithful friend and also celebrate their relationship with the Lord. CR Christine D. Johnson is the editor of Christian Retailing.
N O R T H L A N D B O O KSTO R E
develop and produce new products. At Divinity Boutique, we are doing more production and embellishment in the USA to be able to help support our stores with new product and help us control inventory. I believe it will be harder in the future for stores to find meaningful product to meet their needs, and the few core vendors in the industry like Divinity Boutique will become more relevant to the needs of the community. Toth: The challenges include the uncertainty and how safe consumers feel in each retail environment. Retailers can help consumers feel more comfortable by communicating their hours of operation and the steps they are taking to be safe. Also, social media and other digital platforms that show what is in the store have been helping tremendously. Facebook Live and chat have continued to be a great resource for stores. Consumers can give feedback and even put things on hold for pickup.
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I N D U STRY
Ask the exec
An interview with David George of Genesis Marketing
enesis Marketing Group has brought vendors and retailers together in the Christian market for more than 50 years. Christian Retailing spoke with David George, president of the Greenville, South Carolina-based company, about the state of his business and the future of the Christian retail industry. Walk us through the history of your company. I’ve been president for about 17 years. I was with a Fortune 500 company and in sales and marketing. I went from a company with 33,000 employees to a company with 20 employees. The Christian retail industry has been a real challenge the last 10 years. We’ve been through how the internet changed the industry. We went through the Family Christian Stores debacle, the two Family bankruptcies. At one point, Family was probably 25-30% of our business. And then we went through LifeWay’s decline. I felt like LifeWay handled it much, much better. They probably had deeper pockets, but that had an impact because, at that point, it was probably 15-20% of our business. Then there was just a massive amount of closures with the independents. Becky Spragins purchased the company from the original owner, Peter Sullivan, in 2006 about two years after I started, and she did not want to be involved in the day-to-day management. She wanted to own a Christian company and so her brother, Tim Morgan, got involved as CEO of GMG Holdings. Becky owns the company but not 100%. Chuck Zimmerman has been with the company probably 35 years, and he lives in the state of Washington. And he’s had multiple roles in the company, but he really is our vice president of sales for key accounts. The guy’s just been phenomenal. And he’s spent almost his entire career working at Genesis and is on our leadership team. He has minority ownership in the company. We’ve continued to grow and then probably about five or six years ago, we pivoted and I just told Tim, “Look, we’re going to go out of business. There aren’t enough Christian bookstores for us to service to be able to keep this company intact, at least in the form that it is.” So Tim, Becky and I got involved in another business doing business consulting. That company is called Broad Insights. Tim and I were both partners in that organization, yet we stayed in leadership roles at Genesis, but it allowed me to shift the majority of my income to coming from other sources and not saddling Genesis with my expense. It’s allowed us to continue to grow, and we made the decision to not abandon our Christian roots at all and to continue to service the Christian bookstore market. We decided to start pursuing some other markets, and so we landed on the farm and ranch or home and garden business. Our feeling was that those retailers tend to be in rural or suburban areas, not inner city areas. And we felt like a lot of our customers are salt of the earth, not that people who live in cities are not good people, but they’re “God-fearing,” patriotic, maybe a little more conservative leaning, and they would be more open to Bible-based products. That’s proved to be a good decision. And so we started pursuing independents. We started going after 38
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“We were able to deliver product when much larger companies were not able to deliver. We just made the right connections with the right people who had connections overseas to get this stuff. That propelled us and sustained us.” that market. To make that work, you have to have good vendors. We are a rep group. We just sell stuff. So we approached our bigger vendors and said, “Look, we need to pivot.” Of course, they were also scrambling. In most cases, they served a broader market than what our focus was on Christian retail. Most of them had general market rep groups, but they helped us develop product that worked in those markets, and we started that probably five, six years ago. Now probably over
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INDUSTRY Q&A CONTINUED 50% of our business comes from what I would call general market gift stores. Nonetheless, we’re still selling primarily Christian and/or inspirational, and we also sell some Catholic product. Last year was a special year for Genesis, wasn’t it? We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2020. We start the year, and we’re saying, “We don’t know what’s going to happen,” then boom, COVID hits! A lot of companies have gone out of business; a lot of companies have struggled; but God just has blessed our company. We had a phenomenal year. A couple of our suppliers got into PPE, face masks, thermometers, face shields, sanitizer and stuff like that. All the Christian retail stores as well as the other stores were scrambling to try to stay open. We started providing PPE product, and a
A lot of our stores closed, not permanently, but they were doing pickups. We had vendors canceling orders of product overseas because they didn’t know that they had anybody to sell it to. We kept scrambling and praying, and we ended up having almost a record year and have been able to stay in play and support our vendors. We don’t know what 2021 holds for us, but we’re well positioned. We have 21 sales reps, a great leadership team and a great admin team. We’re not very big, but God’s been good to us. That’s great. Sadly, we know some have not had a good year. A lot of our customers are struggling. They were struggling before. I don’t want to sound flippant. People have gotten COVID and have been sick, maybe had deaths in the family or
“We started providing PPE product, and a couple of miraculous things happened.” couple of miraculous things happened. We told our reps, “Look, you can sell to anybody. Don’t limit it.” We even landed a couple of large government contracts out on the West Coast to supply PPE to some county governments. There was a lot of wild stuff going on, but it was cash. It was basically cash up front instead of terms, and stuff was defective or it didn’t exist. Boxes came in, and they were empty. There was a lot of weird stuff coming from China and overseas, and some of it was probably just the rush of trying to get stuff done. But any one of those things could have gone awry and it would have really hurt us because we’re a small company, but we were able to deliver product when much larger companies were not able to deliver. We just made the right connections with the right people who had connections overseas to get this stuff. That propelled us and sustained us for February, March through the middle of summer, when everybody else was struggling. 40
financial hardships from being laid off from their jobs. A lot of folks are hurting, so we want to be careful, but we also want to be encouraging and give God the glory for what He’s done. We’ve had some customers who have had a relatively good year because maybe a lot of people around them shut down and they were the only game in town. How many vendors do you represent in our market? Probably 15-plus vendors are our biggies. The ones that has just been a phenomenal partner with us for the longest period of time is Christian Brands, which recently became Creative Brands. They have expanded and they sell a lot of product. Heartfelt was a framed art company—Christian folks out of Roanoke, Virginia—and I think they were Genesis’ longest-running vendor. I eventually got them connected with the owner of Christian Brands, and he ended up
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buying them, so the whole Heartfelt line is now part of Christian Brands. Carson Home Accents, based out of the Pittsburgh area, is another vendor we were repping when I first came on board. They’re general market, but they caught the vision pretty quickly that there’s a market for Christian product and have never wavered. They’re heavy with music boxes and windchimes and have just been a phenomenal partner. DaySpring is the other big company. Maybe three years ago, we approached them, or they approached us, and that’s when we were really trying to make this pivot to the farm and ranch or home and garden stores. We made that pitch to them, and they probably were the ones I would have to give the most credit to that really helped us make that leap. They’ve been a relatively newer partner but a very strong partner. They’re probably our largest vendor just in volume. We have another fairly new partner, Kerusso, the Christian apparel company. We’ve had a very strong year with them. Apparel has been really good. Did you go to some trade shows in person in 2020? Yes. It was a real mixed bag this year. Of course, trade shows on the whole have been on the decline. Munce/ Christian Retail Association has done a phenomenal job with their shows, and they’re smaller and less expensive. They’re more homey in a positive sense. It’s just easier to do business and so we’ve continued to support them. How can our industry look ahead at this critical time? There’s always hope. I do think that if a Christian bookstore decides to close and they’ve worked really hard, God’s got something else for them. I don’t think that’s a defeat. It may hurt the community, but God’s got a way. For the retailers who strive hard, companies like ours and many others want to help them be successful, not just sell them product. We want to see them be successful year after year. God’s always got a plan. CR
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R E TA I L
nthony and Kathy Balistreri of Racine, Wisconsin, may have one of the most unusual stores in Christian retail. Both pastors at Stand On His Word International Apostolic Ministry, neither had any retail training or experience when God made the way for them to continue a store whose owners were retiring. They were led by the Holy Spirit from the start and continue to walk step by step in the Spirit. They have had such success in business that they
Anthony and Kathy Balistreri
“My entire family and Pastor Kathy’s family have been businessoriented for generations, and through the help of the Spirit of the Lord, we have had just amazing, amazing breakthrough in our stores.” closed their Arise store for much of 2020 while they prepared and moved 42
Arise Christian Stores takes full advantage of its new expanded location
to a significantly larger location where they could expand with the help of their church members. Christian Retailing talked with Pastor Anthony about how he and Pastor Kathy are using the store’s new space to maximize their ministry and business. How did the two of you became owners of the store? This store has been around for 50 years, and it’s had a bunch of different faces and a bunch of different locations. The couple who owned it 14 years ago put the bookstore up for sale. They would have been in business 36 years. At that time, another pastor and his wife and I took a look at purchasing it. They pretty much laid out all the bookwork and the profit and loss statements. I looked at them for about 5-10 minutes, put it all back in the manila envelope and said, “OK, let’s pray about it.” All six of us prayed about it, and it turned out to be like a praise and worship evening. At that point, we said, “OK, let’s see what God has to say about it” and pretty much walked away. In prayer, the Spirit of the Lord came to us and said, “No, there’s no reason for you to buy that bookstore. I don’t want you to buy the bookstore.” And I said, “OK, Lord, that’s fine. We’re not going to buy it. We know we hear You clearly, and we’re not going to buy the bookstore.” Two to three weeks later, the wife called us and said, “Can we meet? We have four or five different people who are looking to purchase the bookstore. We met you, and we’re just kind of looking for counsel.” And so we met. The husband was in his mid-80s, and she was a few years younger. We sat at the table and got our coffee, and I looked, and their eyes were just red and welled up with tears. And I said, “Oh, man, what’s going on?” And she said, “Well, pastors, we need to tell you a story. We’ve been missionaries all over the country and all over the world. We fly missionaries; my husband’s a pilot.” They also owned the mortuary for the funeral parlors; these people were just active in our world. And so she said, “We’ve done a lot of things and seen a lot of things, and we believe we’re good Christians and we serve the Lord. Every morning I wake up, and the first thing I say is, ‘Lord, what can I do for You today?’ And she said, “I’ve got to tell you the truth, Pastor, I hardly ever hear the Lord say anything. I can remember one or two times in 50 years that the Lord has ever told me anything, but I still ask Him every morning anyway.” I thought, Well, that’s good. And I was about to say, “Well, why don’t you think He talks to you every morning?” And she answered the question as I was thinking. She said, “I know He’s busy, so He doesn’t have time to talk to me.” I just smiled. And she said, “But yesterday morning, I woke up and I said, ‘Lord, what can I do for You today?’ And I heard the audible voice; He said, ‘Go give that couple My bookstore. I told them not to buy it, and I’m telling you to give it to them.’” And she just starts bawling. Her husband’s already in the kitchen pouring coffee; she comes down the hallway, saying, “Honey, honey, honey,” and he looked at her and said, “I know, God already told me we’ve got to give them the bookstore.” So that’s how it began. They gave everything to us, and we had never run a bookstore. We’re pastors in the church. The name of that bookstore was Commitments, and we switched the name. Probably four years later, the Spirit of the Lord came to Pastor Kathy in a dream and said, “There were too many prior commitments in your bookstore. I want it to arise in the region to touch souls.” And that’s when we switched it to Arise.
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RETAIL Q&A CONTINUED would come to our home, and she would drive all over the county delivering. How did your reopening go? We did a soft opening. We haven’t really done any advertising yet. We’re just getting the final touches in. We have a coffee shop called “The Lord’s Cafe” that is not yet in place, and so we’re still putting that together. We’re shooting for Feb. 1.
Arise advertises that it is “open for prayer.” What roles do you each have? I guess my role is to be my wife’s husband. I know my role! My role in the bookstore is completely supporting her, 100%. She has the vision. I’m backoffice staff pretty much. I do all the business organization, and she does all the store functionality. God owns it, and we run it. Whom do you see as your customer base? The obvious customer base is Christians in the area, Christians who go to church, and I have 270 churches that buy their church supplies from me. But my favorite customer base, which is increasing minute by minute, is the person who’s invited to the baptism, invited to the graduation, invited to a communion, and they’re friends and neighbors but aren’t Christians. They’ll come into the store, and they’ll look for a gift for their neighbor, their friend, their relative, but they couldn’t spell Jesus. And they’ll just be totally transparent, saying, “My neighbor’s kid is getting confirmed.” “I’m a godmother. I don’t even know what that is! And what do I do about it?” Those are the people who are just amazing to come into the fullness and be able to show the glory and the grace of God. Probably the next category would be the people who come from all the hospitals. The hospitals refer people to 44
How did you decide to have a “prophetic art gallery”? Pastor Kathy and I have served the Lord all over the world. We’ve been in 55 countries in the last nine years. As we would travel, we would watch different artists on stage during praise and worship and during the service going back 20, 25 years ago. We were drawn to it. We collected the Old Masters for years before we were even saved. And God took the desire
our store for prayer. Outside we have a neon sign saying, “Open for Prayer.” So all the oncology departments, surgical wards—especially cancer for some dumb reason—when all the cancer doctors send the person home because there’s no more chemo, no more surgery, no more radiation, and they say, “Get your affairs in order.” I call it “the Hezekiah.” When they “Hezekiah” them, they send them to the store, Arise invites customers to its prayer garden inside the store. and we pray for them, and now we are even doing prayer at the of our heart and put it into knowing hospitals in the cancer wards. So those prophetic artists all over the world. would be our categories of customers. One of my visions was to open a prophetic art gallery. Prophetic art You closed your previous store is basically something an artist sees Jan. 15 and then reopened in the spirit realm during praise and in your new plaza location worship, during prayer, and then they Dec. 8. How were you serving put their vision down on canvas. and preparing in 2020? And I said, “Boy, oh boy, if we ever We took care of all of our customers. expand our bookstore, I’m going to Our customers would still order things, put a prophetic art gallery inside of and Pastor Kathy would deliver to their that place.” And Pastor Kathy said, homes. She’d get called, and she’d get “Whatever you want, honey.” And so it’s it out of storage or order it in. Then it just a little bit shy of 2,000 square feet
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RETAIL Q&A CONTINUED
The prophetic art gallery features original works on sale. of prophetic art from all over the world. We’ll have people come in and just stare and start weeping at the visions and the canvases. And God showed me the revenue stream of prophetic art. He said, “I will compel them to put it in rooms and places in their homes and businesses.” He said, “You just be obedient and buy it.” During the Christmas holiday, the pieces that we sold were not cheap because a lot of them were one of a kind. They’re not reproducible. We have original works. People don’t understand how a jewelry store stays in business because they don’t know the functionality of business. It’s not the little $2 tchotchkes that get bought that are around the store. It’s the 1- or 2- carat, high-quality diamond that can pay the rent for six months. My entire family and Pastor Kathy’s family have been business-oriented for generations, and through the help of the Spirit of the Lord, we have had just amazing, amazing breakthrough in our stores. What other unusual items do you carry? We have an anointing fountain, so at any given time, I have eight different oils from across the country. People will be able to bring their own bottles and carafes or bottles and carafes they buy here and fill their own anointing oils. We’ll be selling by the ounce. Do you have any products from Israel? We’ve been to Israel many times, and there are four or five different 46
businesses in Israel we connected with. One of them is called Jerusalem Boat; another is Olive Wood Products. People really have to know there is no more foresting of olive wood in Israel. It’s what they find and what they carve. That’s it. They’re done. So we have an entire section that is products from Israel. Tell me about the prayer garden at the front of your store. My wife did it with trees and foliage, a couple of park benches and a couple of tables with devotionals on them. It’s probably a 500-600 square foot space, and I’m a retail guy. Every square foot, that’s a selling space, but that’s just not how my wife operates. She told me, “No, this whole place is dedicated to God. It’s a God space, and the selling will come.” And she’s never missed. We don’t run a life that is like squeezing a lemon and waiting at the last minute for God to come through. We don’t just wish God’s going to come through. We stay in the realm of the blessing, and God blesses us and blesses us. Not that we haven’t had huge trials in our lives. I’m just telling you about the victories. We’ve been in the fire. We have trials, but we know we’re victorious through Jesus Christ. Is there anything structured about prayer times in the store? Pastor Kathy has devotionals at 10:00 every morning Monday through Saturday. That’s her and her girls, her prayer warriors. They fly in the Spirit, and they just pray and pray and pray. It’s a group of intercessors who get
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together, and they’re every ethnicity you can imagine. I stay away from those women, to tell you the truth. They’re powerful. They scare me. I think all of them are retired except two or three of them. She’ll have a group of 10, 15; she’s had groups of 25 people in the past, and they’ll pray every morning and do the devotionals. They just gather. It’s good to gather. Do you host any events? Over the past years, we’ve had lots of them. Our space is open to people in the community using it a lot more than our last store. We have an entire area fixed up in the basement where we’ve had groups, in the natural and in the spiritual. We have about 1,500 square feet, walled it off in the back room, that we’re looking to convert to a multipurpose area as well. As much as God gives to us, we’d like to give to the community. Do you have store staff? Until we opened this store, we didn’t have any employees. For 14 years, it was all volunteers from our church, and we had no employee costs whatsoever. In the last three months, God said, “I’m going to show you by taking care of others who will work for you, I will bless you even more.” And so we’ve had four or five employees who helped us set up all of the store, and they remain with us and are paid. We still have all the people from the church who come in, and they won’t receive anything as far as income. That’s really a story too because years ago, we got audited by the state. The big thing for them was, “How can you run this store without paying any employees? Are you paying people under the table?” And I said, “No, all of our people are volunteers who come from our church, but God’s got me no matter what.” But this was just one of those little tests of faith. We had that place prayed up, and the anointing hit the auditor. We just introduced her—or reintroduced her—to Jesus, and that was our audit. CR
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By James Clear
The old saying “Practice makes perfect” applies in the habits of life and business.
How to make incremental changes that will impact your life and business Successful retail stores don’t happen overnight, as the readers of Christian Retailing know full well. Vend’s Retail Expert and Content Strategist Francesca Nicasio points to some habits that retailers find useful. They range from bonding with your team to actively listening to your cus‑ tomers to employing checklists for product displays, maintenance and health and safety. Retailers in the Christian market told CR about some of their habits. Karen Grosse of Green Bay, Wisconsin, suggests keeping up with new products and market trends. Customers want you to pay attention to what’s new. Another important primary habit is to pay your bills, and do your taxes, on time. If you 48
don’t have money to pay more bills, don’t order, or order small shipments to keep up with special orders. But first and foremost, Grosse suggests, take time each day to thank God for your staff, family, customers, vendors and for all you come in contact with. Having an attitude of gratitude goes a long way. Michigan retailer Lorraine Valk suggests some useful habits for the Christmas season: Know what sold last year/what you had as leftovers for more accurate ordering for the following fourth quarter; order early as compa‑ nies are ordering tighter with fewer overruns and so run out of the popular items early; and plan all year. Prepare your advertising (existing customers and targeted new customer acquisition),
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t is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis. Too often, we con‑ vince ourselves that massive success requires massive action. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, writing a book, winning a champion‑ ship or achieving any other goal, we put pressure on ourselves to make some earth‑shattering improvement that everyone will talk about. Meanwhile, improving by 1% isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1% better
P H O T O B Y K E L LY S I K K E M A O N U N S P L A S H
Why Small Habits Make a Big Difference
address and sign store Christmas cards; organize closeout or loss leader products as early as possible. Learn more about habits and their value to your personal and professional life in the following excerpt from James Clear’s bestselling book Atomic Habits:
each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1% worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more. Habits are the compound interest of self‑improvement. The same way that money multiplies through com‑ pound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day, and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five or per‑ haps 10 years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent. This can be a difficult concept to appreciate in daily life. We often dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter very much in the moment. If you save a little money now, you’re still not a millionaire. If you go to the gym three days in a row, you’re still out of shape. If you study Mandarin for an hour tonight, you still haven’t learned the language. We
But when we repeat 1% errors, day after day, by replicating poor deci‑ sions, duplicating tiny mistakes and rationalizing little excuses, our small choices compound into toxic results. It’s the accumulation of many mis‑ steps—a 1% decline here and there— that eventually leads to a problem. The impact created by a change in your habits is similar to the effect of shifting the route of an airplane by just a few degrees. Imagine you are flying from Los Angeles to New York City. If a pilot leaving from LAX adjusts the heading just 3.5 degrees south, you will land in Washington, D.C., instead of New York. Such a small change is barely noticeable at takeoff—the nose of the airplane moves just a few feet— but when magnified across the entire United States, you end up hundreds of miles apart. Similarly, a slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a very different destination. Making a choice that is 1% better or 1% worse seems insignificant in the moment, but over the span of moments that make up a lifetime, these choices deter‑ mine the difference between who you are and who you could be. Success
“When we repeat 1% errors, day after day, by replicating poor decisions, duplicating tiny mistakes and rationalizing little excuses, our small choices compound into toxic results.” make a few changes, but the results never seem to come quickly and so we slide back into our previous routines. Unfortunately, the slow pace of transformation also makes it easy to let a bad habit slide. If you eat an unhealthy meal today, the scale doesn’t move much. If you work late tonight and ignore your family, they will forgive you. If you procras‑ tinate and put your project off until tomorrow, there will usually be time to finish it later. A single decision is easy to dismiss.
is the product of daily habits—not once‑in‑a‑lifetime transformations. That said, it doesn’t matter how successful or unsuccessful you are right now. What matters is whether your habits are putting you on the path toward success. You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results. If you’re a millionaire but you spend more than you earn each month, then you’re on a bad trajectory. If your spending habits don’t change, it’s not going to end well. Conversely, if you’re broke,
but you save a little bit every month, then you’re on the path toward finan‑ cial freedom—even if you’re moving slower than you’d like. Your outcomes are a lagging mea‑ sure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. Your clutter is a lagging mea‑ sure of your cleaning habits. You get what you repeat. If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how your daily choices will com‑ pound 10 or 20 years down the line. Are you spending less than you earn each month? Are you making it into the gym each week? Are you reading books and learning something new each day? Tiny battles like these are the ones that will define your future self. CR James Clear is author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller Atomic Habits, which has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. His work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Time, The Wall Street Journal and on CBS This Morning. Learn more at jamesclear.com.
Reprinted with permission from ATOMIC HABITS by James Clear, pub‑ lished by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. © 2018 James Clear.
S p ri n g 2 0 2 1 / / / CH R I S T I A N R E TA I LI N G
By Dr. Steve Greene
Access the right consultants for supernatural success
customer service. Tabulation is fast, simple and helpful. • After review of the initial feedback, consider inviting 5-10 customers to coffee. Try to have coffee every day with a frequent customer. Ask questions and listen. Seek ways to meet their needs. • Talk to your employees and ask what they hear from customers. Teach them to ask and listen. Model the process for your employees. What new or additional listening posts can you deploy to ensure you are not overlooking valuable feedback? We must also seek feedback from the Holy Spirit to confirm the path of our
PODCAST Listen to Spirit-led interviews, commentary and takeaways on how to come up higher and walk in God’s abundance. Download at CPNSHOWS.COM
Spirit gives strength to the doers. We listen for the still small voice to guide us to change a price, merchandise a section or engage an emerging need. Change flows through competence and anointing. A business is birthed with a spiritual “so that.” In his book Whisper, Mark Batterson quotes Martin Luther, who once observed, “The Christian
“Customers stand in front of your POS as living ‘repeat’ buttons.” business remains true to His leading. It’s easy to vibrate off our intended path and lose connection with the vision that launched the business. In my consulting experience, I frequently asked store owners to lock their doors and initiate a private prayer meeting. I walk through every aisle and pray with my eyes open. I’m always amazed at how, through prayer, I can see what I’ve been missing. I explain to clients that help comes in one of two ways. First, I pray for impartation. I ask the Lord to work a miracle. I’ve seen significant growth occur in organizations through impartation. I love to see a business owner seek to understand how radical transformation occurred in response to specific prayer. The second way I see businesses receive help is through prescription. We develop a plan to increase revenue and/or cut costs as informed by best business practices. We ask the Lord for help and get to work. Where the business is weak, the
C H R I ST IAN R ETAI LI N G / / / Spr i ng 2 0 2 1
shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” Batterson also quotes Dorothy Sayers, who said, “No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth.” The Lord commands us to serve one another. Why does retail service so often disappoint? Listen carefully as your customers call for excellent service. Surely our operation emerged to deliver a service fit for the kingdom. Come, Holy Spirit. CR Dr. Steve Greene is the publisher and executive vice president of the multimedia group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His Charisma House book, Love Leads, shows that without love, you cannot be an effective leader. Download his Greenelines and At Work With God podcasts at greenelines.com.
S E A N R O B E R TS
business owner who once survived the coaching of a wellmeaning consultant coined a description of the guru that is often applied to the industry: A consultant is just an ordinary person with a briefcase and an airplane ticket. As someone who has spent many years consulting for retail and service-business owners, I felt it necessary to balance the description with my definition of a client: A client is someone who eventually pays my fees and promises never to execute a single recommendation. When decision-makers review month-end financials, we often have more questions than answers. It’s wise to reach out for help. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed” (Prov. 15:22). Therein lies the rub. From whom do we receive counsel? I highly recommend godly, experienced, been-there-done-that counselors with briefcases, who travel from the East. The right consultant at the right time and with the right calling offers the right questions and recommends alternative solutions. But I offer an additional way forward. Allow me to introduce you to the best consultant ever to walk through a retail door. Your customers are both your best source of revenue and your most informed consultants to increase repeat business. Customers stand in front of your POS as living “repeat” buttons. Here’s how to access the consultancy potential from your customers: • Create listening posts. I assume you diligently collect clientele email addresses so it’s not expensive to reach out to past customers to receive feedback. Use a free tool such as SurveyMonkey to ask a few questions about improving product selection or
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