Christian Retailing

Lysa TerKeurst speaks to women’s felt needs Print Email
Written by Ann Byle   
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 03:45 PM America/New_York

Best-selling author known for her ‘raw honesty’ engages readers and even learns from her own books

LysaTerKeurst-SheSpeaks-July2013-SeanLyon 200Lysa TerKeurst gladly admits she writes “from a place of my weakness.” Her struggles have yielded the best-selling Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food and Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, which have reached sales of well more than 1 million copies, not including companion devotionals and participant guides.

Her publisher, Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, which is part of HarperCollins Christian Publishers, is expecting more of the same from her August release, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.

“Lysa TerKeurst is completely in tune with the desires and needs of her audience,” said Brian Hampton, senior vice president and publisher at Nelson Books. “She does not write books and then hope her readers find them so engaging they talk to friends about them. Instead, she listens to what her readers are talking about—what they are really dealing with in their lives—and then writes books that speak to those needs in an engaging way.”

The combination of Christian retailers and TerKeurst’s books are what Hampton calls the perfect marriage.

“Lysa’s writing touches a broad audience, but the bull’s eye is exactly the kind of woman shopping in Christian retail: passionate about her faith, hungry for practical ideas and inspiration from an author who is authentic and knows from experience what it is like to juggle all of the roles she is playing,” he said.

The goals of the publisher and of Christian retail stores are well-matched: “putting life-changing content in the hands of Christian women (and men),” Hampton said. “Historically, nearly half of all TerKeurst’s book sales have been in Christian retail.”

The New Life Bookstore, located inside New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has a special place for TerKeurst’s books, according to Renai Herron, bookstore manager.

“Sales have been great, especially for Made to Crave and Unglued,” she said. “We’ve done several Bible studies with each book, so women have purchased them for themselves and as gifts.”

Herron plans to promote The Best Yes in the bookstore newsletter and in the New Release section of the store, displaying it on an endcap and offering a 20% discount on purchases for groups.

“Lysa has special place in our hearts here at New Life Church because she’s been here to speak,” Herron said. “The women really loved her talks and love her books.”

Baker Book House, an independent Christian retailer in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is forecasting store sales for The Best Yes on par with Made to Crave, which has sold nearly 700 copies since 2012, not counting Bible study guides.

“With each book, Lysa does a better job. She’s definitely an ‘A’ author,” said Sue Smith, store director. “Women are attracted to her because we need other women to be real and honest with us. Lysa’s biggest draw is her raw honesty. She doesn’t hide anything.”

Baker Book House will highlight The Best Yes along with TerKeurst’s other best-selling books in displays near the front of the store and close to the registers. The store has purchased 280 copies and forecasts a sell-through and additional purchases, thanks in part to a “healthy, upfront discount” from Thomas Nelson.TheBestYes

TerKeurst sees huge benefit from connecting to readers via Christian retailers.

“I value Christian retail stores and booksellers so much,” she said. “They are the connection point between a person desperate for help and the book I write to give them hope. So many times it’s a sales clerk within a Christian bookstore recommending a book that becomes the change agent in a person’s life.”

The Best Yes speaks directly to women who live with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule and an underwhelmed soul.

“I’ve really failed at this a lot,” TerKeurst said. “It’s not like I used to struggle with this five years ago. Today I have to open my own book to learn how to underwhelm my schedule.”

The author, who is also founder and director of Proverbs 31 Ministries, and her husband have five children, ages 15 to 26, so they know about being rushed. In fact, TerKeurst had been praying for a couple of years that God would “unrush” her. She discovered that wedging one more event into her schedule could bring her to that place of overwhelmed stress.

“I started to realize many years ago that either I was going to set and run my schedule or it was going to run me,” she said. “How I set my schedule determines how I run my life, and how I run my life is how I spend my soul. I kept getting a sinking sense that I wasn’t spending my soul well.”

Hampton of Nelson Books sees TerKeurst as one of the few authors who will open their lives to their readers.

“Some Christian authors aren’t willing to share their personal struggles in their books,” he said. “Others are willing to share them—if they have already overcome them. But Lysa is willing to share her current struggles with readers, and the result is powerful.”

He talked also of how much TerKeurst’s brand has meant to Nelson Books, admitting that he and his team learn as much from her as she learns from them.LysaTerKeurst

“She is a student of her audience and of publishing; she is so smart and engaging,” Hampton said. “After more than two decades in the industry, Lysa and her team have caused me to think in new ways about how Christian nonfiction books ‘work,’ what bonds reader to author and what kind of writing truly delivers value to the reader.”

Hampton and TerKeurst are hoping for more of the same from Christian retailers who are eager to bring buyers through their store doors looking for her newest book.

“We’re hoping Christian stores continue their already strong partnership with us, giving The Best Yes the kind of attention and support such a sales track record merits,” Hampton said. “We know their customers are eager for Lysa’s new book and will find it genuinely life-giving.”

Says TerKeurst: “When I hear booksellers have suggested one of my titles, I am humbled and so very honored. Together, we are changing lives.”

B&H Español named Best Publisher at SEPA Awards Print Email
Written by Burns   
Monday, 09 June 2014 03:47 PM America/New_York

Larry Downs Sr. also given special honor for years of service

LarryDownsSEPA2013// Spanish Market

B&H Español received the Publisher of the Year award for the second year in a row at the Spanish Evangelical Publishers Association (SEPA) Awards Banquet on April 30. Held prior to the May 1-4 Expolit 2014 event in Miami, the awards banquet saw several publishers receiving book and Bible awards as well as honors for sales.

A special award was given to Larry  Downs Sr., manager of key accounts, Spanish sales at Thomas Nelson, for his 50 years of service and outstanding contribution to the Spanish Christian publishing industry. Downs oversaw a Peruvian bookstore, which grew into a distributor and then moved to Miami. He and Ralph Gates ran SAM Literature, later known as Libros International. Downs later worked for Editorial Vida and Editorial Unilit before joining Thomas Nelson in 2005.

During the SEPA banquet, publisher B&H Español also won five awards for individual titles, including Best Specialty Bible and Best Cover and Interior Design (RVR 1960 Biblia del Pescador/RVR 1960 Fisher of Men).

Editorial Clie took home two big prizes for Gran Diccionario Enciclopédico de la Biblia—Book of the Year Harold Kregel Award and Best Original Book in Spanish.

Gary Chapman’s Los Cinco Lenguajes del Amor/The Five Love Languages won two Best-selling Book awards for Unilit, the first time a single title won trade- and pocket-size awards. Another classic by the publisher, Josh McDowell’s Más que un Carpintero/More Than a Carpenter, was added to the Galería de Honor for sales of more than 1 million copies.

Casa Creación won for Leadership (John Maxwell’s Las 15 Leyes Indispensables del Crecimiento/The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth), Christian Life (Joel Osteen’s Yo Declaro/I Declare) and Gift Book (John Eckhardt’s Declaraciones Diarias de Guerra Espiritual Para la Mujer/Women’s Daily Declarations for Spiritual Warfare).

Learn more at —Burns

Nigeria’s imported-book tariff violates international agreement Print Email
Written by Deonne Lindsey   
Monday, 09 June 2014 03:39 PM America/New_York

African country’s CBA organization reports postponement of new law’s implementation


A significant new book tariff announced recently in Nigeria may not be enacted after all, adding just one more question for retailers and publishers doing business in a country experiencing its share of change, persecution and violence.

Nigeria’s Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala announced March 18 that the country was planning to impose a 62.5% tariff on imported printed books, according to The story went on to say that the tariff was approved in a ministry circular Feb. 28, but would apply retroactively from Jan. 1. That decision represented a departure from a UNESCO agreement signed 60 years ago in which officials agreed not to impose charges on imported books, publications and educational materials.

Christian Booksellers Association Nigeria (CBAN) had some good news for Christian publishers, however.

“Members of Christian Booksellers Association Nigeria who had shipments of Christian books and Bibles have not had to pay any tariff on their goods,” said CBAN National Administrative Secretary Charity Akinwunmi.

The secretary said that CBAN officials have been in discussions with the government and have learned that the implementation of the new tariff has been suspended until Sept. 30.

Akinwunmi also noted that retailers are seeing a distinction between how general interest and religious books and Bibles are being handled.

“Our members who have shipments of general interest books have not yet had their goods released to them,” she said. “More talks between operators in the trade and the appropriate government department are planned. We hope that talks will result in the tariff being rolled back and no longer applied.”

In the meantime, the association advises that Christian books and Bibles should be shipped separately from educational and general interest books.

Tyndale House Publishers is hopeful that his company’s trade accounts will not be affected by the substantial tariff.

“Should the tariff be instituted, it would be a serious barrier to those in Nigeria who are to benefit most from the industry’s books and Bibles,” said James Elwell, Tyndale’s director of international publishing.

Rick Heyer, international sales manager for Charisma House, also does business with Nigerian customers.

“We will see if the tariffs will affect the buying from Nigeria at ICRS,” Heyer said. “They usually buy twice a year from us. So far I have seen an increase, not a decrease in buying from Nigeria.” —Deonne Lindsey

Canada’s Christian retail landscape loses more major stores Print Email
Written by Rhonda Sholar   
Monday, 09 June 2014 03:24 PM America/New_York

Customer shopping habits, distributor duplication named as significant factors in changing environment

HouseOfJames-Sale// CANADA

Canada’s Christian retail landscape is experiencing a sea change. In the first six months of 2014, three major retailers in three large cities have closed or announced their plans to do so: Hull’s in Winnipeg, Manitoba, after 97 years in business; Speelman’s in Toronto after 52 years; and Cameron’s in Windsor, Ontario, after 52 years.

The latest casualty, Cameron’s, was to close its doors June 14. The store was founded in 1962 in the basement of Glen and Dorothy Cameron’s home.

“While we still consider the products that we sell to be life-shaping, the ‘local Christian bookstore’ is no longer the primary place to purchase them,” said Stuart Cameron, son of the store’s founders.

Hull’s Family Bookstore shuttered two of its three stores in March. A 50% drop in customers prompted the Winnipeg store to close in March, one month after its Thunder Bay, Ontario, location closed. The Steinbach, Manitoba, store remains open.

“Over the last 10 to 15 years, the evolution of digital technology has produced profound changes in the bookselling environment,” said a letter to Hull’s customers. “Today, there are many options available in terms of where and how books are purchased and even how they are read. Bricks-and-mortar stores contend with showrooming. All of retail is grappling with global competition. The largest online booksellers are fast and efficient, and prices are often below our cost.”

Hull’s remains optimistic that its “right-sized” location will re-emerge in the future.

In February, the closure of Speelman’s Book House represents the end of a retail and a wholesale remainder business. A third stream that involves wholesaling Dutch-themed gifts, books and music will continue to operate.

These closures are not isolated, said Mark Hutchinson, president of the Blessings chain. “The key thing that retailers must focus on in Canada today is streamlining and wherever possible, looking to vertically integrate.”

He noted that one challenge is that there are too many distributors serving a niche market.
“There is far too much duplication which leads to additional costs being born by the retailer,” Hutchinson said.

“Publishers can help Canadian retailers by feeding them the latest information on their products so they can buy wisely and give their Canadian distributors good margins so they can pass those on to stores,” said Lando Klassen, owner of House of James in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Although approximately 40 stores have closed in the last six years, some diversifying their product mix are finding success, Klassen said. For instance, Verses in Lloydminster, Alberta, has become the number-one Canadian outlet for Duck Commander merchandise. Christian Book and Music Center in Victoria reduced its rent by moving to a smaller location and added a coffee bar and clearance center. Faith Family Books & Gifts in Scarborough, Ontario, added a women’s clothing boutique to its 10,000-square-foot store.

At the House of James, Klassen has increased sales by offering a used book center, general gifts, live music on the weekends, a coffee bar with an expanded menu and a summer reading club for kids.  

“Sometimes I do feel like I’m running a circus though, doing all these extra things just because I still want to keep selling Christian books and Bibles,” Klassen said.  —Rhonda Sholar

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

New report says consumer buying patterns see dramatic market shift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Romantic Times’ honors Barbour Publishing author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local faith community helps reverse chain’s decision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thirty-year veteran Paul Santhouse promoted to key position

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

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

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

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