Christian Stores Well-positioned in Digital Age, Says Research from ICRS Show attendance up
The closing day of the International Christian Retail Show July 18 completed a meaningful three-day event that focused on the changing role of retailing as a connector among readers, consumers, and the community. New research presented at the show also showed that while Christians are shifting to new e-reader technologies, they also continue to be very supportive of Christian stores.
The event opened Sunday with a general session on using fair trade and missional products to extend the ministry and service of stores through the products they use, and ended with a donation of back-to-school supplies for 300 children at the Orlando Children’s Church. Focusing on the new “fifth ‘P’ of marketing” as being a store’s purpose, a lively panel discussion Sunday engaged details of what these products mean and how they help people pull themselves up by the bootstraps or help serve a cause. A special exhibit on the exhibit floor offered more information and presented companies who work in the fair trade and missional-products areas.
"We appreciate the opportunity to enter a new market because we’re a Christian company and we want to be in the Christian market,” remarked Michael Wilcox of Fair Trade Fashion Design.
As part of the theme, the children’s backpacks were supplemented with numerous library and educational resources for the children’s church. The continuing tradition of giving back to the host community of ICRS was well received as attendees helped purchase backpacks and fill them with supplies donated by industry companies, including Abby Press, Barbour Publishing, Christian Tools of Affirmation Inc., Gospel Light, Guideposts, Ingram/Spring Arbor, Kerusso, No Greater Joy Ministries, Standard Publishing, Tyndale, Xulon Press, and Zondervan. In addition to the funds raised during Sunday evening’s Worship Now event, Spring Arbor also donated $2,000 toward the backpacks, and all 300 backpacks were stuffed and made ready for the kids thanks to our attendee volunteers by the end of the day Monday!
In a video presentation at an opening general session, David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, summarized findings from CBA-commissioned research that revealed Christians are embracing computer tablets and e-readers at a faster pace than most consumers. Some 44% of pastors, 30% of Christian-store shoppers, and 25% of practicing Catholics reported they own a mobile tablet device or e-reader, compared to 18% of non Christian-store shoppers. The most-owned device reported was the iPad (44% among Christian-store shoppers). Additionally, nearly 70% of Christian-store shoppers said they would definitely or probably buy an e-book or digital download from a Christian store. Barna encouraged Christian-store retailers to embrace the technological changes, master digital marketing, and choose how they want to compete in this rapidly changing consumer area.
More than 800 Christian stores are now able to sell e-books through store websites, which increasingly puts brick-and-mortar stores in the center of reader and consumer engagement. The brick-and-mortar store is still the best option for book discovery and sales, according to Curtis Riskey, CBA executive director. He said physical stores increasingly are offering a sense of place and engagement that online stores are unable to fully provide.
ICRS finished its three-day run in Orlando with professional attendance up 0.5% to 1,756, primarily representing buyers. Total attendance was up 1.5% to 4,990. International attendance was down 14.6% to 368 attendees from 59 countries.
“ICRS increasingly is the gathering place for much of the Christian community, including authors and artists who want to meet directly with retailers,” said Curtis Riskey, CBA executive director. “ICRS continues to be an important launching pad for many new works by national pastors, favorite authors and teachers, and music and worship leaders.”
Authors from the American Christian Fiction Writers and the Christian Authors Network, for example, provided training and demonstrations to enhance Christian stores as community gathering places around the common message and art of Christianity.
Publishers enjoyed the energy on the Show floor generated by numerous author signings. Lorraine Caulton, senior marketing manager at InterVarsity Press said, “It was exciting seeing people in line for book signings even before the author arrived!”
Russ Schwartz from Thomas Nelson said that Nelson had more than 150 meetings in its conference area with people across all Christian-retail sales channels, plus impromptu meetings in the hall. Nelson hosted a retailer reception as part of its ICRS events that Russ said was helpful to connect with partners and for relationship building. “It’s been great,” he enthused. “We met with our valuable partners to find new ways to grow our business together and continue to do business.”
“It’s been busy,” said NOTW’s Bill White. “We’ve been penned in.”, referring to the constant flow of traffic on the show floor.
DaySpring’s Jim Hauskey said that ICRS 2012 was “one of our best shows ever. We’ve had record sales, and we were always busy.”
The inaugural Resonate Film Festival featured 14 films that were screened or announced, plus included a special appearance by Hollywood reality show producer Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey of Touched by an Angel fame. The couple introduced a 10-hour History Channel series, The Bible, which will depict Bible stories in latest media production technologies (the DVD series will be available to Christian stores).
Winners of the Resonate Film Festival Awards, presented Wednesday morning during a special press conference are Home Run, directed by David Boyd and produced by Carol Matthews and Tom Newman in both the Best Feature and the Best Inspirational categories; and Blessing, Curse, or Coincidence (Hatikvah Film Trust), directed and produced by Hugh Kitson, in the Best Documentary category. Congratulations!
The Retail Academy, presented by Bob Negen of Whiz Bang! Training and sponsored by Ingram/Spring Arbor, continued to be popular as retailers proactively work to adapt to new realities of retail technology and marketing.
ICRS also welcomed the Orlando community to attend Sunday’s public Worship Him services and the New Voice Showcase, a special concert of emerging Christian artists -- and many attended.
Another open-to-the-public event, the Champions of the Faith Awards Banquet and Benefit Concert honored individuals and companies who follow the principles of Jesus Christ in their personal and professional lives. Honorees include Orlando Magic basketball team founder Pat Williams (sports), EMI Christian Music Group (Music); Campus Crusade (Charity); Lysa TerKeust, Proverbs 31 Ministries (Author); Ed Kobel, president of the DeBartolo Group (Business); publisher Thomas Nelson Inc. (Christian Product Supplier); For All Bible Center (Christian Store Retailer).
Independent retailers and chains alike enjoyed a successful ICRS 2012. Mardel VP De Ann Anderson said, “It’s been great. The week has been filled with appointments, and we’re looking forward to good things.”
“It’s been good,” agreed Lester Spoelstra from Selah Books in Redland, CA. “Getting new ideas, seeing new products. Being at ICRS helps me see these so I can compete….”
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