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.”