Christian Retail Is Not Dead

The movie title proclaimed: God is Not Dead. He isn’t. Nor are Christian bookstores.

This is a good thing. Our country needs Christian stores to shine the light of Christ into our culture. For years, Christian stores have encouraged the discouraged, helped believers grow in their faith, and provided people hope and peace through the Gospel message.

Christian Retail Is Not Dead

The Parable Group, a data-driven Christian marketing agency that connects retailers, products and services to faith-based consumers, conducted a Christian retailer study at the end of 2018. The surveyed 125 Christian retailers for the study.

Amid dismaying news of the demise of Christian bookstores, the study found that some Christian retailers are thriving, even in a climate that has seen the closing of over 400 Christian bookstores in the past three years.

According to the study, point-of-service sales at these brick-and-mortar stores were down three percent in 2018 from 2017. Yet, almost half the stores (48%) experienced either an increase in sales from 2017 or their sales were flat. The study found that those Christian retail stores that regularly sent print promotions to their customers out-performed the stores that did not.

Christian retail is not dead—and the print book is not dead. A few key takeaways from the study that included independent and church bookstores include:

  1. 38% of Christian bookstore sales came from books.

  2. The top five categories of book sales were:

    • Christian Living
    • Devotionals
    • Fiction
    • Women
    • Bible Studies

One point in the study that caught my eye was that Christian retailers report that one of their top three priorities is to discover and order new Christian products. These stores are actively looking for new books that their customers want to read.

Part of the mission of Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) is to represent independent authors and small publishers in the Christian industry. This is why we have represented our Members books at the major Christian retail show since our inception in 2004. We will continue to provide this service as long as Christian stores need product.

This summer, Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) will be representing our Members’ books at the CPE International show (Christian Product Expo). In doing this, we provide our Members an affordable way to present their new books to Christian retailers.

You can read the complete study results at https://www.parablegroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/ChristianRetail_2018_YearInReview.pdf.

Related Posts:
Why Christian Bookstores Are In Decline
Where Will Christian Books Be Sold?
The Book Distribution Conundrum

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Photo courtesy of rev_neil. 

The Internet is Winning

The reality is that it is hard to get brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores to stock books by small publishers and independent authors. For the past decade, Christian retail stores have been shutting their doors. Many of the remaining stores have reduced the floor space that they devote to books, opting instead to carry more gifts and clothing merchandise.

One of the reasons for the trend toward fewer physical bookstores and less floor space devoted to books in these stores is the Internet. While the Internet has been expanding, physical bookstores have been shrinking.

This past year (2012), for the first time, online retail stores sold more books than brick-and-mortar retail stores in the United States. According to new data from Bowker Market Research, in 2012, 43.8% of books bought by consumers were sold online, while only 31.6% of books were purchased in large retail chains, independent bookstores, other mass merchandisers, and supermarkets.

bowker chartThis is nearly a direct reversal of the previous year (2011) when 35.1% of books were bought online, while 41.7% were sold in stores.

This is big news. It is especially good news for small and independent publishers.
If this trend continues and the percentage of books purchased online continues to grow eight to ten percent each year, as small publishers and independent authors, we will no longer have to expend herculean efforts to get our books into retail stores. Instead, we will be able to concentrate our energies on making sure our books are available in the right places online and then pour our remaining energies into marketing our books.

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