A Positive Outlook for Christian Retail

A Christian consumer survey conducted in January 2020 with over 2,600 responses found that 48% of respondents said they shop (or would shop if they had one) at their local bookstore for faith-based content. Only 11% of respondents reported that they would not shop in-store.

Percentage of People shopping in Christian stores

The Parable Group compiled data from analysis of $66 million in Christian product sales, 2.1 million consumer receipts, and survey results from retailers and publishers in their recent 2020 State of Christian Retailing. During a time when the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting that sales in bookstores declined 5.7% in 2019 from sales in 2018, the Parable Group found less discouraging data from Christian bookstores.

The Parable study found that same store sales were only down by 2.5% in 2019 over 2018. That is encouraging news for Christian bookstores when compared to the bookstore market overall.

Three other significant findings in this report may surprise you.

1.  Books are the leading sales for Christian retail, making up one-third of all in-store sales.

Books make up one-third of in-store sales.

2.  Half of all Christian book sales come from three categories: Christian Living, Devotionals, and Fiction

Half of all Christian book sales comes from these three categories.

3.  Hosting more store events is not a high priority for most Christian retail stores.

Store events not a high priority for retail stores.

The Christian retail industry is a niche market. While there have been numerous store closures over the past few years, what remains is not dying.

The landscape is changing as Christian bookstores are now almost exclusively independently owned stores. In fact, 75% of Christian retail respondents in The Parable Group’s survey had a positive outlook for the future. One store stated, “We’re reaching new people and retaining current customers better than ever.

If you are a Christian author and you have a Christian bookstore in your city, I suggest that you become a regular patron. Booksellers need our support. Bookstores help sell books. Whatever we can do as Christian authors to support Christian book sales impacts the Kingdom. If you are part of God’s Kingdom, then you reap the benefits.

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Photos courtesy of The Parable Group.

How Many Christian Bookstores Remain?

The number of Christian brick-and-mortar bookstores has shrunk rapidly over the past few years. In 2017, Family Christian, the largest Christian bookstore chain, declared bankruptcy and closed the doors to its 240 stores.  Earlier this year, Lifeway announced that they would close all 170 of their stores by year end. The company is moving to an online only presence for selling books. A number of independent Christian bookstores have also shuttered.

How many remain?

All told, the Christian book selling industry has lost well over 400 Christian bookstores in the last four years. This raises the question:

Are Christian bookstores a dying breed?

The 2019 Walker Sand’s annual Future of Retail report looks at shopping behavior. This year’s report reveals:

1. Consumers are buying less

Two-thirds of respondents of all ages, and 72% of those age 18-35, say they are buying fewer things because they have become more conscious of keeping a clean, organized lifestyle.

2. In-store is still in demand

Brick-and-mortar remains popular with consumers for buying things like food and other daily necessities: Some 83% of respondents say they purchased groceries in-store in the past year, and 76% say they purchased consumer packaged goods.

One exception to in-store shopping is purchasing books. Books are the only type of product that consumers shopped for more on third-party online marketplaces like Amazon than in-store.

Shopping Behavior

Number of Christian Bookstores

The increase of online book buying raises the question:

Just how many Christian bookstores remain?

This is an important question for publishers and authors. While both the size and scope of bookstores focused on selling Christian products have diminished over the past decade, physical book browsing is still one way a number of Christians discover new books.

In 2018, CBA launched the Get It Local Today program. The program was designed to help drive traffic to brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores. The program recently reported that their database—the largest online directory of verified independent Christian retailers—features more than 1,800 stores.

Each of these stores is part of the Get It Local Today program and are featured on a new interactive map on the program’s website.

Get It Local Today Bookstore Map

I encourage you to check out the map and find how many Christian bookstores are near you. Then, make an effort to support these stores.

I find the news of 1,800+ Christian brick-and-mortar bookstores heartening. How about you?

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13 Pricing Hacks to Increase Sales

For independent authors and small publishers selling books, there is a lot to learn—especially if you do not have a business or marketing background. Fortunately, there is a lot of information available for those who want to learn.

Smart retailers use pricing tricks, based on brain science, to appeal to shopper’s perception of quality, value, and cost to drive sales. You can employ one or two of the techniques that smart retailers use to improve your book sales. Check out these 13 psychological pricing strategies compiled by Wikibuy.

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Do You Have the Wrong Expectation?

“If you self-publish, expect to sell less than 100 copies of your book.”

These words were spoken by a Christian author on a marketing panel at the recent CBA Unite International Show. This particular author was both a traditionally-published author and an independently-published author. She had published books using both routes.

The authors on this panel were sharing the lessons they had learned in marketing their books. After making this statement, the author neglected to talk about what authors could do to help ensure that they sold more than 100 copies of an independently-published book.

I am happy to say that I strongly disagree with this author’s statement. I don’t believe that any self-published author needs to “expect” to sell less than 100 copies of a book.

Expect means “to regard as likely to happen.” Truthfully, up to 99% of self-published books do sell less than 100 copies. However, this statistic does not reflect what an author should “expect.”

Most self-published books sell less than 100 copies because the author does not market the book effectively. Too many self-published authors have the idea “if I publish my book, people will buy and read it.” This mindset sets an author up for failure.

With over 1,300 books are published every day in America. The competition for readers’ money and attention is stiff. How many copies you sell of your book is largely dependent on the quality of your book and on your marketing efforts.

Having sold thousands of copies of an independently-published book, I can attest to the fact that you do not need to “expect” to sell less than 100 copies. What you do need is:

  1. A basic understanding of the book publishing and selling industry.
  2. A strong selling point or promise to your reader.
  3. To know and understand how to reach your target audience.
  4. To invest time and money in marketing your book to your target audience.

If you need to gain knowledge and information in any of these four areas, resources exist to help you. Some of these resources include:

Don’t expect failure. Instead, plan and act for success. You can expect to sell more than 100 copies of a self-published book with some knowledge and effort.

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Photo courtesy of Vincent van Zalinge