Are CBA stores “book-oriented”?

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Warning! Snarky post ahead! If you’re sensitive to ironic humor, turn back now.

 

CBA Advance gets underway, and some data is released:


Leaders Reveal "State of the Industry" data:


There was some warming news in chilly Indianapolis yesterday in the State of the Industry report presented at the Future of the Industry conference.


* Retailers are becoming more book-oriented: Book sales in Christian retail stores last year comprised 29.8% of total revenues, compared to 26.9% in 1999. 


* A quarter of sales in the typical Christian retail store were in inspirational giftware, a segment that was “trending up,” and bringing “excitement and sizzle” to stores.

Anderson said that overall retail sales had increased 6.2% in 2006, although the National Retail Federation forecast only a 4.7% jump. Sales during the 2006 Christmas season rose 4.4% compared with 2005.

Anderson also noted that online Christian retail business was “coming of age,” with sales amounting to $102 billion in 2006, a 24% increase from 2005.

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Did you catch that? Overall book revenue is up 3% in 7 years! This can only mean Christian stores are becoming more book-oriented! I know that number fluctuates every year, which is why you have to go back 7 years to see an increase in overall book sales. And other reports indicate the book sales number for the average Christian retail store is around 36% But this is really good news for people who make money off books.

 

Second, if anyone can think of a viable and respectable angle to earn me my cut of that $102 billion in mammon from online sales, I’m now taking submissions (That $102 billion-a-year number is another interesting fact since other places claim the Christian retail market is only a $4.2 billion-a-year industry.)

 

I don’t mean to pick on us, but 3% growth over a period of 7 years is not an indication that Christian stores are becoming more book-oriented. And while I appreciate what Mr. Anderson is trying to do, put a positive spin on what many people see as the glut of Jesus junk flooding the stores, this measly number isn’t helping my outlook. But don’t get me wrong: I’m all in with hoping that spin becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

I guess I just haven’t seen a lot of hopeful signs that seem to indicate this supposed "book orientation" in Christian stores. The entire Christian book industry is being swallowed by the "Christian Retailing Market"–Christian books are being renamed, repackaged, repositioned as one more commodity on the shelves at "Christian Retail Stores." And while this may seem like just one more thing for Mick Silva to get up in arms against, I can’t seem to help thinking that the lack of distinction between books and other retail items is somehow connected to the kind of low quality "product" we’re seeing take precedence with book buyers.

 

Maybe I’ll just change my business cards to read "Christian Retail Product Editor." Then I could hand them out to the Christian Retail Product writers at all the local Christian Retail Product readings…

Note: Every Christian bookstore I’ve been in features Christian books as their primary offering, PTL. But it does seem to be getting harder for them…

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12 thoughts on “Are CBA stores “book-oriented”?”

  1. Yes, well, that’s all very sad. But who can be depressed after seeing a photograph of absolute adorableness lolling on the carpet? Oh my goodness. Is she non-stop fun, or is that smile false advertising?

  2. Soooooo cute.
    Has anyone ever seen the older black and white film “Blow Up”? The leading character discovers something when he blows up some random photographs he shot in a park. He searches for the truth about the incident and has the photographs and negatives stolen before he can figure it all out. In the end, well, the symbolic actions blare his acceptance of defeat at finding the truth.
    It seems that people would rather pay exorbitant prices for semi-“religious” paintings than pay full mark-up for books. The sales in the Christian book stores are generally good, but for devoted readers, shopping online is cheaper even with shipping. It does sometimes come down to dollars and cents. If you’re going to charge me $14.99 for a softcover book, or $19.99-$24.99 for a hardcover, then please give me more than a few hours of reading at 300-350 pages with more “white” on the page than print. JMO.

  3. I’ve actually stopped going to the Christian bookstores in my area. The Books-A-Million near me has a better selection. I rarely have to order any thing because it’s right there on the shelf.

  4. I feel compelled to chime in with agreement — that’s the cutest baby picture you’ve posted yet. This is a seriously adorable child. :)
    But, back to the actual issue, it’s frustrating to shop in the local Christian bookstore (which is an independent retailer and doubles as a Christian college bookstore) because it’s hard to find what I’m looking for amidst all the Jesus junk, and it’s all expensive. And yet … I’m glad I do have a bookstore nearby, and they’ll go out of their way to order something for me, and they’ll hold it until I can pick it up.

  5. The one Christian “bookstore” in my area features a freaky, stalking clerk, and honestly, I don’t even know if the guy works there. He followed me around the entire time I was there, pumping me for personal and theological information. I thought he was going to stab me when I said I didn’t buy into the whole “King James Only” line.
    I haven’t been back since.
    Anyway, I buy almost all my books online, and if I can get them cheaper from an independent bookseller (when the cost and shipping on a new book from them is cheaper than it is from Amazon.com) than from the Giant, I buy them that way.
    For me, it does come down to money. I can’t really afford to buy books in the first place, but when I do tell my kids I can’t feed them this week because Mommy needs her book fix (I’M KIDDING!), I do the online thing.

  6. I was personally more encouraged by this statement (‘other reports’ – down under the ‘fiction’ heading) than anything else:
    [“As an industry, we are rediscovering the incredible power of great fiction and embracing that over the more agenda-based stories that were really sermons masquerading as a novel” said Allen Arnold, senior vice president and publisher at WestBow Press.]
    Let’s hear it for great fiction overpowering agenda based sermons masquerading as novels!! There are people listening – as well as reading, apparently.
    Keep writing folks!

  7. Mick,
    The photo is adorable. Post some more. She’s sooo cute.
    I rarely buy books in Christian bookstores, or any bookstore for that matter. 90% of the time I buy from Amazon.
    I know this might sound snarky, but some Christian books qualify as Jesus junk. Jesus junk books are the ones that don’t glorifiy God in any way, even though they claim to be “Christian.” If only Christians were discerning…What WOULD our Christian bookstores look like?
    I guess discernment’s too old-fashioned a concept and terribly offensive..Discernment WITHIN the church? Horrors!!Gasp! Judgemental! I’m not sure the Book of Jude would sell well in a Christian bookstore if it were published today.
    Okay, snarky post over. Don’t be offended. Irony, people, irony!!!
    Have a nice day!!!

  8. A three per cent growth in book sales in seven years?
    God. All. Mighty. That sucks on toast.
    In any other enterprise besides Christian retailing, at that news the bean counters would either be stepping off high ledges, or checking the freshness of the rounds in their .38s. But I guess as long as the on-hand stock of the talking-vegetable DVDs and the little figurines of those enormous-eyed children is moving briskly, they still count it as a win.
    Caramba. There is work to be done, folks. Believe it.
    John
    PS: adorable, happy-looking child ya got there, Mick. Guess by her cheerful expression she hasn’t read that report. Yet.
    (I kid, I kid…)

  9. I hate to admit it, but despite the fact that I worked as a manager of a Christian bookstore at one point, I haven’t bought a book in a Christian bookstore in about five years.
    This is not to say that I don’t buy books. I do buy them. I just don’t buy them AT FULL RETAIL PRICE, which is what they’re sold for in most Christian bookstores I’ve been in.
    Since the chain CBA stores have put almost all the mom and pops out of business, I have even less reason to go to my local Christian bookstore to buy books. I’m willing to pay a little more to a mom and pop, but when a chain tries to gouge me? No chance!

  10. There are exceptions to the rule. In Houston, we have Grapevine Books. Thanks to the manager’s diligence, the store has the best theology and Christian fiction sections in town. You’ll still find the ‘other stuff,’ because there’s a demand for it, but the selection of books is really superb.

  11. From PW 2/5/07: “Attendance at last week’s CBA Advance—the winter meeting of the association of evangelical Christian retailers—was down from the previous year, and the future direction of the gathering will continue to be reviewed. ‘Our attendance was not what we wanted it to be,’ said CBA president Bill Anderson. ‘Not enough people came.’…Exhibitor numbers have also been falling steadily over the past four years, from 274 in 2002 to 191 this year. There is rampant grumbling among publishers about the necessity for two annual trade shows. One industry insider who spoke off the record said, ‘If one of the major publishers breaks ranks and doesn’t come, there’s going to be a mass exodus.'”
    http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6413313.html

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