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.
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…