Tag Archives: Greg Stielstra

Christian Products’ Industry Future is “Bleak”

Demonstrating once again the failure to distinguish between Christian products and Christian books, Christian Retailing reports that former marketing exec for Nelson and Zondervan, Greg Stielstra, foresees a bleak future for the Christian "products industry" (CR):

"Brick-and-mortar operations haven't lost all their business, but they've lost the business that will allow them to stay in business, whether they know it or not," says Stielstra.

Interviewed for World Magazine’s annual books issue (ironically releasing Independence Day, and just one week before the International Christian Retail Show), Stielstra says: "There's a lot of lip service to online retailing and to e-books, but there's still too much allegiance to old ways of doing business. Surges in Christian fiction, or in sub-niches, are just disguising the fundamental problems."

Stielstra adds that the music industry showed the way ahead for the book business. "It's no accident that it took a computer company–Apple–to figure out the new music model. They had nothing invested in the old model, nothing to protect."

(Incidentally, in the same upcoming issue, a World report highlights self-publishing as "the bright spot in a gloomy book-selling environment.")

Many thoughts ricocheting around my head over this, but one question stands out: Could it be that some Christians don't consider books just another product among the "miscellaneous retail" taking over Christian stores? Okay, another: Could it be that the Christian retail channel has focused too narrowly on certain segments of their potential market?Or maybe it's just that Wal-Mart or Amazon is cheaper.

The International Christian Retail Show changed its name from the Christian Bookseller's Convention recently after many years of books losing floor space to other products. Now books are also losing to a retail industry that sees no connection between their recent downturn and the surge in popularity of the "spiritual-but-not-religious" description of faith.

We can ignore or decry the situation all we want. But I wonder, 

Is there a connection between current rejection of establishment restrictions (about which the established powers–religious, corporate, and governing–are typically very concerned), and these entities' declining health?

Because whether YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are creating or following this social revolution, it doesn't seem many in the established powers (save Obama, maybe) are really paying much attention. 

Well, I haven't read the article yet. Maybe that's part of what Stielstra is saying about Christian retail. His coauthored book, Faith-Based Marketing probably deserves a fair read.