UNITE workshop explores community connection and growth opportunities.

With the shuttering of Family Christian Stores, it is now more important than ever for Christian retailers to reassess their business plans and take the necessary steps not just to survive but to thrive. To help them reach these goals, David Almack, U.S. director for CLC International, will present “The Bookstore That Matters” workshop on June 28 at UNITE 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The seminar will explore tested ways stores can become important to their communities, based on Almack’s book, The Bookstore That Matters. Almack decided he had to put what he had learned about running a successful bookstore into book form after reading some data from the American Booksellers Association (ABA).

“After Borders closed, there was a resurgence of mom-and-pop bookstores. For example, a little store in Maine had become the hottest store in town,” he explains. “But in the Christian market, stores weren’t making a comeback. They were closing. Where were our moments of opportunity?”

Noting the gap between what was happening in the two markets inspired Almack to do something about it.

“I extrapolated principles that could be used by other stores and wrote the book to inspire and encourage current Christian retailers,” he says.

The book’s premise is if a Christian store matters to the community, the community will support the store and it will thrive. In his workshop at UNITE, Almack will expound on the lessons and explore new opportunities for Christian retail stores.

“In the book, I try to give concrete suggestions in each chapter. I’ll do the same at UNITE,” he says. “Specifically, there are three steps retailers must take that are the most important.”

Really understand who your customers are. “We presume too much, and we hardly ever ask them the right questions,” says Almack. “You need to step back and do a survey. And don’t assume older customers aren’t using technology—they are.”

Respond to your customers’ needs. “What are you going to do about what you know about your customers?” Almack asks, warning retailers not to craft a store that is more about them than their customers. “Just because you love Southern Gospel doesn’t mean your customers do. Find out what they want and meet their needs. And have a plan for what you’ll do if your customers want something you don’t agree with.”

Create a reason for people to come to your store. “Make your store irresistible to your customers, and don’t say you don’t have time to do events,” he says. “Step back and consider how you are defining an event. It doesn’t have to be large. Do micro events.”

More than anything Almack wants retailers to understand that having a Field of Dreams mindset—“build it and they will come”—was never true and certainly isn’t true today.

“Right now, it is urgent for people to get the concepts and apply them,” says Almack. “This is a time to seize the moment.”

Envision your future and what your store can become by registering for UNITE 2017 at www.cbaonline.org/unite-2017.

— Lora Schrock