Heather Trost seeks collaboration in a time of faith-resurgence.
CBA Board Member Heather Trost, a Colorado native, has owned The Greatest Gift & Scripture Supply in Pueblo, Colorado, for the last six years.
“I came from a corporate human resources background,” she says. “I never really intended to own a Christian store, but we plan and God laughs. I feel like this is exactly what I was meant to do all my life.”
Her positive attitude and sense of purpose are a perfect fit for a store that’s been a community fixture in Pueblo for the last 68 years.
While some people might lament the state of spiritual affairs in the country—not to mention the prospects of the Christian products industry—Trost has a different take: “I’m excited about a lot of opportunities coming up with the resurgence of people seeking out God. There’s so much turbulence in the world, and it seems as though Christianity is at its best when we’re persecuted. People want some guidance. They want to get into the Word more so that when they’re faced with questions, they know how to answer and feel confident they are answering correctly.”
YOU CAN’T GET THAT ON AMAZON
As stores across the Christian marketplace compete with online giants, Trost lends an interesting perspective: “I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘I shopped online and when I got the package in the mail it wasn’t what I expected, so I don’t know why I didn’t just start here.’ People are realizing there are advantages, of course, to shopping online, but they’re also realizing that there are major advantages to shopping in the store. It really all comes down to product knowledge and relationships.”
And relationships are Greatest Gift’s specialty. “We have people who literally come into our store just for prayer,” Trost says. “They’ll walk in and say, ‘I don’t need anything today, but could you pray for me?’ You can’t get that on Amazon.”
SEEK WISE COUNSEL
Trost is no stranger to tough times. “In November of last year,” she says, “my solemn prayer was, ‘Lord, please help us to be able to open the doors on January 2.’ It was not a good year for sales. So, I opened up to some key industry people and said, ‘I need help. Do you have any suggestions?’” Steve Potratz at Parable did.
After recalling that The Greatest Gift was fairly large, Steve advised her to cut her sales space way back. “I was trying to fill all that space so that it looked full,” Trost says. Acting on Steve’s advice, she cut a third of the sales floor space in short order.
“We moved all our inventory upstairs and expanded the Comfort Zone (a community meeting area) downstairs,” she says. “The square footage upstairs is now filled with less product, but we’re more focused on carrying our best-selling products. We’ve really tightened up our inventory and ordering practices.”
A LONG, LONG WAY
Like many in the industry, Trost sees a need for more candor and unity in order to ensure an enduring legacy. “People may not agree 100 percent on things, but that doesn’t mean that you go off on your own and do something completely different. We need more unity in conversation.”
Trost acknowledges that some Christian retail stores have “dropped the ball” on letting churches slip away. “When we saw their business leaving instead of sitting down and having a conversation of ‘What can we do to serve you better?’ we just went, ‘Eh, we’ll get it somewhere else’ or ‘They’ll come back.’ And that’s not the case. If we would just be honest and helpful with each other, I think that would go a long, long way.”