Christian stores report 2.9% sales increase

May 06, 2014 / by / 7 Comments

Consumer buying patterns shift dramatically in 2013

Christian stores sales were up 2.9% in 2013 over 2012, according to the 2014 CBA State of the Industry Report released this week, but consumer buying patterns shifted dramatically in 2013. Fourth-quarter 2013 sales were down 6.9% in 2013, but sales were up 12.6% in the second quarter and 8.8% in the third quarter.

Shoppers buying earlier for Christmas affected seasonal sales, along with economic uncertainty and limited fourth-quarter product-release performance. Sales data is from CBA’s CROSS:SCAN sales reporting service.

Store closings increased to a 49 net loss in 2013 from 39 in 2012. The loss is less than 2011’s peak of 63 stores. The loss of mid-level chains drastically cut store counts, including the closure of 38 Cokesbury stores that consolidated into one Internet-only store (not counting 19 seminary stores). Eighteen new stores opened in 2013, up from 15 in 2012. About 63% of Christian stores have been in business more than 15 years.

Sales and store traffic remain critical issues for Christian stores. Retailers reported using more social media, e-marketing, and events marketing to drive traffic. Retailers also are becoming more intentional about building mission and purpose into overall store strategies. The number of stores with dedicated church relations programs increased 9% in 2013 over 2012, and 73% of respondents said they support a ministry program.

Overall product category shares remained constant with Christian stores reporting books and Bibles as about 60% of total sales. Gift and specialty categories increased as a share of overall sales, up about 6% in unit share and about 3% in revenue share. Church supplies had the largest category increase, but other increases are attributed to increased lifestyle merchandising. Categories such as kitchen and dining and apparel saw increased share, along with ties, tote bags, backpacks, bags/purses, bath & body, and hats.

The report includes an in-depth analysis of product categories, tracking of gift and specialty category sales and price-points, plus a special apparel category analysis. Separate sections look at publishing and physical stores and the state of the Church. Author share and best-seller lists for 2013 also are reported.

Added to the report this year are select data taken from a CBA Christian-supplier CEO survey, including data regarding critical issues, supply chain issues, and future marketing investments. CEOs from all traditional product categories are represented. About 32% of CEOs responding reported flat or no growth. Most suppliers reported growth rates of less than 5% and 28% of respondents reported 10% or more growth.

According to the report, future retailing will be dramatically different from today as stores become more about personal engagement, in-store experience, and missional purpose, rather than competing on price.

New “click and collect” strategies in partnership with suppliers are forecasted to help retailers capture transactions from suppliers’ consumer-direct marketing. Physical stores increasingly will support supplier fulfillment and warehousing in the value chain.

The report is free to CBA retail members and $79 to retail non-members. Member suppliers may receive the report for $79 and non-member suppliers for $199.

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