Curtis Riskey, President, CBA

Is God’s hand on our industry? If it wasn’t, would we be here as brothers and sisters? If we believe it is, how does this shape the way we think about our businesses, our mission, and each other—and how is this exemplified in our strategies and plans during this time of change?

In all my conversations with industry leaders, I hear the same theme: We need to change. Everyone has an idea of what needs to change, but no one area has a clear sense of how. Change can cause us to withdraw to our own camps to wrap our minds around what we know and think we can control—or it can present a new opportunity to glorify God as we bring our camps together and march ahead in unity, doing good to those within our family of believers (Galatians 6:10).

It’s time to address the myths, facts, and opportunities for us to “do good within our family” and move our industry forward.

MYTH NO. 1: People shop more online than at retail stores. If this is true, how are our products being discovered? The fact is that brick-and-mortar stores are where customers primarily find out about product, and suppliers benefit most when they understand how to optimize the retail store channel. Publishers need stores for discovery, and sales are not going to increase without a strategic channel management plan for Christian retail. If we lose these outlets, we lose discovery for our products—and Amazon and all the online marketing in the world can’t fulfill that need like Christian retail stores.

MYTH NO. 2: The retail channel is going away. If this is true, why does CBA’s 2017 State of the Industry Report show that 85 percent of product sales will be through brick-and-mortar stores through 2025—and why is Amazon opening brick-and-mortar stores? Why are independent ABA stores experiencing growth in the wake of one their biggest chains closing? Instead of focusing on the number of stores closing, we should set our goals by the number of outlets we’ve grown. How many outlets does Amazon have? How many do we have? If this is our success factor, we’ve got to think about how to gain outlets.

MYTH NO. 3: If a store can’t compete on price, it will not survive. If this is true, we’ve undervalued the power of experience, differentiation, and innovation. Stores that change their business models from price-and-item to transformation centers find new opportunities to engage customers with content. Publishers also have a responsibility to support this model by differentiating product for stores. What are we doing to distinguish the life-changing books our customers want that bring them into Christian retail stores?

The opportunities before us to grow the industry are limitless—but they depend on our faith that God is working in ways we cannot see, our belief that His Word will guide us, and our resolve to work together in unity.

Jesus shares this in His high priestly prayer in John 17:21 “that they all may be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

Our witness to the world of how we “do good to those within our family” is our legacy, and this story is still being written—will it be one of faith and unity?