Retailers answer publishers’ questions to improve marketing and sales in the channel.
The Bible is a perennial fixture in the Christian marketplace. And it is in the DNA of every Christian retailer who serves on the front lines, linking hearts and minds to God’s Word.
Storeowners know what their customers are looking for, what their felt needs are, what important questions they’re asking. Communicating this information to the suppliers who publish Bibles is critical for everyone’s success.
Recently Bible suppliers provided CBA with specific questions they wanted to ask retailers about Bible sales in their stores in order to improve marketing and sales in the retail channel. We asked a sampling of retailers these questions. Here’s what they had to say.
To better meet storeowner’s needs, Bible publishers wanted to know when and how retailers make Bible purchasing decisions. Donna Baker, president of Dightmans Bible Book Center in Tacoma, Washington, orders frontlist product when publishers’ sales reps visit the store.
“We appreciate the information they provide and the higher discounts we receive from the vendors,” she says, adding that she usually orders backlist Bibles by using the reports and history from her inventory management system.
Link McGinnis, co-owner and Bible buyer at Cedar Springs Christian Stores in Knoxville, Tennessee, also buys frontlist Bibles from sales reps, but for backlist, he uses a schedule to review titles from each publisher.
“The publishers are scheduled for either weekly, monthly, or in the case of distributors, daily review,” he explains. “Different times of the year require a different strategy. But basically I need to know our overall cash situation and the turns in each category. If cash is short and/or turns are running a little low, then my replenishment quantities per title will be a little tighter than if turns were running higher.”
Each publisher is reviewed, but an order may not be placed at that time if the order isn’t warranted (i.e. it doesn’t meet publisher minimums. etc.). “If certain items on the order are needed, but a publisher order can’t be made at that time, the item(s) may be placed with a distributor, if possible,” McGinnis says.
For Bethany Martin, manager at Faith & Life Bookstore in Newton, Kansas, most initial purchasing decisions are made with the help of a publisher rep at the beginning of each quarter. She says, “Reorder decisions are based on purchases and customer requests.”
Tammie Owens, manager at The Bookery Parable Christian Store in Mansfield, Ohio, relies on sales reps’ recommendations. “It also depends on what’s being promoted in our Parable sale catalogs,” she adds.
Many suppliers asked what—if any—merchandising tools would be helpful for retailers to sell Bibles. Because of space limitations, Martin’s store doesn’t have a lot of room for extra displays, posters, endcaps, or even samples. For that reason, she considers a translation guide the most useful resource.
“Just simple explanations of the differences of the Bibles and translations are helpful,” she says. “We use the poster that comes out every year explaining each translation and how it originated.”
Owens also favors translation guides while Baker says attention-grabbing shelftalkers are good tools to have.
McGinnis hopes to see in-store signage for new product geared to different levels of inventory. “For example, we can’t always justify buying every edition of a niche Bible to fill a dump display. So, merchandising needs to be available for different levels of product,” he says.
To help promote new Bibles over social media, McGinnis would like suppliers to provide “digital images and other resources that can be used in various social media.”
When it comes to the role price point plays in a customer’s decision to purchase a certain Bible, Owens says it is usually one of the main criteria.
Baker agrees. “Lots of customers want Bibles in the $20 to $30 range.”
“This is different for every customer,” says Martin. “A few don’t care about the price—they just want the right Bible for them.”
At certain times of year, price doesn’t matter, says McGinnis. “We see this especially at Christmastime or when the customer is passionate about a specific Bible. But if the customer isn’t already determined to purchase a certain type of Bible, they may choose a less-expensive Bible that still fits the need.”`
He adds that price is also one of the top reasons customers may choose not to make a Bible purchase in the store. “Some Bibles are so expensive that customers are more motivated to shop online—and sometimes they will actually tell us that.”
A particular price point can lead a customer to decide not to purchase a Bible at all. Martin believes that make-or-break price point is around $50; Baker believes it is over $40 for a text Bible and over $80 for a study Bible.
Retailers all have ideas for what new Bibles and Bible products they do—and don’t—want to see.
“I’m of the opinion that we really don’t need a lot of new kinds of Bibles—the shelves are overflowing with a huge variety of study and devotional Bibles,” Martin says. “Customers, especially new Christians, tend to be overwhelmed when they come in the Bible department to choose.”
She suggests that instead of new Bibles publishers create basic how-to-study-your-Bible guides. Baker, on the other hand, has specific Bibles and products she wants to see developed in the future.
“I would like Tyndale to create some new Bible covers for the New Living Translation. I think we could sell a lot more in that translation if we had some more choices,” she says. “I would like Crossway to produce some indexed Bibles. I would like to see more from HarperCollins in the Easy Read font, not to be confused with the new Comfort Print.”
McGinnis advises that for kids Bibles, “the age of the child and the size of the Bible should be directly related. Some of the kids Bibles are nice, but parents don’t think their kids will want to carry a Bible that large.”
When it comes to Bibles for adults, he believes the 80/20 Pareto Principle applies: “20 percent of Bible editions probably account for about 80 percent of Bible sales. Each additional Bible (or line addition) added to our inventory is going to add more costs to the store and have a smaller demand and return.”
One Bible product Martin wants to see on the market is protective Bible covers that actually match the size of the Bibles. “With all of the new Bibles that continue to come out, the covers really haven’t kept up in matching the sizes. We struggle to find covers—especially for the larger study Bibles and the smaller size—that will fit.”
Read more about popular customer questions and Bible-purchasing requests at cbaonline.org/biblecustomers.