Sue Smith,
CBA Board Chairman

Over the last few years, we’ve seen confirmation of what we instinctively knew to be true: The local church desires to support local Christian retail. Partnership with our local church body takes focused attention. Listening to what they want takes care and a deliberate strategy to make it work.

At our store, Bob Gillett fills that role well as our church sales coordinator. He says, “I’ve had the privilege of visiting hundreds of churches in our area. I call it a privilege because I’ve learned so much from them, and they are the greatest people in the world.”

Bob has been successful at reaching the decision makers and bringing them back to supporting local business by asking the question, “What do churches want?”

I’ve asked him to share the wisdom he’s gained from his experience. Here’s what Bob says.

1. CONVENIENCE. Amazon and other online retailers have raised the bar on convenience. Customers expect fast delivery, an expectation that can be hard to fulfill. Distributors are the lifelines for us to make this a reality. I challenge the Christian publishers to find a way to reduce the lead-time to help us fulfill this need. Personal delivery of product to the churches also helps reduce the delivery time and gives us an opportunity to build relationships.

2. FAIR PRICE. The appeal of online retailers has been price. We can compete on price and still make a margin. Sometimes that margin is slim, but it is still a margin. You should match or beat online prices if your desire is to equip the church.

3. GOOD PRODUCT. Churches expect stores to have a stock of good, quality books. Publishers need to publish books that meet the needs of the church. Churches look to us for the product knowledge to find the books that fit their needs.

4. RELATIONSHIP. This is the biggest advantage we have as brick-and-mortar stores. Amazon doesn’t build relationships or provide a smiling face (even though their boxes do). Face-to-face contact in the store, book tables, and church visits are great relationship-building events. Most church admins appreciate having our store staff deliver their orders. It creates opportunities for us to connect with them.

I welcome you to email me to continue the dialog. We can learn so much from each other. My email is bob.gillett@bakerbookstore.com.