Fresh voices carry on the industry’s legacy, Part 2
Continuing the series from last month featuring emerging leaders who combine a passion for their work with innovative thinking to take the Christian products industry into the future, Christian MARKET spoke with five more retailers and publishers about the challenges we face now, the opportunities for growth, and their vision for the future.
Regional Director, North America and the Caribbean
Years in Industry: 20
State of the Industry: We are in a state of turmoil and upheaval. This has been ongoing for some time and the closing of Family Christian Stores is a very sad reflection on the state of the industry.
Top Challenge: Making the changes necessary to stay relevant and vital in our local communities.
Greatest Opportunity: Our stores provide places of respite from the chaos around us and are grounded in eternal truth that does change lives. If we can stay committed to being excellent booksellers, we can thrive and really make difference.
What Is Needed: We need to recommit to the basics. First and foremost, we must be grounded in God’s Word and be disciples of Jesus Christ who truly love people. Secondly, we must be a “people of the book” and truly embrace reading and discussing the books that have deeply impacted us. Lastly, we must pursue excellence in bookselling and operate bookstores that people can’t wait to visit.
Future Outlook: This is truly a Gideon moment. We’re being winnowed down, and it is my prayer that the remaining booksellers would become a part of resurgence of the Gospel and revival in our nation. There may never have been a more important time to be a Christian bookseller as the world continues to move away from God and the truth of His Word.
Social Media Coordinator
Years in Industry: 10 months
State of the Industry: Our industry needs to change with the times. People in my age group (21 to 30) are now viable consumers, and we think differently and seek different content.
Top Challenge: Keeping up with consumers. We live in a time where people long for instant gratification, and we race against the clock to convey our message within the short attention span that the consumer has.
Greatest Opportunity: Because of social media, our consumer base is more global than ever before. We have the opportunity to reach a technologically advanced but unchurched audience with our root message.
What Is Needed: We need to meet the needs of our consumers by meeting them at their level. We must continuously work to bridge the gap between consumer and business, which can be done through social media.
Future Outlook: The opportunity to develop strategic partnerships with the marketing departments of the publishers we currently work with.
Director of Publishing
Years in Industry: More than 10
State of the Industry: Christian retail has a direct correlation to how people are practicing and growing in their faith. Studies would show that the church in America is in a state of steady decline. For the church to survive in the years to come, feel the same applies to Christian retail. it will need to find a way to be relevant to future generations. I feel the same applies to Christian retail.
Top Challenge: Christian retail is oriented around a relationship based on the exchange of goods and services. As long as someone is looking for that good or service, the relationship works. But if the person perceives that the good or service is a commodity, or worse, unnecessary, the relationship falls apart.
Greatest Opportunity: If the relationship of Christian retail behaved more like a real relationship (friend) and less like a business relationship (vendor), I think we would have the ability to connect with people in a more meaningful and transformative way. The real goal should be to engage people in more meaningful ways.
What Is Needed: The more Christian retail can think and behave like a real relationship, the more impact we’ll have in our communities. Retail stores also need to be a reflection of the community they are called to serve in.
Future Outlook: I’m excited that God is present in all of the changes that we’re experiencing. We need to be open to exploring new ways, having new conversations, and seeking new opportunities than we have in the past.
JACOB VIUM OLESEN
Scandinavia Publishing House
Years in Industry: My whole life
State of the Industry: Critical. Internationally, there are quite a few countries that are struggling getting foreign currency (USD) to pay for imported books. Also, there is an information overload, so it’s extremely difficult to get through to the buyer, whether it’s an end user or a business. Buyers are more and more critical toward marketing messages, so that challenges us to find new ways to communicate.
Top Challenge: Many people don’t read books as much as they watch their inbox or iPhone/iPad, especially the coming generations. The challenge is to encourage kids to read books and dig deep, rather than make the books into shallow, endorphin-hype entertainment substitutes.
Greatest Opportunity: The internet. We can connect with people all over the world and create smaller circles/segments of customers who share our love for certain things or certain products.
What Is Needed: We need to understand and communicate to our community that reading books is important in the long run.
Future Outlook: Books are important and sharing ideas will never go out of fashion, so there is always hope for this industry. I’m therefore excited that our efforts are not wasted. The ideas we publish can live on forever.
Baker Book House
Years in Industry: 2
State of the industry: Purposeful and filled with incredible servants for the kingdom, but we are struggling in a changing retail landscape, we are challenged alongside the church to reach a new Millennial audience, and the climate is increasingly hostile to our message.
Top challenge: We aren’t the church proper, and yet we carry the same responsibility to deliver the Gospel message, thus I think our challenge is in venturing into topics that the church cannot or will not explore, and to engage with the people who would never enter a church. In this, God will show up in unexpected ways.
Greatest Opportunity: We are well equipped to provide a warm embrace to all people, and in a time when most go through their day experiencing the opposite.
What Is Needed: Christian publishers should keep investing in authors and stories that address tough topics, and Christian stores should continue to throw open their doors to listen and discuss these topics.
Future Outlook: All the new ways we will learn and adapt to deliver the message of the love of Christ to the world. My hope and excitement is that we will build strength in writing great stories and as a result we will continue to see the proliferation and importance of literacy and reading.
— Lora Schrock