CBA, the Association of Christian Retail, Hosts the ICRS
ATLANTA – June 25, 2014 – Amid massive cultural shifts in book-buying and church attendance, the 2014 International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) met for four days and sent bookstore owners home with optimism and new tools for changing times.
“Group Publishing’s Jeff Michaels said it in an ICRS training session: the market has shifted from Boomers, driven by price, to Millennials driven by branding, local loyalty, and relationship,” Curtis Riskey, president of CBA, the Association of Christian Retail, said. “And small Christian stores are in that sweet spot.”
Attendees this year, a number up slightly from last year (buyers rose by 2.4 percent) praised ICRS for the discussions and networking. “To connect with people that think like me, have the same business issues I do, and the strength that comes from being with fellow Christian retailers is priceless,” Sue Smith, manager of Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said.
“[It’s] not just meeting the booksellers but other exhibitors stopping by and sharing ideas about how our products could fit in,” “God’s Song” author Sandy Betgur said.
“You’ve got dynamic people all driving toward the same goal and mission,” Riskey said. “There’s no substitute for in-person meetings.”
VeggieTales and Dr. James Dobson
Announcements at ICRS started with VeggieTales’ new deal with Netflix. The market leader in Christian children’s entertainment, owned by Dreamworks Animation, will reach 45 million households; a three-year series of 156 all-new episodes, all with VeggieTales’ typical Christian-faith elements, also will be bundled for DVD release, spurring new licensing lines of books and gifts.
In other news, Family Talk’s Dr. James Dobson, about to release his career-capping “Building a Family Legacy” series of videos and books, received the ICRS Lifetime Achievement Award. “His impact on the Christian retail world can’t be understated,” Riskey said. “His radio interviews alone drove tens of thousands of people to Christian bookstores.”
The Conference Conversation
ICRS launched on Monday with an general session panel of Ravi Zacharias (scholar), Philip Yancey (writer) and Ryan Dobson (speaker) addressing the question: “Where is Christianity going?”
“That was a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” Riskey said. “Titans in Christian thinking at time when Christianity is in upheaval, and we have a flood of requests for the audio. Each person, from a rare and unique perspective, says God’s in charge–and sent the audience out with hope.”
Ministry in Action: Duck Dynasty and Helping the Poor
This year’s new Change A Life Festival—free and open to the public—featured a daylong lineup of top Christian musicians, comedians and personalities, headlined by Duck Dynasty stars Phil and Alan Robertson. The festival benefited Buckhead Christian Ministry, reaching out to poor and needy in the Atlanta area.
“We leverage the trade show to do good in the community–just as the stores, increasingly, are part of, and giving back to, their communities,” Riskey said.
Workshops, Awards and Speakers
ICRS workshops and training ranged from selling Christian rap, to the Hispanic community, to new media. Seminars ran from trends in Christian fiction, to children’s literature, to Christian films and related products.
As the industry gathers, major author groups also bring their annual awards: the Advanced Writers and Speaker’s Association’s Golden Scroll awards (keynote speaker, “Left Behind” author Jerry Jenkins), and the Christy Awards (to recognize and honor quality literary fiction). The American Christian Fiction
Writers’ Carol Award announced its finalists.
- Group Publishing founder and CEO Thom Schultz gave the keynote address: Retail’s Frightful Kodak Moment.
- Group Publishing’s Jeff Michaels: What’s Missing From Retail? 4 Keys to Winning the Battle of Showrooming & Attracting Millennials.
- Eric Shanfelt, SVP of eMedia, HarperCollins Christian Publishing: Driving Discoverability and Sales.
- Robin Hogan and Robin Cutler with Ingram/Spring Arbor’s Spark program: Taking a ‘Selfie’ With Publishing, how self-publishing and bookstores can profit together.
- Kingstone Media Group founder and CEO Art Ayris’ Catching the Comics Craze offered an illuminating look at the graphic media market.
- Erik Ernstrom, Parable Group: The Story of Numbers or, Defeating Data Through Common Sense, making sense out of data and using it to improve business.
ICRS 2015 will be June 28 through July 1 in Orlando, Fla., and exciting new plans beyond 2015 will come in a formal announcement.
Speaking of the great cultural changes and retailers’ opportunities to change not the message but the methodology, Group Publishing CEO Thom Schultz summed up the spirit of ICRS 2014. He said, “Those who do step up will be the ones not only to survive but thrive.”
For interviews, contact: Michael Conrad [email protected] 214-616-0320
CBA, the Association for Christian Retail CBAonline.org
CBA, the Association for Christian Retail, is the leading association for providers of Christian products to reach all people. It supplies vital connections, information, education and encouragement to Christian resource providers.