This week from June 26 – August 1, Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) is holding an international convention at Atlanta, Georgia, where 11,000 individuals interested in Christian retailers will gathering to promote their products.
Titled "CBA International 2004," the convention will feature music retailers, recruiters for record companies, publication retailers, and even gaming and computer-oriented retailers. The continuous rise of popular demand for faith-based products has signaled a qualitative change within the Christian retail industry.
At the event, large banners greeting Christian bookstore owners, publishers and others attending the industry's annual convention this week in Atlanta exclaimed "New York Times Best Seller!" in promoting "The Purpose-Driven Life" and "The Maker's Diet," two Christian titles that have successfully ‘crossed over’ hitting the mainstream market.
Popularity among the ‘Faith’ sections at bookstores such Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble have also increased due to consumer discounts that some Christian stores can't afford to offer.
At the convention, attendants will discuss ways in developing a niche and constructive competition to attract customers back to Christian retailers.
"We're definitely seeing no slowdown and an acceleration in the number of Christian books being published with a lot of splash and media attention, books hitting best seller lists that we didn't expect to cross over," said Jana Riess, the religion book review editor at Publishers Weekly.
Christian bookstores will "never be able to sell as cheaply as Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Costco or Barnes & Noble," but they have a small advantage over those competitors: customer service and product knowledge, said James Dion, a Chicago-based retail consultant.
"The business is first and foremost a ministry. The good news: it's a wonderful thing, it can become the most powerful customer service strategy you can develop," said Dion, who has worked with the Christian Booksellers Association for several years. But "they put business not even second, but third and fourth. They're wonderful ministers but not really good business people."