Get Thee Behind Me, Big Box

Discussion
Jul 13, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

In the Christian Gospel of Mark 4:8:33, Jesus rebuked his disciple Simon Peter saying “Get thee behind me, Satan; for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men.”

For many in Christian products retailing, their business is not so much about profits and losses as it is about carrying on the work of Jesus and his disciples. Increasingly, however, these retailers say they are losing out on sales to others firmly entrenched in doing business in the way of men.

In the past two years, Christian retailers have seen their share of market share decrease from 57 percent to 53 percent. However, sales of Christian-themed products have risen from $4 billion in 2000 to $4.3 billion last year.

Bill Anderson, president and CEO of Colorado Springs-based CBA, the trade association for Christian retailers and their vendors, told the Rocky Mountain News at the International Christian Retail Show in Denver this week that those running Christian stores need to differentiate by emphasizing their expertise in the subject matter.

“Many people say ‘I want to shop in a store that shares my values,’ ” he said.

Moderator’s Comment: How do you see the competitive battle between Christian specialty stores and broad line retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco playing
out? Will secular retailers greatly expand their emphasis on religious-themed items as a result of changes taking place in American society?

George Anderson – Moderator

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9 Comments on "Get Thee Behind Me, Big Box"


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John Rand
Guest
John Rand
15 years 7 months ago

Niche retailers that like being niche retailers are likely to remain niche retailers. If they want mainstream sales from specialized products, they have to mainstream along with everyone else.

But they will survive. If better, bigger marketing companies could put religious groups at risk, the Protestant Reformation would have been re-absorbed by the Catholic church in the 18th century.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

When big box bookstores rolled out across America, specialty bookstores (such as gay/lesbian bookstores) took tremendous sales hits. The small specialty bookstores could not present dominant assortments in their categories, compared to Borders and Barnes and Noble.

Unless Christian stores can come up with unique products (a “shared private label” line, for example) or unique services (alliances with schools for adult and children’s classes, for example) they will suffer major sales hits.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
15 years 7 months ago

Other than overlapping on some best selling SKUs, there is no threat either way. In fact, a Target or Costco offering best selling SKUs such as the “Left Behind” series of books may take away sales in the short-term from a Christian oriented store but in the long-run may help sales by creating interest in the retail sector. There’s no way a Target or anybody else could begin to carry the depth of SKUs a Christian oriented retailer is going to carry. The real threat to them is the internet, not big-box retailers.

Brian Numainville
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

Mainstream retailers are carrying, and will continue to carry, these religious-oriented items. These sections seem to have grown in Wal-Mart and Sam’s over recent years in categories like books and music. In order to survive, the specialty retailers that serve this segment must differentiate and find ways to offer better service and illustrate common bonds in terms of values. Perhaps a coordinated campaign of some sort by CBA should be considered to help in this effort.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

The first comments say it all – big box retailers couldn’t care less where their sales come from or why. It’s up to any and all speciality retailers who want to survive to sell customers on their ethos and benefits as well as their products.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 7 months ago

Mainstream retailers can be expected to grab more of the religious-oriented market as it rapidly grows, just as traditional retailers got more heavily into natural and organic items as they gained broader awareness and consumer loyalty.

Tom Zatina
Guest
Tom Zatina
15 years 7 months ago

It seems to me that this specialty segment is vulnerable to the same competitive threats as other retailers. WM, Target and the like do not discriminate when it comes to where they suck in sales.

They are on their own mission.

Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
15 years 7 months ago

At the end of the day… a $4 billion category will be handled as any other opportunity by the mainstream retailers.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 7 months ago
Small Christian owned/operated businesses can not only survive but prosper by catering to those with whom they have most in common. I live in a relatively small community (>250,000) but I count hundreds of churches in the phone book (less than an inch thick). These businesses should work the churches with flyers, special offers, clubs, discounts for bulk orders, etc. Most church related groups want study materials that are not in “big box” stores. Themed items – Purpose Driven Life, Left Behind, etc. – that find their way into the big box can be marketed directly to church members through the churches. Try sending flyers via email and fax machine. Ask the pastor or church secretary to put the flyers in Sunday school classes and post them on the bulletin boards. Buy copies of DVDs that church youth groups and other study groups can use and lend them free of charge. (Get a credit card number, phone number, email address, etc. for security.) Become a valuable partner to 30% of the churches in your market… Read more »
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