Why I Am (Still) Excited About Christian Retail

Last Saturday, April 12, I spoke to Christian Retailers at our inaugural Open House event. It was video-taped, and you can watch it here if you are interested.

If you can’t see this video in your RSS reader or email, then click here.

Because the file was so large, I had to upload it as five separate videos. The total length is 40 minutes or so. However, if you click on the link above, it will play all five videos as a YouTube “playlist,” with each video playing one after the other.

If you would rather just listen to an audio track of the presentation, you can do so here. You can either click on the link and start playing it or, you can right-click it, download it to your computer, import it into iTunes and put it on your iPod. (I wish I knew of a single-click way to do that. It sounds more complicated than it really is.)

I am posting it here at the request of numerous retailers who attended our conference and wanted a copy of what I had said. If you just want a list of the 10 reasons, without my comments, here they are:

  1. The need has never been greater.
  2. The demographics are in our favor.
  3. People are more drawn to spiritual things than ever.
  4. Christianity continues to have enormous visibility in the public square.
  5. Competition has made the surviving retailers stronger.
  6. The economy is forcing everyone to make tough but good decisions.
  7. Some retailers are experiencing real growth (not everyone is struggling).
  8. Christian products have never been better.
  9. Christian retailers are passionate about their mission.
  10. God is at work.
Questions: If you are in the industry, what are some of the reasons you are excited?
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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://markhorne.com/ Mark

    Mike, my browser couldn’t find the audio…

  • http://markhorne.com/ Mark

    Never mind. Thanks!

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Mark, try it again. I think I fixed it.

  • http://waynehastings.blogs.com/offtheshelf/ Wayne Hastings

    Mike, there’s an 11th reason – the well-run specialty retailer always can win. All you anyone needs to do is look at other industries and see where the specialty retailer is ultimately the best choice for the customer. Christian retailers have that same opportunity in their niche (or specialty).

  • Damon

    Mike-
    I couldn’t agree with your ten more. I recently read another article which referenced the term “the third place”. I looked it up on Wilipedia and it is a term referening to the place that people congragate after the first place (home) and the second place (work). The article went on to explain how Starbucks is making a heavy push to become “the third place”. They are doing this to survive. Our stores are not alone in their stuggle to push forward. I have heard our stores speak poetically about wanting to be a place where people hang out, but I rarely walk into a store that actually achieves this. Going into the digital age of books the only stores that will survive are those who will be “the third place”. This is the new model and I believe our stores are not yet fully competing in this, the new arena. This will be a key factor to our stores success. They must added value of comfortable environment, great drinks, select snacks, free wireless internet, etc…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_place

  • Curtis Cecil

    I am in agreement that we in the Christian Retail sector must be in high hopes. Why?
    First off God is on our side. Secondly the current economic issues is causing us all in the Christian Retail sector to stop doing the same thing over and over. We are looking for new ways. For we all know the definition of Insanity: Doing the same thing over and expecting different results…

    One of my Managers recently wrote the following to encourage the team she is apart of in our company:

    I know that there are some among us who have the wind knocked out of our sales with this announcement. My own initial reaction was – “How can I do more? – I’m already stretched beyond my limits. I don’t have the strength to handle a heavier load” – – But God said “I am your strength”.

    I’m reminded of Gideon in Judges 6 & 7. He was feeling like a victim and in hiding when God called him a Mighty Warrior and said “I am with you”. Gideon said “If the Lord is with me then why is all this happening?” God said “Go in the strength you have and save Israel…” Gideon replied “But I’m the weakest of the weak!” and God said “I will be with you.” Then Gideon collected an Army – but God reduced it to only 300 so that Israel could not boast in anyone but the Lord. This is like us. Gideon was called to war – we are too. No matter what spiritual background you have – we all realize that we have an adversary. Every time you smile at a guest or co-worker, every time you say an encouraging word or put a life changing product in someone’s hand – this is not just an act of service – this is an act of war. We run the Ammo Dump for the Army of God and the Ammo Dump always gets attacked. God protects us and strengthens us and we go forth spoiling the enemies’ plans for us and those around us.

    I’ve been telling my customers and my staff that I have decided to NOT participate in this Recession. My needs are met according to His Riches in Glory! I will not stop giving – I will continue to respond to every opportunity to give. My God can easily replace anything I give.

    God is getting ready to show Himself strong through us. I believe He is getting ready to show the world what World Class Business & World Impacting Ministry looks like!

    We are a team – we hold up the weaker ones and follow the example of the strong among us. We need to lean on each other and also spur each other on with encouragement. On those days when you need an encouraging word or someone to pray for you – call me – I’m here for you.

    Together we will weather this storm and overcome this situation and we will win.

  • http://www.teawithtiffany.blogspot.com Tiffany Stuart

    Watched all five videos. Very encouraging. Loved the truth about being thankful instead of complaining. Thanks so much.

  • http://www.joewikert.com Joe Wikert

    I thought I’d start the YouTube videos, watch a couple of minutes but that I’d be unlikely to watch the entire series. After all, who watches 5 back-to-back videos from a conference on their computer?! I was wrong. It was a 40+ minute investment and worth every moment.

    Mike, your presentation was both informative and inspiring. The points you highlighted aren’t just for publishers and resellers of Christianity books — there were several key points in this for a computer book publisher like myself. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    Mike, I did some bookstore visits in Grand Rapids this weekend along with my fellow Nelson author Denise Hunter. We’d gone up to have dinner with our editors Ami and Amanda and decided to make use of our afternoon. We spoke to a gal who attended the Open House. She just RAVED about it. Very cool to hear!

    The bookstore (Baker) was thriving and carried tons of our fiction. As an author, there is something special to walking into a bustling CHRISTIAN bookstore that recognizes your name and is so happy to see you. I love to visit a store like that, even as a customer. A good Christian bookstore has the unique opportunity to actually minister to the hurting and show they care when a customer walks in the door. About the person not just the sale.

    You’re so right about your comments. Christian retail can change someone’s life. The big box stores can’t make that claim.

  • http://www.jonguenther.com/ Jon Guenther

    Michael, while I just recently had a novel submitted by my agent rejected by Thomas Nelson (very nicely and graciously, I should add), I ABSOLUTELY agree with your position on the reasons we should stay true to our call in this business. We must never forget it’s about Jesus Christ. Thank you!

  • Christopher

    I completely disagree with you, Mr. Hyatt. Not that I deliberately want to disagree with one of your main reasons of being, but there seems to be little justification for several points in your list of ten.

    If people are drawn more to spiritual things than ever, if christian products are better than ever, and if christianity has enormous visibility in the public square, then it is high time that christian communicators (writers, etc) take their work and exist squarely within the public forum. The christian publishing industry tends to ghettoize such communicators from the rest of society. It is difficult to harmonize such a separation from Jesus’ call for us to be salt and light in the world.

    Some might argue that society has changed to such a degree that it necessitates a certain degree of separation. However, history has seen societies change, evolve, come and go, to the great and dreadful detriment of the church in many ways. In none of those times did the church pursue a sort of practical, everyday theology of separation akin to what we see nowadays with our separate publishers, separate music companies, etc. Furthermore, the fruitful existence of modern christian communicators who work within the secular forum argues ably against the idea of separation (Ralph Winter, Derrickson, Anne Rice, etc).

    I’m sure you’ve heard this argument before, and I assume you don’t agree with it, due to the fact that you run Thomas Nelson. However, it is a discussion that needs to continue for many reasons: for the health of the church, for the health and craft of writers, and for the health of society in general.

    I would propose to you the idea that Thomas Nelson start up an imprint completely separate from TN. One that exists in another locale, devoted to good literature that is not necessarily christian in content (whatever that means), but simply written from a christian worldview: the new Dickens and Buchans and Kiplings, etc. Westbow, of course, does not fulfill that ideal in the slightest, as you well know.

  • http://www.nashvillespeakers.com Tim Grable

    Excellent words for an industry that needs inspiration right now. If you every want to go out and speak again, let me know.

    After listening, we have decided that our company is going to sit this recession out as well. As you pointed out, there are just to many reasons to be excited about what is going on!

  • http://www.goodwillhinton.com Will Hinton

    Mike: I haven’t watched the clips yet but I am going to. I am very curious as to your take on this. I haven’t been in a Christian bookstore in over 10 years and can’t imagine why I would. But I am going to try to have an open mind about this.

    That being said, one of the reasons I avoid Christian bookstores is encapsulated in the above comment by Curtis Cecil in which he proclaims,

    “I am in agreement that we in the Christian Retail sector must be in high hopes. Why? First off God is on our side.”

    It is this arrogant and lacking-in-grace attitude that has often resulted in a “we can sell any old garbage that we stamp the name of Jesus on”mindset. I still sense a rather insular Christian-ghetto mindset in the Christian retail community that actually does damage to the cause of Christ.

    Peace bro!

    Will

  • http://lovemakeda.blogspot.com Makeda More

    I’m excited because God moves when we least expect him to :o)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    An uplifting presentation, Michael. Both the need and the opportunity for the truth of God's love for our world are abounding. I remember the early 1970's well as I was introduced to Christian retailing at that time. My favorite authors then were Tozer and Watchman Nee. We've come a long way from that time, but the world's cry to understand "why?" is still ringing. And I will agree with you that Christian publishing is growing stronger and more disciplined as "we" focus on the target of helping people to know God (Hebrews 8:11).

    By the way, in 1969, as an Ohio State freshman who daily rode the bus to campus, I began reading the "Good News for Modern Man" New Testament. What hooked me was Matthew 24 where Christ talked about the "abomination of desolation."

  • http://www.kaylafinley.com Kayla

    I'm excited because I can never find anything in Borders that I want in the "religion" section. Also, they just rearranged and now when I'm looking at Christian fiction (which is really what matters *ahem*) I'm standing right beside astrology and atheist books. WHAT? I told a couple of the workers there that there's seriously no point for me to shop there and I can just go down to Family Christian and find nearly anything I want. They agreed with me, but said that it was required and that they weren't allowed to separate "religions" in case someone got upset. Okay, so just offend the Christians then? Good choice!

  • http://twitter.com/realpetermag petermag

    @curtis cecil.

    "First off God is on our side." ugh. Um, God doesn't have a side.

    I am torn on this issue. From a business perspective Christian retail makes sense. But Mike, isn't there a bigger issue at work here? A theological issue. Doesnt the concept of "christian" retailers help enforce a theological viewpoint that hinders the message of Christianity? An "us" and "them" framework?

    Obviously, to do away with Christian retail would be an overreaction. But I just worry that the concept breeds a theology that damages the message of Jesus.

  • http://www.raymondduke.com/ Raymond Duke

    I walked by a Christian bookstore once, I think. I don’t understand the need to alienate yourself from other people by identifying with only one group (i.e., Christians). People are funny :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think this is about alienating. It’s about offering a broader product line to a group of people who have an interest. It’s really no different than any kind of specialty retail. Walmart, for example, might offer some candles for sale, but not nearly the selection that a candle shop has. Thanks.

  • Parimala Selvaraj

    Yes, I agree also… Christian writing/reading might actually be more inspiring on the quiet, than it is given credit for “openly” :)