Business Thoughts28 Jan 2006 10:25 am

In an article in the Knoxville News Sentinel – Some Christian Retailers Left Behind (registration required), a christian retailer laments the fact that after investing a significant amount in the Left Behind book series, he was unable to compete when Wal Mart began carrying the books at a lower price. From the article:

The success of best-selling Christian titles like “The Purpose-Driven Life” and
the “Left Behind” series has unexpectedly hurt Christian bookstores by
attracting the book chains and discount retailers.

The Wal Mart effect comes to the Christian arena. Like most American’s, I have mixed emotions about Wal Mart. The great Wal of China, does offer low prices which have been tremendously helpful when we were in tight spots. Having tried to compete with Wal Mart I have seen the force of the dark side.

In 2003, part of the merchandise in my online store was card shufflers – those handy tools which automatically shuffle playing cards for you. About that time, there was a spike in poker playing, and all of a sudden my sales in card shufflers tripled. I couldnt keep the shufflers in stock. About three months later, the buying stopped cold. During a scouting trip to Wal Mart I discovered why- Wal Mart was selling a similiar shuffler for lower than my cost!

In the book “Ambient Findability” by Peter Morville, the concept of the Long Tail is discussed ( The concept was originated in a Wired Magazine article). The Long Tail is the phenomenom of how the internet makes obscure items findable. From the Wired Magazine article:

The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon’s book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication… the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are.

The implication for retailers, especially Christian retailers is that findability – the ability to be recognized as “the source” for Christian life products, plus excellent customer service – the ability to go beyond answering questions and checking the customer out, are key to brand differentiation. I think this quote from the Knox News Sentinel article is right:

Bill Anderson, president and CEO of the Christian Booksellers Association, said independent retailers need to emphasize their strengths: wider selection, more knowledgeable employees and partnerships with local churches.

One Response to “Christian Retailers feeling left behind”

  1. on 05 Feb 2006 at 5:24 am Dcypl's Discipleship

    Christian Bookshops Left Behind…

    We have a small butcher around the corner from us, as well as a fruit market, both are small locally owned businesses struggling to maintain a market share against the large corporate supermarkets.  Photo: gregwBut neither of these shops seem to b…

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