All Things New
To say the past year or so was a challenge might be an understatement for some. How anything good can come from something bad is only made possible by a wise, loving and sovereign God. He can make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19). And out of the obstacles of 2021 came new opportunities for many of us in the Christian retail industry.
NEW WAYS OF DOING BUSINESS
One of the biggest alterations in recent years has been the way we do business, most notably the shift in doing business virtually.
Like other retailers last year, Vicki Geist of Cedar Springs in Knoxville, TN, took to Facebook Live. Starting once a week then jumping to twice a week, she virtually showed available products to customers who couldn’t come into the store. “It really took off right away,” Vicki said.
Even after re-opening, following weeks of only curbside pickups, the Facebook Live customers asked her to continue because they liked being able to see what was in the store each week. Vicki said items that are talked about on Facebook Live will sell that afternoon or the following day. Customers come into the store and ask her where products are that they saw on Facebook Live. Husbands come in with lists of items their wife saw on Facebook Live. Customers call in, asking the store to hold items or ship them. “It has been amazing,” Vicki said. “And some of the orders that we see from Facebook Live are substantial.”
Vicki also started using social media posts to drive traffic. To help with the posts, she hired a college student to come in once a week to take pictures of new items and then use those pictures to create daily posts that she schedules on Facebook and Instagram. Vicki noticed that when customers saw the posts, they would come into the store to find the product.
Many of us in the Christian retail business have had to think of ways to keep up traffic and sales during these crazy times
Andrea Lovvorn from New Covenant in Shelbyville, TN, also found new ways of doing business. “Many of us in the Christian retail business have had to think of ways to keep up traffic and sales during these crazy times,” Andrea shared. For their store, that included pay by phone and curbside pickup. Andrea said they still have customers who prefer to call in their orders and swing by to pick it up. While the goal is to get customers to shop in store, Andrea said that consumers are shopping differently, so they have tried to adapt to meet their new shopping habits.
NEW LIVES CHANGED
In times of uncertainty, people search for hope. Christian retailers have risen to the occasion.
Last year, The Pearl in downtown Sheridan, WY, saw a need that they could help meet.
Typically a state that brings in tourism, Wyoming saw more visitors and new residents due to lifted mandates. According to Jeanne Byrnes, The Pearl changed the message of their radio ads, live broadcasts and advertising to comfort the community with hope, encouragement and prayer, and a little dash of local humor.
The Pearl was blessed with many returning to their faith and others finding it for the first time
The store itself transformed a cement bank vault in the middle of their building into a “War Room prayer chapel.” Miracles flooded out and the story of the chapel spread, garnering it the name “The Safest Chapel in America.”
“In its ministry to save souls, The Pearl was blessed with many returning to their faith and others finding it for the first time,” Jeanne said. “To truly watch the conversion reminds me of Luke 15:7, ‘In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!’”
The store kept a journal of these redemptive stories, recording the many lost that were found and the miracles associated with each. “The Pearl continues to be awed by how God brought souls to the store and how it was blessed by the call,” Jeanne shared. Today, The Pearl is five times larger and growing.
NEW STORE LOCATION
Last year, you may have been forced to make changes you didn't want to or expect to, but for many, those changes have ended up being for the best.
Rick Lewis of Logos store in Dallas had to make one of those hard, good changes last year. He found out in May that their building was sold and would be torn down. He had until the end of July to be out of the building. Rick said they had been in that location for 47 years and moving was not on their radar.
For a moment, Rick considered retiring. But as the owner of one of the few remaining Christian bookstores in Dallas, he sensed that God had other plans. After much searching, he found a location one block from the original building.
Rick saw God’s grace throughout the transition. “There have been miracle stories all along the way,” Rick said. “One was when our contractor went to the city for permits. These have taken months to get. As he turned in the paperwork, the clerk said we’ll call you in a couple of weeks or so. But a guy was walking by and asked to see the plans. He approved them on the spot.”
When it came time to move, Rick said, “Every penny was supplied for a very expensive move.” The community gathered around to help pack and relocate products. The owners of the Logos in Hawaii, who have moved their store six times, came and helped for a week. Becky Gorczyca, the director of the Logos Association, came from Ohio and also helped for a week. “We’ve seen the love of the community abound toward us and we are humbled,” Rick said.
There have been miracle stories all along the way
Logos in Dallas closed their original location in July 2021 and were fully up and running about three weeks later in their new building.
“Our new place is beautiful,” Rick said. “It wasn’t what we would have chosen, but God.” Last year, Rick reported record sales, with some months being even better than early 2000.
NEW STORE OPENING
Following a season of mandatory shutdowns, Wisdom Books in Kennewick, WA, opened its doors for the first time on July 10, 2021. Although hard hit by COVID in their area, owner Del Wisdom said sales have exceeded their expectation.
“Our customers continually comment that they are impressed with our store and the store staff,” Del said.
While word of mouth has been helpful, Del anticipates that venturing into marketing with the Munce catalogs and the ongoing reduction of COVID cases will increase sales.
Surely we have been blessed to date and look forward to very positive increases in business activity
“Surely we have been blessed to date and look forward to very positive increases in business activity,” Del shared.
With a fresh year before us, we can take comfort in knowing that, no matter what lies ahead, God can make all things new