- GetThatWholesale: Could you give a brief sketch of your background and industry experience?
Chris Rainey: I am a twenty year Christian retail veteran. I was with Family Christian Stores (the largest Christian retail chain) for thirteen years. During my time with Family, I was involved with store operations, brand management and affiliate/online marketing. After Family I joined Innovative as Director of Online marketing where I worked with over 350 retailers, helping them develop their online marketing strategies. Currently I am the Vice President of Marketing for Kerusso. Kerusso specializes in apparel, jewelry, accessories and more. In my role with Kerusso, I oversee and direct all multi-channel marketing strategies.
- GTW: It certainly appears that there has been remarkable growth in the retail religious merchandise industry over the last decade. Is this so and to what do you attribute this?
CR: CBA, which is the association that supports the Christian retail industry, reports annual sales of $4.6 billion. When you consider that close to 80% percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians you begin to understand where the demand for Christian products comes from. Out of the 80% there is a large and growing percentage who seek resources to grow in their faith and serve within their communities.
- GTW: Many people associate religious merchandise as being overwhelmingly aimed at a primarily older market, looking at the merchandise on your website it seems primarily aimed at a younger crowd. How popular is religious merchandise with young people?
CR: Christian merchandise is extremely popular and the demand continues to grow. Young people are not ashamed of their faith and they have a desire to express and share what they believe with others.
- GTW: How well do religious items sell for non-religious specific retailers?
CR: Over the past ten years non-religious retailers have recognized the Christian customers who are already shopping their store and have started offering products that connect with them. From Walmart to the general gift store on Main Street you will find Christian books, music and apparel. Whether or not you personally "believe" what the product conveys or not, from an economic perspective it just makes sense to carry products that a large number of your current customers have an affinity with.
- GTW: We are approaching the Christmas holiday; do religious items enjoy a larger holiday sells boost than other merchandise niches?
CR: Christian items experience the same lift as other merchandise niche's during the holidays. I haven't seen any research that indicates there is a greater lift in Christian product sales vs. non-Christian product sales.
- GTW: Would you give us an idea of what types of religious products (apparel, jewelry, etc.) sell the best?
CR: Within our specific niche of Christian – apparel and gift – apparel makes up about 80% of our sales. The balance of the sales are spread amongst jewelry, gifts, toys and accessories.
- GTW: What opportunities and challenges do see for the religious merchandise retailer developing over the next few years?
CR: The opportunities and challenges are intertwined. People who are growing in their faith hold their beliefs very strong. If retailers embrace ways and offer products and experiences that connect with these beliefs in a strong way they will win. Technology and online marketing play an important role as well. Retailers need to be fully engaged with social networks - connecting with local online and offline communities.