Christian stores sales were up 2.9% in 2013 over 2012, according to the 2014 CBA State of the Industry Report released Monday. Store closings were also up; the industry had a net loss of 49 last year.

CBA, the association for Christian retail, also reported consumer buying patterns shifted notably in 2013. Fourth-quarter 2013 sales were down 6.9%, but up 12.6% in the second quarter and 8.8% in the third quarter. CBA added that fourth quarter figures were affected by shoppers' earlier purchases for the holidays, as well as economic uncertainty and limited fourth-quarter product-release performance.

Store closures are down from a peak of 63 in 2001, but greater than last year's net loss of 39. CBA said loss of mid-level chains, which included the closing of 38 Cokesbury locations, cut store counts. Eighteen new stores opened in 2013.

"We are happy to see sales up overall at Christian stores," Curtis Riskey, CBA president, told PW in an email. "While we realize that not all stores are seeing the same outcome, we are encouraged that store closures seem to be stabilizing." Riskey noted that without the closure of the Cokesbury chain, net store loss would have been significantly lower than the previous year.

"This is still a tough time for brick-and-mortar booksellers, but we are encouraged by the fact that Christian stores are very strong in the book and Bible categories," Riskey added.

In other report highlights:

Overall product category shares remained constant; books and Bibles represent 60 percent of total sales. Gift and specialty category sales as a share of total sales increased 6 percent in units, and 3 percent in revenue.

One-third of the CEOs of Christian suppliers reported flat or no growth in 2013.