Bob Munce, the president of the Munce Group who is forming the new Christian Retail Association (CRA), is in the process of developing new programs and other benefits for its members. Discussing his plans, Munce cited low annual fees and the Munce Group’s “high value” trade shows, Christian Product Expo (CPE) and CPE International, as important assets of the fledgling CRA.
“Our trade shows have been giving reimbursement to retail stores for 17 years, and that will continue,” he told PW.
The winter CPE is taking place in the Poconos, Pa. from Jan. 27-29, while the fall show, now an international event, is scheduled for Aug. 25-27, 2019 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. “We are inviting Christian bookstores from around the world to attend,” Munce said.
Although he said he couldn't discuss details because of concerns about competitors, Munce told PW, “We are developing something with CRA and the Munce Group. It is something we need 10 or more stores to test, and then if it works correctly, we will offer it to the industry.”
Development and testing of the program could take more than six months, according to Munce. Still, he believes the CRA is gaining momentum following the apparent demise of the Association for Christian Booksellers (CBA). The longstanding association recently came under the leadership of investor Edward Roush, and after its annual trade show in July, began a series of changes to its staff. Further, retailers who attended the trade show, UNITE, have had a difficult time getting a promised reimbursement for costs incurred at the event.
“At this point, we believe that the industry has chosen CRA in conjunction with CPE as the annual industry event,” Munce said. “It is our hope that this is a new beginning for all of us and that we can all look back in a year or two and say, this was the time we started to rebuild our industry.”
Christian booksellers contacted by PW had mostly positive reactions to the new association. However, Andrew Casebier and his wife Michele, who own the Talking Donkey Christian Shop bookstore in Frankfort, Ky., have not yet made a decision to join the CRA, in large part because they still have not received a reimbursement from the CBA after attending UNITE, as of November 9.
“We feel burned by CBA and are a little hesitant,” said Andrew Casebier.
Nevertheless, Lorraine Valk, owner of Parable Christian Store in St. Joseph, Mich., is “excited and supportive” of the new association and its focus on the industry. “They are still hammering out details, but ultimately, as retailers, we should have a strong platform moving forward and an opportunity to join together at an event in August,” she told PW.
"I am certainly supportive of the idea and do plan on being a part of it if that is the right direction to go for my store," said Heather Trost, owner of The Greatest Gift and Scripture Supply in Pueblo, Colo. Trost is on the board of directors for the CBA, though she hasn't heard from anyone at the organization in several weeks.
"Our industry has become so fragmented and compartmentalized, and CBA has been trying for years to find a way to pull everyone back together," she told PW. "It seems a crisis always does just that." Trost hopes that the new organization will focus on areas such as how to make new customer acquisition data more available to stores both large and small.
CRA membership include an annual $300 affiliation fee for vendors, while the retailer membership fee is just $20 annually. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.