A year after acquiring the CBA (Association for Christian Retail), Edward Roush has addressed both its financial problems and its future. In emailed comments to PW, Roush said he lost over $700,000 in a “cash infusion” to keep CBA alive for another year, but that it was “beyond fixable.” Calling it “a failing and irrelevant organization operating 20 years behind the times,“ Roush also claims the CBA breached its agreement with Roush Foundation regarding accounting standards and data deficiency solutions.
Roush said that when his group took over, existing management was hostile to any change whatsoever. “The internal environment at CBA was toxic when I arrived.” Consequently, “CBA is not dead in concept but it’s current body is and will be reborn in a business model that actually works and does something for its members, who in the future will include consumers,” Roush told PW.
More information will soon be available, according to Deborah Mash, president of CBA Media—a subsidiary of CBA Service Corporation. “Edward Roush will be issuing a detailed and lengthy statement in the coming weeks that he says ‘will include shocking revelations that will shake icons of the industry,’” she claimed.
Last year, the CBA offered retailers a reimbursement for attending UNITE 2018, the CBA’s annual trade show formerly known as the International Christian Retailing Show (ICRS). The show took place at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., from July 8-11. PW confirms that at least three retailers have still not received a rebate as of June 21.
“I have not heard of a single person that has heard from the ‘owner’ of CBA since a week after last year's event,” Lorraine Valk, owner of Parable Christian Store in St. Joseph, Mich., said.
UNITE 2019 was originally scheduled to take place once again at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel from June 25-28, but the venue confirms that no event related to the CBA exists during this period. Others in the industry, including board member to the CBA Heather Trost, said they have not been in touch with anyone there for many months. Another CBA board member, Vicki Geist, told PW: “We are all very much in the dark about anything having to do with CBA, I’m not sure why this has happened, but something really went wrong.”
While Roush says there is a future for the organization, many Christian booksellers have put the CBA behind them. "We have completely moved on," Kevin Ferguson, owner of Willamette Valley Christian Supply store in Corvallis, Ore., said. "There is no such thing as CBA. The language now is different; there's been a transfer of terminology—it's CRA."
The Christian Retail Association (CRA), formed by Bob Munce last year, is helping independent stores band together to rise above challenges related to the CBA as well as competition from Amazon, big box stores, online shopping, and the closures of LifeWay and Family Christian Stores, according to Ferguson.
"The CRA has risen from the ashes, and legacy stores are investing in new ways of connecting to churches and their communities," he said. "We're here, and we will survive."
Ferguson is planning to attend the fall Christian Product Expo (CPE), which he and several other retailers view as a replacement for UNITE. It’s taking place in Murfreesboro, Tenn. from Aug, 25-27.