During 2011 we saw a lot of major stories in the retail world. These are our top ten that have an effect on Catholic retailing.
10. Catholic Digest combines with Faith and Family Magazine. Early in 2011 when Bayard announced the purchase of Faith and Family magazine there was some concern for the brand. Fortunately, Danielle Bean was kept on as the editor. Now, Catholic Digest will be merging with Faith and Family and Danielle Bean will remain as the editor of the new publication. I have high hopes for the new endeavor.
9. St. Anthony Messenger Press re-brands as Franciscan Media. This announcement at the end of 2011 probably won’t have an immediate impact on Catholic retailers but it does show that SAM is looking at a broader publishing world than just print.
8. The Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Combines with the Catholic New Media Conference. This show combination was announced at the 2011 CNMC in Kansas City. I think this will be a great meeting since Catholic stores need to pay attention to the newer ways of communicating with customers through social media if they expect to draw in a younger demographic to their stores.
7. Digital Media. This is a huge story in the Catholic world because it isn’t a story in the Catholic retail world. The Christian Booksellers Association spent two years meeting with its members and digital vendors to try and work out an industry-wide platform for digital book delivery for the Christian retail market (They couldn’t). Amazon set all sorts of new benchmarks for digital sales and various e-readers like the Kindle Fire and the new Barnes and Noble Nook made headlines both for their technical specs and for the sales records they set.
And where was the Catholic retail world in the midst of this? MIA. No one in the Catholic retail world from the trade organizations to the stores is discussing the impact of digital books on retail stores and many Catholic publishers are still trying to decide what to do about e-books. Hint: that ship sailed two years ago. Unfortunately, several Catholic publishers set up exclusive distribution agreements with publishers such as Ingram, effectively cutting Catholic retail stores out of the market entirely. There are some Catholic digital books available but the selection is miniscule compared to the general Christian market.
6. Borders went bankrupt and closed every store. While Borders is obviously a secular chain, its demise should serve as a warning to Catholic retailers who think that they can just ignore the changing retail landscape. Borders came to the Internet game late, had its distribution and website handled by Amazon for a time, bought the Kobo e-reader after the Kindle and Nook were already firmly established and launched an e-book store that was just a re-branded collection of titles that Google had already put on-line. Spending a decade playing technology catch-up killed them. In the Catholic retail world, we joke about being years behind the Protestant retail market which is supposedly years behind the secular market but eventually Catholic retail needs to get on board with the changes in retailing or stores will be closing at an even faster rate than they are now.
5. Catholic Book Publishing turned 100. Catholic Book Publishing is the publisher of some of the most well-known Catholic brands including the St. Joseph New American Bible and the St. Joseph Sunday Missal. They also publish a line of inexpensive books for young children and a broad selection of prayer books and other titles. Making it to the 100th anniversary in the current economic climate takes amazing persistence and the Cavalero family should be congratulated for their success.
4. Acquisitions, acquisitions, acquisitions. This was a year for companies to buy others. January brought the purchase of the National Catholic Register by EWTN. In February, Bayard Magazine Group bought Faith and Family Magazine. In May, Creed Rosary was purchased by Christian Brands (formerly Autom). There are rumors of more purchases in the new year as Christian Brands continues to gobble up other manufacturers. In October, Thomas Nelson announced that it was being purchased by Harper Collins. Harper Collins purchased Thomas Nelson’s primary competition, Zondervans, in 1988.
A couple of thoughts about all of these mergers. The EWTN purchase of the Register will put the Register on firm financial footing, something that wasn’t always a given in the past. It also gives a much larger platform to one of the few truly Catholic national newspapers.
The merger of Faith and Family with Catholic Digest under Danielle Bean’s leadership will bring a much more substantial publication to the market. I’m looking forward to the first issue.
I’m going to be blunt about the Creed purchase. I don’t like it. As soon as the purchase occurred, all of the Creed statuary was sent to China for production. Christian Brands thrives on cheap Chinese products and I am pretty sure that the rest of Creed will end up coming from China within a year.
The Nelson acquisition is disturbing. Over 50% of the Christian publishing power is now in the control of a secular publisher. Nelson said they agreed to the acquisition partly because of the pressure of the e-book market. Hello! Catholic retail! Are you listening?
3. The NABRE was released. The New American Bible has gone through several partial revisions that just about need a spreadsheet to keep track of. This latest edition updates the Old Testament but keeps the previous New Testament. One of the biggest stories about this revision is that publishers are still working on printing the new edition even though it was officially released on Ash Wednesday 2011. It wasn’t like this happened out of the blue. For more about publishers being caught off guard, see the number one story.
2. The Youcat was released. This new, hip, catechism-like book was released with much fanfare throughout the world and was given to all of the World Youth Day participants in Madrid. Unfortunately, its release was marred by very bad translations in Italy and France which prompted a recall and reprinting.
1. The Latin Rite Mass translation was changed. If you haven’t noticed the changes at your parish, you haven’t been to Mass since before Advent. For Catholic retailers this was both a blessing and a huge headache. Altar missals were released by multiple publishers and while most shipped on time, many did not prompting an angry reaction from some clergy who understandably wanted their missals before Advent.
If stores were paying attention, they could offer dozens of Missal resources to their local parishes and customers.
The biggest problem for retailers was the delay in publishing missals for individuals. Originally publishers said that the missals would be available at the beginning of November but all of them were pushed back. The Daily Roman Missal from the Midwest Theological Forum was the first to be released with some versions coming out in mid-November but other editions such as the St. Joseph Missal have been delayed until January or even March in some cases.
Alright, now it’s your turn. What other stories deserved attention in the Catholic retail world this year?
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