Friday, April 18, 2008

A Change in Thomas Nelson's trade show strategy

Thomas Nelson announced that it will not be participating in Book Expo America (BEA) 2008 and the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) 2008. “We have been discussing this move for some time,” said President & CEO, Michael S. Hyatt. “But the current economic downturn is forcing us to re-evaluate the expenditure of every marketing dollar. We are committed to doing our best to support our products and distributors with marketing expenditures that result in greater sales. And we have determined that, for Thomas Nelson, these trade shows provide very little return on a very significant investment.”

Last weekend, Thomas Nelson hosted its inaugural “Open House” at the Music City Sheraton in Nashville, Tennessee. The publisher’s top 100 Christian retail accounts attended the two-day, two-night conference designed to arm participants with a better understanding of industry trends and merchandising strategies, while inspiring their relationships with God. The event also allowed for renewing friendships with other retailers and the Thomas Nelson family.

At the Thursday evening “3:16 Celebration” at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Max Lucado and friends, Sandi Patty, Jaci Velasquez, Travis Cottrell, and Heather Headley presented the timeless truth of John 3:16 through beautiful worship music and inspiring messages of God’s grace.

During Friday’s “ReThinking” sessions, world-class speakers John Maxwell, Tony Jeary, Michele Miller and the Disney Institute’s Tom Madden, equipped retailers with practical advice on how to increase their effectiveness as leaders and marketers.

On Saturday morning Hyatt encouraged the attendees by sharing a message entitled, “Ten Reasons I Am Still Excited about Christian Retail.” Andy Andrews concluded the event with an inspirational and honest session on “ReThinking Possibilities.”

Based on feedback from the attendees, the event was a tremendous success. Of the attendees surveyed, every one said that they intended to participate in future Open House events. Ninety-five percent said their businesses would be strengthened by the event.

“Thomas Nelson’s Open House was one of the best Christian retail events I have attended in my 25 years in the industry,” said Tim Way, Divisional Merchant Manager for Family Christian Stores. “The sessions gave me highly practical information I can use right now. Additionally, I came away spiritually uplifted and encouraged.’

“The program was absolutely top notch and the fellowship was great. Most of all, the commitment demonstrated by Thomas Nelson to the Christian retail channel was clear and very encouraging,” echoed Steve Potratz, owner and founder of the Parable Group.

“Historically, trade shows have played an important role in publishing and bookselling,” Hyatt said. “I have attended scores of them and have very fond memories of connecting with customers, authors, and the media. But the market has changed. Dramatically. We simply can no longer justify the enormous costs associated with these trade shows. Having inaugurated our own event, it’s time for us to leave the past behind and step into the future.”

Thomas Nelson intends to make Open House an annual event for its key Christian retail accounts. “The top 100 Christian retail accounts generate more than 80% of our revenue in this channel,” noted Hyatt. “Therefore, we must be intentional and strategic in how we connect with Christian retail accounts. Open House provides us with a better way to invest in our future and theirs.”

Also, Thomas Nelson is considering additional channel management strategies to support its general market accounts. “Our goal is to create relevant plans for each sales channel that will reinforce their business and their relationship with Thomas Nelson,” concluded Hyatt.

Read an interesting blog post by Mr. Hyatt here discussing this subject.

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