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The U.S. Religious Publishing and Products Market

This Packaged Facts report examines the $5.7 billion market for religious materials at the turn of the new millennium. Sales data and forecasts are provided for 1995-2004 across three product categories: books, stationery/giftware/merchandise and audio/visual/software. An extensive discussion of marketing strategies and new product trends reveals how marketers such as Thomas Nelson, EMI Christian Music Group, Zondervan and Tyndale House are tapping into Americans' increasing and far-flung interest in the spiritual realm. The report also provides detailed demographic data about the consumers most likely to purchase religious products.


Scope and Methodology

Scope of Report

As defined by this report, the U.S. market for religious publishing and products—referred to hereafter simply as the religious products market—encompasses products used primarily or exclusively in religious or spiritual practice, as well as products that have explicit religious/spiritual themes. Specific types of products covered include books, stationery, giftware, audio/video/software products, and assorted other merchandise with religious themes. Not included in this analysis are Christmas cards, ornaments, and other such Yuletide spirit items. Food products are also excluded from this report.

The discussion in this report centers on the Christian marketplace, but products related to other global religions (Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism), and to "New Age" and contemporary spiritual interests more broadly defined, also are included in this analysis.

Report Methodology

The information contained in this report is based on primary and secondary research. Primary research entailed consultations with industry executives, editors of trade journals, and industry consultants. Secondary research involved canvassing information and articles appearing in trade publications, government resources, company literature, independent financial reports, and product advertising. Statistics on market size and growth are based on a careful evaluation of all available information on sales and trends. In particular, estimates are based on statistics published by the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) and by Christian Retailing. Figures provided on national consumer advertising expenditures by individual marketers are based on Competitive Media Reporting data, as reported in the trade press. The analysis of consumer trends and demographics is based primarily on Simmons Market Research Bureau data for fall 1998, which is based on a sample of 9,863 adults.

Categories Covered:

  • Books
    • Bible Sales
    • Inspirational Books
    • Religious School Curricula
  • Stationery/Giftware/Merchandise
  • Statues And Icons
  • Greeting Cards
  • Apparel
  • Jewelry
  • Church Supplies
  • Audio/Video/Software
    • Music Labels
    • Music Distributors
    • Music Publishers

    Issues Addressed:

    • Market Size And Growth To 2004
    • Factors Affecting Market
    • New Product Development
    • “Mainstreaming” Of Religious Products
    • Distribution And Retail Systems
    • Advertising Dollars
    • Consumer Profile
    • Internet Influence

    Interesting Highlights:

    • Market Share By General Distribution Channels
    • Market Share By Category
    • Growth Of U.S. Christian Denominations

    Competitive Profiles:

    • Bertelsmann Ag
    • News Corp.
    • Thomas Nelson Inc.
    • Tyndale House Publishers
    • Broadman & Holman
    • Hampton Roads Publishing
    • Health Communications, Inc.
    • Jewish Publication Society
    • Logos Research Systems
    • Parsons Technology
    • Snow Lion Publications
    • Wisdom Publications
    • Gaylord Entertainment Co.
    • Provident Music Group
    • Thorn Emi Plc/Emi Music
    • Bethany House Publishers
    • Cook Comm. Ministries
    • Harold Shaw Publishers
    • Integrity, Inc.
    • Kregel Publishers
    • Moody Press
    • Paulist Press
    • Tarcher Books
    • Jewish Lights Publishing
    • Shambhala Publications
    • Time Warner
    • Big Idea Productions, Inc.
    • Crossway Books/Good News Pub.
    • Harvest House Publisher
    • Intervarsity Press
    • Liguori Publications
    • Parallax Press
    • Simon & Schuster
    • Ulysses Press

    Hours of Research: 800

  • I. Executive Summary

    Scope and Methodology
    Scope of Report
    Report Methodology

    The Products
    Three Categories
    Christian Products and Specialty Outlets
    Judaica a Discrete Market Segment
    East vs. West
    Market Rebounds with the Millennium
    Crossing and Keeping Ideological Divides
    The Expanding Definition of Religion

    The Market
    A $5.7 Billion Market in 1999
    Books the Largest Category, Music the Fastest-Growing
    Table 1-1: U.S. Retail Sales of Religious Products by Category, 1995-2004 (dollars): Books, SGM, AVS
    Book Category Rebounds
    Millennium Fever
    The Importance of the Self
    Increased Demand for Children's Religious Products
    Religious Products Cross Over into Mainstream
    $8 Billion by 2004

    The Marketers
    Religious Specialists vs. Mainstream Conglomerates
    Totaling Up the Bestsellers
    Conviction, Not Just Commerce, Drives the Market
    But Competition Intensifies
    Competition Becomes Intersegmental
    Mainstream Marketers Are Off-and-On Competitors
    Tie-Ins to the New Millennium
    The Appeal of "Lite" Religion
    Conspicuous Christianity
    Marketers Target Interest Groups
    VeggieTales
    Limited Expenditures on National Consumer Advertising

    Distribution and Retail
    Three Overlapping Distribution Systems
    Mainstream Distributors Increasingly Important
    Overview of Shares by Distribution Channel
    Figure 1-1: Share of U.S. Retail Sales of Religious Products by General Distribution Channel, 1999 (percent): Christian Retailers, Mainstream Channels, Other Religious Specialty Stores
    Beyond Books
    Outlet Revenues Average $300,000 to $440,000
    Mainstream Chains Outdraw Christian Bookstores
    Independents Still Outnumber Chain Stores

    The Consumer
    Most Americans Profess Belief
    Church Members Centered in Middle Class
    Catholics and Baptists Are Largest Groups of U.S. Christians
    Close to One in Five Americans Is Non-Christian
    Who Are the Religious Products Consumers?
    Bibles vs. Other Religious Books
    Demographics for Religious Music
    Audio Demographics by Genre
    Who Listens to Religious Recordings?
    Religious Products Sold Through Alternative Retail Outlets

    II. The Products

    Introduction
    Scope of Report
    Christian Products Dominate
    Specialty Outlets Shape Market

    Historical Summary: Christian Products
    Ancient Market for Devotional Objects
    Salvation and the Self
    The Spread of the Bible
    Emergence of U.S. Religious Market
    Radical Change in the 1960s and 1970s
    Televangelist Scandals of the 1980s
    Market Rebounds with the Millennium
    Crossing and Keeping Ideological Divides

    Historical Summary: Non-Christian Products
    Judaica a Discrete Market Segment
    Two Divisions of American Islam
    Orthodox Muslims
    Black Muslims
    East vs. West Since the 1960s
    "Flower Power" Breeds New Age/Alternative Faiths
    The Expanding Definition of Religion

    Market Definition
    Three Categories
    Books the Leading Category
    Bibles Are the Engine
    But Religious Books Are Largest Segment
    Religious-Oriented School Curricula
    SGM the Most Diverse Category
    Six Segments
    AVS the Third Category
    Audio the Largest Segment
    Video Segment Still Being Defined
    Software Tends to Be Holy Book Oriented
    Products Classified by Degree of Religiosity

    III. The Market
    Figure 3-1: U.S. Retail Sales of Religious Products, 1995-1999 (dollars)

    Market Size and Growth
    A $5.7 Billion Market in 1999
    Table 3-1: U.S. Retail Sales of Religious Products, 1995-1999 (dollars)
    Books the Largest Category, Music the Fastest-Growing
    Table 3-2: U.S. Retail Sales of Religious Products by Category, 1995-1999 (dollars): Books, Stationery/Giftware/Merchandise, Audio/Video/Software
    Methodology: Overall Market Estimates

    Market Composition: By Product Type
    Book Category Rebounds
    Table 3-3: Share of U.S. Retail Sales of Religious Products by Category, 1995-1999 (percent): Books, Stationery/Giftware/Merchandise, Audio/Video/Software
    AVS Category Undergoes Consistent Growth
    Figure 3-2: Share of U.S. Retail Sales of Religious Products by Category, 1997 vs. 1999 (percent): Books, Stationery/Giftware/Merchandise, Audio/Video/Software
    Religious Books Lead Book Category
    Table 3-4: Size and Share of U.S. Religious Book Retail Sales by Segment, 1999 (dollars and percent): Religious Books, Bibles, Curricula
    Methodology: Publishing Industry Sales Estimates
    Religious Books a Publishing Industry Niche
    SGM Category Falters
    Table 3-5: Size and Share of Stationery/Giftware/Merchandise Retail Sales by Segment, 1999 (dollars and percent): Giftware, Stationery/Cards, Apparel, Jewelry, Church Supplies, Other
    Methodology: SGM Estimates
    AVS Category Is Fastest Growing
    Table 3-6: Size and Share of U.S. Retail Sales of Audio/Video/Software Products by Segment, 1999 (dollars and percent): Audio, Video, Software
    Methodology: Audio/Video/Software Figures
    Christian Music a Recording Industry Niche
    Christian Products Garner Lion's Share
    Non-Christian Market Fragmented

    Market Composition: Other Patterns
    Christian Retailers Claim Two-Thirds of Market
    CBA Stores a Dominant Force
    Mainstream Retail Channels Gain Strength
    Table 3-7: Share of U.S. Retail Sales of Religious Products by Distribution Channel, 1999 (percent): Christian Retailers, Mainstream Channels, Other Religious Specialty Stores
    Direct Marketing at $150-$200 Million
    Bible Belt the Heart of Christian Segment
    Christmas Shopping Season Drives Sales
    The Religious Holiday Calendar
    Table 3-8: U.S. Religious Product Selling Seasons (Holiday, Religion, Time of Year, Categories Simulated)

    Factors to Market Growth
    Millennium Fever
    The Importance of the Self
    Baby Boomers Age, Become More Introspective
    Increased Demand for Children's Religious Products
    Religious Products Cross Over into Mainstream
    Many Christians Reject Traditional Forms of Religious Expression
    Table 3-9: Growth of U.S. Christian Denominations, 1967-1997 (percent): 8 Denominations
    Expansion of America's Judeo-Christian Heritage
    A Jewish Revival
    Muslim Population Increasing Rapidly
    Heightened Interest in Buddhism
    Popularization of New Age
    The Allure of the Web
    Increased Media Coverage of Religion
    Potential Red Flag: The Ancient Boom-and-Bust Cycle
    Figure 3-3: Projected U.S. Retail Sales of Religious Products, 1999-2004 (dollars)

    Market Projections
    $8 Billion by 2004
    Table 3-10: Projected U.S. Retail Sales of Religious Products, 1999- 2004 (dollars)
    Music Remains Fastest-Growing Category
    Table 3-11: Projected U.S. Retail Sales of Religious Products by Category, 1999-2004 (dollars): Books, Audio/Video/Software, Stationery/Giftware/Merchandise

    IV. THE MARKETERS

    The Marketers
    Many Small Marketers
    No Dominators
    Religious Specialists vs. Mainstream Conglomerates
    Publishers of Religious Books
    Bible Publishers
    The Catholic Niche
    Spanish-Language Products
    Publishers of Christian Fiction
    Children's Products
    Judaica Publishers
    Islamic Publishers
    Buddhist Presses
    New Age Publishers
    SGM Marketers Vary Widely
    Three Types of Music Companies
    Labels
    Distributors
    Publishers
    Marketers of Contemporary Christian Music
    Videocassette Marketers
    Software Marketers
    Table 4-1: U.S. Market for Religious Publishing and Products: Selected Marketers and Products (120 Marketers and Their Products)

    Competitive Overview
    Market Leaders
    Conviction, Not Just Commerce, Drives the Market
    But Competition Intensifies
    Competition Becomes Intersegmental
    Nelson the Most Diversified
    Tyndale and Zondervan Diversify as Well
    Specialty Publishers Are More Consistent Competitors
    Myriad Smaller Marketers Compete in SGM
    Spin-Off Products Swell SGM Category
    Mainstream SGM Players
    Mainstream Giants Invade Music Market
    Software Segment Continues to Evolve
    Keeping Tabs on Disney

    Competitive Profile: Bertelsmann AG
    Bertelsmann AG
    Heavy Internet Investments
    1998 Acquisition of Random House
    Random House Religious Books
    Doubleday the Leading Catholic Mainstreamer
    Doubleday Signs William Bennett
    Bantam Books Tend Toward New Age

    Competitive Profile: Gaylord Entertainment Co
    A Diversified Entertainment and Communications Company
    Gaylord Acquires Word Records from Nelson
    Word Second Only to EMI Christian Group
    The Myrrh Label

    Competitive Profile: Jewish Lights Publishing
    Relatively New Player
    Examining Jewish Identity
    Ecumenical Books

    Competitive Profile: News Corp
    A Multi-Pronged Mainstreamer
    Publishing Arms Serve Christian and Non-Christian Segments
    Zondervan Is Bible King
    Zondervan Expands into Christian Fiction
    Zonderkidz Forms in 1998
    Zondervan's SGM Entries
    Strong in Software
    HarperCollins Leads Among Mainstreamers
    Harper San Francisco

    Competitive Profile: Provident Music Group
    Formed in 1997
    4HIM Records for Benson
    Reunion Records Is Home to Michael W. Smith
    Essential Records Crosses into Mainstream with Alternative and Rock
    WoW Gospel Spin-Off Debuts in 1998

    Competitive Profile: Shambhala Publications
    Roots in 1960s Counterculture
    Shambhala's Early Successes
    An Impressive Array of Authors
    Exploring Spiritual Traditions
    Spiritual Fiction
    Crossing the Line Between Books and SGM
    AVS Offerings
    Publishing in an Altered Cultural Climate

    Competitive Profile: Thomas Nelson, Inc
    1999 Sales of $262 Million
    The Leading Christian Corporation
    Nelson Leads Among Religious Book Specialists
    Competing in Mainstream Retail Outlets
    Nelson Targets Children's Market
    Thomas Nelson Presses Its Advantage
    Nelson Sells Word Records to Gaylord Entertainment
    Nelson's Software Entries
    Product Catalog Available on CD-ROM and Web

    Competitive Profile: Thorn EMI Plc/EMI Music
    EMI Christian Music Group Is Music Leader
    Sparrow Records Boasts Many Stars
    Star Song Transfers Artist Roster to Sparrow
    ForeFront Is Christian Rock Leader
    TheWow Phenomenon
    Chordant Distribution

    Competitive Profile: Time Warner
    The World's Largest
    The Celestine Anomaly
    Other New Age Publications from Warner
    Warner Alliance Markets Contemporary Christian Music
    Warner Christian Distribution
    Turner Home Entertainment Leads in Video

    Competitive Profile: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc
    Tyndale the Other Top Independent
    Tyndale'sNew Living Translation
    The NLT Evolves intoThe Book
    Tyndale Cashes In on Millennium Fever with Left Behind
    Tyndale a Pioneer in Children's Video

    Competitive Briefs: Selected Other Marketers
    Bethany House Publishers
    Big Idea Productions, Inc
    Broadman & Holman Publishers
    Cook Communications Ministries
    Crossway Books/Good News Publishers
    Hampton Roads Publishing Co.
    Harold Shaw Publishers
    Harvest House Publishers
    Health Communications, Inc
    Integrity, Inc
    InterVarsity Press
    Jewish Publication Society
    Kregel Publishers
    Liguori Publications
    Logos Research Systems, Inc
    Moody Press
    Parallax Press
    Parsons Technology
    Paulist Press
    Simon & Schuster
    Snow Lion Publications
    Tarcher Books (Penguin Putnam, Inc./Pearson Plc)
    Ulysses Press
    Wisdom Publications

    Marketing Trends
    Tie-Ins to the New Millennium
    Spirituality Preferable to Religion
    The Appeal of "Lite" Religion
    Marketers Target Interest Groups
    Category Crossovers
    Conspicuous Christianity
    Tie-Ins to Special Occasions

    New Product Trends
    Millennium Fever
    Christian Apparel
    Bible Trends
    Niche Bibles Are Still Popular . . .
    . . But Consumer Interest May Be Waning
    VeggieTales
    Interdenominational Children's Products
    Spanish-Language Products
    Christian Fiction
    Other Religious Fiction
    A Proliferation of Advanced Judaica
    Buddhism American-Style
    A Resurgence of Recovery

    Advertising and Promotion
    Limited Expenditures on National Consumer Advertising
    Advertising Dollars for Alternative Media
    Overall Consumer Ad Expenditures Estimated at $25 Million
    Reliance on Trade Advertising
    Trade Ads for Books
    Trade Ads for Stationery/Giftware/Merchandise
    Trade Ads for Audio/Video/Software
    The Role of Trade Shows
    Examples of Religious Product Advertising

    Media Profile: The Christian Networks
    Successful Recovery from 1980s Scandals
    The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc
    The Christian Network, Inc
    Christianity Today, Inc
    Focus on the Family Publishing
    Fox Family Channel
    Guideposts
    INSP The Inspirational Network
    PAX TV
    Trinity Broadcasting Network
    Z Music Television

    V. Distribution And Retail

    At the Distribution Level
    Three Overlapping Distribution Systems
    Mainstream Distributors Increasingly Important
    Spring Arbor Leads Among Distributors
    Ingram Acquires Spring Arbor
    Ingram and Barnes & Noble Withdraw Merger Filing
    BookWorld Steps In

    At the Retail Level
    Overview of Shares by Distribution Channel
    Figure 5-1: Share of U.S. Retail Sales of Religious Products by General Distribution Channel, 1999 (percent): Christian Retailers, Mainstream Channels, Other Religious Specialty Stores
    Marketing as Ministry
    Beyond Books
    Outlet Revenues Average $300,000 to $440,000
    Mainstream Chains Outdraw Christian Bookstores
    Independents Still Outnumber Chain Stores
    Parable Marketing Group
    Munce Marketing and Buying Group
    Investing in the Independents
    Christian Chains Continue to Expand
    Christian Products Hit Mass Market
    Nelson Breaks into Mainstream
    Wal-Mart, Target Take the Lead
    The Book and Music Club Scene
    Prospects for the World Wide Web

    Retailer Profile: Family Christian Stores (FCS)
    The Leading Retailer
    Major Buying Spree
    Maintains Community Contacts
    Plan to Go Public Aborted

    Retailer Profile: Christian Superstores
    Superstores Come on Strong
    Full-Service Christian Resource Centers
    Most Chains Have Superstores
    Formidable Managerial Tasks

    VI. The Consumer

    Introduction
    Note on Simmons Market Research Bureau Data
    Most Americans Profess Belief
    Church Members Centered in Middle Class
    Catholics and Baptists Are Largest Groups of U.S. Christians
    Close to One in Five Americans Is Non-Christian
    Older Americans Maintain Christian Traditions
    Upscale/Downscale American Christians
    Non-Christians Are Upscale
    Household Factors and Religious Orientation
    Table 6-1: Demographic Characteristics Favoring Membership in Church/Temple/Synagogue, 1998 (U.S. Adults)
    Table 6-2: U.S. Adult Population of Christians by Denomination, 1998 (number and percent): 13 Denomination
    Table 6-3: U.S. Adult Population of Non-Christians by Religion, 1998 (number and percent): No Religious Preference, Other Religion, Jewish
    Table 6-4a: Demographic Characteristics Favoring U.S. Christians by Denomination, 1998 (U.S. Adults): Catholic, Baptist, Methodist Table 6-4b: Demographic Characteristics Favoring U.S. Christians by Denomination, 1998 (U.S. Adults): Lutheran, Pentecostal/Charismatic, Christian Church
    Table 6-4c: Demographic Characteristics Favoring U.S. Christians by Denomination, 1998 (U.S. Adults): Presbyterian, Other Protestant, Episcopal
    Table 6-4d: Demographic Characteristics Favoring U.S. Christians by Denomination, 1998 (U.S. Adults): Other Evangelical Christian, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, United Church of Christ
    Table 6-4e: Demographic Characteristics Favoring U.S. Christians by Denomination, 1998 (U.S. Adults): Russian, Greek or Eastern Orthodox, Unitarian
    Table 6-5a: Demographic Characteristics Favoring U.S. Non-Christians by Religious Affiliation: Jewish vs. Muslim, 1998 (U.S. Adults) Table 6-5b: Demographic Characteristics Favoring U.S. Non-Christians by Religious Affiliation: No Religious Preference vs. Other Religion, 1998 (U.S. Adults)

    Purchasers of Religious Products
    Who Are the Religious Products Consumers?
    Churchgoers vs. Religious Product Users
    Bibles vs. Other Religious Books
    Readers of Religious Works
    Demographics for Religious Music
    Audio Demographics by Genre
    Who Listens to Religious Recordings?
    Religious Products Sold Through Alternative Retail Outlets
    Demographics for Alternative Retail Outlets
    Table 6-6: U.S. Adult Purchasers of Religious Products by Category, 1998 (number and percent): Religious Books, Bibles, Audio Products
    Table 6-7: Demographic Characteristics Favoring Purchase of Religious Literature by Category: Religious Books vs. Bibles, 1998 (U.S. Adults)
    Table 6-8: Demographic Characteristics Favoring Purchase of Audio Products at Religious Articles Stores, 1998 (U.S. Adults)
    Table 6-9: U.S. Adult Purchasers of Religious Audio Products by Genre: Gospel vs. Contemporary Christian Rock, 1998 (number and percent)
    Table 6-10: Demographic Characteristics Favoring Purchase of Religious Audio Products by Genre: Gospel vs. Contemporary Christian Rock, 1998 U.S. Adults
    Table 6-11: U.S. Purchasers of Religious Products Through Alternative Retail Outlets: Mail Order vs. Phone Order, 1998 (number and percent)
    Table 6-12: Demographic Characteristics Favoring Purchase of Religious Products Through Alternative Retail Outlets: Mail Order vs. Phone Order, 1998 (U.S. Adults)

    Appendix I: Examples Of Consumer And Trade Advertising
    Appendix II: Addresses Of Selected Marketers, Distributors, Retailers, Trade Organizations, And Major Media

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