Academic Research Showcase Concludes With Discussion On Christian Marketing
On Wednesday, March 14, Dr. Peter Maresco, representing the John F. Welch College of Business, gave the final in a series of four lectures that made up Sacred Heart University’s Academic Research Showcase. The Showcase is part of this year’s Presidential Inaugural Lecture Series.
His topic was The Expanding Christian Marketplace: If You Can Name It, or Make It, The Christian Marketplace Probably Sells It! He pointed out that the Christian market in the United States comprises 140 million weekly churchgoers who make up the largest, most faithful, highest-spending market segment in the United States. He said research indicates that Christians spend $5.1 trillion annually and are likely to frequent businesses that they believe understand and respect their religious beliefs.
Maresco became interested in the subject when, while looking for a gospel CD, he discovered a myriad of items for sale in a local Christian bookstore. In addition to the music, books and greeting cards that he expected, he found jewelry, t-shirts, buttons, sunglasses, flip-flops, candy, bumper stickers, toys, china, key chains and much, much more.
According to a 2005 article in Time magazine, 88 million Americans called themselves born-again Christians, and there were 500,000 to 600,000 Christian-owned and operated businesses in the United States. This creates a tremendous opportunity, and sales of Christian products by member suppliers of the Association for Christian Retail through all distribution channels are valued at more than $4.63 billion. The Association, which was formerly known as the Christian Booksellers Association, represents 1,700 Christian stores including independents, regional and national chains (Logos and LifeWay), church-owned stores (Lakewood Church, Houston, TX), gift companies, marketing groups, 500 book publishers, record companies and other product suppliers.
Maresco pointed out that Christian consumers also buy Christian merchandise in such places as WalMart, Costco, Barnes & Noble and Target. However, he said, when Christians shop in Christian stores, their Christian book purchases are 47 percent higher than when they shop in big-box stores or online, and their Christian book purchases are 103 percent higher than when they shop mass merchandisers. “Within Christian consumers, active Christians are the biggest buyers of Christian books on the globe, and they buy more Christian books at Christian stores than any other retail outlet,” Maresco said.
Christians also tend to support businesses with a Christian mission statement, Maresco said. Examples of these companies include Curves Fitness Centers, Chick-fil-A Restaurants, ServiceMaster, In-N-Out Burger and Christian Faith Driving School, as well as many local businesses in local communities. There are Christian gyms, dry cleaners, beauty salons, dating services, theaters, theme parks – even a Christian wrestling organization. If you want to do business with a Christian, chances are you can find the place to do it.
Maresco noted that there is even Christian literature for every taste from self-help books and biographies to fiction and ‘Christian chick lit.’ Bibles are also available in every shape and version.
He said the expanding Christian marketplace has even reached beyond the grave with the availability of personalized funerals, custom caskets and even gravestones with a video to display the deceased’s final message to family and friends.
Maresco will go into more detail in his book, The Business of Christianity. In the meantime, he concluded by pointing out that the expanding Christian marketplace was inevitable. “What marketer doesn’t want a built-in market of 140 million people?” he asked.