Guest / Limited Access /

Last fall on the outskirts of Birmingham in a strip mall between Morrison's cafeteria and Kinko's copy center, the state of the art in spiritual retailing opened its doors: Disciples, the first "Christian superstore."

Not surprisingly, Disciples boasts perhaps the nation's biggest single retail concentration of Bibles, Christian books, and music. But its 100,000 titles cover only 60 percent of the 25,000 square feet of floor space. The rest is devoted to Christian-theme greeting cards, collectibles, T-shirts, and other products, ranging from angel figurines to $300 paintings of eagles.

And while nearly everything Disciples sells has religious themes, it is merchandised with as much style as any high-gloss Madison Avenue media campaign.

Couches and high-backed leather chairs invite book browsers to relax, while seven "listening stations" at the ends of aisles allow music customers to hear specifically promoted releases. A 52-inch television screen plays children's videos; three other TV sets and a personal computer offer parents and children the opportunity to "test drive" Christian games and other software.

There is even a 1,000-square-foot coffee bar and periodic performances by local Christian musicians.

"People have tended to think of Christian bookstores as just Bibles and commentaries," says Mike Murray, Disciples' director of store operations. "That's just a small portion of what we do."

A LARGE, VOLATILE MARKET: Disciples exemplifies the new reality of the commercialization of Christian culture: Unprecedented product variety, sophisticated marketing, and a retailing philosophy that focuses on competitive pricing and high customer ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedChristianity Today's 2015 Book Awards
Christianity Today's 2015 Book Awards
Our picks for the books most likely to shape evangelical life, thought, and culture.
Editor's PickHow Dante's Poetry Rescued Rod Dreher from Despair
How Dante's Poetry Rescued Rod Dreher from Despair
The popular blogger leaned on 'The Divine Comedy' when his world was falling apart.
Comments
Christianity Today
Mass Marketing the Good News
hide thisJanuary 8 January 8

In the Magazine

January 8, 1996

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.