CHICAGO -- Christian book stores no longer are the only place to find inspirational, religious, family-oriented and self-help books. Today, supermarkets are enhancing their book and magazine departments with outposts that contain titles from authors like Billy Graham, James Dobson, Emilie Barnes and Charles Swindoll.
A variety of such offerings were showcased by several distributors at the FMI Convention and Exposition, held here this month. Among them were Choice Books, Harrisonburg, Va., which offers inspirational and family- and children-oriented paperbacks from 70 different publishers.
About half of Choice's 4,300 accounts are supermarkets, according to John Bomberger, director.
"We continue to expand with Publix," he said. "We handle over 100 of their stores." It also services Safeway, Kroger, and other large chains.
Choice's most popular offering is a spinner rack that takes up about two to three feet of space, and carries about 60 different titles.
Though most popular in the Bible Belt, the spinners have become widespread in chains from other regions, such as Hannaford Bros., Giant Food, Meijer and Shop 'N Save, according to Bomberger.
Among its most popular selections are children's bibles and self-help publications, such as "Overcoming Hurts and Anger," and "Why You Act the Way You Do."
One of the reasons titles like these are in demand is that they focus on hardships many people experience.
"A lot of our titles deal with ordinary problems that people deal with every day," Bomberger said.
Religious, or devotion, titles also are doing well, such as "Angels" by Billy Graham. Those geared to men -- such as "Names of God," and "15 Minutes Alone with God, For Men" -- are increasing in popularity.
"Men's titles are doing very well," he said.
Cook Distribution, Colorado Springs, Colo., a division of Cook Ministries, represents more than 80 publishers, said Rob Bailey, director of marketing and sales. One of its most popular shippers is "Lasting Values," which features three Billy Graham titles: "Death and the Life After," "Angels," and "Storm Warning."
It also offers a "My Little Angels" shipper that holds several children's bibles and other inspirational books.
"There's a lot of interest in angels," he said
Cook services about 4,000 supermarket chains, and the number of accounts continues to grow.
"Studies have shown that three out of four shoppers in grocery stores are searching for these type of products," said Bailey. "Previously, the only place to get them was in a Christian Book store."
"The southeast is our stronghold, but so is Oregon, South California and Kentucky." It just picked up Winn Dixie's Jacksonville division last fall.
Its most popular spinner has 48 pockets. Many chains place it directly in the book and magazine section, but some feature it in nontraditional areas to capture more impulse sales.
"We do better when we're located away from books," he said, citing that one of his accounts outposts the spinner in the dairy aisle.