Retailers Put Their Faith in Religious Items

October 15, 2000

Source: The Washington Post

On October 15, 2000, The Washington Post reported that "secular retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Kmart, Hecht's and selling more items tied to religion and spirituality than ever. What's more, they're carrying them year-round, not just around religious holidays. That doesn't mean traditional religious retailers are being left behind. They're experiencing increased demand as well. One sign of confidence in the trend: Earlier this year, Potomac Adventist Book and Health Food Store opened the world's largest Christian bookstore in Silver Spring. The store will have plenty to sell. Bibles and prayer books, inspirational volumes, New Age treatises, books on philosophy and Eastern religion--all are selling in unprecedented numbers, with sales having grown by a third over the past five years, from $ 1.69 billion to a projected $ 2.24 billion this year, according to the Book Industry Study Group. Then there's religious music, which accounts for more than 5 percent of all music sales and, according to the Recording Industry Association, outsells such categories as classical, jazz and soundtracks. Shoppers are also buying gold crosses on chains, Buddhist power-bead bracelets, watches with prayer compasses for Muslims and baseball caps with major-league team names rendered in Hebrew characters.

"Why the spiritual surge? The dawn of a new millennium? Aging baby boomers seeking spirituality? The void perceived by some at the center of the nation's unprecedented affluence? There's 'a genuine revulsion at a purely mercantile view of reality,' said Luke Timothy Johnson, Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory University's Candler School of Theology. 'But what's odd, of course, is that we express that through another form of consumerism.'"