The Role of The Passion

Some catalogers reporting strong sales of Easter goods this year may have actor/director Mel Gibson to thank. Several mailers say that Gibson’s controversial movie The Passion of The Christ spurred increased interest in the holiday and in Christian merchandise overall. The Passion, which depicts the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life, opened in theaters Feb. 25 — Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

Just how influential the movie would be surprised Gerald Wilhite, president of St. Meinrad, IN-based religious-gifts cataloger Abbey Press. Although the company kept its circulation about the same as last year’s, sales were up in the “high single digits,” Wilhite says. “Knowing what I know now, if I had anticipated that The Passion would be so broadly embraced, I might have increased the mailing.”

Adam Schwartz, vice president/general counsel for Colchester, CT-based multititle mailer S&S Worldwide, credits the popularity of The Passion for the 25% rise in sales of the Nail Cross Necklace in the company’s Christian Activities title. The necklace wound up being one of the catalog’s top sellers.

Even some candy mailers say that The Passion likely played a pivotal role in their Easter sales this year. Clifton Park, NJ-based Saratoga Sweets found that “religious items seem to have done better than usual, like our chocolate cross,” says president/owner Mike Fitzgerald. “With heightened awareness from The Passion, people want to have something in the [Easter] basket that demonstrated the essence of the holiday.”

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