A view of the industry through the
eyes of a chain buyer.
It's Time To Re-awaken the
Time to embrace new ideas and
by Christine Meier (July 7, 2008)
(Note: Christine is a former craft buyer for Wal-Mart and
co-founder of DMD Industries with her husband Randy. After they sold
DMD to Creativity, they launched Canvas Corp. Christine is
responding to Kathy Lamancusa's "Hey Craft Industry ... Where
Are You?" article. To read it, click on the title in the
The article was a confirmation of what returning to the craft
industry has been for me after stepping away for a number of years.
I began my career in the craft industry at the age of 16 on the
floor of a Jo-Ann store and worked through high school and into
college. After graduating, I was a craft and fabric buyer for
Wal-Mart and dove in head first, learning all that I could and
embracing every aspect of the market from the manufacturers, the
designers, the consumers, and the retailers. After spending more
than five years on the retail side of the business, I decided to
step over to the other side, working in the wholesale sector and
allowing myself to be more creative. When Randy and I started DMD
Industries in 1996, the market was ready for something new and to
embrace the idea of expanding its horizons.
We started in our garage and within a few years Paper
Reflections' paper, bags, and memory products were in every
retailer in the country. The retailers, buyers, and consumers were
hungry for new products that would unleash creativity, but there was
still caution among some, who were not sure consumers would really
put photos, stickers, and paper into a book, and others were too
focused with "existing" categories to consider adding
something new like scrapbooking.
So we worked hard as an industry to attract, educate, and provide
the buyers, consumers, designers, and ultimately the "scrapbooker"
with new magazines, exciting advertising, great packaging, great
design, and a new line of merchandise that worked together, as well
as stood alone to create what is now considered the scrapbook
department or the scrapbooking store.
The new scrapbook phenomenon unleashed creativity within the
market, but more importantly it attracted people from far outside of
the craft industry, allowing it to broaden its horizons. A good
example was the product line and ad campaign that Curtis and the
late Connie Platte of Crop-In-Style created. The line was designed
with great attention to function, detail, style – and with a sense
of fun. They supported the products and retailers with ads that
helped create a great buzz for the line.
New manufacturers quickly appeared and became important
suppliers; existing vendors followed suit and the industry grew to a
new level, offering better packaging, better products, and better
consumer outreach. Buyers could not get enough of this new market
excitement, and all facets of the market enjoyed a great run.
The business changes.
The scrapbook industry is as important today as it has ever been,
but the business is not being managed like it once was; it does not
have the innovation or excitement it once had. Storeowners who did
not take the time to learn how to run the business are gone; buyers
who were at the top of their game during the heyday are, too. Some
retailers have taken their eye off of what is new and focus only on
existing categories – making the fewest changes possible. At the
same time, retailers who put all of their merchandising eggs in the
scrapbook basket ignored many of the other important craft
categories, and soon the manufacturers followed suit.
When I began my career I walked the aisles of craft stores and
departments and saw nothing but potential in the market. The ideas
were limitless and the manufacturers and designers could not come up
with ideas quickly enough. Today I walk the aisles and I am amazed
to see that many of the displays, products, and even promotional
items are exactly the same as there were eight and ten years ago.
The phenomenon that swept through the scrapbook/paper craft market
did not spread throughout the other departments by way of innovative
products, updated packaging, and out-of-the-box product promotions.
The industry powerhouses went through such amazing growth that
they had to control that growth and work hard to put procedures in
place to ensure they were in stock and offered consistency from one
store or department to the next. This effort paid off with well
rounded departments that offered inventory that was based on sales
analysis, space allotment, and available products. The focus became
more about plan-o-grams, in-stock levels, and constancy in signage
– and the influence of creativity began to dwindle.
Today we hear about the number of scrapbook stores that are
closing and the lack of space within the retail aisles for new
products. We have to take a closer look at why this is happening and
what can be done, not only to reignite the scrapbook/paper craft
market, but the other major categories, as well as potential new
categories. We need to apply the same principles that worked in the
onset of scrapbooking.
What's needed now.
The market needs to take a close look at itself and determine how
to unleash the creativity that turned scrapbooks into an industry
giant. How? By opening up the minds of the retailers and buyers to
new products and categories, and continue the precedent of strong
packaging and presentation, followed by new, innovative ad and
marketing-awareness campaigns – created by both the retailer and
DMD was purchased by Creativity Inc in 2002 along with
Crop-In-Style. At the time Creativity had a vision to bring together
creative companies that together would be more powerful and a
creativity leader. Randy and I worked with Creativity Inc for one
year blending DMD into the fold before we ventured out on our own.
As long as our non-compete agreement was in place, we had the
opportunity to look outside the market for new trends and areas of
business of interest. This opened our eyes to how much opportunity
there is out there and how little the craft market is taking
advantage of that opportunity.
This sabbatical from the market allowed us to work on our newest
venture that we have recently released to the market nationwide
through the JoAnn’s superstores and in Canada through the Zeller’s
chain. Our company, Canvas Corp., has brands under the name Canvas
Home Basics. It's a line of basic home décor
components, tools, and supplies – in essence the beginning of a
department that supports that HGTV viewer, the home magazine reader,
and consumers who do any form of creative projects for their homes.
These products are not about plumbing supplies or building a
storage shed. They provide creative ways to hang pictures,
innovative components for tablescapes, and simple components that
allow the consumer to design and create beautiful rooms.
The demographics of the scrapbooker/crafter are very similar to
the DIY-er. I have had the opportunity to work with a wide variety
of interior designers, home owners, builders, crafters, designers,
etc., to learn as much as I can about their needs and what is
missing in the market. I am amazed at how little is available for
The market is prime for a new phenomenon; it is up to us,
however, to embrace this and do something to re-ignite the crafter
and broaden the industry's consumer base. The potential is there.
Yet, based on our experience we are amazed that many in the craft
market have been unable to grasp the concept or see how it fits into
their stores. By the way, the DIY and home décor
markets are each exponentially larger than the craft market.
Scrapbook stores looking for new ways to stay in business and
maintain their scrapbook customers should look for new categories
that appeal to their customers. These stores already have a customer
base and a following; now they have an opportunity to help their
customers take the creative ideas they put into scrapbooks and move
them on the walls, tabletops, and even painted furniture pieces.
There are multiple television networks and hundreds of
publications devoted to creative-idea sharing – all supported by
advertising – and a plethora of designers who are embracing this
market, yet retailers are not truly capitalizing on the market's
This concept is about bringing together a wide variety of
products to provide a one-stop shop for the creative DIY customers
who include the scrapbookers when they are not scrapbooking, party
planners, interior designer, crafters, floral arrangers,
weekend-warrior couples, contractors, builders, architects, artists,
photographers, decorators, the new parents-to-be – the list goes
We are working hard with a number of accounts to blend the Canvas
Home Basics program into their product offering, and we are
excited by our early strong results. We are amazed, however, at the
lack of vision by many of the powerhouses in the industry.
Again as I walk the aisles of some retailers, I am amazed at how
little their offerings have changed over the years and how
uninspiring these stores can be. I applaud them for being in stock,
having product in exactly the same place every time I shop, and
every holiday and season I can find the exact same products, but the
market is long over-due for something new. Not new sticker designs,
a pack of paper, or something in the dollar bins. It is about
shaking up this market with some unexpected items, finding ways to
attract new customers, and improving the image of the market both
inside and out.
I long to feel the excitement that I once received from the
market. When we first told buyers that consumers around world would
mount pictures and apply stickers and die cuts into a book, we met
strong resistance, but we eventually succeeded.
Now that we enter the market for the second time, we're spreading
this new message: consumers will buy products that enhance their
home. The products range from paints that cover what needs to be
covered, clothespins and clips to display what needs to be
displayed, decorative hardware that more beautifully hangs what
needs to be hung, storage options, ropes and ribbons that are the
finishing touches – and even sand that fills vases for a table-top
display. The market needs products and retailers that together can
inspire, merchandise, and educate consumers – something the craft
industry is all about.
I am excited about the line, but even more excited about the
potential for the industry and for consumers who would love to shop
in stores that unleash their creativity, inspiring them to embark on
exciting new projects.
The key is starting with the industry's leaders, helping them
understand that it's not about maintaining existing business; that
is not what drives the creative market. Rather, it is about so much
more than that. As the leaders get a little taste of what the market
is capable of doing, they will drive that through the organization.
But even more important is to educate consumers that they should be
more vocal about their needs. It is one thing to offer successful
products, it is another to contribute to the market and in some
small way see that you made a difference.
(Note: To learn more about the Canvas Home Basics program,
Is Christine right? Is home dec the industry's "next big
thing"? Should it be? Email your thoughts to CLN at firstname.lastname@example.org.)