A view of the industry through the
eyes of a chain buyer.
Retailers Speak Out!
On chain stores' coupons,
individual paper vs. pads, offering a slide-scanning service,
investing in technology, and how the younger generation thinks.
by Staff Report (August 18, 2008)
(Note: CLN has recently received numerous
thought-provoking, interesting comments and reactions to various
questions and issues facing independent retailers. Here is a
Should Independents Honor Chains' Coupons?
(Note: CLN asked the question in the previous issue and
received these responses from successful independents.)
1. We accepted chain stores' 50%-off coupons when we first
opened four years ago. After nine months, I noticed that the coupons
were only used by a small group of customers, and usually on big
ticket items that were not available at a chain store.
To convince my wife that we should stop, we tracked every item
that was sold for 50% off for two months. Virtually all of these
items were not found at Michaels or Hobby Lobby. When we stopped
taking the coupons, the few customers who used them were a little
annoyed, but bought the higher priced items anyway, at regular
price, because they wanted them.
When asked why we stopped, we would tell them that Michaels does
not honor our coupon, so why should we honor theirs. Interestingly
enough, within a few months, word got around to the other
independent stores, and they stopped too.
I do not think that the change has hurt us, as we continually
shop the chains to see what products we will not carry. We also
train our staff on the differences between big ticket items that we
stock, like totes, from those carried by the chains. We never bash a
product or a chain, but we do point out the features and benefits
that our line has. – Mike Dolan, Scrapbook 911
2. We haven't taken Michaels' 40% off coupons in a REALLY
long time, and didn't do it for that long when we did take them.
Taking them did not, in our experience, bring in new customers. Or,
if it did, they would come in just to buy the one 40% off item. Who
needs it? (Your experience may vary, as they say.) You have to be
careful. Too many discount coupons, too many sales, and you train
your customers to wait for the sales or end up turning your store
into a discount store, and there be dragons.
You shouldn't fool yourself. Even your "loyal"
customers shop everywhere else too, and you should not expect them
to do otherwise. You have to provide the best environment, a happy
place for them to be, a great staff, and be on top of your game. We
endeavor to be the BEST place for our customers to shop – not the
cheapest, and certainly not the only. – Bud Izen
(Note: Any other thoughts on whether or not independents
should honor chain store coupons? Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Individual Paper Sheets vs. Pads
A week ago, one of our customers, who manages the scrapbook
aisles at a busy Hobby Lobby was in. She told us that they will be
discontinuing individual sheets of cardstock and paper, and will
only be selling paper packs and slabs. She said that they were
having to throw away too much inventory because it was damaged, and
too much time was spent putting individual sheets back in the right
slot each day.
If this is true, I think that this will help the independent
stores, as individual sheets of paper are included in over 90% of
our invoices. – Independent Retailer (who doesn't want to
get the Hobby Lobby clerk in trouble.)
Scanning Slides And Technology Investments
We were test marketers for Epson Scrapbook Central (ESC).
Among other usefully profitable things ESC does, slide scanning is
one. It is a great tool for many purposes.
I fully intend to offer the slide scanning service to our
customers, and my guess is that we will make money with it. The
problem is that there are a LOT of do-it-yourself options that
almost everyone knows about. You see them advertised on tv, and you
read about them in SkyMall when you fly. For anywhere from $50 to
$100, you can own your own slide scanner.
That sort of puts a limit on what you can charge to digitize
someone's slides. I'm thinking we'll probably charge something like
a quarter per slide. The advantage of ESC is that you can do about
25 slides at a single scan (the scanner programming is
unbelievable). So, making $6.25 in 60 seconds works out to be a
pretty good hourly rate. Here's hoping a few of our customers need
the service. (By the way, if ESC didn't do a whole bunch of other
things better than anything else out there – at a VERY low
acquisition cost – I wouldn't buy it just for the slide scanning
This is likely to be our first and only entry into the world of
ESC also does 4x6 and 5x7 prints. Do you think I ever announce or
advertise that fact? No way. We are not looking to compete with
Costco, Wal-Mart, the chain drug stores, and the million or two
On the other hand, if you can get your old yellowed photo turned
into a print that looks like it was developed yesterday for only
$9.95, and printed on 100+ year archival-quality paper and ink, let
me know. Other services around town will charge up to $100 for the
Likewise, if you can make archival copies of scrapbook pages in
full 12x12 or 8x8 that also will last more than 100 years and look
like a dead ringer of the original (including 3D) from a foot or two
away, for under $8 per page, clue me in. This ain't no color laser
Thing is, as I keep saying to anyone who will listen, you have to
make these decisions based on careful business analysis. Too many
people think the next big thing is going to be their silver bullet
to solve cash flow problems. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but buying
it first and analyzing it later is NOT the wise way to go. Before
anyone buys any machinery, you have to calculate the break-even
point, and make some realistic assumptions about how much business
you will do, and what that business will cost so that your profit
projections are somewhat realistic. – Bud Izen, Scrapbook
(Note: Is a slide-scanning service a good idea? How about
a large-size printer and other technology investments?)
HOW THE YOUNGER GENERATION THINKS
(Note: Recently CLN reported on e-books –
consumers can download and print a book without having to drive to a
Regarding the e-book you downloaded and printed on paper, my kids
(in their 20's) would tell you the point was not to print the online
book, but to read it and refer back to in cyberspace. The whole
point, they would say, is to save paper, not time, in shopping for
the book. I too printed an e-book and promptly lost it. Of course I
hadn't saved in a file, so now I no longer have it. I only send this
to remind us that we only think we are thinking like the next
generation of crafters, but I'm afraid we still have a little ways
to go. – Kathy Olliges, Dee's Crafts.
(Note: Any thoughts, comments, or reactions to these
retailers' comments or other industry issues? Email them to CLN