irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
You just might get it
by Mike Hartnett (July, 2003)
Recently I was going through some old columns I'd written for
trade magazines and was reminded of the kinds of complaints I used
to hear from manufacturers.
Twenty years ago, the industry was filled with and dominated by
independents. Many of them were, as former Craftrends
columnist Wanda Burnett said, "missionaries, not
Missionaries were storeowners who went into business for the love of
the products -- crafts, decorative painting, needlework, sewing, or
quilting. These retailers just wanted to share their love with the
world and convert others to love the particular category as much as
they did. They weren't so concerned with boring things like markup,
inventory control, and cash flow.
Those missionaries were great teachers; this industry wouldn't be
half the size it is today, if it weren't for the firm foundation
laid by those missionaries who converted hundreds of thousands of
consumers into hard-core crafters, stitchers, and sewers.
Unfortunately, their prices were high, they never wanted to put
anything on sale, they only wanted to carry products they personally
liked, and you guessed it: their bankruptcy rate was sky high.
Vendors complained constantly to me, pleading with me to publish
columns encouraging retailers to be more business-like.
Manufacturers nagged me to publish articles actually teaching
readers how to compute markup, maintain an inventory, promote their
stores, and on and on.
I often gave business seminars at trade shows -- HIA, ACCI, TNNA,
SDP, HSA -- and it was preaching to the choir. All the attendees at
my seminars were excellent retailers; those who might have
benefitted far more were off taking fun classes in painting,
stitching, or whatever. It reminded me of parent-teacher conferences
when I was a teacher: the parents of the A students were always
there; the parents of the F students never showed up.
The bottom line to all this: the missionaries were late paying their
bills, and many faded away without paying at all.
Then the vendors would make their wish: "God, I wish our
industry's retailers were more professional."
Hmmm, I never hear that wish any more. The chain stores' buyers are
certainly professional, aren't they?
That brings to mind the old saying, "Be careful what you wish
for. You just might get it."
Note: Call Mike at 309-925-5593 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.