irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry.
So, Is the Glass Half Empty?
Conflicting, but thought-provoking analyses.
by Various Industry Professionals (December 6, 2004)
Note: The last issue of CLN contained articles
about the challenges facing the industry – the overabundance of
scrapbook businesses and the lack of training, the countless
giveaways scrappers are now accustomed to, the necessity of
attracting new consumers, the perilous times for independents, and
Below are responses – some who say, yes, the glass is half
empty, and others who think it's half full.
People aren't listening.
I had to smile to myself as I read your last newsletter –
please let me explain
In the September 2002 issue of Craftrends, I wrote an
article, "How To Tame the Freebie Monster"; I liken the
problem with giveaways (or "goodies," as scrapbook event
planners use the term) with the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly’s Frankenstein
– where the monster created turns on his creator. In the
article I outlined the problem, how it started, and what the
industry could do to help solve the problem.
Over the past two years I have been writing a regular column,
"The Crop Corner," for Scrapbook Premier to help
retailers reach out to regular and new customers through different
kinds of events.
In April 2004 I wrote an article for CNA about
scrapbooking trends and how to keep up with the market in your area.
In the September 2004 Craftrends, I wrote an article about
attracting new markets. This time I clearly outlined that we need to
continue to attract new customers not rely on the ones that we have
I have also taught a marketing-to-women seminar and a basic
event-planning seminar since 2002, teaching about all of the above.
I recently taught a scrapbook professional class at Memories Expo
in Orlando and you would not believe how hungry people are for
training and basic information.
I outline all of the above to say that I don’t believe people
are listening. Everyone sees the hot trend of scrapbooking and wants
a piece without truly understanding what is needed in the industry.
We have more magazines than ever (10 or 11 consumer, 5 trade),
more consumer shows that are competing with other fiercely, more
products being introduced at each show – and not enough training.
In the last Scrapbooking in America survey, scrapbooking
only grew 2 –3% – meaning that in 2002 22% of all American homes
were involved in scrapbooking in some way and in 2004 25% were
involved. This number is really good for a subculture, but it cannot
sustain all the new products and magazines – UNLESS we continue to
bring in and teach new customers.
With Reminders of Faith, we have been exhibiting at different
Christian women’s events – the demographics of this group are
very similar to our scrapbooking demographics. We have learned that
while many are interested in our products and scrapbooking, there is
a consistent number who don’t want anything to do with it.
I always ask why – and usually they say the same thing: too
complicated, too time consuming, don’t know where to start, and so
they will do it later. (Now understand that mostly these have been
mothers we have talked to and they are busy for sure.)
But I believe that the industry has made it too complicated —
too many products and not enough teaching of the simple basics. What
is wrong with still using basic products?!?! When I have time to
show these non-scrappers how to use our simple products, they say
they could do that!
Recently on a message board, scrapbookers were talking about one
of the major magazines and how it discourages them when they receive
it; they say the projects are too complicated, too artsy, and not
realistic for them to do.
So to conclude my thoughts, I wish as an industry we would be
1. Reaching out to the 75% who are not scrapbooking – with
simple products and layouts. (The only ones who lust for new
products are our current consumers and they cannot sustain all the
companies and products.)
2. Teach our retailers how to market and reach new audiences.
I have offered the Crop Book (which CLN said was a
"must read") to someone who can reach this market –
complete with all the articles I have written and support – and
they have yet to commit to it because they are always looking for a
(We just do not have the staff to market it at this point since
we are taking Reminders of Faith into two different markets).
Retailers need a concise place to go for information – they just
do not have the time to read all the publications and attend all the
I wish that CHA or some group similar to this would develop an
ongoing training seminar for retailers; there are bits of training
here and there but nothing consistent or regular.
3. Slow down in terms of new products. I know we too got
caught up with the idea that Reminders of Faith needed to have a lot
of new products available for CHA. I wondered how we were going to
do it and keep up with all the new contacts we have going on. After
much discussion we realized that we needed to continue to teach
people how to scrapbook their spiritual memories with our products.
So we cut back on what we will release at CHA. (We will have a new
book and some new products.) Instead, we have committed to continue
reaching out in the new market to new customers.
Again, we are committed to bringing new people into the our
market. Right now the direct-sale company, Creative Memories, is
still doing one of the best jobs.
Sorry if it sounds like I am preaching but I do feel strongly
about all of this. I have seen this market from several different
sides and feel that I know it well. I don’t see all the gloom and
doom that you do, but I do see the need for strategic planning on
all fronts to continue the scrapbooking interest. – Sandra
Joseph, Reminders of Faith, www.remindersoffaith.com
It's Half Full.
1. Scrapbooking is not going to disappear tomorrow and savvy
store operators will begin to evolve.
2. The evolution to other crafts is already starting in some
stores that opened as scrapbook outlets; many are becoming paper
crafting stores. More evolution will follow by the good business
people who know that there are other crafts to sell to their
3. And…presto, change-o…we have independent craft stores
to sell again! Cool, huh? – Tom Ware, BagWorks, www.bagworks.com
It's Half Empty.
(Note: The author has operated a very successful
independent craft store for many years.)
Mike, we have communicated several times over the past years and
frankly I have always appreciated your frank analysis of the
industry and its future direction. Once again I agree with your
feelings on where the industry is going.
The typical independent is in trouble and ultimately the big
chains will follow, because manufacturers and vendors can’t live
on the cutthroat actions of the major chains. We independents are
the strength of the industry but can’t continue to survive (well,
maybe survive for a while, but not with the quality of customer
service and skilled employees we now hold dear) and subsidize the
industry. We will (would) have to emulate the style of the chains
and in so doing will lose the only advantage we now have.
A typical example – and true story: We recently received a
phone call from a lady at the local Village Crafts store
inquiring how to use a product. [Note: Village Crafts is a
smaller Michaels store.] She was buying it at Village Crafts but
the employees there didn’t know anything about using it, so they
offered her the use of their phone to call our store to get the
information on its use.
We – on a not infrequent basis – have customers of VC
as well as the other major chains (Wal-Mart) who come in for
instruction on using a product. Not surprisingly, most customers
really aren’t familiar enough with the realities of business to
realize that a store only lives on sales and hopefully a positive
bottom line, and in fact they think that somehow if they have the
same product that we sell we should be happy regardless of where
they bought it. My very best and most loyal customers are those that
have an idea of the realities of business.
Customers typically now seem to go for the lowest cost regardless
of quality or service. To some degree I can understand their buying
habits. It seems that the country is way over-retailed; and in order
to keep up with the Jones, there are a lot more
"essential" items. Every kid has a cell phone and Ipod,
families have three or four cars per household, etc. We all will
have to get new TV sets as soon as HDTV broadcasting becomes law.
Gee, you say these things don’t compete with crafts? They do,
however, compete for the dollar. In our town and in many towns with
storeowners I know, it really isn’t only the direct competition
from other craft stores. We ultimately can compete with them with
customer service, classes, and the personal feeling of actually
knowing our customers. What is difficult to compete with is the huge
spectrum of "necessary" items and services you simply have
to have. Even the Internet (a website and DSL) is a drain.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love living in a country where
we have such a huge variety of products and services available –
which for survival includes the need to compete strongly for any
The problem is that our product is the "fun" category
that usually stands at the end of the line. We started when the lady
was home and was really into domestic creations. Now in 2004 that
same lady has to work 40 hours a week as well as her husband just to
keep up with the "basic needs" of society.
We also actually become emotionally attached to our employees as
they are skilled, wonderful people. We usually offer little perks
that the chains don’t; they can afford to be totally impersonal.
Our employee costs are very significant.
So with the very stretched dollar, what do people do?. They say
"forget the service and quality; where can I get it
cheaper?" To some degree I can empathize with this. I like
working on my toys (bulldozer, tractor, truck, camper) in my shop,
so I need a lot of tools and equipment. What do I buy? I may use any
given tool two or three times a year – unlike the Caterpillar
mechanic – so I get cheaper tools knowing they will last as long
as I do.
The ladies now know they don’t really have time for heirloom
creations and have only so much to spend, so they too shop for the
bargain in areas that aren't life or death. They are fortunate that
they can still come in or call to find out how to use whatever they
bought somewhere else, but what will they do when all they have is
the chain store? Crafting will go from half empty to empty.
On the bright side, hopefully independents have put something
away from the old days and can enjoy a comfortable retirement. – Name
It's how you look at it.
In reading your latest review of our industry, it appears
somewhat concerning. Mike, as you stated, at times you view the
glass as half empty, not half full, therefore I take your comments
in good faith.
If I may add a little water to your half empty glass? I have good
After visiting many retail stores around the country the past
couple of months and working with many top sales teams, I have seen
a great deal of success in both independent and chain stores. The
common thread of success seems to be "attitude" of the
leaders within the organization. If they look for creative ways to
improve business, they seem to succeed.
During my travels I was reminded of a time some 20-plus years ago
when I was a retail store manager. My District Manager called to
check on business and I proceeded to tell him sales were soft that
week because the weather was bad, therefore consumers were staying
at home. My District Manager "informed" me that he did not
hire a "weather man" to run my store, he hired a merchant.
He then spent time discussing merchandise programs. He changed my
direction from just reporting on the status to finding creative ways
to improve the business. Later that week we turned in a sales
increase and the reason we did is because he taught me we could
effect change with the right attitude.
In summary, the good news is that we as an industry can either
focus on what may happen negatively or direct our energy on creative
ways to insure our success; either way, the future is not yet
written – it is up to us to make it happen! – Mark Lee,
VP, Consumer Division/Director of Product Development, American Art
Fill the glass.
Read your newsletter this AM and it reminded me that I've meaning
to talk to you about a subject I continuously ponder, especially at
this time of year: ask not whether the glass is half full or empty
but rather, who the hell drank half my water! And get fired up about
Every year at this time we get out the crystal balls and ask,
what's this retail season going to bring. The number-crunchers
crunch, the advisors advise, and the retailers, for the most part,
hope that Santa fills the list with big $ sales.
The facts: a) oil prices are up; b) unemployment is
questionable; c) tax returns won't happen this year; d)
it's an election year; e) the Thanksgiving-Christmas season
has two more selling days than last year; f) the war; and g)
an increase in interest rates. These things are difficult to change,
at least for this holidays season.
I received an email recently, that tied into how I feel about
what I call the "Farmers Dilemma" (too much rain/not
A women in her 70's is checking into her new assisted living home
and before the attendant can even open the door to her room, she
exclaims, "Oh I just love it! I love the possibilities, the
decor, the view, everything!" The attendant replies, "but
ma'am, I haven't opened your door yet" To which the woman
answers, "That doesn't matter; I have been imagining how it
will be and I know that it will be magnificent! The companionship,
the activities, the chance to make new friends and dine with them
when I want. I'm truly looking forward to this new chapter in my
The only thing that can change is our mental forecast. The amount
of water is neither here nor there. Find the well. Fill your glass.
Drink your fill. – Scott Phelps
Note: To read previous Business-Wise comments, click on
the titles in the right-hand column. To read the previous issue of CLN
which contained the original articles about which these readers have
responded, click on CLN Archives and the 11/15/04 issue.
To comment (on or off the record) on any of the issues mentioned
above, email Mike Hartnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.