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CHA Responds to The SMART Group
CEO Steve Berger on scrapbooking, PMA, and the
winter trade shows.
by Mike Hartnett (June 4, 2007)
(Note: In the previous issue, CLN published an
interview with Dennis Conforto, the CEO of The Smart Group. The
interview is still in the Memory,
Paper & Stamp section. CLN asked Steve Berger, the
CEO of the Craft & Hobby Assn., to respond.)
CLN: Dennis Conforto claims PMA offers more services to its
members than CHA does.
BERGER: This is not a battle between Associations. CHA prides
itself on continually offering all of our members’ true value. If
there is anything that any member or group of members who want CHA
to undertake some particular activity or services beyond what is
already being provided , we are more than happy to discuss the
matter and see what accommodation can be made consistent with all of
CHA's other commitments and obligations . We are and will always be
a member-driven association.
CLN: Dennis says he believes the costs for joining/exhibiting at
PMA and CHA are "on par."
BERGER: The facts are as follows: For the 2008 CHA Winter
show our booth rates will be $14.25 per sq. ft. versus PMA's booth
rates of $38.95 per sq. ft.
CLN: Dennis says PMA will announce a new pricing model shortly.
BERGER: That will be an interesting challenge for PMA. I
suspect long-time PMA members will not think it's fair if PMA
suddenly lowers its dues/exhibit fees for new members. Pulling off
such a move would be far easier said than done and to my knowledge,
PMA has not announced any new dues/exhibit structure.
CLN: Is it "crystal clear that photo retailers and scrapbook
retailers have more in common than, say, scrapbook retailers and
quilting, floral, or other craft retailers," as Dennis says?
BERGER: Scrapbook retailers are finding countless items, such
as ribbon and beads, at the CHA shows, items that complement their
inventory and improve sales, items they wouldn't find at a
CLN: Dennis says scrapbooking declined 15% last year; CHA's
research says it grew slightly.
BERGER: Dennis does not cite how his research was conducted,
who conducted it, how large a sample he used, or the validity of the
previous year's data to which he compared his new data, so I can't
comment on his research.
Our research is done by one of the most reputable market research
firms in the world, IPSOS. All CHA members have access to this
in-depth research. In fact CHA members only have to click on this
and they will have full access to our A&U research study which
encompasses 50,000 US households in order to see what research has
been conducted and the results obtained. In that way they can draw
their own conclusions about the validity of CHA's research..
CLN: Dennis said PMA offered 400 business classes at its winter
show. That's more classes than CHA offered.
BERGER: We know retailers attend our shows to look at new
products and attend workshops, in addition to attending business
classes. Shows are only three or four days. If we filled the days
with 400 business classes, retailers wouldn't have time for anything
else. We believe we offer the right balance of all three.
CLN: "The photo industry is working on digital
scrapbooking," Dennis says.
BERGER: By exhibiting at CHA shows, companies such as HP,
Epson, Sony, etc., are demonstrating a keen interest in scrapbook
retailers. If other technology companies were interested, they also
would be present at CHA shows. I'm not sure what the value would be
for a retailer to see exhibits of companies who haven't shown an
interest in scrapbooking.
CLN: What's wrong with scrapbook vendors and retailers attending
the PMA show and the CHA winter show?
BERGER: Nothing! However, the shows are typically just one
week apart. It would be both difficult and expensive to attend or
exhibit at both show. I would much rather see craft industry
exhibitors and retailers use the savings from attending only one
winter show to improve their business through advertising, lowering
I also want to point out that PMA doing a scrapbook section is
not new news! They have been doing this for years. A few of our
exhibitors have tried it and it simply has not worked for them. I
would be happy to refer any CHA member to those companies that have
exhibited at the PMA show so they can learn from other members'
CLN: Dennis complains about "the huge spikes in inventory
purchases two times per year at trade shows."
BERGER: I agree completely. No retailer should order only
twice a year. Frankly, I don't know of any who do. Our business
seminars have addressed that issue. CHA's shows permit orders to be
taken, but that does not mean that a retailer should order its
entire annual inventory at the shows.
CLN: "... nobody on the board of CHA represents a purely
scrapbooking company" and "... if an association is retail
driven, then it should have more retailers on it than
BERGER: First, let me state that CHA has a very long and
sacred tradition of keeping the board nominating process totally
autonomous and separate from the CEO and staff of CHA, as well as
from the current board members.
Each year in compliance with CHA's bylaws, a nominating committee
is duly elected by the membership. All applications are sent
directly to the Chair of the nominating committee. I and the staff
do not even know who has been nominated. We also never touch or see
To say that the current board members do not represent retailers
and/or the scrapbooking interests is wrong. First, all board members
are required to sign a code of conduct which explicitly states that
they are to represent the industry and not to favor any one
particular segment of the craft and hobby industry. Second, the
board currently consists of five (5) independent retailers who sell
scrapbooking products as well as a GMM/VP of a major chain store
retailer. In addition, two board members are with
wholesalers/distributors who sell a significant amount of
scrapbooking products, and three board members are with
manufacturers who sell varying levels of scrapbooking products.
The bottom line is that anyone who wants to serve on CHA's board
should put his/her name before the nominating committee and is urged
to do so. That does not mean a scrapbooking representative will be
selected as such, but instead a member involved in scrapbooking will
be considered by the nominating committee on the same basis as all
CHA also offers members numerous ways to volunteer via task
forces in areas in which they may have a specific interest. They
also are encouraged to call me directly at any time at the following
numbers: Office-201-794-1133, ext. 214 or on my cell 908-256-0307,
or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLN: "... I believe the vast majority of manufacturers and
retailers who are purely scrapbooking will move in mass to PMA for
the winter show ...."
BERGER: Dennis is certainly entitled to his opinion that CHA
scrapbooking members will move to the PMA show. So far we have not
seen or heard of a single CHA member who is choosing to do so.
CLN: How do you feel about a 26-week scrapbook show on network
BERGER: That would be wonderful, but no network has committed
to it, there is no list of companies putting up $100 million, and
the only producers mentioned are the Avalanche Group and Dennis'
company. But if it happens, I believe it would only be a plus for
the industry. As an association we would do what ever we could to
help this initiative.
CLN: Dennis says people in the craft industry are treating
scrapbooking as a fad.
BERGER: Scrapbooking is the longest-lasting, strongest trend
in the history of the industry. There's no reason to think it's a
fad, and to my knowledge none of our members think that.
CLN: "The craft industry by its nature has passed on some of
its bad habits to the scrapbooking industry, and many retailers now
have taken on the high-end, craft-store mentality of high margins
and low turns, with pricing placed on the back of the products and
lack of any kind of sales events or signage."
BERGER: I don't know of any stores like that. Craft retailers
who have survived for years have learned basic lessons like that, or
they wouldn't still be in business. By attending CHA seminars or
sharing a trade show lunch table, new retailers can learn from them
and avoid these mistakes.
CLN: "CHA has 32 craft market segments it has to support;
how can they be effective for all 32 categories?"
BERGER: I don't know where the number 32 came from, but it
doesn't matter. The underlying appeal that is common to all of the
categories is so consumers can learn, be creative, express
themselves, make gifts that mean far more to the recipients than a
readymade item, and feel that "I made it myself!" sense of
pride and accomplishment. In addition, as an association we will
continue to work towards the betterment of all of our members.
That's why a scrapbook retailer has so much in common with a
quilt shop, needlework store, etc.
CLN: Why cancel The SMART Group's seminars for the Summer Show?
BERGER: The SMART Group classes were cancelled for one reason
and only one reason – Dennis was unable to substantiate to us the
methodology of his market research. First he told us it was
proprietary, and then he told us PMA had purchased his company and
that it was now their property.
I personally conveyed this message to Dennis, so it is
unfortunate that he is choosing to portray it any other way. I also
told Dennis that as long as he is a CHA member in good standing he
will always be welcomed at CHA’s Winter and Summer shows. For the
record, I have also agreed to meet with Dennis at the summer show
and buy him a cup of coffee!
(Note: To comment on or off the record about the issues
raised by this and the Dennis Conforto interview, email CLN