Home
Business-Wise
Kate's Collage
"Vinny Da Vendor"
"Benny Da Buyer"
Kizer & Bender
Memory, Paper & Stamps
Category Reports
Designing Perspectives
Scene & Heard


Creative Leisure News
306 Parker Circle
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com

 

 


Your Business Commentary

Mike's often irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an occasional guest columnist.

Printer Version

So, Why Aren't We Happier?

Maybe the theme song for the January trades shows should be Elton John's "I'm Still Standing."

by Mike Hartnett (December 21, 2009)

Consider these positive items:

A) The quarterly reports from Michaels, Jo-Ann, and Hancock were strong. Although the average transaction was lower, there were more of them because more consumers are shopping in our stores.

B) Wall Street is impressed. The stocks of this publicly held trio have risen substantially this year.

C) Anecdotal reports from independents around the U.S. One retailer wrote, "For the quarter our sales are flat, margins are up two full points, and customer count is up, but the average sale per customer is down about 6%. But our expenses are down and profits are UP!"

Wrote another independent: "Our customer count is up over the past two years but average sale is still difficult. Lots of people "redoing wreaths" is sort of an attitude indicator. They want the new look and are working to save $s in the process. In many ways it reminds me of people doing the "old crafts" re-using and recycling for economic reasons. Lots more people doing small projects using basic craft supplies Styrofoam, glitter, felt, sticks, and pipe cleaners. (Let's use an old term; it sort of goes with the times).

D) There are countless media reports, just as there were last year, on consumers turning to crafts this holiday season.

There are still more media items offering crafting advice; Michaels' Jo Anne Pierson's recent appearance on NBC's Today Show is just one example. Martha Stewart demonstrating on the Today Show how to use crafts to make Christmas gifts is another.

Clearly, our industry is performing better than most retail industries. So why are so many people unhappy?

Vendors

Once upon a time, their main concern was making a product that retailers would carry and consumers would buy. Not this year; they had to contend with the following:

A) The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act; it was well intentioned, but vague and rushed into law a confusing, expensive mess.

B) Losing their credit line, even though they had they thought a strong relationship with their bank and a good credit rating.

C) Their inability to obtain receivables and product liability insurance. Some worried about a particular customer eventually going bankrupt, then worried even more when they not only couldn't buy insurance for that customer but, in some cases, couldn't buy any insurance.

D) Employees contracting the H1N1 virus. Especially for small businesses what if half your employees called in sick?

E) Chain stores summarily dropping their lines because they're having the products made overseas. Supported a chain for 20 years? Doesn't matter.

F) Worrying about A.C. Moore's mounting losses as sales decline, Michaels' $3.4 billion debt, and struggling independent scrapbook stores.

Retailers

A) For independents, their most important customers, the enthusiasts, aren't spending as much, dipping into their stash instead.

B) Are the chain stores worried? Michaels has that enormous debt. A.C. Moore's declining sales and growing losses. Jo-Ann, Hancock, and (I assume, but don't know for certain because it's privately held and doesn't release sales/profit figures) Hobby Lobby must wonder, are we doing ok because we're on the right track, or is it simply because Wal-Mart is getting out of fabric?

Publishers.

In light of all I've mentioned above, is it any surprise that publishers are worried? Advertising and advertisers are declining, and magazine sales are down. When you think about it, magazines, especially trade magazines, are a reflection of the state of the industry.

Everyone Else

The problems, imagined or real, that retailers and vendors are having create a trickle-down effect on everyone else wholesalers, designers, and even trade associations. Fewer customers, fewer exhibitors, and smaller booths.

So What Do We Do?

Vendors, don't expect the chains to be more loyal.

Retailers, think of ways to get your enthusiasts to deplete their stashes more quickly.

Everyone else, as Ken Harrelson, the broadcaster of the Chicago White Sox says when a Sox batter has a two-strike, no ball count against him, "He's got to cinch it up and hunker down."

Remember, too, this time-honored principle: If you can expand your business, whatever it is, and increase your market share during bad economic times, you'll maintain that greater market share when the economy bounces back.

xxx

 

horizontal rule

horizontal rule



   
   

Business-Wise Recent Columns...
AN INTERVIEW WITH CHA'S MEMBERSHIP VP SUE TURCHICK; Why and how CHA is forming chapters and sections.

Q. & A.: MARKETPLACE FAIRNESS ACT; Lots of questions -- and some answers.

MAKE YOUR CUSTOMER NUMBER TWO; Want to provide fresh customer service? Ignore conventional wisdom.

AN INTERVIEW WITH CHA'S Andrej Suskavcevic; Explaining why and how the summer show is changing.

CHA-UK GETS ROLLING; The UK trade group is working hard to strengthen the industry in Great Britain.

THE TROUBLE WITH TRAFFIC: WHAT RETAILER CAN LEARN FROM BASEBALL; What are the right number?

SOME THOUGHTS ON CONSUMER SHOWS; Some help retailers, some don't.

READERS RESPOND TO CLN'S TREND ANALYSIS; Different perspectives, thought-provoking ideas.

THE STATE OF DECORATIVE PAINTING; Responses to CLN's analysis.

SHOW THEM THE LOVE WHEN YOUR CAN'T SHOW THEM THE MONEY; Five affordable ways to boost employee happiness, loyalty, and motivation.

HOW TO MANAGE -- AND MOTIVATE -- CHALLENGING EMPLOYEES; Key advice from OfficeMax cofounder Michael Feuer.

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR CHA TO GROW; Provided we all work together.

TOP TEN THREATS TO DATA SECURITY AND PRIVACY FOR BUSINESS ... and what to do about them.

TRADE SHOWS: HOW, WHERE, & WHY; An interview with Tony Lee, CHA's VP of Meeting and Expositions.

DEBATE: CHA SUMMER SHOW EXPENSES; An angry exhibitor vents -- and CHA's response.

WHAT TO DO WITH OUR TRADE SHOWS; Readers respond.

WHAT'S HAPPENING TO OUR TRADE SHOWS? And what does it mean for the future?

DRIVING M&A SUCCESS IN 2011; Advice on buying -- and selling -- a company.

MAGAZINES AND THE INTERNET; In What form will magazines survive?

DON'T CLOSE YOUR STORE, SELL IT! Because almost all store can be sold.

THE ART OF DISCOUNTING; Activate dormant customers with strategic discounting.

AN INTERVIEW WITH MIKE MCCOOEY; CHA'S finances, staff, shows, and the future.

MEMORIES OF MIKE; New additions: Mike Dupey, remembered.

THE 8 DRIVERS OF EXECUTIVE DECISION-MAKING; Improve sales by understanding how key customers think.

7 KEY STEPS TO MOVE YOUR COMPANY FROM SURVIVING TO THRIVING; Difficult, challenging but essential.

WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR TRADE SHOWS? Surely they will change - but how?

SO, WHY AREN'T WE HAPPIER? Maybe the theme song for the January trade shows should be Elton John's "I'm Still Standing."

GREEN IS THE NEW PRIMARY COLOR; But the subject isn't so simple.

UPDATE: CHA SUMMER TRADE AND CONSUMER SHOWS; So much to do, so little time.

7 STEPS TO BEING A BETTER LISTENER; Which will make you a more persuasive salesperson.

INSPIRING TOURISTS TO SPEND; They have certain needs that are different than your regular customers. Meet those needs and they will spend.

WHAT BUSINESS CAN LEARN FROM NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS ABOUT INSPIRING CUSTOMERS; Don't just please customers, inspire them.

DETAILS ON THE ORLANDO TRADE AND CONSUMER SHOWS; An interview with CHA's Tony Lee, VP Meetings & Exhibitions.

HOW TO DEAL WITH A STRESSFUL WORK SITUATION; Four lessons from Captain Sully's landing in the hudson.

THE 7 PRINCIPLES FOR INSPIRING EMPLOYEES; Honesty, openness, and ...

WHAT PRESIDENTS' SPEECHES CAN TEACH YOU; Lessons to make your presentations more effective.

A LETTER FROM CHA'S STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE; You need to learn the new law or else...

WHY THE CONSUMER IS BORED; Reactions to Bob Ferguson's analysis of the industry.

WHY INDUSTRY SALES ARE DOWN; The answers are more complex than simply the recession.

A LETTER FROM AMERICA; The state of the craft industry in the US.

STOP COMPLAINING AND BE CREATIVE; Our problems are just opportunities in disguise.

WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR TRADE MAGAZINES? Their decline is a sign of a changing industry.

THE CLN INTERVIEW: STEVE BERGER, CEO, CRAFT & HOBBY ASSOCIATION; Answering questions about the move to Orlando.

THE LOBBYING EFFORT IN WASHINGTON; Leading the charge against the Orphan Works legislation - and an opposing point of view.

CHA MEMBERSHIP CALL TO ACTION; CHA's May 30th blast email to members.

HOW TO SCREW UP A GOOD COMPANY; So many ways to kill a business.

WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE! Which explains why some product categories are in decline.

WILTON CELEBRATES ITS 80TH ANNIVERSARY; An industry giant began in a single room.

MAKING MY CHA SCHEDULE; So many events, so little time.

READERS WEIGH IN ON INDUSTRY CHALLENGES; Chain stores, beads, and yarn.

TNNA, CHA LEADERS SPEAK OUT...on the challenges facing the industry in 2008.

LISTENING TO CONSUMERS; Demographic studies and message boards aren't enough.

ARE SOME SCRAPBOOKERS "CRAZY"? Reactions from retailers, vendors, and others in the business.

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. VI: WAL-MART; So much to say, so little space (even on the Internet).

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. V: IMPORTS; Random thoughts...

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. IV: CHANGES TO THE OLD ORDER; Evidence that the way things are today will change tomorrow.

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. III: THE NEW GENERATION OF CONSUMERS; They've just begun to shake up traditional order.

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. II: MICHAEL ROULEAU; Imagine if Michaels had gone bankrupt?

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. I: SCRAPBOOKING; History, analysis of today, and the future.

CHA RESPONDS TO THE SMART GROUP; CEO Steve Berger on scrapbooking, PMA, and the winter trade shows.

A CODE OF ETHICS FOR OUR INDUSTRY; For retailers, manufacturers - and the rest of us.

PROVO RESPONDS AGAIN TO CHARGES; The Salt Lake Tribune's article is "irresponsible."

PREDICTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR; The industry, television, yarn, and more.

PREDICTIONS FOR 2007; From manufacturers, a retailer, a distributor, and a sales rep.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN YOU SHAFT INDEPENDENTS; A common, sad story.

THE NEW CRAFT CONSUMER; Where is she? All around us.

SO, WHOM SHOULD WE HAVE ROOTED FOR? Who would be better -- or worse -- for Michaels, Bain or KKR?

WHY TRENDS EVENTUALLY COOL; Yarn sales may have slowed, but that can be true for any trend. Here's why.

CHEAPER TO BUY CLOTHES THAN CLOTH; Imports and "Pile it high and price it low."

ANSWERS TO INDUSTRY QUESTIONS; Blunt, honest answers to questions posed by CLN.

THE MICHAEL ROULEAU ERA; Industry veterans and Wall-Street analysts evaluate Michaels retiring CEO and the board's decision to seek potential buyers.

EVALUATIONS OF THE CHA SHOW; Mostly positive but...

CHALLENGES: YOUNG CONSUMERS, MICHAELS FUTURE, NEW CEOs, MERCHANDISING ... Pricing, and much much more.

CHALLENGES: SCRAPBOOKING, BEADS, YARN, HOME DEC, & DECORATIVE PAINTING / CROSS STITCH; Savvy veterans comment on CLN's industry challenges.

TRADE SHOWS & MEMBER BENEFITS; The discussion continues.

TOO MANY TRADE SHOWS? Stop complaining, make hard choices, and try something new?

TOUGH TRADE SHOW QUESTIONS; Why not cooperation instead of competition?

THE STATE OF OUR INDUSTRY; Some positive analyses, some negative, and lots of questions.

WHAT'S HAPPENING OUT THERE? Some grim answers, and gas prices is only one of the culprits.

BARBARA BECOMES AN ENTHUSIAST, FINALLY; A first-hand view of a consumer getting hooked on a category.

RWANDAN WIDOWS EARN LIVELIHOOD WITH AMERICAN KNITTING MACHINES; $99,000 USAID grant provides livelihood for women in Rwanda.

THE CANVAS "DUMPING" ISSUE: ANOTHER VIEW: What is dumping? And is it necessarily bad?

WHAT TYPE OF BUYER/INVESTOR IS BEST FOR ME? Three types, each with their own pros and cons.

REACTIONS TO THE DECLINE OF THE "SMILING BUNNY SYNDROME"; But what will replace it?

ARE WE LOSING OUR CORE? YES AND NO; Readers respond to an intriquing question.

ARE WE LOSING OUR CORE? Is the industry abandoning many of the categories un the "craft" umbrella?

INTERVIEW WITH HSA'S JOYCE PERHAC; New programs and new trade shows.

CONSISTENCY VS. CREATIVITY; One of our chains just made a major goof.

THE BIG NEWS STORIES OF 2004: Some good, some bad, all of them interesting.

SO, IS THE GLASS HALF EMPTY? Conflicting, but thought-provoking analyses.

A CUSTOMER'S NIGHTMARE; Don't store clerks know anything about products?

WHY A KIOSK MAKES SENSE FOR YOUR; Why force your customers to visit your competition?

THE FUTURE FOR INDEPENDENT SCRAPBOOK RETAILERS; Is the deck stacked against them?

THOUGHTS ON FREE TRADE; It's not nearly as simple or as clear cut as either side believes.

WHAT MAKES A PRODUCT SUCCESSFUL? The hits have certain qualities in common, no matter what the category.

HOT TRENDS AND TRADE SHOWS; A hot category tends to take over a trade show, but not to savvy retailers.

WHY I DID NOT GO INTO RETAIL; The odds were too high.

WHY KATELYN CAN'T SWALLOW; Who pays -- and at what price?

RISING HEALTH COSTS, FEWER JOBS; The problems compound each other.

DEBATE: SHOULD WE JUNK "CRAFTS"?; What's a better word to describe what we are?

GAY MARRIAGES, CRAFT DESIGNERS, AND RETAIL PRICES; The meaning of words.

VENDORS DISCUSS HOBBY LOBBY'S SUCCESS; So many reasons for so much success.

HIA: A MARKETING / DESIGN PERSPECTIVE; Standing out in a crowd becomes a real challenge.

WHAT HASN'T CHANGED IN 25 YEARS; Plus some random thoughts on this wonderful business.

2003 IN REVIEW; As usual, lots of ups and downs.

THE CHANGING (DISAPPEARING?) CORE OF THE INDUSTRY; Bob Ferguson  and Mike Hartnett discuss the year's major issue.

LEAVING "CRAFTS" FOR SPECIALTY STORES; A tale of survival and a sign of the times.

THOUGHTS ON THE CHANGING NATURE OF CRAFTS; Vendors, retailers, reps, and designers share their views.

CRAFTS BECOMES PAPER CRAFTS; That's a sign of ... what?

SOMETHING ACHIEVED, SOMETHING LOST; The end of a hard, but wonderful era.

UNBLOCKING WRITERS BLOCK; How to get those creative juices flowing again.

PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON ACCI/HIA; Why bother combining associations?

THE LATEST ON ACCI/HIA; Further clarification of the ACCI/HIA unification effort.

HIA AND ACCI AGREE TO LETTER OF INTENT THAT WILL UNIFY ASSOCIATIONS; Combined organization to be named the Craft & Hobby Association.

HIA/ACCI: Q & A

ADAPTING TO CHANGE; Why some industry businesses fail.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR; You just might get it.

ARE WE STIFLING CREATIVITY?; How we're driving the industry's creative people out of business.