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What's new in various product categories; monthly update.

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The Future for Jewelry, Yarn, and Paper

Industry experts react to CLN voters’ predictions.

Staff Report (April5, 2010)

Note: The 3/15/10 issue of CLN asked readers to predict 2010 sales in three of the industry’s largest categories. When the results were in, CLN asked leaders in each category to react to the voting. 

Bead/Jewelry Supplies 

The vote: “Only 5.6% predict a major increase in interest and sales, but 50.0% believe 'somewhat' of an increase will occur. A full third think sales will be flat, while 8.3% predict somewhat of a sales decline, and 2.8% think the decline will be substantial.” 

The response: (from Linda Augsburg, Sr. Online Editor for Kalmbach Publishing’s jewelry magazines and JewelryClassesonDemand.com.) 

I think the poll results are spot on. We're confident that the jewelry-making business will increase or at least remain the same. If you follow fashion's cues, jewelry is still hot, so customers will continue to buy and make their own jewelry instead of purchasing higher priced and not-quite-what-they-had-in-mind jewelry at a department store. 

In addition, our industry suppliers are on target with many of the trends we're seeing in fashion, so those customers who shop at the mall for ideas will easily be able to recreate their inspiration pieces using the materials sold in the craft and hobby stores. 

As an example, I was chatting with a 20-something the other day at a birthday party and I commented on the multi-flower pin she was wearing on her sweater. (I thought it looked familiar to me.) She'd seen a purse with fabric-flower embellishments at the mall for $40. She wasn't keen on buying a $40 purse, especially since she only wanted the floral accents off of it. Instead of making that purchase, she headed over to her local craft store where she was able to pick up the fabric flowers that were similar to those that embellished the purse (and were already outfitted with pin-backs). She clustered them together on a sweater for a look that was on-trend, distinctive, and versatile. By the way, she is also a knitter and crocheter, so her gift to the birthday girl was a handmade scarf. I imagine she got the yarn on that very same shopping trip. 

As long as we offer materials that are on-trend, offer good customer service, offer ideas and inspiration, and offer education, whether via classes or printed materials such as magazines, books, and videos (had to get a plug in there sometime!), I think the bead and jewelry supplies will continue to grow through 2010. Though some people are working through their stashes, they'll still need basics and they'll still be looking for something to update the beads in their stash. The pendant that speaks to the current trend can be paired with beads bought two years ago and still look modern. Textured or chunky chains (a hot trend) can be layered with an older strung piece for an instant update. Earrings never go out of style and are an easy way to add today's color trend to last year's wardrobe. So for the 88.89% that feel sales in this category will at least remain the same, I'm behind you 100%. 

Paper/Scrapbooking 

The vote: “While voters in this unscientific poll were not as optimistic about paper and scrapbooking supplies, it’s probably important to remember that scrapbooking continues to be the #1 category, according to the recent CHA Attitude & Usage Study (see below). In other words, flat sales in the industry’s largest category are still substantial. No one predicted a substantial increase, but a fourth of the voters predict a minor increase and another fourth expect flat sales. But 47.2% predict a minor decline and 2.80% think the decline will be substantial.” 

The response: (from Nancy Nally, Publisher of Scrapbook Update

The scrapbook industry appears fairly evenly split in the CLN poll between pessimism and optimism about the future of the industry. Interestingly, this reflects my own inner conflict on the future of the industry as well.  

How can I, after spending so much of my time reporting data about the state of the industry, still feel so uncertain about its true direction? The reason is that the future direction of the industry, I feel, hinges greatly on a single variable right now, one that is hard to predict. That variable is people, and their flexibility. 

Unquestionably, the scrapbooking market is changing drastically. It is being altered by technology, economics, and changing lifestyles (among other forces). Old ways of doing things such as marketing and selling products are rapidly becoming useless. Companies that continue to cling to those methods will soon find themselves without a slice of the market. If enough scrapbook companies cling to legacy systems of doing business, scrapbooking as a whole could find itself without a slice of the crafting market.  

People by their nature resist change. They want to do things the way they’ve always done it. But that isn’t always the best way as conditions change, and we’ve already seen the toll that failure to adjust has taken on scrapbook businesses. 

But enough pessimism. 

The part of me that is optimistic about the future of the scrapbook industry believes that innovation and a willingness to change will help the industry grow and change along with the marketplace it operates in.  

Whenever there is a sea change in a market, especially a change brought about by technology, there are people on the cutting edge that lead the way into the new way of doing things. They are the early adopters of the new technology. They are the first to try new ways of doing things. They create new products and new markets for them. 

It’s important to remember this during a technology revolution: while legacy businesses may be lost to the change, new businesses are also born on the other side of the divide.  Focusing only on the losses gives a gloomy view of the industry as a whole, and can easily lead to the impression that the industry is doomed. It’s important to look at recently born businesses that are revolutionary and succeeding to see what can be learned from them, instead of dwelling on the death of the past.  

So which way is scrapbooking going to go? Is it going to sink or swim? I don’t know. Because the answer depends on whether the people in this industry are willing and able to toss aside the things we’ve always been taught about how this business works and invent a new way.

 Can we do it? I know many incredibly brilliant people who are staking their careers on the answer being “yes.” The only question is whether there are enough of them.  

Yarn

 The vote:While only 2.7% believe yarn sales will greatly increase, 54.1% of all voters think sales will 'somewhat' increase. Another 29.7% predict flat sales, and 13.5% there will be some decline. No one thought there will be a major decline.”

 The Response: (from Karin Strom, Editor of Yarn Market News)

 I took the survey and got all the "right" answers; that is, my responses jibed with the majority in each category. Obviously, my knowledge of the yarn segment is greater than my knowledge of beads and scrapbooking, although there does seem to be more crossover of yarn and beads of late, and most of your respondents see both of those categories on the upswing.

I was heartened but not surprised to see that more than half the respondents see the yarn business as growing and another quarter-plus see it remaining steady. Having recently returned from a very successful Yarn Market News Smart Business Conference in Seattle, with more than 100 retailers in attendance (impressive in such a small industry, with many sole proprietors and business owners with small staffs willing/able to leave their shops for 2-4 days of business enrichment), I must say the mood was upbeat. Upbeat without "irrational exuberance." This was a room full of people willing to work really hard to keep an industry they're passionate about healthy.

During the last couple of years, while the general economy experienced a major "correction," to put it mildly, the yarn industry has been experiencing its own correction, with many factors contributing. Consumers reevaluating how and where they spend their money. The owners of yarn shops that opened during the boom realizing this is really hard work. A saturation of product on the market – not only yarn but books and accessories. Brick-and-mortar retailers deciding whether to sell online.

What might have seemed like a threat to shops – i.e., the Internet – has turned out to be a major community builder.

I feel the industry has really matured during this time and it seems much more solid, both in terms of shops and consumers. The stores have learned what it takes to be successful and the fiber crafters have made a commitment to go to the next level by learning new techniques and taking on new challenges, now that they are hooked.

The sophistication of the consumer has increased and with it the yarns: Hand-dyes are more subtle, color palettes more refined, while the consumer understands yarn construction and is demanding better quality products. My prediction for "the next big thing"? Beautiful subtle novelties and fun, embellished yarns.

(Note: As part of The Knitting Guild Assn.’s 25th anniversary celebration, members were asked to predict what knitting will be like 25 years from now. The answers, and information about the TKGA’s upcoming event, are at www.tkga.com/anniversary.shtm.)

xxx

 

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