Insights on business, and practical
ways to improve your own.
Letters to CLN
Rag Shops, younger consumers, tough times for
designers, and more.
by CLN Subscribers (March6, 2006)
(Note: A recent issue of CLN included "How To
Note: CLN has received a variety of emails on a variety of
topics lately. Not enough on a single topic to warrant a separate
column, but still thought provoking and interesting.
Rag Shops and Jo-Ann's.
Rag Shops....hummmmm. Thank goodness they don't owe us anything.
1. Is it 25% on past dues only? Current invoices will be paid
in full? As of what date (thousands of dollars go past due each
day)? How many vendor dollars are we talking about?
2. No promise of potential future payments to these vendors
if they bail these jokers out? How about some stock or some
3. They want these vendors to foot the bill for the
restructure and then turn around and give them more credit, yet they
(Sun Capital) will only promise to put in $5 million? That's not
even $75,000 per store (at 67 stores as listed on their web site).
Sun to vendors: "We're going to screw you real bad, so bad that
you'll come back for more!"
4. Something smells fishy about this, but I can't put my
finger on it.
5. Will Ron Staffieri remain on the CHA board? If this goes
through then he doesn't need any distractions to keep him from his
obligations to Rag Shops and the vendors who are crazy enough to
pony up to keep his company in business.
6. Will he and the other top managers be taking a pay cut
this year of say, 75% like the vendors? Staffieri hasn't been there
long enough to be the root of the problem, but I would hope he was
smart enough to see the future when he signed on. Anyway, it's his
baby and his baby was ugly when he adopted it.
7. Sun thinks that they need the "critical" vendors
to make restructuring possible? They need a LOT more vendors than
just the critical ones. They need me and a hundred other vendors to
make a profit. Will I sell them considering the way they are
treating many of my friends in this business? Will I sell them when
it's obvious by their pitiful offer of debt infusion that they don't
have faith in the future? Hell no!
Jo-Anns: Rosskamm's decision to add the chairman's position is a
very unselfish (and probably necessary) move to find the best and
brightest for the position. No matter how large, with Alan as
chairman it would still be seen as a family company and no top notch
President/CEO candidate would really want to be in that position.
Name Withheld (Industry Manufacturer)
To the Industry: "Thank You."
After reporting on CHA first-time exhibitors twelve by 12 having
had their trailer stolen and then burned, CLN received the
"The people in this industry continue to amaze me with their
generosity and sincere concern. So to all of your readers I say
thank you so much for all the well wishes and offers of assistance.
What a great group of people." Jennifer O'Meara,
twelve by 12
How To Boost Sales.
The industry is always moaning about declining category sales
decoupage, candles, macrame, weaving, decorative painting, beads,
pogs, faux finishing, scrapbooking, etc., etc.
The industry has no one to blame but itself. It has never
invested in the future. Everything is sales now, profits now. The
money invested into a long-term media program to expand the customer
base has always been too intangible for the industry to see the
benefits. Sure, from time to time the topic was discussed, but
nothing was ever done.
Since the Arts and Crafts industry never committed itself to a
long-term program of attracting new customers to arts and crafts, it
has ended up selling the SAME customer over and over again. The
customer takes up the newest category, then the category levels off
and if there isn't anything new, sales drop. So instead of trying to
find the next scrapbooking, the industry better find somebody new to
sell their merchandise. It will take a long time, but if they don't
do it, the industry will continue to shrink. Bill Winn,
Winn & Associates (Comment: Bill is a long time veteran
of the industry, having worked as a distributor and in executive
positions with Michaels and MJ Designs.)
Why designers quit.
I heard that our industry is now a $30.6 billion dollar business.
This information was stated in the Designer Reception along with the
statement that "the designers are the heart of the
industry." I wonder, what percentage of this 36 billion dollar
business did the designers receive? If we are in fact the
"heart" of the industry, why are so many designers leaving
the industry because they can not make a decent wage?
I heard from several designers that the magazines are paying $25
for a card design. Tthink about this: at best it would take someone
1 1/2 hours to get their materials together, design a card, write
instructions, gather shipping material, and get the card to the post
office. At least 50% of this fee would go to taxes, studio overhead,
and shipping. That would leave $12.50 for 1 1/2 hours work which
equals $8.40 per hour not much more than minimum wage. I am
disgusted with this!
I am one of the "lucky" designers that charge a decent
hourly fee and have companies that are willing to pay that fee. My
disgust is two sided: I am disgusted that so many designers are
willing to work for such low fees and that they do not run their
business as a business i.e, recognizing the true cost of doing
business. For the most part, designers are their own worst enemies!
Until they refuse to work for such low fees everyone will suffer.
Second, I am disgusted that companies in this industry give what
I call lip service "Designers are the heart of the
industry" and are not willing to pay a fair dollar for the
very designs that make their product sell.
My fear is that I will also be forced out of the industry that I
love because some many designers are doing a disservice to
themselves and to other businesses that demand decent pay for their
work. Name Withheld (Industry Designer)
Painting and young consumers.
Painting among young people is HUGE, but they aren't using kits
from the craft store (they're aren't many cool ones). They are
coming up with their own devices: painting on vintage handbags,
metal mailboxes, buttoned-up western shirts from the thrift store,
old luggage, sneakers, even vintage party dresses! What designs are
they painting? Everything from funky flowers to stenciled
silhouettes of famous people to clever quips. Decorative painting is
more than just pretty flowers, birds and vines these days! Kathy
Cano Murillo, www.CraftyChica.com
Attracting younger consumers.
I have been in PR most of my adult life, and it has allowed me to
experience many different industries such as natural products,
fashion/apparel, active lifestyle sports and hospitality. Being in
other industries has allowed me to compare and I came to realize in
2005 the many areas in which the craft industry is not only lacking
focus but completely missing the boat.
One of my major focuses with my craft industry clients is to get
them to expand their market focus to the younger generations X, Y
and Z. Most of the products, techniques, and approaches they use are
still focused to the "known crafters, or baby boomers. Although
I do feel it is extremely important to take care of this market and
I love bread dough and Swiss straw as much as the next person, the
craft industry needs to connect to the technology-focused
My company has formed many focus groups in the craft industry
over the past year, and we have come to realize that we need to wake
it up! What part of YOUR CURRENT APPROACH IS NOT WORKING does the
industry not understand? Wake up manufacturers and retail outlets!
Why do you think most of the smaller retail outlets are closing
and most of the larger chains are struggling? They do not
communicate to the new generations in a language that they can
understand. They just stick products on the shelves (if we are
lucky, they may include a sample photo) and expect consumers to
immediately understand the product from the packaging.
What is even scarier is they expect to inspire and motivate the
consumer to buy with this approach. Although packaging must be
communicated effectively within three to five seconds, packaging is
not enough to get the product from the shelf, to the consumers
hands, and out the door. And most importantly, once the product is
out the door and in their homes, get them to use it, love it, and
come back for more.
In order for there to be a future in crafting, retailers need to
have a coffee house approach and the manufacturers need to create
niche and urban-focused public relations and marketing campaigns.
Replace the 1970s shelving and cold floor plans with some
over-stuffed couches, fresh and uplifting colors, trendy tables, and
technology placement (such as plasma TVs with inspirational video
shorts looping, iPods on hand to listen to while they create, etc.).
Outlets can take it a step further and give consumers space to try
products and make them feel like they are at home in a safe place to
let their creativity run wild. Staff the centers with knowledgeable,
fun, and enthusiastic teachers, serve up some creativity on a
platter, and show them the way.
These new generations need a little spark to ignite their
creativity. They do not understand crafting as we know it; it is a
foreign language/territory to them. Someone has got to wake up the
industry otherwise there will be no craft industry.
I have to add that Martha Stewart is somewhat brilliant; she took
this approach in the entertainment industry and made it flourish.
She communicated creativity in a way that these generations
understood. She delivered marketing campaigns that were trend- and
future-focused, then she launched products to support the expanding
demand and presto, a plain and boring industry was reborn.
What is it going to take to make the Michaels, Wal-Marts,
Targets and manufacturers to take this leap? If the industry does
not take care of these generations. then they might as well throw in
the towel, wave the white flag, and call it a day because it will be
It is so upsetting to see all of the wonderful creations of my
grandmother, Aleene Jackson, and other brilliant creative beings
disappear before our eyes. To date I have not seen anyone doing a
darn thing to stop this downward spiral. Maybe the industry really
does not get it, they do not see it, or they just do not understand
or they are so set in their ways that they will not listen.
Yet I continue forward in this industry because I strongly
believe it can make this change. It is going to take a lot of
education and risk taking to move this industry in the right
direction, but as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "I had a
dream that one day" (and I add to that) someone will take the
leap to begin this movement. Starr Hall (a Gen X
crafter), President, 2 Point Media, www.2pointmedia.com
(Note: Have an industry issue you'd like to discuss? Care
to comment on any of the points made above? Email your thoughts to CLN
Previous "Kate" columns are still available. Click on the
titles in the right-hand column.)