The trends, the issues, and productive business
The Paper Chase
Too much paper, there are more profitable
products to stock.
By Lisa Kanak, The Cropper's Coprner (July 4, 2005)
We’re living an industry nightmare. Scrapbook stores are
closing across the nation. And unlike the store closings of the
past, many of the stores closing today were well established with
excellent reputations for customer service and product selection.
These closures of established stores mean trouble for the
industry as a whole. Stores are closing faster than stores are
opening. Ultimately, this will lead to a manufacturing crunch (if it
hasn’t already), and the closure of various manufacturing
companies as well. A lot of the mess we created ourselves, and we
have no one but ourselves to blame.
Today, the scrapbook industry has moved full swing from the early
to mid-90’s, when there were virtually no scrapbook choices – to
having way too many choices. And too many choices is creating a huge
Consumers do want choices. However, offering such a wealth of
choices is a double-edged sword. More choices cause more demand for
more choices. Eventually the expectations for product is so high
that the customer refuses to buy what is available. They become
extremely picky – and this lowers sales.
It used to be that consumers were relatively content scrapbooking
with just some cardstock and stickers. They did the best they could
with what they could find. They were more tolerant of low product
selection – and didn’t complain nearly as much.
Enter the modern scrapbook world. Product is released each week.
Stores struggle with moving slow sellers, while people clamor for
new or different themed papers to satisfy their thirst. But, once
they’ve used "that" breakfast paper with the bacon &
eggs, they want a "different" paper with pancakes and
sausage. When we get paper in with pancakes and sausage, the
customer exclaims "Oh, but these are sausage links, I want
Customers can afford to be "picky" because there is so
much selection. And, what they can’t find locally they hit the
Internet for gratification.
It’s hard to go back; but with the store closures and
manufacturers sure to follow, the industry is bound to contract. It’s
pretty much an inevitable conclusion.
The question often pondered is, "Why?" Why are all of
the scrapbook stores closing? Many people offer various reasons. No
business sense, poor customer service, poor product selection. Too
much product, not enough product. The answer is a bit more simple,
and I can sum it up in two words, Not Profitable. There are all
kinds of reasons stores may become un-profitable, and no store is
The number one reason stores are becoming less profitable is
We have way too much paper in our stores. Perhaps I should
rephrase that. Paper takes up way too large a footprint in our
stores (for with proper merchandising, you can actually increase
your paper selections AND make room for other products).
We had to face facts at our store. Paper sales don’t pay the
rent. Sure, we sell more volume in paper (the actual pieces), but
all that volume adds up to about 20% of our store’s revenue (this
figure includes ALL paper, cardstock, printed, specialty and packs).
Yet roughly 50% (or more) of a retail store’s floor space is
occupied by paper.
On the flip side, about 50% of our store’s revenues are created
by selling stickers and embellishments (our average price point for
these is about $3). Sales figures don’t lie. Stickers and
embellishments pay the rent; paper is the scrapbook store
The industry answered by broadening the focus of the paper
category – card making, home dec, altered art. And, thankfully, we
sold more paper, but not much more. Consumers also began demanding
more and more papers, and retailers answered by making room for more
and more paper.
Stores are replacing a $3 sticker or embellishment for a $0.60
item. Are stores selling more paper? You bet. But sales are not
increasing enough to make up for losses in other categories. Paper
sales may have gone up 5%, but sticker and embellishments have lost
5% in sales. In many of these cases, the stickers have been
discontinued by the manufacturer.
Let’s put these percentages into dollars and cents. Here's an
example of a store making $500,000 a year.
Original paper sales: $100,000 ... Additional paper sales: $5,000
(an increase of 5% of paper sales) ... Original
sticker/embellishment sales: $250,000 ... New loss of
sticker/embellishments: -$12,500 (a decrease of 5% of sticker sales)
The store, for all of its efforts to increase paper sales through
cards, home dec, and more paper classes, has wound up losing $7,500
in sales due to "replacing" stickers & embellishment
sales with paper.
We are in the great paper chase – and like a dog chasing its
tail, we’re getting nowhere fast. The fact is, we must sell five
sheets of paper to get the same amount of sales dollar from one
Before heading off to the CHA Winter Show, we had "find new
stickers" at the top of our shoping list. We were shocked at
how few "new" stickers were available. We ordered quite a
few designs of what we did find, but apparently not enough.
Just a few months ago (after bringing in about 250 SKU's of
stickers), we re-surveyed our customers and asked them what we could
improve upon. The answer was ... STICKERS! Apparently, even after
increasing our selection by 20%, we still don’t have enough.
We did take the survey a step further. Overwhelmingly, people
wanted more poems, quotes and sayings stickers (we currently carry
over 150 SKU's of quotes and sayings), and, we’re adding to that
number. Our next top vote getter was "other"; based upon
customer comments, these customers miss the stickers made by PSX
which were discontinued. (Anyone out there taking the hint?)
As a retailer who scraps and pays attention the latest
"trends" (shabby, clean and simple, etc.), we can’t let
the trend of the month rule our industry. Whether you are a
retailer, a manufacturer, or a distributor, your first goal is to
run a profitable, ethical business. Which means we need to be
looking at sales figures, not trend setters, to determine our
After more than three years, Jolee’s from EK Success is still
going strong. Yes, there have been a few designs that have seen
their day, but the concept is still working very well. Build-a-page
has come and gone, but Jolee’s and Jolee’s by You are still
going strong! (Okay, add to our list K&Co., Sandylion, Bo-Bunny,
Doodlebug, Cloud 9, It’s the Little Things, and many others.)
No matter what the "trend setters" say (The Peas, for
instance), a very large segment of the scrapbook world is still in
love with stickers. While there may be a bit of regional diversity
to the sticker phenomenon, the data on sales dollars is pretty far
reaching. Chasing paper doesn’t pay the rent. Embellishments,
adhesives, and high ticket items sold at a fair price (close to MSRP)
We need to stop chasing paper as THE answer to our profitability
problems. We need more simple embellishments that create a
cross-over market into more diversified product categories. Simply
put, that’s stickers. Dimensional, beautiful, playful, flat, and
CHA Summer is getting ready to begin. And we’ll be looking
through materials in a never-ending search for more stickers.
Unfortunately, I have no doubt that we’ll be disappointed…
(Note: Lisa's store, The Cropper's Corner, is in
Fredericksburg, VA. To contact Lisa, call 540-752-1935 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa also commented on why a small vendor is shutting her doors in
the "Benny Da Buyer" column. To read it, click HERE. To
comment on Lisa's article, on or off the record, email CLN at
To read previous "Memory" articles, click on the titles in
the right-hand column.)