The trends, the issues, and productive business
Thoughts From An Ex-Scrapbook Retailer
Who's to blame? Not the chains, but vendors?
By Name Withheld; comments by Mike Hartnett (July 20, 2005)
Now that my store is closed, I am a consumer and looking at
things more objectively:
1. I had the elements to make the business successful. I kept
up with my business plan and updated it quarterly. We had the
classes (I only taught once per month), the margins, and the
products. My store was definitely directed towards the
It was growing, then slowed when a Recollections store opened in
the area. Do I blame Michaels for opening the store No. Did it
contribute to my closing (as well as other area stores)? Yes.
2. Wal-Mart expanded scrapbooking to three aisles. This also
contributed. Their prices in the store closest to me have gone up 8%
since I closed. Rolling back prices? Only til the competition for
that department is gone.
3. Manufacturers are store owners' biggest competitor. The
sooner the remaining stores see this and adjust, the more likely
they are to stay open. Can you blame Big Lots for carrying a
particular line and selling it for $1.00? Nope. Can you blame the
manufacturer who had a wholesale cost to the local scrapbook store
of $1.50 -$2.50 for the same product? Yep.
Can you blame the consumer for ordering that great deal on QVC?
No, I don't. Do I the blame manufacturer who provided the products
to QVC while the local stores were being told that the shipments
hadn't come in yet? Oh yeah, I sure do. One company provided
products that undercut the independent shops by as much as 40%
before even shipping it to independents. The list goes of vendors
who "put the screws to local stores" goes on and on.
As the local scrapbook stores close, so will the smaller
manufacturers. They will not be able to provide to the large chains,
and the smaller stores will not be there to buy from them. There
won't be instructors to teach, and NEW and COOL products that the
enthusiasts covet will cease to exist.
Why? Because the large chains will not be able to carry
everything, so cool, innovative products will be lost.
Scrapbooking is different from previous trends. To the best of my
knowledge, I don't recall national chains specializing in cross
stitch. (Archivers and Memories). I don't recall craft stores
(Michaels) doing spin-offs of one single craft to form a subsidiary
store (Recollections). With these factors, I don't see paper arts
going the way of macrame or cross stitch.
Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, I do see the local stores
waving the white flag to be replaced by canned classes and class
kits from manufacturers. (Oh great – 1,000 people across the
country doing the same project with the same products), and
plan-o-grams that will make every store a clone of every other store
in the scrapping world.
Mike Hartnett Comments.
The 7/04/05 issue of CLN includes an article by Karen
Ancona, editor of CNA magazine. She's quite clear, quite
blunt, and quite right: if the independent retailers go away, the
trend fades. It really is that simple. What vendors can do:
1. What you sell on TV should be different than what you sell
to retailers. Concentrate on introductory kits.
2. Don't sell direct to consumers at consumer shows. Find a
retailer in the area and make a deal that allows the retailer to
exhibit and sell your product to consumers.
3. Create exclusive lines for independents.
4. Sell/ship to retailers in sizes they can deal with –
e.g., paper in 25 packs instead of 50.
5. Keep your word. If you say you're going to ship within two
weeks, do it, regardless of other huge orders coming that come in
unexpectedly. If need be, hire additional temporary help.
6. Work together to promote the category. The latest research
indicates only 25% of U.S. households include a scrapbooker. Whether
it's through the fledgling National Scrapbook Association or a
scrapbook version of the Craft Yarn Council of America, the industry
must appeal to that other 75%.
7. Don't complain about independent retailers. Work with
What independents can do.
1. Join forces. An independent cannot make it on her own. In
my 26 years reporting on the industry, I'd estimate 30,000
independents who tried to go it alone have gone out of business –
specialty shops in crafts, macrame, painting, wearable art, fine
art, cross stitch, and beads. Why should scrapbooking be any
There are groups out there for retailers: Crafter's Home, The
Memory Group, The S.M.A.R.T. Group, and the National Scrapbooking
Association. Investigate them, and then join at least one of them.
Our ex-retailer complained about vendors shipping to chains
before shipping to independents, and offering drastically lower
prices. She probably complained to the vendors, but she was a single
voice. Imagine if a group of 200 retailers complained and threatened
not to buy from a vendor unless shipping times were improved.
2. If you opened a store because you thought it would be fun,
sell it immediately, while you still have something to sell. It's
that simple: if you are in this for fun, soon you won't have any
fun, or any money.
3. Don't waste time by complaining about what you can't
change. Milk costs less per ounce if you buy it by the gallon rather
than by the court. Michaels is going to pay less per item than you
do because it buys in larger quantities.
4. Use consumer shows for your benefit. Make deals with
manufacturers to sell their products.
5. Take the business classes at trade shows. I've conducted a
number of classes on store newsletters, promotions, etc., and it
always reminded me of the parent-teacher conferences I had when I
was a high school English teachers. The parents of the A students
were always there. The F students' parents, the ones I really needed
to see, never attended. Likewise, the retailers in my business
classes were excellent retailers. The retailers who needed business
expertise were too busy having fun taking the product workshops.
6. Get rid of slow-selling products. Have a major sale,
donate products to schools and churches and take a tax write-off,
exchange products with other independents, offer a grab-bag sale or
a Dutch auction, etc.
You don't pay the rent on margin, you pay it with cash from
sales. Moving out slow sellers provides some cash and shelf space to
use for better selling products, and keeps your store looking fresh,
7. Work constantly to attract the newcomer. One immediate
problem I see with the ex-retailer's comments is her concentrating
on the medium-to-advanced scrapper. Those folks are a store's best
customers, but they grow old, move away, etc. If a retailer doesn't
constantly replenish her core customers, eventually she won't have
One of the industry's true pioneers was Aleene Jackson who told
me, "The key to success for an independent is to introduce your
store to 50 consumers a week." She said that more than 20 years
ago and it's more true today than ever.
What does a newcomer see when she walks past your window? What is
her first impression when she walks into your store? That
scrapbooking is expensive, time consuming, and difficult? If so,
she'll turn around and walk out.
Oh, and one nice thing about newcomers? They don't know your
"old" inventory is old.
8. Don't complain about manufacturers. Work with them.
Complain to them if some of their practices (dumping at
consumer shows, etc.) are hurting your business.
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