The trends, the issues, and productive business
Who's To Blame When a Store Closes?
Outside competition? Or something else?
by CLN Subscribers (November 7, 2005 )
(Note: The previous issue of CLN included an email
from an independent who had just closed her scrapbooking store. She
blamed her store's demise, in part, on the wide variety of
"non-industry" stores that had begun selling memory
supplies and siphoning off her sales. That elicited a variety of
Good business: maintain the basics.
I read the article about the store closing with interest. And
I've been out on the road and at MemoryTrends and listening
to similar stories and concerns the last few weeks. I have a major
metropolitan area that is now down to three scrapbook stores, one of
which may also be in trouble. Why? I don't have all the answers, but
this is what I tell my customers:
The industry is once again "rearranging" itself, and
the stores that are not run from a business standpoint are not going
to succeed. And it has nothing to do with how large or how popular
the store is even the big ones fail if they're not on a solid
Success lies in not caving to the constant and unceasing demands
of the consumer for NEW, NEW, NEW. Stores must carry a solid pool of
"core" product, which isn't necessarily exciting, but
which sells solidly on a day-to-day basis. (card stocks, basic
albums, themed paper/stickers, tools, etc.) Success also depends on
carrying the important items to your customers, whether they're in
the chains or not. There's a reason chains carry the products they
do they are the top sellers. Stores cannot forego those items
and still build a solid business.
Retailers also must remain flexible to the changes in the
industry and the marketplace and be willing to review their thinking
and try new things. Just because, say, kits, have not historically
done well in a store, doesn't mean you shouldn't occasionally test
the waters if a solid new kit comes out. Customers change they
are notoriously fickle. What you couldn't give away last year may be
the hot seller this year.
And we must all face up to the reality that the chains are here
to stay this is scrapbooking in 2005/2006 they're not going
away. If retailers pride themselves on carrying a line that's not in
the chains, it's just not there yet not because the manufacturer
isn't trying. The dollars are too big. So stores must look for ways
to outsmart, outmaneuver, and outthink the chains because
competing head to head is not an option you'll never win.
The silver lining to this cloud, of course, is that scrapbooking
as a hobby is as strong as ever. People will always take pictures of
babies, weddings, graduations, etc., and look to preserve those
memories. New enthusiasts enter the market every day. As independent
retailers, it's our business to figure out how best to attract and
serve them, in a way that the chains cannot. And, fortunately, we
are in a business that is brimming with creativity and
individuality. I'm sure our retailers are up to the task. Pam
"Non-industry" stores help, not hurt.
Regarding the independent scrapbook store that went out of
business in part because so many "non-industry" stores
started selling scrapbook supplies:
I was shopping at Costco with my sister on Saturday and I stopped
in my tracks when I saw a beautiful, wooden French-style easel
complete with a bunch of supplies for $32. (A Jullian easel without
all the extra supplies retails for around $200 in an art supply
The set included a canvas, 4 brushes, 10 tubes of oil paint, 10
tubes of acrylics, 6 poster paints, a wooden palette, the easel, and
a carrying strap. When my sister asked me why I was unhappy to see
such a great deal, I explained to her that this is the kind of thing
that really hurts our industry and takes sales away from my
customers; art supply retailers.
To which she replied as she loaded one into her cart, "I am
a single mother of an artistic 11-year-old. I am not in a position
to pay over $200 for a gift like this, and I am pretty sure I would
not even BE in an art supply store when I go Christmas shopping. But
I WILL have to go to one to buy brush cleaner, more canvas, and
other supplies and to find a teacher so Mary can take a painting
class. So, this Costco purchase actually has the potential to HELP
an art supply store!"
And while we were standing there having this conversation, I
spoke to two other women who also bought one; both were also impulse
buys for teenagers. (And yes I did take the opportunity to tell them
about Riley Street, our local art supply store where they could find
a class and more supplies; in fact both wrote the name down.)
So, here are three people who bought art supplies instead of
video games or clothes. Even if only one of the recipients pursues
art as a hobby, our industry is still ahead!
Just thought I would share this with you; it seems like all we
hear are complaints about sales being lost outside our industry.
Susan Kocsis, Search Press
Greeting cards and scrapbooking.
I spent almost 30 years in the greeting card industry. In
reference to the independent scrapbooking the store that closed,
people need to realize a) making your avocation a vocation is
a dangerous venture, especially if you are naive and inexperienced
in independent businesses which is the case in 90% of
independents; b) greeting card stores not franchises
get huge support, all the way around, by Hallmark and American
Greetings; and c) the single most important key to ANY
independent retailer: SELECTION and DIFFERENTIATION and dont
expect manufacturers to do that for you; its your job, not
theirs. Millions of independents do well, because they have learned
all of this, the hard way. Name Withheld
(Note: What are your thoughts on the subject? Email them,
on or off the record, to CLN at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read previous "Memory" columns, click on the titles in
the right-hand column.)