The trends, the issues, and productive business
The Scrapbook Wars: A Report from the Trenches
Clearance sales and short-sighted vendors make
a tough business tougher.
by Lisa Kanak, The Cropper's Corner, Frederickburg, VA (February
I'd love to be all sunshine and light about the industry, but the
facts are pretty grim. By the end of October, Northern Virginia had
lost six scrapbook/stamp stores – and the opening of two of
Michaels' ReCollections stores. A seventh independent is
thinking about closing, and there may be others that I haven't heard
All of these closings caused our business to suffer as well
(people were spending all their money getting the close-out
bargains, and had little, if any, left for us.) We rode out the
first wave of closings and saw sales begin to climb, only to fall
back again due to the most recent wave of store closings.
That has put a pinch on what we could spend on new products,
merchandising, advertising, etc. I've got areas just DYING for new
products that we can't afford to get in. Products that usually
clearance-out easily are just sitting – because of all of the
other clearance sales going on. It's a vicious cycle. In cases like
this, stores should try to ride out the storm.
Store sales haven't been helped by discovering – after the fact
– that "new" products we were bringing into the store
were on sale at Dollar Tree, Michael's, A.C. Moore, and other
national chains and outlet stores. We feel cheated, because we
bought things for what they are retailing for elsewhere, and we have
no hope of making money on these items. Yet the manufacturers have
our money and are happy – for now, because needless to say we
won't be buying from them again. I know we weren't the only store
"burned" (and now, I've heard that one manufacturer has
"burned" another manufacturer in much the same way.)
Have we forgotten that a one-time sale will NOT guarantee
long-term success?? There's nothing like finding merchandise in an
outlet clearance center for less than what you paid for it.
On the brighter side, we have seen a constant influx of new
customers; many of these are beginners. We have also seen a return
of many customers to the store; they're intent on getting
"back" to scrapbooking. This tells me that the industry
isn't really dead – but that it ebbs and flows. Even while many of
our customers HAVE started quilting, beading, knitting, etc., they
are still committed to scrapbooking over the long haul.
I think it's the style that is changing, more than anything.
For example, when polling nationwide, 60% of consumers indicated
they would rather have less paper and more embellishments than MORE
paper and fewer embellishments. Yet most manufacturers produce the
Consumers as a whole are growing tired of "all new"
(not that there aren't those that crave new, trendy things), but I
hear from far more consumers that they want a simpler, easier style.
I also hear a lot more complaints/frustrations about all of the
constantly changing products.
Also, there is just too much "clutter" out there. Book
and magazine sales have slowed dramatically because there are simply
too many choices. Thankfully, some manufacturers have lowered their
purchase minimums from 15 to 6 (whew!).
Yet great selling products are being discontinued like mad; not
always because they are poor sellers but because "they've been
around for awhile." That is a direct quote from a manufacturer,
by the way.
Manufacturers are all trying to stay on top of trends (fashion
& design) – but are forgetting that there are niches that
still need attention. Retailers are told to "go after" the
genealogists group, while at the same time manufacturers pretty much
eliminate the entire category. New and trendy is fine, but each
market is going to have certain things that they will always be
Take interior design & furniture styles. The south is drawn
towards traditional designs, traditional color palettes, etc. If
Hepplewhite suddenly decided it was going to stop making the
traditionally-styled furniture it's been making for hundreds of
years and said, "The fashion of the day is bohemian," and
dropped their signature style because it's not trendy, they'd be out
of business FAST. That said, Hepplewhite (and traditional) doesn't
sell as well in the Midwest. The company knows its market and
focuses on it instead of trying to appeal to everyone with one
(Note: To read previous Memory, Paper & Stamp columns,
click on the titles in the right-hand column. To comment on Lisa's
ideas, email CLN at firstname.lastname@example.org.)