Challenges, problems, and triumphs
-- from a manufacturer's perspective.
Is Mike Dupey Right?
The industry's retail pioneer's criticism of
chain stores elicits strong reactions.
by CLN Subscribers (November 7, 2005)
(Note: The last issue of CLN included an article by
Mike Dupey, the founder of Michaels and MJ Designs and the creator
of the modern craft superstore. Mike's article, which was a harsh
criticism of the current state of the industry's chain stores, is
still available at "Benny
Da Buyer." The article elicited a variety of responses.)
When did we stop creating?
I happen to agree with Mike Dupey. There is not much new being
developed in NEW merchandise! Why? probably because the manufacturer
today is being raped by the chains, and in order to stay in business
he has to sell the same old junk. Vendors have no R&D monies.
There are no new creations. And the buyers are not demanding any nor
will they accept any. Buyers are no longer merchants but mere
computer specialists. Like Mike said, NO FEEL, NO TOUCH, NO
UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONSUMER EQUALS NO NEW MERCHANDISE. It seems as
soon as we wiped out the independent retailer we stopped creating.
– Name Withheld, Manufacturer
The "modern" industry.
Mike, as usual, is right on the beam; that is, if it were still
circa 1970-80. I called on Mike when he just had two stores in
Dallas. His stores flourished because each store had his personal
attention and he was without a doubt the most inventive, customer-
and market-sensitive merchandiser in the industry. And, if arts
& crafts would have stayed the small, personal, and folksy
industry it was, Mike would still be the industry's kingpin.
Mike's demise was he did such an outstanding job of merchandising
that he attracted the big guys who only think in terms of numbers.
Thus, it was the beginning of not only Mike's demise, but the demise
of the entire arts and crafts market channel as we old, old (that's
two olds) industry people remember it.
I'm reminded of something my mother use to say when she heard
some old guy expounding on how things should have been done. She
would say, "If he's so smart, how come he's not rich." –
Gerry Garri, retired.
Fines and margins.
I had a great many thoughts after reading Mike's comments in your
1. Gross margins. When did it get to the point that retail
had to have this enormous markup, plus, as they say,
"incentives"? Could it be that they have this giant
overhead that must be supported ?
You and I both can remember when a 50-10 or better yet a 50-25
was fabulous and a retail person could work with all of that and
make a very decent living.
2. Just received another letter from a company fining us for
this, fining us for that. You know it's just getting to the point of
vendors need to fine the chains for sloppy remittance checks, for
slow payment, for never returning a call, for no answers on why a
payment has not been made, for a purchase order that is not correct,
and for, well, need I go on? – Name Withheld, Mid-size
I love this guy!! He never pulls any punches and just says it
like it is!!! I particularly like the comment about the Michaels
ornaments!!! – Name Withheld, Importer
Computers and creativity.
Mike he IS right – the computer drives too much today. Every
Sunday when I pick up the newspaper I can always go to the Michaels
ad first – it always looks EXACTLY THE SAME EVERY WEEK, WEEK AFTER
WEEK. NO creativity in the ads for a chain who bases its business on
CREATIVITY? Name Withheld, Importer
Same old, same old.
I have to agree with Mike Dupey on some items. He is on the right
track about the same merchandise all the time. In our local Michaels
the Christmas ribbon is in the same location and displayed the same
way it has been since the store opened. The same thing for the
Christmas Village Building in Jo-Ann's. I see Michaels still has the
same ivy bowls in different sizes as they did four or five years
I was delighted to see Michaels stock the new fashion yarns from
several companies to offer a wide range of textures and colors. But
the department didn't get bigger; they simply offer a small
selection of core yarns like knitting worsted. Hobby Lobby, on the
other hand, brought in the fashion yarns while keep most of the core
yarns. They considerably expanded the shelf space for yarns.
There are other examples of the "same old stuff," but
it's too late at night to get upset by them and then not be able to
go to sleep at a decent hour. – Name Withheld, Service
POS = history.
I particularly agree with [Mike Dupey's] thoughts about the use
of a POS system. I know it is impossible to run a business the size
of a Jo-Ann's or a Michaels without it, but little do they know that
their POS systems are what gives independents their advantages over
the chains – if we will do it. So many of my business associates
have ridden their businesses into dust because of their blind
allegiance to history. Isn’t that what a good POS system is all
What happened yesterday or last week or last month or year is one
thing, but in reality, what the consumer wants from a craft store is
what is new, exciting, and fresh, not what happened yesterday. Even
worse is the fact that the practice-makes-perfect edict in operation
for most businesses precludes buyers from being creative,
innovative, or bold. God help the buyer who does not repeat last
year’s successes; therefore risk tolerance is low and new ideas
become even bigger risks.
I would also echo Mike’s thoughts that most every craft store
today looks just like the one down the street and there is no
identity that differentiates them. If you took the sign down from
over the front of the store and substituted a sign from any of the
other three craft stores, the customers would never know the
difference. The layouts were the same, the advertising done was the
same (40% off anything anytime, or it was going to be 50% off next
week?), no customer service, checkouts backed up during busy times,
no models, no ideas etc. All in all, no creativity: boring, boring
boring! – Bob Ferguson, Ferguson Merchandising
Mike Dupey is right on; everyone talks change, but nobody is
doing it except to cut out the designers and continue to do less and
less education of products. There really is no reason to create new
products if no one knows how to use them or even knows they are for
sale. Bottom line has become the only important factor.
Three cheers for Mike Dupey to tell it like it is and three
cheers for you being courageous enough to print it. I wish I knew
how to "fix" the problems.
I know for sure we need education!!!!! Who wants it, who is
capable of teaching, and how to do it since there are only about 12
buyers in this U.S. Any ideas? Doxie Keller, designer/author
(Note: Well, do you have any ideas? Is the lack of
education and creativity the problem? If so, what can be done about
it? Email your thoughts to CLN at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read previous "Vinny" columns, click on the headlines
in the right-hand column.)