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A view of the industry through the eyes of a chain buyer.

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The Retail Side of the State of Scrapbooking

Comments from Scrapbook Update's readers.

by Staff Report (November 2, 2009)

Recently CLN was asked by Scrapbook Update to contribute, so we posed the question, "Is Scrapbooking Fading?" A number of independent stores, manufacturers, and magazines have shut down. On the other hand, perhaps the market is simply consolidating and enthusiasts are using their stash during this tough economy.

The question elicited a large number of lengthy, thoughtful answers. Here are excerpts that directly related to our retail stores. To read the complete discussion, click HERE.

Why one independents failed

"Our LSS original had two owners – a business woman and a people-pleaser artist. There was continual strife between them, and as long as the business woman kept a tight rein on the artist, they made money. When she couldn't take it any more and left; it didn't take the artist long to run it out of business.

"In some ways, customers helped push it down the slippery slope. We bought our tools with coupons from the big box stores, we chased the lowest prices across the Internet, and we looked for every deal and bargain we could. That's understandable. But it didn't help the LSS survive.

"We looked to our LSS for classes, crops, inspiration, and comradery. But that meant they had to rent expensive space to fill with tables and chairs rather than saleable product. And we brought our 'stuff' (often bought elsewhere) with us – again not supporting the LSS." – Linda

Coupons are key

"Unfortunately, many LSS don't offer the coupon benefits and huge sales that you find at the larger stores. I once lived near an LSS that allowed you to use a Jo-Ann's or Michaels' coupon in the store. Being able to do so drew me to the store because they sometimes had items I wanted but weren't necessarily available at Michaels or Jo-Ann. While there, I always picked up a few other items so I was spending my extra dollars at the LSS.

"It was a great idea, but then they placed a $20 minimum purchase in order to use the coupon and sort of shot themselves in the foot. They are still in business but I don't go out of my way to shop there now. I believe they should have left accepting the coupon without restrictions and allowed it to do what it had always done: draw in customers! – Sandi

A business or a hobby?

"I don't have the time to run to my local store and need to 'make do.' My local store is over 30 minutes one way, but I had a store that was 10 minutes from my home until two years ago.

"I think some indy stores also ran into the problem of being run like a hobby rather than a hobby-related BUSINESS. The economy has cut some of those from the landscape, much like survival of the fittest. The remaining stores are pretty good, but I notice that sales are fewer and farther between as they become the only game in town." – Barb

Machines and the chains

"As a long time, small LSS owner, I see so many factors going into the decline in scrapbooking. We see so few new scrappers coming into our stores these days. And so many customers have mounds of products that they admit that they are buying less and hording less.

A huge impact on our store has been both the saturation in the market and the impact of technology. Wal-Mart and Micheals carry a ton of supplies now, as do so many chains. These work hand in hand.

"The Cricut machine has taken away so many higher-priced sales from us. People no longer buy the embellishments or stickers like they used to. They use their Circut. And we can not compete with Michaels or HSN on price no matter what we do. And that includes the machine, cartridges, and related supplies. People will buy cardstock to use with it, but you have to sell a lot of cardstock to pay the bills.

"And now there are more choices: when Quickutz brought out the Silhouette, we saw sales drop. We had loyal QK customers, so they bought the Silhouette. There was little profit margin and customers could buy designs directly from QK online and bypass us. They did want free advice as to how to use their machines, though.

"Now there is the Slice and other machines. Again, we can't compete with all the sales from Michaels and HSN and other large sales venues. The Gypsy was released to Michaels and HSN before the independents could get them, and that hurt also.

"Soon only large companies like Provo Craft and Making Memories will be left and you will only be able to buy scrapbook supplies in chains – till the next fad comes along and the big stores drop the lines. And you can't get supplies anywhere.– Marye Anne

Knowledgeable clerks

"As for the stores at least in my area, I have slowed my shopping simply because of the way the LSS's are cutting back. They are letting the more talented, experienced people go and hiring younger people that don’t know any thing about the products and have only been crafting for a short time. They may be creative but they just don’t have the knowledge the other girls did."

"I don’t want to see the LSS go out of business; places like Michaels or Jo-Ann take forever to get new product into the stores, and the supplies get boring and tiresome, while the local stores get items in a better time frame." – Mary

Techniques and experience

"I’ve been traveling all over North America for the past several years as an instructor for this industry. I am seeing the 15-years-in-business stores that have a business plan and are innovators. They will still be around when the "stash" is depleted because they continue to offer their customers the social environment they want and the techniques and tools to allow them to make something old feel new again.

"What I’ve seen is a massive downward trend in taking classes that are 'cute project’-oriented, and a massive upward trend in taking classes that are technique oriented. People seem to want to know how to better use what they have. And once armed with that knowledge, they are definitely spending their money, but on the technique-tools that they have learned.

"So many have a massive stash of paper, chipboard, and the like at home. Show them how to modify and embellish those supplies with techniques and tools. Enable your consumers with technique and they will make purchases.

"Take techniques and surfaces that have your customers saying ‘huh?’ and turn it into ‘A-ha!’. – Sally

Change with the times

"The scrapbook store of 2009 looks eerily similar to the scrapbook store of 1999, yet the technology and the way many scrap has changed dramatically." – Kim

Riding the storm

"The stores have to move with the trends and understand what their customers are going through. Listen to them, rather then cut back in ways that may offend the buyers of the product you carry. It will get better; we just have to ride out the storm." – Allison

Chasing the big spenders

"I think with the huge boom came a lack of customer service. Many stores and manufacturers got a little big for their britches, treating thrifty spenders poorly while fawning over big spenders. I have met many customers who faithfully took their $20 to the store each week and were basically turned away by bad customer service. Those stores are now begging to get customers like that back. I hear people saying all the time that if they are going to spend their dollar somewhere, they want to get good customer service.

"I have seen a proliferation of scrapbooking and creative retreats. How is that people can spend $300 on a scrapbooking retreat weekend but stores are going out of business? People are looking for ways to use their supplies and have an "experience" not just see who can "die with the most supplies". Stores need to get creative and offer their customers an experience instead of just a bunch of impersonal racks of paper. In my classes I have seen more success when I offer prizes and tell stories and make jokes than when I just present the product. They want the store staff to take an interest in them, ask about their current projects, ask what high school their kids go to when staff see the customer buying marching band paper.

"People are also looking to learn something, not just buy. They do not want to buy a product and then take a $25 class to learn how to use it. They want you to show them how to use it when they buy it. Then they will take a class to learn to take those skills to the next level.

"I agree that the pendulum has swung on classes from being $50 for a cute project to $25 for a technique-based class." – Jennifer

(Note: Have any reactions to what you're just read? Email your thoughts to CLN to mike@clnonline.com.)







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