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What's new in various product categories; monthly update.

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A Scrapbooker’s Impressions of CHA Winter 2007

A step in the right direction.

by Nancy A. Nally (February 5, 2007)

To get to Anaheim, I survived a pilot who thought he was flying an F-14 instead of a 737 – and it was late due to a passenger being removed for repeatedly failing to return his dog to its carry-on crate. So I walked onto the floor Sunday morning, bright with anticipation, but a little bleary-eyed from that late flight and jet lag), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Design Trends.

I was struck almost immediately walking around the scrapbooking vendor area was size – not the size of the booths, but the size of the designs. Design elements have become very large. Where patterned paper used to be covered in small-scale dots and designs, now all of the patterns seem to be much larger with more visual impact. Even embellishments such as brads are larger.

Designs are larger, and more formal. They are more ornate, trending away from the cuteness of the past towards more of the Bohemian and Asian ornate designs that had started to emerge in the past few product cycles. And at this CHA show, distinctly Indian influences were extremely apparent in many products, especially paper designs.

Text as a design element – even as a background – was still a strong feature, as was seen at the past few shows. Instead of just the text itself being a design element, however, its use is expanding into embellishments that are themselves decorated with text (such as alphabets that are filled with boilerplate text).

The only color trend that really stood out to me was a lack of color. Lines done completely in black and white seem to be the next big thing. Other than that, new lines were introduced in a wide range of color palettes, a refreshing change from the past.

With design becoming more formal, of course fonts have as well. The handwritten, casual look has almost disappeared in favor of more classic fonts, often given a bit of an italic flair to relax them a bit. And like the other design elements, fonts in letter stickers, stamps, and other alphabet elements are becoming larger.

Boys and Girls.

It may be winter, but it definitely looked like spring on the show floor. Flowers were everywhere, especially silk ones for embellishments. It seems a line isn’t complete without floral elements, perhaps presenting retailers a bit of a challenge in selling to customers who have sons or who don’t have a "girly" style.

One thing that might appeal to boys is the new crop of skull embellishments. Variously described by CHA attendees as "pirate," "punk," or "biker," many companies offered edgy skull designs pulled from youth fashion. While it is definitely an interesting concept to try to appeal to a different, less traditional audience, only time will tell if skulls pull in more bodies to scrapbook stores.

More Common Threads.

I wrote recently in CLN defending the staying power of paper scrapbooking because of its tactile elements, and new introductions at CHA certainly encourage touching your pages! Soft, touchable textures such as felt, velvet, and gellies are sprouting up in many lines for spring.

Chipboard and rub-ons have become pretty much standard elements that no line is complete without. Clear stamps have also started to be more standard elements in product lines, and were introduced for the first time from many companies that had not offered stamps in the past.

Making journaling easier is a common thread. This was being done with journal tags and labels, as well as stamps with lines for easy writing. This reflects both an awareness by vendors that consumers are pushed for time and the increased realization that journaling is important.

While many people have speculated about the rising popularity of digital scrapbooking threatening paper scrapbooking’s long-term viability, this show actually saw paper product introductions that reflected the influence of digital design. Several companies introduced products such as transparencies and rub-ons for paper scrappers, products designed to mimic the effects produced by digital elements for people who like the look of digital but prefer paper for tactile, technological, or social reasons.

Organization continued to be a hot product category, with Advantus debuting several celebrity storage lines and many other companies (both new and old) trying to gain or increase their niche with new products. The vendors of these products (as well as new tool introductions) seemed to assume scrapbookers will pay more for items in feminine colors. It will be interesting to see if the market supports that or not.

Several things that I didn’t see stuck out to me. Buttons are almost entirely gone, replaced by "bling" rhinestone elements in most embellishment lines. There are also very few new themed items being introduced (with the notable exception of a few manufacturers such as EK Success) and most of those items are baby- and school-themed.

Besides products, there was other important news. Many larger manufacturers rolled out ambitious new marketing plans to assist smaller retailers advertise and sell their products. These programs to support local stores are important for both parties involved. For the retailer, they offer valuable marketing assistance in an increasingly competitive environment. For manufacturers, especially those who sell to chains, it cements the loyalty of independents who are becoming frustrated with the conduct of some manufacturers.

Final Thoughts.

One overwhelming impression I received was diversity. There really was something for everyone. It's good for retailers to be able to serve their particular stores’ needs and their customers’ tastes, instead of being the victim of trends that may not serve their needs as has happened in the past.

Last but certainly not least, the show floor itself. The scrapbooking area has become so big that a buyer can’t possibly see everything. I didn’t take any classes, and completed very few make-it/take-its, but still had time to see only about half of the scrapbooking booths in my three days. And I wasn’t writing orders, just gathering information and asking a few questions! This means buyers must show up with a pre-determined list of booths they need to visit, and squeeze looks at new vendors in as they can. This can make it very hard for vendors to pick up new customers, I believe.

I believe CHA Winter 2007 possibly represented a big step in the right direction for the scrapbook segment of the industry. We’re going to need to all work together to make sure that those positive trends towards market diversity and support of smaller retailers continue, to ensure the health of the scrapbooking segment.

(Note: Nancy operates a blog, Scrapbook Update, at www.scrapbookupdate.com. She has written numerous articles on scrapbooking for various publications, including CLN, Creative TECHniques, Scrapbook Business, and DesignerZine. Nancy can be contacted at nanally@gmail.com.



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