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Creative Leisure News
306 Parker Circle
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com


The trends, the issues, and productive business strategies.

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How joining forces can help independents survive and prosper.

by Mike Hartnett (July, 2003)

(Note: Norm Carlson is president of Crafters Home, an organization devoted to the success of prospective and current independent scrapbook storeowners.)

CLN: Can you explain what Crafters Home is, who it's for, how big it is?

CARLSON: Crafters Home is a family of independently owned retail papercraft stores that benefits current storeowners and people interested in opening a store. Crafters Home provides training for prospective retailers and also licenses existing storeowners.

The primary reason we started Crafters Home was to provide a way for independent retailers to compete with the major chains like Michaels, A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts, Hobby Lobby, and others. With their purchasing power, the major chains can buy items at well below wholesale and then offer those same items to the public at below retail prices.

Crafters Home stores are able to purchase inventory at a discount off of the wholesale price from more than 200 Vendor Partners. Also, there are special deals with fixture, equipment, and software vendors.

Crafters Home also provides free telephone consulting to all Crafters Home stores, protected territory, and Partner Preview days prior to the major trade shows. (This allows some of the Crafters Home Vendor Partners to present their new products to attending store owners prior to the shows.) There are also special events and a network of store owners who are willing to help and support each other.

There are currently over 130 stores located in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

CLN: Why isn't it called Scrapbookers Home?

CARLSON: When we first started in retail in 1994, the name of our store was Rubber Stamp Heaven. When other papercrafts such as scrapbooking started to take off, we could see that "Rubber Stamp Heaven" was really too narrow of a focus.

We also had several conversations with veterans of the craft industry and found out that specific crafts would be highly popular for a time, and then a new one would become popular, and so on. We wanted to give ourselves as much flexibility as possible, yet remain aligned with the craft industry.

CLN: In general, is scrapbooking growing, steady, declining, and is it different in different parts of the country?

CARLSON: Scrapbooking is still growing, although the rate of growth varies by area of the country. It is still relatively new in the East so the potential for growth is greater there. We are seeing some indications of a decline in retail sales of individual stores around the country, but they are primarily in areas where the economy is down and competition is up.

Home parties have been a real help to the industry, and the areas where those parties are most active are also areas in which our retailers are doing very well.

CLN: What specific trends within scrapbooking do you see?

CARLSON: We are seeing several different trends, some of which have either run their course, or are waning in popularity. As I polled some of our key storeowners, I found that the trends are different in different areas. We've seen embellishments come and go in some areas.

We are seeing an artistic phase, stitching, metal, jewels, and who knows what is next. Many scrapbookers are finding that simple is good, as they can get more done in less time.

CLN: Some independents have been very successful; some have failed. Can you generalize as to what qualities the successful ones have that the failures don't have?

CARLSON: I think the primary factor in the success of any retail store is the fact that the owner recognizes that this is a business and not a hobby. In other words, they started with sufficient capital, are able to manage a budget, are adept at training salespeople, and are astute when it comes to ordering and maintaining inventories. (This means they are aware of what sells in their market, the new products on the market, and having those products in inventory when the ads for the products hit the newsstands.)

In addition to good business sense, successful storeowners also provide customer service that is over and above their competition. They also stay one step ahead of their competitors; to be successful in a competitive market, one must be a leader and not a follower.

CLN: Is there a danger that so many stores will sell scrapbook supplies that the pie will be divided into pieces too small for many to make a profit?

CARLSON: There is always that danger in any business. The stores that survive will be the ones that give their customers the best customer service, inventory selection, education -- and fun. After all, we are competing for entertainment dollars. If customers do not have fun shopping in a store, they probably won't be back unless that store is the only game in town.

CLN: What are the major benefits of independent scrapbook stores working together?

CARLSON: There is power in numbers: buying power, having a voice that is heard, sharing successes and failures, and understanding and supporting each other. For instance, our store owners have shared good ideas that have increased sales, they've solved employee problems with employees, shared ideas for new classes, and many other things too numerous to mention.

CLN: Many industry trends have skyrocketed -- macrame, fabric paint, etc. -- and then faded. Will that ultimately happen to scrapbooking? What should the industry do now to make sure that doesn't happen?

CARLSON: Scrapbooking is entirely different from many of the other crafts simply because of the nature of the product. People will always take pictures, and those pictures will find their way into shoeboxes, photo albums, and scrapbooks. Digital imaging may become more popular, but many people still need to do hands-on projects. I guess one could argue the point that people will always sew, do fabric painting, macrame, home dec, etc., because everyone wears clothes, hangs plants, and decorates their homes. However, each of those items can also be purchased readymade. One cannot purchase a readymade scrapbook with their family photos and the story behind those photos.

From the retailers' perspective, we need to keep scrapbooking on the airwaves and in print in order to generate new customers. The person who is just starting typically spends considerably more than the person who has been scrapbooking for some time. Anyone who is starting in any craft has to buy the tools and supplies to get started. Scrapbooking is no different. We have to continue to generate new scrapbookers!

(Note: Norm Carlson, Crafters Home, Ltd., 1725 W Williams Dr., Ste. 10, Phoenix, AZ 85027. Call 623-780-1333 or 800-486-3534; fax 623-780-1302; email norm@craftershome.biz; or visit www.craftershome.biz.)



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