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The trends, the issues, and productive business strategies.

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Crafters Home's Shane Cullimore Speaks Out 

Thought provoking analysis of how scrapbooking is changing.

by Mike Hartnett (September 19, 2005)

(Note: Shane is owner and president of Crafters Home, the outstanding organization designed to help the independent scrapbook retailer. For more information, visit the new website at www.craftershome.com. Shane is the former Director of Sales for Making Memories. He joined Crafters Home in March, 2004 and purchased the operation last December.)

CLN: Some industry people say scrapbooking seems to have peaked. If that's the case, what should retailers do about it?

CULLIMORE: I have to respectfully disagree. Back in the late 1990ís when you mentioned the term "scrapbooking," you would receive some very quizzical looks. The term had to be qualified and explained and still, most had no idea what you were talking about. "Scrapbooking" back then was all about photos, paper, stickers, and die cuts. It was a very small industry, but at least it was easily defined.

Oh, how times have changed. For those of us who grew up with this industry, we recognize scrapbooking today as something completely different. Paper crafting, card-making, altered books, home dec, and personalization all play a major roll. Itís not just about the photos anymore; it is more about the creative expression of your self, your family or your history using a variety of different mediums.

The problem is in the definition of "scrapbooking." The common usage of the term "scrapbooking" is far too narrow for what this industry has actually become. I also think that the term "scrapbooking," as much as it helped define and categorize stores a few years back, has actually hurt many independent retailers as of late. The retailers who can not change their definition of scrapbooking as the industry changes will become like the proverbial square peg trying to fit into the round hole.

Diversity and flexibility are the keys to a successful retail store over the long term. Iím not saying retailers have to go out and become a mini Wal-Mart carrying everything from groceries to automotive supplies, but I am saying that they need to broaden their definition of scrapbooking to encompass more than what it did even a few years ago.

CLN: You said some successful independent scrapbook retailers are expanding their inventory beyond scrapbooking. What kinds of products are they adding, and why?

CULLIMORE: With the growth of the industry and the excitement over all of the new ideas, several of our successful independent retailers are discovering that scrapbooking today encompasses much more than just the traditional products and ideas.

The independent retailers who are going to be successful recognize the change as it is happening and quickly react in order to be ahead of the trends. They continue to offer their customers products and categories at the forefront of this expanding industry.

Home Dec, custom framing, beading, gift and custom invitations are strong cross-over categories that some of our stores have implemented. They provide a natural progression, either to or from scrapbooking. They all provide another way for our customers to explore their creativity and be inspired.

CLN: Manufacturers dumping old product at consumer shows Ė is that becoming a serious problem?

CULLIMORE: Not as much as manufacturers dumping NEW products at discount outlets and dollar stores. Well, relatively new products, anyway. At the rate that manufacturers are introducing new product, the shelf-life of an existing product is pretty much reduced to the time between now and the next trade show. Unfortunately the average independent store is only turning its inventory about two times per year. So while some manufacturers are dumping their excess inventory, that often times is not that old, for practically nothing at a discount outlet or dollar store, several independents that are still trying to sell it at full MSRP and are now forced to discount that product for well below what they paid for it. Definitely not a recipe for success.

CLN: If you could get vendors to do one thing to help retailers, what would it be?

CULLIMORE: First of all, there needs to be a bi-lateral commitment in this. We can ask for help and support from vendors, but retailers also need to be prepared to support those vendors who are willing to help them out.

Assuming this is Christmas and I can have anything I want, I would ask for vendors to take back some of the old, obsolete inventory that so many independent retailers have on their shelves.

So many stores have an excess of bad inventory sitting on their shelves and they are never going to be able to get rid of it. A lot of this is product that is not that old, it is just bad product. Much of which was bought with an entire program or the rest of an entire line of something.

There is a huge amount of independent retailersí money tied up in excess inventory right now that will never sell.

I want to give huge credit and thanks to My Minds Eye and what they have done for some of our retailers in this regard. My Minds Eye is a huge supporter of independent retailers and they truly do have the best interests of this entire industry in mind.

CLN: What are your Crafters Home members doing to attract newcomers?

CULLIMORE: Thatís the million dollar question isnít it? I think the only answer I have is; not enough. It is not just Crafters Home stores though. The entire industry has forgotten where its bread was buttered. If you donít have new customers coming through the doors, youíre not going to survive.

Iím afraid that manufacturers and retailers alike are not doing enough to expand the reach of the industry as a whole. If you look at the advertising dollars spent, my guess is that most of the money is spent trying to attract existing customers and not to actually expand the market and gain new customers.

I donít think we are smart about the way we advertise. Manufacturers are advertising in industry publications almost exclusively and stores refuse to work together for fear that a competitor might succeed as well.

Adam Bandenberger wrote a fabulous book called Co-opetition; and in it he explains how business is competition when it comes to dividing the pie, but has to be cooperation when it comes to creating it. He talks about how in New York City, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Natural History Museum, while competing for the same visitors, curators, and funding, all got together and ran a joint advertising campaign called "Summer in the City," knowing that the more people they brought into the city, the more people would visit each museum.

I just saw an ad in Sports Illustrated where several competing television networks got together with the United States Tennis Association and advertised several upcoming tournaments and which station they could be seen on. One of the stations reported viewership had increased 32% over the previous year.

I think independent stores and manufacturers need to work together to help attract new customers as well as expand this industry.

(Editor's comment: That is exactly what happened in yarn. The major yarn manufacturers joined together and formed the Craft Yarn Council of America, which is the primary reason why yarn is even hotter than scrapbooking today.)

CLN: Do you think the switch to digital photography will help or hurt retailers? Will digital photography generate more photos to crop, or will consumers switch to online scrapbooks and therefore buy fewer products?

CULLIMORE: I think on the whole people are taking more photos than they used to, but are developing fewer pictures because of the ease and convenience of digital cameras. However, I donít necessarily view this as a bad thing. I donít know too many people are scrapbooking the off-center, out-of-focus pictures they had to develop in order to get the three that turned out good.

Like I said earlier, the industry is changing. Itís not just about photographs. Even back in 2000 Valerie Pingree, former Director of Marketing for Creating Keepsakes, defined it as "the art of preserving memories through the creative enhancement of pictures AND memorabilia."

I donít ever see the "digital revolution" having a significant impact on such a tactile industry.

(Note: Jessica Leach resigned from Crafters Home, effective Sept. 26. She will be replaced by former manufacturer's rep Samantha Speakman who will be VP. With the change the CH corporate offices will be moved to Utah over the next few weeks. The new mailing address will be Crafters Home, PO Box 580, Kaysville, UT 84037-0580.

Agree with Shane? Disagree? Email your thoughts to CLN at mike@clnonline.com. To read previous entries in Memory, Paper & Stamps, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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