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The State of Scrapbooking 

Readers react to the thought-provoking comments by Crafters Home's Shane Cullimore.

by CLN Subscribers (October 3,, 2005)

(Note: The September 19, 2005 issue of CLN included an interview with Shane Cullimore, president of Crafters Home, the leading organization for independent scrapbook stores. What follows are reactions to Shane's thoughts. To read the original interview, click on the title in the right-hand column.)

Shane is right on.

I agree with Shane's assessment of some manufacturers' products being dumped into discount stores too quickly and that is hurting the independent retailer. It also hurts the smaller manufacturing companies who cannot afford to do that. The question to me, then, is where is the demand for constantly NEW products coming out? I can completely understand new releases twice a year to keep things fresh and innovative, but it seems that we manufacturers are constantly being asked "what's new" when we've barely gotten our latest release out the door! Kim Luty, Same Differences

"Diversity and flexibility."

I believe that Shane hit the nail on the head with his insightful comments in your interview. He has offered both vision and a challenge to vendors as well as to the stores that partner with them in the retail marketplace.

Shane said: "Diversity and flexibility are the keys to a successful retail store over the long term... I am saying that they need to broaden their definition of scrapbooking to encompass more than what it did even a few years ago."

This is necessary to a fresh approach to the scrapbook market. I owned a paper arts store for several years and was amazed at the mindset that you were not a "REAL" scrapbook store if you carried conventional crossover products, much less other items that could be potential new trends. The opportunity is huge, but our vision must enlarge to match it!

Shane said: "Im afraid that manufacturers and retailers alike are not doing enough to expand the reach of the industry as a whole."

This cooperation is the key to the entire balancing act! Manufacturers and retailers MUST work together or the result is customer confusion at best or frustration at worst. Then the challenge becomes KEEPING the customer as her interest wanes.

Crafter's Home as a group encourages open communication between its vendor partners and the member stores. Having spent time on both sides of the counter, I fully recognize the value of having the ear of the manufacturer (from my days as a Crafters Home storefront) and also appreciate the CH stores' support and suggestions now as a CH vendor partner. What a team!

Shane said: "If you dont have new customers coming through the doors, youre not going to survive."

Need anything else be said?! The customer base is ever shifting and we must generate and foster new growth. If we neglect the seedlings in favor of tending the branches, in a relatively short time we'll have a diminishing amount of old wood. Great for the hearth, but no new leaves in the spring!

I am excited about the future of Crafter's Home and look forward to Shane's direction in expanding the vision. Mary Norwood, Kandi Corp./MNC Studio Designs

Easier said than done.

Shane's take on the industry is pretty right on. There HAS to be some cooperation between manufacturers and retailers as far as new products are concerned, but therein lies the problem.

Retailers are blasted on a daily basis from the end user coming in and saying "What do you have that's new?" Consequently, when retailers talk to the manufacturer, their first question is "What do you have that's new?" The retailer feels pressured to answer to the end user, and the manufacturer feels compelled to respond to the retailer.

Keeping in mind that the vast majority of this industry is made up of independent retailers and independent manufacturers, it's a tough situation. As you well know, product development is expensive and if you don't call it right, you're going to be sitting there with a huge amount of money invested in a product that didn't sell. And unless it's a real "hot" product, as Shane suggests, it has a life span that extends from CHA Winter to CHA Summer, and then everyone is on to the next new thing. It's an absolute killer for both manufacturers and retailers.

These days the chain stores are all into private labels, so they're taking products, normally produced and sold by the smaller manufacturers, and having them made offshore. Since each chain has its own ready-made market, they can afford to buy the huge quantities required by the offshore manufacturers, knowing they have guaranteed placement.

We also have Target and Wal-Mart making major moves into the scrapbooking arena too. I walked into Target last week to see them restocking their $1 Spot. Oh my goodness, they had fabulous craft-covered photo albums/journals, ready for altering with paper and embellishments. There were really nice white canvas photo frames just add a little paint, paper, and stickers and you've got a great gift.

Then there were the fibers (yarn) cool colors, great textures; these guys are giving U.S. yarn companies a quick run for their money!! I counted 40+ different balls of yarn at $1 each. Probably less yardage than in a Lion Brand skein but, for stampers and scrappers, we don't need a full skein for $4.95. The Target skein is perfect for the end user.

They had rubber stamp sets for $1, even the ultra popular alphabet sets!! Ink pads in an array of colors, all for $1. Heck, they were such good deals I spent $148.... and THAT'S really disturbing!!!!

I wish I was at the part where I say "now this is what we should be doing." Unfortunately, I don't have the answer. And in reading the interview with Shane, neither did he, apart from "we all have to cooperate and work together." We do, but getting independent business owners to do that is easier said than done, especially when some of the giants in the industry are more than happy to continue to pour money into quick runs of product and ditch the rest at the dollar stores.

I've been saying for the last couple of years if we, the mid-level independent operators, don't do something to save ourselves, the industry is going to end up with three or four major manufacturers and three or four major retailers.

I guess there will always be a constant supply of start ups, though. Businesses that begin in the garage, build up to a mid-level manufacturer or retailer, only to discover they can't survive at that level. They don't have the unlimited funds to do constant product development, nor sustain the warehouse or retail footage they expanded to, nor support the employees they have hired as they grew.

I wish I had the answers. It hurts me to see stores close and manufacturers give up. These are all talented people who have put their hearts and souls, not to mention their kids' college money, into their businesses, only to walk away from them after 5 or 10 years, a lot poorer for the experience.

So, is there an answer? LOL!! I just received an invitation to guest lecture at New York University, in their MBA program on the realities of being an entrepreneur!!! The things your MBA Professor will never tell you!! Should be an interesting class huh?? Mid-level manufacturer

(Note: To read previous installments in the Memory, Paper & Stamp column, click on the titles in the right-hand column. To comment on the ideas presented here, email mike@clnonline.com.)



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