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Who's To Blame When a Store Closes? 

Outside competition? Or something else?

by CLN Subscribers (November 7, 2005 )

(Note: The previous issue of CLN included an email from an independent who had just closed her scrapbooking store. She blamed her store's demise, in part, on the wide variety of "non-industry" stores that had begun selling memory supplies and siphoning off her sales. That elicited a variety of responses.)

Good business: maintain the basics.

I read the article about the store closing with interest. And I've been out on the road and at MemoryTrends and listening to similar stories and concerns the last few weeks. I have a major metropolitan area that is now down to three scrapbook stores, one of which may also be in trouble. Why? I don't have all the answers, but this is what I tell my customers:

The industry is once again "rearranging" itself, and the stores that are not run from a business standpoint are not going to succeed. And it has nothing to do with how large or how popular the store is – even the big ones fail if they're not on a solid path.

Success lies in not caving to the constant and unceasing demands of the consumer for NEW, NEW, NEW. Stores must carry a solid pool of "core" product, which isn't necessarily exciting, but which sells solidly on a day-to-day basis. (card stocks, basic albums, themed paper/stickers, tools, etc.) Success also depends on carrying the important items to your customers, whether they're in the chains or not. There's a reason chains carry the products they do – they are the top sellers. Stores cannot forego those items and still build a solid business.

Retailers also must remain flexible to the changes in the industry and the marketplace and be willing to review their thinking and try new things. Just because, say, kits, have not historically done well in a store, doesn't mean you shouldn't occasionally test the waters if a solid new kit comes out. Customers change – they are notoriously fickle. What you couldn't give away last year may be the hot seller this year.

And we must all face up to the reality that the chains are here to stay – this is scrapbooking in 2005/2006 – they're not going away. If retailers pride themselves on carrying a line that's not in the chains, it's just not there yet – not because the manufacturer isn't trying. The dollars are too big. So stores must look for ways to outsmart, outmaneuver, and outthink the chains – because competing head to head is not an option – you'll never win.

The silver lining to this cloud, of course, is that scrapbooking as a hobby is as strong as ever. People will always take pictures of babies, weddings, graduations, etc., and look to preserve those memories. New enthusiasts enter the market every day. As independent retailers, it's our business to figure out how best to attract and serve them, in a way that the chains cannot. And, fortunately, we are in a business that is brimming with creativity and individuality. I'm sure our retailers are up to the task. Pam Riddell, Maps-2-Memories

"Non-industry" stores help, not hurt.

Regarding the independent scrapbook store that went out of business in part because so many "non-industry" stores started selling scrapbook supplies:

I was shopping at Costco with my sister on Saturday and I stopped in my tracks when I saw a beautiful, wooden French-style easel complete with a bunch of supplies for $32. (A Jullian easel without all the extra supplies retails for around $200 in an art supply store.)

The set included a canvas, 4 brushes, 10 tubes of oil paint, 10 tubes of acrylics, 6 poster paints, a wooden palette, the easel, and a carrying strap. When my sister asked me why I was unhappy to see such a great deal, I explained to her that this is the kind of thing that really hurts our industry and takes sales away from my customers; art supply retailers.

To which she replied as she loaded one into her cart, "I am a single mother of an artistic 11-year-old. I am not in a position to pay over $200 for a gift like this, and I am pretty sure I would not even BE in an art supply store when I go Christmas shopping. But I WILL have to go to one to buy brush cleaner, more canvas, and other supplies and to find a teacher so Mary can take a painting class. So, this Costco purchase actually has the potential to HELP an art supply store!"

And while we were standing there having this conversation, I spoke to two other women who also bought one; both were also impulse buys for teenagers. (And yes I did take the opportunity to tell them about Riley Street, our local art supply store where they could find a class and more supplies; in fact both wrote the name down.)

So, here are three people who bought art supplies instead of video games or clothes. Even if only one of the recipients pursues art as a hobby, our industry is still ahead!

Just thought I would share this with you; it seems like all we hear are complaints about sales being lost outside our industry. – Susan Kocsis, Search Press

Greeting cards and scrapbooking.

I spent almost 30 years in the greeting card industry. In reference to the independent scrapbooking the store that closed, people need to realize a) making your avocation a vocation is a dangerous venture, especially if you are naive and inexperienced in independent businesses – which is the case in 90% of independents; b) greeting card stores – not franchises – get huge support, all the way around, by Hallmark and American Greetings; and c) the single most important key to ANY independent retailer: SELECTION and DIFFERENTIATION – and don’t expect manufacturers to do that for you; it’s your job, not theirs. Millions of independents do well, because they have learned all of this, the hard way. – Name Withheld

(Note: What are your thoughts on the subject? Email them, on or off the record, to CLN at mike@clnonline.com. To read previous "Memory" columns, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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