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Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com


The trends, the issues, and productive business strategies.

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The Scrapbook Wars: A Report from the Trenches 

Clearance sales and short-sighted vendors make a tough business tougher.

by Lisa Kanak, The Cropper's Corner, Frederickburg, VA (February 20, 2006)

I'd love to be all sunshine and light about the industry, but the facts are pretty grim. By the end of October, Northern Virginia had lost six scrapbook/stamp stores and the opening of two of Michaels' ReCollections stores. A seventh independent is thinking about closing, and there may be others that I haven't heard about.

All of these closings caused our business to suffer as well (people were spending all their money getting the close-out bargains, and had little, if any, left for us.) We rode out the first wave of closings and saw sales begin to climb, only to fall back again due to the most recent wave of store closings.

That has put a pinch on what we could spend on new products, merchandising, advertising, etc. I've got areas just DYING for new products that we can't afford to get in. Products that usually clearance-out easily are just sitting because of all of the other clearance sales going on. It's a vicious cycle. In cases like this, stores should try to ride out the storm.

Store sales haven't been helped by discovering after the fact that "new" products we were bringing into the store were on sale at Dollar Tree, Michael's, A.C. Moore, and other national chains and outlet stores. We feel cheated, because we bought things for what they are retailing for elsewhere, and we have no hope of making money on these items. Yet the manufacturers have our money and are happy for now, because needless to say we won't be buying from them again. I know we weren't the only store "burned" (and now, I've heard that one manufacturer has "burned" another manufacturer in much the same way.)

Have we forgotten that a one-time sale will NOT guarantee long-term success?? There's nothing like finding merchandise in an outlet clearance center for less than what you paid for it.

On the brighter side, we have seen a constant influx of new customers; many of these are beginners. We have also seen a return of many customers to the store; they're intent on getting "back" to scrapbooking. This tells me that the industry isn't really dead but that it ebbs and flows. Even while many of our customers HAVE started quilting, beading, knitting, etc., they are still committed to scrapbooking over the long haul.

I think it's the style that is changing, more than anything.

For example, when polling nationwide, 60% of consumers indicated they would rather have less paper and more embellishments than MORE paper and fewer embellishments. Yet most manufacturers produce the direct opposite.

Consumers as a whole are growing tired of "all new" (not that there aren't those that crave new, trendy things), but I hear from far more consumers that they want a simpler, easier style. I also hear a lot more complaints/frustrations about all of the constantly changing products.

Also, there is just too much "clutter" out there. Book and magazine sales have slowed dramatically because there are simply too many choices. Thankfully, some manufacturers have lowered their purchase minimums from 15 to 6 (whew!).

Yet great selling products are being discontinued like mad; not always because they are poor sellers but because "they've been around for awhile." That is a direct quote from a manufacturer, by the way.

Manufacturers are all trying to stay on top of trends (fashion & design) but are forgetting that there are niches that still need attention. Retailers are told to "go after" the genealogists group, while at the same time manufacturers pretty much eliminate the entire category. New and trendy is fine, but each market is going to have certain things that they will always be drawn to.

Take interior design & furniture styles. The south is drawn towards traditional designs, traditional color palettes, etc. If Hepplewhite suddenly decided it was going to stop making the traditionally-styled furniture it's been making for hundreds of years and said, "The fashion of the day is bohemian," and dropped their signature style because it's not trendy, they'd be out of business FAST. That said, Hepplewhite (and traditional) doesn't sell as well in the Midwest. The company knows its market and focuses on it instead of trying to appeal to everyone with one design.

(Note: To read previous Memory, Paper & Stamp columns, click on the titles in the right-hand column. To comment on Lisa's ideas, email CLN at mike@clnonline.com.)



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