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The trends, the issues, and productive business strategies.

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What's Happening to Scrapbooking?

The digital world is changing the category and the consumer.

by Charlotte Roby and Mike Hartnett (March 17, 2008)

(Note: Last month CLN published "A Photo/Scrap Store Changes Course" in which Ron and Charlotte Roby of Roby's Photo Shop and Scrapbook store in Damascus, MD described how they were selling out their hard-copy scrapbook supplies and offering a variety of digital services instead. To read the original article, click on the title in the right-hand column. Here is a follow-up conversation between CLN and Charlotte.)

CLN: I thought [your switch to digital services from hard-copy scrapbook supplies] was newsworthy. There were a number of clear signs at the CHA show that people are not hard-copy scrapping as much as they used to. That's why attendance was down -- a number of stores aren't there any more, or thought they couldn't afford to attend.

ROBY: Part of this is the manufacturers and vendors; they go on QVC or on infomercials and sell 35 doz. pieces of paper and 6 doz. matching embellishments for $9.99 same stuff I have in my store. How can independent scrapbook stores compete with that?

I think they should sell papers in lots of 15 instead of 25 which is still better than the 50 sheets they used to insist we buy; but you sell the first 10 and then you wait a year or more to sell out of the rest. You never make enough money on one line to go on to the next.

Plus, some companies almost flat out lie to their independent stores about where they are selling product, making you think you will have something new and different that Wal-Mart and Costco won't have; then through some loophole or something they left out when talking with you, they repackage the same stuff and sell it for cheaper than you paid for it wholesale.

CLN: After working in front of a computer all day, the last thing I want to do with my hobby is spend more time with a computer. But that's me, age 61. For younger people, technology is so ubiquitous, they can't imagine life without it.

ROBY: At 45 I thought the same thing until we made a book of my son's 11th year of life and I saw how easy it was, how fun, and how great the printed product could be! Just print them out, slide them into books, and you are done! I would not want to go back and do all my historical photos that way because then what would I do with all those prints and certificates, etc.? But it is an easy way to stay current.

CLN: But why the decline in hard-copy scrapbooking?

ROBY: My answer is that people already have so much "stuff," they could scrap all day long for weeks and never run out. Plus, there is nothing new you already have paper and embellishments that look about the same, so why not just use what you have?

CLN: Is it that people are switching to digital?

ROBY: People are finally getting more familiar with their digital cameras that is part of it. We used to process between 75 and 100 rolls of film a day. Now we don't even turn the negative machine on until 2:30, because if we leave it on for too long with nothing going through it, it ruins the chemistry, plus all the electrical power it uses. We have very few people who use their old 35 mm cameras anymore and because they can see the photos they have taken on the screen of their camera, they feel no urgency to print them out.

CLN: Have scrappers scrapped all of their old photos?

ROBY: I don't believe they have used all their old photos. I think they are just getting to where it's not new and exciting anymore, and the thought of all those shoe boxes is daunting instead of motivating like it used to be.

CLN: Are we're scaring away potential new scrappers who think scrapping is time-consuming, difficult, and expensive?

ROBY: Again, I think they are just trying to use up all the stuff they already have. Plus, it does not help that all the magazines and web sites show one photo on each page with a bunch of artistic stuff around it. Who can do that? Then you start to think, "Well, I am not an artist like they are, so I must be doing it wrong or my pages are not as good."

CLN: Has scrapbooking so thoroughly penetrated the market that everyone who wants to scrap is scrapping or has scrapped?

ROBY: New people coming in don't see photos and journaling, they see art, and then if you are not inclined in that direction, it seems like, why bother? It will never die like previous hot trends macrame, cross stitch, wearable art but as you're seeing, it isn't as strong as it had been.

(Note: Care to join the conversation? What should vendors do to reverse the apparent recent slide? What should retailers do? Trade associations? The media? Send your thoughts on or off the record to CLN at mike@clnonline.com.)



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