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The trends, the issues, and productive business strategies.

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What's Happened to Scrapbooking

Why it's not what it was.

by Name Withheld (March 21, 2011)

(Note: This was written in response to CLN's request for reader comments regarding the state of scrapbooking.)

I am a former scrapbook retailer of 10 years. It was successful while in operation, but I closed my shop because I saw the writing on the wall and knew that I was not in a position to respond.  I have also been on the manufacturer side of the carpet with a digital company for five years.

I am still a passionate scrapbooker and do both digital and traditional scrapbooking.

Just last night, I was scrapbooking and thinking about the industry. My main reason: I was considering the industry is because I am working on a business plan that will take me back into it!

I jotted down on a scrap piece of paper where I think the industry went wrong. Mind you, I came into the industry while it was just forming, back in the days when Stacey Julian and Lisa Bearnson were on the ground floor as exhibitors at CHA, Melody Ross had a table for her booth, and Curtis Platte displayed a single bag. 

Here are the top reasons I think the industry declined:

1. Manufacturers turned away from the mom-and-pop shops -- Indi sister-type shops that created the industry -- and turned to the mass market. About the dumbest move I EVER saw in the industry was when Bed Bath & Beyond picked up a line of product promoted by a celebrity.  What do Bed Bath & Beyond employees know about archival; what do they care? It was a crappy line and really showed that manufacturers were exploiting a trend and only looking for a fast buck.

2. The industry stopped bringing in new customers. Manufacturers and publications catered to the top 10% of scrapbook consumers who were experienced, but ignored the 90% that could have grown the industry. Pages became too involved, tools became too complicated, and it really turned customers off.

My store was one of the top three stores using SDU from EK Success because we always kept the beginner in mind. In your recent article, you say, "Scrapbooking has so permeated modern culture that most consumers now know what it is. They either participate or they don't."  Scrapbooking has failed to evolve and failed to educate what scrapbooking is today. It is NOT what it was 15 years ago. The principle idea of scrapbooking and archiving is the same, but the actual WAY that people do it has totally changed.

3. Retailers and manufacturers failed to embrace the digital age.

4. Digital sharing and storage of images has replaced photo albums. With the decline of the number of photos that are being printed (the Photo Marketing Assn. can provide the stats), it is obvious that people are not doing anything with their photos. If egos could have gotten out of the way, PMA and CHA could have worked together and realized that the important part of the process is the photo and what people do with their photos.

Yes, I do believe that CHA is partly responsible. CHA should have learned from the cross stitch, macramé, and any other craft cycle what the process was and worked hard to move the Titanic in a direction that would show longevity in a category. CHA should have offered more business classes to people that had no business opening a business but did anyway. 

(Editor's note: Over the years CHA has offered numerous business seminars, most intended for independent retailers but you can lead a horse to water….)

Manufacturers should have held their mom-and-pops in a little higher regard and understood that that is where the innovation and passion comes from, that they are an important part of the pie.

Don't you think it is ironic that as mom-pops have declined, so has the industry? My guess would be that that is not unique to just the scrapbooking craft. Independents are also responsible for not negotiating better terms, for not creating close relationships with sales reps who should represent their interests to the manufacturers, and for pulling manufacturers down with their bad business choices.

You hit a hot button of mine today and one that I was just thinking about last night. At times, I wished I could have shaken a few retailers into awareness and knocked some manufacturers' heads together.

With all this being said, I think that the scrapbook industry is not dead; it has settled in and needs a shake-up of excitement.

(Note: Join the conversation. Email your thoughts – on or off the record – to CLN at mike@clnonline.com.)



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