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The trends, the issues, and productive business strategies.

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The State of Scrapbooking in Michigan

And probably everywhere else.

Staff Report (June 6, 2011)

Carrie MacGillis, M.S., is the Editor and Advertising Sales Manager for Michigan Scrapbooker and has been scrapbooking for 15 years. Carrie lives in Oakland County, MI with her husband, David;, daughter, Kaylie; and their golden retriever, Daisy. While working as an Editorial Assistant for Michigan Gardener magazine she approached the staff of Michigan Gardener with the idea for a new magazine and they agreed to start the endeavor together. 

In its 4th year of publishing, Michigan Scrapbooker is a grassroots, one-of-a-kind publication. It is published in February, May, August, and November. It is free when picked up at one of the 90+ distribution locations, including scrapbooking stores and retreat houses, scrapbooking crops and expos, and several scrapbooking and stamping consultants. Paid subscriptions are also available.

Michigan Scrapbooker has 40,000 readers and 2,100+ Facebook fans. The goal of the magazine is to support scrapbooking businesses by providing them with a unique opportunity to reach their ideal target audience. Michigan Scrapbooker recently launched an e-newsletter with subscriptions increasing daily.

CLN: In the last two years or so, has the consumer's interest in scrapbooking seem to increase or decrease? 

MACGILLIS: The consumer interest in scrapbooking is definitely increasing.  The hobby is expanding and evolving, which makes it easier for newcomers to participate.  People are realizing they can create a small, 8-by-8-inch album of a vacation or make a scrapbook for a new graduate or work on a baby album. More people are participating in the hobby, even if it is only for certain occasions.

Scrapbooks are wonderful, homemade gifts and more people are seeing the value in having a family legacy to leave for their children.  Crops are being organized as fundraisers for schools, churches, charities, and more, so people are participating in order to support their favorite needy cause.

The industry is also expanding into the digital world, which is attracting young people and those who may not be as interested in the tactile aspect of the scrapbooking hobby.

CLN: Are consumers branching out into card making and other paper-related crafts?

MACGILLIS: Some scrapbookers are expanding and branching out into other paper-related crafts.Card making is a very easy craft to transition to from scrapbooking. People are realizing that their tools and embellishments are useful for other tasks and projects.  Michigan Scrapbooker recently held a survey to find out what people use their scrapbooking supplies for, besides scrapbooking. The answers were very interesting and even humorous! Many people use their supplies for their children's school projects. In addition, people are fixing screen doors and wedding dresses with glue dots, stamping on sugar cookies, using small rhinestones on fingernails, and using their Cricut to make garage sale signs.

Scrapbookers are by nature very creative people, so it is easy for them to notice all of the fun and functional ways they can use their talents.

CLN: Has the number of independent scrapbook stores declined in Michigan like it has in some other parts of the country? Why?

MACGILLIS: Yes, the number of stores in Michigan has declined recently. The quick answer to why is: the economy.  I have a more thorough answer that I've come to understand from talking to our readers and store owners.

First, as I stated in the above question, the interest in scrapbooking is increasing, so if more people are scrapbooking where are they getting their supplies? One answer you will hear is the "big box stores." Store owners have told me that the big box stores can sell products cheaper than the small store owners can buy them. Also, the chain stores offer coupons that many consumers use. This is true; however, small scrapbooking stores often offer many things that the big box stores don't or can't, including: knowledge about scrapbooking (better customer service), classes, and crops, and unique products.  Michigan Scrapbooker recently printed an article, "Support Your Local Scrapbook Stores: It's a Give and Take." The local scrapbook stores offer so much more than the chain stores are able to offer. And many times the local stores are willing to accept competitors' coupons and run their own sales. 

So then why do the consumers still run to the big box stores? My opinion is that there is an assumption that the big box store has more to offer and is cheaper. Why do people assume this? Because the big stores advertise and create that image.

The local stores in Michigan are very lucky, in that they are in the only state with a local scrapbooking magazine and they need to be taking advantage of it. It is the ideal way to reach their target audience -- local scrapbookers! There seems to be a downward spiral that happens with the stores -- the economy is hard and they start to struggle, so they stop spending money on advertising and new products, then people forget or don't know they are there and if they do come in there are no new products, so people spend less at the store, and the store has to cut back even more until eventually they close. 

Research was done during the recession in the 1980's about businesses and their recovery after the economy picked up. The businesses who cut advertising increased their sales by 19% after the recession, while those who continued to advertise saw a 275% increase!

It is very clear that the stores need to continue advertising to succeed. Michigan Scrapbooker readers have told us time and time again that they read the ads and plan their travels based on where the stores are. The readers post on our Facebook page that they are sad when stores close.

I see the answer to this problem as two-fold: the stores in Michigan need to advertise in Michigan Scrapbooker and the consumers need to shop at the local stores. It's not complicated at all, and this is the solution, in spite of the economy.

CLN: Michigan has been hit hard by the recession, but the high unemployment rate seems to be going down, thanks in part to the rebound by the auto industry. If all that is true, how has that affected scrapbook interest and sales? What about the effect of gas prices? 

MACGILLIS: We recently had a discussion on the Michigan Scrapbooker Facebook page about the economy and stores closing. Some fans did say that there are times they have to choose between gas and food or scrapbooking supplies. It is obvious which they end up spending their money on. 

However, because of people trying to save money, they are tending to travel locally instead of to far-off destinations. Michigan has many scrapbook retreat houses, which are consistently full. We also know of many scrapbookers who plan day trips with friends to travel to several scrapbook stores around the state.

Scrapbookers are still willing to spend money but they want new, interesting, unique products. So it is important that the stores do their best to keep their stores attractive, inviting and fresh.

CLN: Are you seeing trends in where/how scrapbookers shop? For example, more or less with chain stores or e-commerce sites?

MACGILLIS: E-commerce sites are becoming more popular; however, some people want to see and touch the products they are buying. Chain stores are one option for scrapbookers, but often the big box stores are limited to certain lines and manufacturers and have other limitations that were listed in an above answer. One other fun way to shop is at scrapbook conventions and expos. These events are popular in Michigan and offer scrapbookers an easy way to shop with many stores or vendors at once. We are lucky to have the Mega Meet (www.megameet.com) and Great Scrapbook Events (www.GreatScrapbookEvents.com) in Michigan, which offer wonderful shopping opportunities for scrapbookers.

CLN: What trends do you see in scrapbooking/paper crafting? For example, are more people creating their pages on the computer?

MACGILLIS: Digital scrapbooking is gaining in popularity. One fun trend is hybrid scrapbooking, where people combine digital and traditional pages in one album or even combine the two techniques on one page.

The trends in traditional scrapbooking are continually evolving. One trend I've noticed: people are interested in more and more is organization. Scrapbookers tend to accumulate supplies, so they have a need to store tools and products. Ways to transport and organize are always of interest to scrapbookers. Scrapbookers also seem to always want to see what is NEW! So anytime someone comes up with a different product, people are interested.

CLN: Any suggestions on how the industry can inspire consumers to print all those photos they have sitting in their computers and cell phones? 

MACGILLIS: Most scrapbookers have heard the statement, "You don't have to scrapbook every photo." The first thing people need to do is just organize the photos. I use a very simple system of creating folders by year and then event in my computer. There are software programs to help you organize. It isn't necessary or economical to print every photo usually. We have many more photos than our ancestors did. We've all had the experience of looking at old photos and wishing we could ask our ancestors who the people in the photo were and what they were doing.

If the consumers would realize they don't need to print all of their photos, just some so they can tell the story of their life, they may be more willing to tackle the task. I recommend printing photos at least once a month so that they don't accumulate. Once the photos are printed, even non-scrapbookers can just put the photos in a regular photo-safe album or box and add the names and dates. Future generations will be grateful for the information.

CLN: Are you seeing any evidence of consumers posting their photos on Facebook rather than making scrapbooks? Or using one of those services where you send in photos and the company prints and binds a photo album for you? 

MACGILLIS: Facebook is a very popular way to "share" photos, but it isn't an effective way to create a family heirloom. I think sharing on Facebook and emailing photos are replacing printing doubles to share with family and friends. The services that create photo albums for you vary widely in what they offer. Some services don't have any flexibility or allow for creativity, so I don't think those services will satisfy the avid scrapbooker. It is a nice option for the non-scrapbooker.

Digital scrapbooking software is very appealing to some scrapbookers and is designed to allow for artistic individuality. As appealing as this option is to many people, there will always be those who prefer to touch and feel the products they are working with. 

Digital scrapbooking doesn't take away from traditional scrapbooking, it adds something to paper crafting industry. The key point is that scrapbookers enjoy the opportunity to be creative; it is an artistic outlet for them. Facebook can't replace that and I don't think it is trying to.

CLN: What advice do you have for someone considering opening a scrapbook store?

MACGILLIS: ADVERTISE!!!!  Make sure you get the word out about your business through several avenues-send out press releases, create a Facebook page, place an ad in Michigan Scrapbooker, ask nearby retreat houses to pass out your cards and reciprocate, offer to help advertise scrapbook expos at your store in return for them passing out your information, send out email updates, and more.

The possibilities to reach out to customers is endless.  In Michigan Scrapbooker there are many FREE opportunities to reach the readers: calendar of events, distribution locations list, sending in group photos, donating prizes for contests, and more.

I honestly believe that in spite of the economy, there is no reason a store should have to close if they are taking advantage of all the ways to market themselves. 

The other suggestion I would offer is to research the area you want to open a store in. One local area I know of had several scrapbook stores within a 5-10 mile radius and now there is only one left. Competition is good, but in an industry that is somewhat of a luxury, business people need to be careful not to saturate the market too much.

(Note: Information about advertising, subscriptions, the e-newsletter, calendar submissions, and more is available at www.michiganscrapbooker.com. Carrie can be reached at editor@michiganscrapbooker.com.) 



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