Home
Business-Wise
Kate's Collage
"Vinny Da Vendor"
"Benny Da Buyer"
Kizer & Bender
Memory, Paper & Stamps
Category Reports
Designing Perspectives
Scene & Heard


Creative Leisure News
306 Parker Circle
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com

 

 


Your Business Commentary

Mike's often irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry.

Printer Version

ADAPTING TO CHANGE

Why some industry businesses fail.

by Mike Hartnett (August, 2003)

You know, our industry is a lot like rock 'n roll. As I walked the recent ACCI show, I thought of all the exhibitors who have come and gone, like one-hit wonders. I realized I appreciate old rock 'n rollers such as Paul Simon, Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart more now than when I was in college. Why? Because I've come to understand that just surviving is an accomplishment.

Surviving in this industry certainly is. Changes in consumer tastes, technology, and distribution have made it impossible to remain the same, regardless of how successful a company is at the moment, or how successful it's been for years. Today's success is old news, and not a predictor of tomorrow.

Where are the macrame companies? Pepperell Braiding is the only one left that I saw at the ACCI show. Once there were about 19 lines of fabric paint, and hundreds of cross-stitch publishers. My first ACCI show in 1980 was dominated by macrame, miniatures, and flower-making.

I think the classic example of a company adapting to changing times is Westrim. The ACCI booth was mobbed, as usual, but it seems it's always been mobbed, regardless of the hot trend. Yes, today the booth does have lots of scrapbooking products where the macrame cord was once displayed.

Another example is the yarn companies. Knitting and crochet -- those were your grandmother's categories, right? And yarn vendors can't just switch products like Westrim, so what do they do?

They chip in money and start the Craft Yarn Council of America, which sponsors a host of public relations efforts. Pretty soon all sorts of movie stars are telling women's magazines how much they love to knit and crochet. Bingo! A new, younger generation is attracted to knitting and crochet.

Retailers.

The changes have been just as great with retailers, too. Traditionally many independents have looked at the chain stores as all-powerful, never-ending monoliths, able to crush their competition at will.

Well, about 10 years ago at ACCI, I moderated a panel discussion of the most powerful chains in the industry. This was the lineup:

Frank's: Eventually went into bankruptcy, emerged, and dropped crafts ... MJDesigns: Eventually went into bankruptcy, emerged, went bankrupt again, and died ... Ben Franklin: eventually went into bankruptcy, died, and the rights were sold to Promotions Unlimited ... Cloth World: Sold to Jo-Ann's ... Michaels: the panelist was the VP of Merchandising, and he's long gone.

Hmmm, maybe it isn't so easy being a monolith. Just ask Kmart.

Distribution & Technology.

Years ago I'd written a column encouraging retailers to learn about computers. A couple of weeks later I was walking a trade show when a distributor pulled me into his booth and really yelled at me. He thought suggesting retailers adapt to computers was terrible advice, and a waste of their time and money. As you can imagine with an attitude like that, the distributor's business has not flourished.

Not that long ago, he was one of numerous distributors, who collectively dominated the industry. But we no longer need so many distributors, so many have fallen by the wayside. A few are left -- Notions Marketing, Sbar's, Herr's, Stan Brown, Petersen-Arne, and others. Why have they survived and others failed?

Each survivor used a different strategy, whether it was switching to importing, adding hot categories, or changing customer bases. What they all have in common is adapting to change.

A prime example is Notions Marketing -- even the title implies sewing, needlework, and soft crafts, and the company was known for those categories. But now the company just published a 600-page catalog devoted to memory.

The trick in all this is to adapt to change the right way, while maintaining some basic principles. When Ames went bankrupt, it eventually dragged Craft World, Notions' biggest competitor, into bankruptcy. Notions was stuck for a lot of money, too, but Notions' Herb Latinga runs a very tight, conservative ship -- and Notions survived and prospered.

So the products and the marketing strategies may change, but the basics of money management stay the same. The Rolling Stones may have survived disco and rap, but their basic good rock and roll remains.

(Although I'm not sure Keith Richards really has survived. I think he passed away in the 70's, was pickled, and is propped up on stage for concerts.)

Note: Any topics you'd like me to tackle in this space? Call me at 309-925-5593 or email me at mike@clnonline.com.

xxx

 

horizontal rule

horizontal rule



   
   

Business-Wise Recent Columns...
AN INTERVIEW WITH CHA'S MEMBERSHIP VP SUE TURCHICK; Why and how CHA is forming chapters and sections.

Q. & A.: MARKETPLACE FAIRNESS ACT; Lots of questions -- and some answers.

MAKE YOUR CUSTOMER NUMBER TWO; Want to provide fresh customer service? Ignore conventional wisdom.

AN INTERVIEW WITH CHA'S Andrej Suskavcevic; Explaining why and how the summer show is changing.

CHA-UK GETS ROLLING; The UK trade group is working hard to strengthen the industry in Great Britain.

THE TROUBLE WITH TRAFFIC: WHAT RETAILER CAN LEARN FROM BASEBALL; What are the right number?

SOME THOUGHTS ON CONSUMER SHOWS; Some help retailers, some don't.

READERS RESPOND TO CLN'S TREND ANALYSIS; Different perspectives, thought-provoking ideas.

THE STATE OF DECORATIVE PAINTING; Responses to CLN's analysis.

SHOW THEM THE LOVE WHEN YOUR CAN'T SHOW THEM THE MONEY; Five affordable ways to boost employee happiness, loyalty, and motivation.

HOW TO MANAGE -- AND MOTIVATE -- CHALLENGING EMPLOYEES; Key advice from OfficeMax cofounder Michael Feuer.

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR CHA TO GROW; Provided we all work together.

TOP TEN THREATS TO DATA SECURITY AND PRIVACY FOR BUSINESS ... and what to do about them.

TRADE SHOWS: HOW, WHERE, & WHY; An interview with Tony Lee, CHA's VP of Meeting and Expositions.

DEBATE: CHA SUMMER SHOW EXPENSES; An angry exhibitor vents -- and CHA's response.

WHAT TO DO WITH OUR TRADE SHOWS; Readers respond.

WHAT'S HAPPENING TO OUR TRADE SHOWS? And what does it mean for the future?

DRIVING M&A SUCCESS IN 2011; Advice on buying -- and selling -- a company.

MAGAZINES AND THE INTERNET; In What form will magazines survive?

DON'T CLOSE YOUR STORE, SELL IT! Because almost all store can be sold.

THE ART OF DISCOUNTING; Activate dormant customers with strategic discounting.

AN INTERVIEW WITH MIKE MCCOOEY; CHA'S finances, staff, shows, and the future.

MEMORIES OF MIKE; New additions: Mike Dupey, remembered.

THE 8 DRIVERS OF EXECUTIVE DECISION-MAKING; Improve sales by understanding how key customers think.

7 KEY STEPS TO MOVE YOUR COMPANY FROM SURVIVING TO THRIVING; Difficult, challenging but essential.

WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR TRADE SHOWS? Surely they will change - but how?

SO, WHY AREN'T WE HAPPIER? Maybe the theme song for the January trade shows should be Elton John's "I'm Still Standing."

GREEN IS THE NEW PRIMARY COLOR; But the subject isn't so simple.

UPDATE: CHA SUMMER TRADE AND CONSUMER SHOWS; So much to do, so little time.

7 STEPS TO BEING A BETTER LISTENER; Which will make you a more persuasive salesperson.

INSPIRING TOURISTS TO SPEND; They have certain needs that are different than your regular customers. Meet those needs and they will spend.

WHAT BUSINESS CAN LEARN FROM NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS ABOUT INSPIRING CUSTOMERS; Don't just please customers, inspire them.

DETAILS ON THE ORLANDO TRADE AND CONSUMER SHOWS; An interview with CHA's Tony Lee, VP Meetings & Exhibitions.

HOW TO DEAL WITH A STRESSFUL WORK SITUATION; Four lessons from Captain Sully's landing in the hudson.

THE 7 PRINCIPLES FOR INSPIRING EMPLOYEES; Honesty, openness, and ...

WHAT PRESIDENTS' SPEECHES CAN TEACH YOU; Lessons to make your presentations more effective.

A LETTER FROM CHA'S STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE; You need to learn the new law or else...

WHY THE CONSUMER IS BORED; Reactions to Bob Ferguson's analysis of the industry.

WHY INDUSTRY SALES ARE DOWN; The answers are more complex than simply the recession.

A LETTER FROM AMERICA; The state of the craft industry in the US.

STOP COMPLAINING AND BE CREATIVE; Our problems are just opportunities in disguise.

WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR TRADE MAGAZINES? Their decline is a sign of a changing industry.

THE CLN INTERVIEW: STEVE BERGER, CEO, CRAFT & HOBBY ASSOCIATION; Answering questions about the move to Orlando.

THE LOBBYING EFFORT IN WASHINGTON; Leading the charge against the Orphan Works legislation - and an opposing point of view.

CHA MEMBERSHIP CALL TO ACTION; CHA's May 30th blast email to members.

HOW TO SCREW UP A GOOD COMPANY; So many ways to kill a business.

WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE! Which explains why some product categories are in decline.

WILTON CELEBRATES ITS 80TH ANNIVERSARY; An industry giant began in a single room.

MAKING MY CHA SCHEDULE; So many events, so little time.

READERS WEIGH IN ON INDUSTRY CHALLENGES; Chain stores, beads, and yarn.

TNNA, CHA LEADERS SPEAK OUT...on the challenges facing the industry in 2008.

LISTENING TO CONSUMERS; Demographic studies and message boards aren't enough.

ARE SOME SCRAPBOOKERS "CRAZY"? Reactions from retailers, vendors, and others in the business.

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. VI: WAL-MART; So much to say, so little space (even on the Internet).

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. V: IMPORTS; Random thoughts...

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. IV: CHANGES TO THE OLD ORDER; Evidence that the way things are today will change tomorrow.

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. III: THE NEW GENERATION OF CONSUMERS; They've just begun to shake up traditional order.

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. II: MICHAEL ROULEAU; Imagine if Michaels had gone bankrupt?

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. I: SCRAPBOOKING; History, analysis of today, and the future.

CHA RESPONDS TO THE SMART GROUP; CEO Steve Berger on scrapbooking, PMA, and the winter trade shows.

A CODE OF ETHICS FOR OUR INDUSTRY; For retailers, manufacturers - and the rest of us.

PROVO RESPONDS AGAIN TO CHARGES; The Salt Lake Tribune's article is "irresponsible."

PREDICTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR; The industry, television, yarn, and more.

PREDICTIONS FOR 2007; From manufacturers, a retailer, a distributor, and a sales rep.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN YOU SHAFT INDEPENDENTS; A common, sad story.

THE NEW CRAFT CONSUMER; Where is she? All around us.

SO, WHOM SHOULD WE HAVE ROOTED FOR? Who would be better -- or worse -- for Michaels, Bain or KKR?

WHY TRENDS EVENTUALLY COOL; Yarn sales may have slowed, but that can be true for any trend. Here's why.

CHEAPER TO BUY CLOTHES THAN CLOTH; Imports and "Pile it high and price it low."

ANSWERS TO INDUSTRY QUESTIONS; Blunt, honest answers to questions posed by CLN.

THE MICHAEL ROULEAU ERA; Industry veterans and Wall-Street analysts evaluate Michaels retiring CEO and the board's decision to seek potential buyers.

EVALUATIONS OF THE CHA SHOW; Mostly positive but...

CHALLENGES: YOUNG CONSUMERS, MICHAELS FUTURE, NEW CEOs, MERCHANDISING ... Pricing, and much much more.

CHALLENGES: SCRAPBOOKING, BEADS, YARN, HOME DEC, & DECORATIVE PAINTING / CROSS STITCH; Savvy veterans comment on CLN's industry challenges.

TRADE SHOWS & MEMBER BENEFITS; The discussion continues.

TOO MANY TRADE SHOWS? Stop complaining, make hard choices, and try something new?

TOUGH TRADE SHOW QUESTIONS; Why not cooperation instead of competition?

THE STATE OF OUR INDUSTRY; Some positive analyses, some negative, and lots of questions.

WHAT'S HAPPENING OUT THERE? Some grim answers, and gas prices is only one of the culprits.

BARBARA BECOMES AN ENTHUSIAST, FINALLY; A first-hand view of a consumer getting hooked on a category.

RWANDAN WIDOWS EARN LIVELIHOOD WITH AMERICAN KNITTING MACHINES; $99,000 USAID grant provides livelihood for women in Rwanda.

THE CANVAS "DUMPING" ISSUE: ANOTHER VIEW: What is dumping? And is it necessarily bad?

WHAT TYPE OF BUYER/INVESTOR IS BEST FOR ME? Three types, each with their own pros and cons.

REACTIONS TO THE DECLINE OF THE "SMILING BUNNY SYNDROME"; But what will replace it?

ARE WE LOSING OUR CORE? YES AND NO; Readers respond to an intriquing question.

ARE WE LOSING OUR CORE? Is the industry abandoning many of the categories un the "craft" umbrella?

INTERVIEW WITH HSA'S JOYCE PERHAC; New programs and new trade shows.

CONSISTENCY VS. CREATIVITY; One of our chains just made a major goof.

THE BIG NEWS STORIES OF 2004: Some good, some bad, all of them interesting.

SO, IS THE GLASS HALF EMPTY? Conflicting, but thought-provoking analyses.

A CUSTOMER'S NIGHTMARE; Don't store clerks know anything about products?

WHY A KIOSK MAKES SENSE FOR YOUR; Why force your customers to visit your competition?

THE FUTURE FOR INDEPENDENT SCRAPBOOK RETAILERS; Is the deck stacked against them?

THOUGHTS ON FREE TRADE; It's not nearly as simple or as clear cut as either side believes.

WHAT MAKES A PRODUCT SUCCESSFUL? The hits have certain qualities in common, no matter what the category.

HOT TRENDS AND TRADE SHOWS; A hot category tends to take over a trade show, but not to savvy retailers.

WHY I DID NOT GO INTO RETAIL; The odds were too high.

WHY KATELYN CAN'T SWALLOW; Who pays -- and at what price?

RISING HEALTH COSTS, FEWER JOBS; The problems compound each other.

DEBATE: SHOULD WE JUNK "CRAFTS"?; What's a better word to describe what we are?

GAY MARRIAGES, CRAFT DESIGNERS, AND RETAIL PRICES; The meaning of words.

VENDORS DISCUSS HOBBY LOBBY'S SUCCESS; So many reasons for so much success.

HIA: A MARKETING / DESIGN PERSPECTIVE; Standing out in a crowd becomes a real challenge.

WHAT HASN'T CHANGED IN 25 YEARS; Plus some random thoughts on this wonderful business.

2003 IN REVIEW; As usual, lots of ups and downs.

THE CHANGING (DISAPPEARING?) CORE OF THE INDUSTRY; Bob Ferguson  and Mike Hartnett discuss the year's major issue.

LEAVING "CRAFTS" FOR SPECIALTY STORES; A tale of survival and a sign of the times.

THOUGHTS ON THE CHANGING NATURE OF CRAFTS; Vendors, retailers, reps, and designers share their views.

CRAFTS BECOMES PAPER CRAFTS; That's a sign of ... what?

SOMETHING ACHIEVED, SOMETHING LOST; The end of a hard, but wonderful era.

UNBLOCKING WRITERS BLOCK; How to get those creative juices flowing again.

PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON ACCI/HIA; Why bother combining associations?

THE LATEST ON ACCI/HIA; Further clarification of the ACCI/HIA unification effort.

HIA AND ACCI AGREE TO LETTER OF INTENT THAT WILL UNIFY ASSOCIATIONS; Combined organization to be named the Craft & Hobby Association.

HIA/ACCI: Q & A

ADAPTING TO CHANGE; Why some industry businesses fail.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR; You just might get it.

ARE WE STIFLING CREATIVITY?; How we're driving the industry's creative people out of business.