irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an
occasional guest columnist.
The Decade's Major Influences, Pt. I:
History, analysis of today, and the future.
by Mike Hartnett (July 16, 2007)
(Note: To celebrate Creative Leisure News' 10th
anniversary, I've surveyed readers and chosen the people, companies,
and events of the past decade that have had the greatest influence
on our industry of today. They are: Scrapbooking ... Michael Rouleau
... Technology ... Media ... Changes In The Old Order ... Imports
... Investors ... New Generation of Consumers ... Lower Margins ...
Yarn and Beads. Each will be the subject of a column in subsequent
It was about 16 years ago when I received a phone call from
Suzanne McNeill of Design Originals. I have long considered Suzanne
one of the industry's premier trend-spotters. She is one of the most
successful publishers in the industry because she was able to see
trends – and publish books on the subject – before most of us
"Mike," she said that morning, "scrapbooking is
going to be the next big thing."
"What? You mean slapping a photo in an album? That's
going to be a big craft trend?" That's what I said, but I was
thinking, "Uh-oh, Suzanne's losing her touch."
Shows you what I know about spotting trends.
I was convinced a few months later when I was in Salt Lake City
to give a speech and visited my first scrapbook store. There I saw a
store filled teenage girls buying supplies to make scrapbooks of
their prom. And when my wife Barbara – a life-long non-crafter –
realized what the store was about, she said, "Oh, my mom would
love a scrapbook of her family!"
A craft category that appeals to teenage girls and Barbara?
Suzanne was right.
Scrapbooking has lasted longer, and stayed stronger, than any
trend in industry history. It has spawned thousands of retailers,
hundreds of vendors, ten's of consumer shows, countless websites,
various retailer groups, and its own trade show. Many women,
especially those with children, discovered that they can be creative
and artistic after all.
Every trend starts somewhere and moves across the country from
there. Cross stitch started in the Southeast, stenciling in the
Northeast, etc. Scrapbooking has been around in some form or other
for centuries – even Mark Twain made some income from
scrapbooking. But it was born again in the Northwest, thanks in part
to the Mormons and their interest in genealogy.
I remember a couple of years after Suzanne's call, a vice
president at Michaels complained to me, "The stores in the
Northwest are screaming for more scrapbook supplies, but the stores
in the Midwest and further east have never heard of it."
But scrapbooking spread faster than any other trend, thanks, I
think, to Creative Memories. This home party plan made life much
easier for retailers. With previous trends, when store owners
decided it was time to invest in, say, fabric painting, they had to
introduce it to their local communities and become missionaries for
the category. But when they brought in scrapbook supplies, many
customers already knew what they were, thanks to Creative Memories'
That raises a question: numerous home party plans have tried and
failed in this industry; Creative Memories is certainly the bright,
shining exception. Why? Creative Memories' success is evidence of
how strong, how important , the social component of scrapbooking is
to its success. There is good reason why crop parties are called the
quilting bees of the 21st century.
A historical perspective.
I have been in the industry for about 110 years; that's a plus
and a minus. It gives you a sense of "I've seen it
before," but have I? I came in the industry when the first hot
trend, decoupage, was fading and macrame was going strong. After
macrame came counted cross stitch, wearable art, and now
scrapbooking. History repeats itself, right? Or does it?
Every industry trend has eventually faded. Some have rebounded
later, but .... For example, there's a very strong similarity
between scrapbooking and cross stitch. Cross stitch, too,
"spawned thousands of retailers, hundreds of vendors, ten's of
consumer shows ... various retailer groups, and its own trade
If history repeats itself, then will scrapbooking follow the same
path as cross stitch? Thousands of stores closed, the retailer group
and its trade show (that once was larger than MemoryTrends)
died, etc. Will it be deja vu all over again?
But history will not repeat itself with scrapbooking. Not quite,
anyway. Consumers continue to take billions of photos each year;
they have to do something with them. Thanks to camera phones,
they'll probably take more photos than ever. Many women start
scrapbooking when they give birth, and crop parties offer a chance
for social interaction. I don't think babies or the need for friends
will ever go out of style.
1. The number of independent shops will continue to shrink;
those who don't view retailing as a serious business and those
without the necessary capital will close. The declining numbers will
cause some small vendors to close their doors, too. Fewer potential
advertisers will shrink the number of scrapbook magazines and
2. But many savvy independents will continue to grow and
prosper. If weaker stores, which shouldn't have been in business in
the first place, fall by the wayside, that will make the remaining
stores stronger. Scrapbooking will remain a solid category in the
3. I think most of the industry will decide scrapbooking's
"home" is with crafts, not photography.
4. As the first wave of scrapbookers grows older, we may see
a temporary decline when their kids grow up, and then a resurgence
when the grandbabies start coming.
Questions and Challenges.
The big question: the effect of digital scrapbooking. It may
unleash the creativity of millions of consumers, making them more
avid scrappers than ever. Or will the modern, techno-savvy consumer
just leave her scrapbook pages in the computer? (Not a good idea.
The way technology changes, will your great granddaughter's computer
be able to read a Windows-based scrapbook?)
The big challenge: companies and investors hear about the
declining number of independent stores and small vendors, and they
conclude scrapbooking is not fading but dying. That's like adding
2+2 and getting 6. If that happens, vendors may divert their new
product development efforts to whatever they think the next big
trend will be. If the industry pulls its creativity away from
scrapbooking, the category will fade.
A Subscriber Comments.
When I entered the papercraft industry in 1994, it was primarily made up of relatively small, independent design and manufacturing firms. Most of our products were made here in the US, everyone knew everyone else,
and designs and products tended toward innovation and individuality. We were excited about what we were doing and could not wait to get out and play with consumers.
Now we are an industry of design and manufacturing firms owned by investment firms and corporations whose product is primarily manufactured by the lowest bidder somewhere in the Far East. Functioning for the corporate bottom line in many cases has created
an environment of copy rather than create and with fewer resources expended for retailer support and consumer education.
Interestingly enough, the more corporate papercrafting becomes, it appears the more crafters turn to beading and fiber arts....
It will be interesting to revisit the question 2017! -- Trish
(Note: Agree with Mike's and Trish's assessment? Disagree? Email your
thoughts – on or off the record – to email@example.com.
Next issue: The Decade's Major Influences, Pt. II: Michael Rouleau.)