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

 

 


Your Business Commentary

Mike's often irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an occasional guest columnist.

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The Decade's Major Influences, Pt. I: Scrapbooking

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 issues.)

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 had noticed.

"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.

The facts.

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' home parties.

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 show."

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.

The Future.

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 websites.

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 chain stores.

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 Hansen

(Note: Agree with Mike's and Trish's assessment? Disagree? Email your thoughts on or off the record to mike@clnonline.com. Next issue: The Decade's Major Influences, Pt. II: Michael Rouleau.)

xxx

 

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