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Date: February 7, 2005
Vol. IX, No. 3

Printer Version

TABLE OF CONTENTS

bulletCommentary: If This Doesn't Interest You...
bulletNew Columns This Issue
bulletTake the CLN Poll: Predict Growth Categories
bulletCLN Poll: 2005 Show Schedules
bulletCHA Show Looks Like a Blockbuster
bulletIndustry Chains Have a Hot January
bulletStaffieri Takes Over at Rag Shops
bulletMiscellaneous Scrap/Stamp/Paper News
bulletAustralian Chain To Be Sold
bulletStars on Parade at CHA
bulletCheck Out CHA Exhibitors Before the Show
bulletCHA Product Preview
bulletCHA Points of Interest
bulletMiscellaneous Wal-Mart News
bulletSHOPA Forms Alliance with Europeans
bulletRandom Notes, Random Thoughts
bulletMiscellaneous News
bulletCompany Profile: LasX Industries/StencilSharp
bulletThe Creative Network: Job Openings
bulletCLN Retail Index
bulletLast Minute Trade Show Advice
bulletReminders

COMMENTARY: If This Issue Doesn't Interest You ... 

This is the biggest CLN ever, with more columns than ever. If you can't find informative, thought-provoking, and helpful information, I give up.

NEW COLUMNS THIS ISSUE

Category Reports. Thoughts, comments, and trends from the recent TNNA Long Beach show written by two veteran needlework pros.

"Vinny Da Vendor" What's wrong – and what's right – about florals. A blunt interview with Larry Gold, president of the Aldik division of Decorative Concepts.

Scene & Heard. A long-time craft manufacturer exhibits at the Dallas gift show – with some surprising results ... Report on the huge PaperWorld/ChristmasWorld show in Germany ... A letter from Europe on what's hot and what's not in various countries.

Memory, Paper & Stamps. An Interview with Shane Cullimore, the new owner of Crafters Home, the industry's most influential independent memory retailer group.

Designing Perspectives. 10 Tips for Spotting a Trend, by ace designer Marie Browning, member of the new Creative Spirit Café (see below).

Legal Q. & A. MagEyes, a U.S. manufacturer of vision/magnifier products for needlework and other fine crafting techniques, sues a counterfeiter – and wins.

Business-Wise. An interview with Joyce Perhac, Exec Director of the Home Sewing Assn., about HSA's future program and trade show plans.

Note. If you surf to a column and it's an "old" column, click on the "Refresh" or "Reload" button of your browser.

TAKE THE CLN POLL: PREDICT GROWTH CATEGORIES

Which product category do you think will show the largest increase in 2005? To vote, click on Industry Polls in the right-hand column or click HERE.

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CLN POLL: 2005 SHOW SCHEDULES

It appears that a substantial number of retailers (35.3%) are planning to reduce the number of shows they attend this year. That equals the percentage of retailers who plan to keep their show attendance the same as last year, while 29.4% are increasing their show travel. Regarding the number of those they attended in 2004, 66.7% attended two or three shows, while 11% each attended "1 or none," "4-5," and "More than 5."

Meanwhile, 52% of vendors say they will exhibit at fewer trade and consumer shows than in 2004. As for 2004, 57.7% exhibited at "2-3" shows; 19.2% at "4 or 5"shows; 11.5% at "1 or none"; 7.7% at "5-7"shows; and 3.9% at "More than 7" shows.

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CHA SHOW LOOKS LIKE A BLOCKBUSTER

The upcoming CHA show (Feb. 11-15, Atlanta) is a sell-out: 3,092 booths (up 2% from last year's record turnout) ... 200+ new exhibitors ... 1,100 exhibitors ... 1.2 million sq. ft. of exhibit space ... 4,300+ buyers pre-registered ... 400+ hours of seminars and workshops (28 of whom are already sold out). Attendee categories with the largest percentage increases are retailers (up 7%); designers (up 82%); and non-exhibiting member service suppliers (up 36%).

CLN expects a) an increase in independents from the Southeast – look for Sunday to be the busiest day, thanks to drive-in traffic; and b) an increase in European buyers – the dollar is so weak vs. European currencies that overseas travel to Atlanta is relatively inexpensive; 600+ overseas buyers have pre-registered, a record.

CHA officials also report a 55% increase in pre-registered media, so exhibitors should take more press kits for the press room than originally planned.

New this year: a) a self-check-in badge station; b) on-site ticket kiosks for buyers who have attended the last three shows; and c) category-specific learning events, Product Spotlight programs, featuring 150+ new products.

There's already been a 17% increase in the purchase of seminar and event tickets, so attendees who have not already bought tickets to the various events should do so as soon as they arrive at the convention center.

Pre-registration is now closed. For info, visit www.chashow.org.

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INDUSTRY CHAINS HAVE A HOT JANUARY

Michaels. Sales rose 12% to $244.2 million and same-store sales rose 7%. Top categories were Yarn, Custom Framing, Scrapbooking, Ready-Made Frames, and Impulse, and the top regions were the Pacific, Northern, and Southeast zones. Customer traffic rose 6% and average ticket rose 4%. A custom frame promotion in late January shifted some deliveries into February.

Sales for the quarter rose 11% to $1.185 billion and same-store sales rose 7%.The top regions were the Pacific, Southeast, and Central zones and the top categories were Yarn, Scrapbooking, Custom Framing, and Kids Crafts. Traffic rose 6% and average ticket rose 2%. The shift of custom frame deliveries into February reduced quarterly same-store sales by 1%.

For the fiscal year, sales rose 10% to $3.393 billion and same-store sales increased 5%. Traffic rose 4% and average ticket rose 1%, thanks in part to a stronger Canadian dollar.

Michaels will release its quarterly and fiscal year earnings Mar. 2. It expects earnings/diluted share to be $0.77-$0.78 for the quarter and $1.48 to $1.49 for the year.

Jo-Ann's. Net sales rose 7.4% to $135.7 million and same-store sales rose 6.6%. For the fourth quarter, sales increased 6.4% to $588.1 million and same-store sales increased 4.3%. For the fiscal year ended Jan. 29, sales rose 4.5% to $1.812 billion and same-store sales rose 3.2%.

The company reports earnings for the year and quarter on Mar. 7 and continues to expect earnings/diluted share to be $2.05-$2.15, excluding a first quarter pre-tax charge of $4.2 million, related to certain debt financing initiatives. Jo-Ann's plans to open 40 superstores this year.

Others. Walgreen, +10% ... Target, +9.4% ... CVS, +8% ... Family Dollar, +5.2% ... Dollar General, +5.1% ... Big Lots, +4.0% ... J.C. Penney, +3.3% ... Wal-Mart Stores (U.S.), +3.2% ... Duckwall-ALCO, +1.5% ... Sears, +0.8% ... Hancock, -8.0%.

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STAFFIERI TAKES OVER AT RAG SHOPS

Ron Staffieri, former president at Michaels, was named CEO of Rag Shops by its new owners, a division of the investment firm, Sun Capital Partners. He is the third leader of the company in the past five months.

In September Sun Capital took control of Rag Shops in a stock deal and the president, Jeff Gerstel, left, later to become Exec. VP of Store Operations for A.C. Moore. Sun Capital announced Tom Souza as CEO in November.

Before joining Michaels as president in 2003, Staffieri spent 30+ years in retail, including as president of chains such as Waldenbooks, Things Remembered, and KayBee Toy Stores.

Rag Shops was founded 42 years ago by Stanley Berenzweig and currently operates 69 stores in the East and Southeast.

(Comment: The influence of Michaels CEO Michael Rouleau continues to spread as former employees assume leadership positions with competitors: Dave Bolen is a vp at Jo-Ann's, Larry Fine is president of A.C. Moore, and now Staffieri is CEO at Rag Shops.)

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MISCELLANEOUS SCRAP/STAMP/PAPER NEWS

1. Limited Edition Rubberstamps is joining Hampton Art. Hampton will gradually assume shipping and operational responsibilities of Limited Edition out of its Long Island facility, while LE's founder, Leigh Edwards, will continue to manage the LE brand and website, focusing on new product development, marketing, and education. Both companies will exhibit at CHA, where Hampton will unveil 200+ new stamps.

2. Dynamic Resource Group has launched the PaperWorks Kit-of-the-Month Club. Each PaperWorks packet includes several sheets of cardstock, a variety of coordinating papers, an assortment of embellishments, and a project sheet. Club members can choose to create a two-page scrapbook layout or make a collection of cards, tags, bookmarks, and other personalized items. The Club is published by DRG's House of White Birches division and is available by subscription. Cost for each month’s kit is $14.99, plus postage and processing. For more, visit the www.paperworksclub.com. DRG also publishes PaperWorks magazine. Visit www.paperworksmagazine.com.

3. eBay has begun its first eBay Scrapbook Contest. Entrants submited a 250-word essay describing a scrapbook theme and story, and the items they'd purchase on eBay, with $750. Five finalists win $750 in eBay Anything Points with which to purchase items on eBay and the Grand Prize winner, who will be selected by the eBay community, wins a trip for two to the Las Vegas Memories Expo Apr. 1-2. Finalists will be chosen in late January and will have one month to create their scrapbooks. Visit www.ebay.com/scrapbookcontest.

4. The first Professional Scrapbook Retailers Organization (PSRO) Convention will be Feb. 19-23 in Orlando in conjunction with the Photo Marketing Int. Assn. (PMA) show – less than a week after the CHA show in Atlanta. PSRO members can take advantage of various PMA sessions by registering for a PSRO Full Education Package, which is $150 for members and $220 for non-members. Speakers include representatives from Making Memories, EK Success, My Scrapbook Store, Bricking Ltd., Autumn Leaves, Scrapbook Retailer magazine, AccuCut, Celine Countryman, Ellison, and Die Cuts with a View. Advance registration is available until Feb. 11. Visit www.pmai.org/psro2005.

5. Circuit City (626 stores) is the latest retailer to offer online photo services. Visit www.circuitcity.com/photocenter.

6. The West Valley (AR) Republic highlighted Scrap Happy Sisters, a store owned by sisters Kit Pope and Kris Whitten in Glendale. The store holds weekend scrapbooking sessions which run until 2 a.m.. The sessions have been full since they opened their store in September.

7. The Jan. 27 issue of the New York Times profiled mother-of-five Dawn Oldham, 42, the highest-earning sales rep for Creative Memories since 1997. "The phenomenon seems partly rooted in a fixation with nostalgia ... but also, more specifically, in honoring family life as Christian culture has articulated it. Mr. and Mrs. Oldham are evangelical Christians who home-school their children and begin the day with a Bible devotional at the breakfast table."

8. There's growing evidence of some vendors using having employees pose as consumers who post messages on Internet boards raving about the company's product.

9. Memories Community is filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding Scrapbook Expo's announced policy on exhibit space for future Expos, for vendors who exhibit at Memories shows. CLN reported on the controversy in the 1/17/05 issue. To  read the original article, click on CLN Archives in the right-hand column.

10. ScrapbookBIZ, the new trade show slated for Columbus this spring, has announced its educational lineup. Visit www.scrapbookbiz.com.

11. Memory Makers magazine voted Design Originals' bottle caps one of the Top 50 new scrapbooking products of the year.

12. A new home-party plan has appeared – Leaving Prints. Visit www.leavingprints.com.

13. Stationery giant C.R. Gibson has entered the scrapbook market big time with its new Tapestry line. Visit www.tapestrybycrgibson.com.

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AUSTRALIAN CHAIN TO BE SOLD

Lincraft, one of the two major craft/fabric chains in Australia, has been placed in receivership, the Melbourne Herald Sun reported. Its largest creditor, the ANZ bank, has appointed KordaMentha as receivers and managers. Officials at KodraMentha said, "For the time being, it is business as usual," but its first option would be to "sell the business as a going concern."

The 55 year-old chain operates 40 stores and has 1,200 employees, with sales of approximately $100 million. The first fabric store opened in 1950 as Suzanne Silks. In 1980, Suzanne took over its main competitor, Lincraft, and in 1990 evolved into superstores.

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STARS ON PARADE AT CHA

(Note: Numerous exhibitors will have well known industry designers demonstrating or teaching make-it/take-its in their booths. Here's just a sample. Obviously the designers won't be there the entire show – check the booths for schedules.)

Arnold Grummer’s. Arnold Grummer, Suze Weinberg, and Maria Nerius will be doing demos using the company's papermaking kits and casting molds.

C&T Publishing. Jan Bode Smiley will teach creating personal treasures using Ready-to-Go! Blank Board Book pages.

ColArt. Altered book artist Beth Cote will be demonstrating her process and answering questions on Sunday, 2:30 to 4:30.

F+W Publications. North Light/KP & Memory Maker authors of new and recent books will be demonstrating, including Tera Leigh, Claudine Hellmuth, Jayne Davis, Stephanie Kimura, Heidi Boyd, Lin Wellford, Patricia Kimle, Angie Pedersen, Lisa Pavelka, Debbie Jackson, Mary Jo McGraw, Carol Zentgraf, Lorine Mason, Lee Hammond, Jana Ewy, Deborah Spofford, Maureen Carlson, Debra Quartermain, Ellie Schiedermayer. Visit www.fwpublications.com/cha2005.asp.

Delta/Rubber Stampede. Sarah Lugg will be demonstrating and signing autographs at the booth Feb. 12-13 as part of the company launch of the Sarah Lugg Paper Crafting Collection. The winning projects of the 2004 Delta Painting Challenge will be displayed in Delta's booth – and in the booth of the Society of Decorative Painters.

Design Originals. Lisa Vollrath and Michelle Charles will be demonstrating, as will Tim Holtz, author of the new collection of Distressables.

Hampton. Karen Neuberger will host a "Pajama Party Event" on Feb. 14 as part of the launch of the company's largest catalog with 200+ new stamps, including licensed-designer collections from Karen, Bella Geste, Jill Meyer, and Clear Expression.

The Mountain Idea. Judy Ross will be demonstrating projects based on her new book, Air Dry Clay, published by Design Originals.

WALLIES. Has a new line designed by Anna Griffin who will be showing the line in the booth at various times.

Walnut Hollow. Priscilla Hauser, Rebekah Meier, Denise Clason, and Janine Medeiros will demonstrate WH's new Creative Textile Tool and the Creative Leather Branding Tool – and Makin's Clay, "The No-Bake Clay," which the company is now selling and distributing. (All Makin's Clay products will ship from WH's Dodgeville, WI facility as of Apr. 1.)

CHECK OUT EXHIBITORS BEFORE THE SHOW

The CHA show is too big to see everything, and savvy buyers will do as much advance scouting as possible to make up their "booths-to-visit" list. CHA's website can help; follow these steps:

1. Go to www.chashow.org. 2. Click on the Exhibitor menu, then 2005 Exhibitor List and Floor Plan. 3. Click on 2005 Preliminary Floor Plan and wait for it to load. 4. Make certain your "pop-up blocker" is off. (You can find that on the Tools menu of your browser). 5. If you double-click on an exhibitor's name in the exhibitor list in the left-hand column, you will be taken to the exhibitor's website.

CHA PRODUCT PREVIEW

(Note: Most exhibitors will eventually have their new products on their websites. Some who already have them have been previewed in recent issues and below. It's a good way for buyers to do some advance scouting while preparing their "booths-to-visit" list.)

AC Marketech. Marketing a new line of paints: Spectra Paints. Visit www.spectrapaints.com.

Color Wheel. Will be showing Qgrip organizers for holding pens, brushes, and other crafting tools. www.qgrip.com. (#4014).

Delta/Rubber Stampede. Has Pure Color Rich Pigment Inks, FabriCraft Peel ‘n’ Stick Fabric Collections, Ceramcoat Trend Palettes, Disposable Peel nd Stick Stencils, and Geometric Stencils. www.deltacrafts.com.

Fiberscraps. Acid-free E-Z Walnut Ink and Colorwash TintZ www.fiberscraps.com.

Fibre-Craft. Creative Hands brand presents new licensed kits (Scooby-Doo and Nickelodeon) and craft foam products, such as sun catchers, wind chimes, art kits, etc. www.fibrecraft.com.

Krylon. Has an impressive new Paper Finishes line. www.krylon.com.

Morex. Has new lovely new Bobbin Ribbon. www.morexcorp.com/morex.htm.

Polyform. Offering a Party Projects Oven-Bake Clay Party Kit with the materials and instructions for up to 8. www.sculpey.com.

Stampington. A new exhibitor, unveiled the Clearly Impressed stamp line. www.stampington.com/html/wholesale_clearlyimpressed.html.

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CHA POINTS OF INTEREST

The show is so huge, it's easy to overlook interesting events and people. For example:

Design Faire. A special section of the convention center is set aside for designers to showcase their talents. Need a free-lance designer or two? Go to the Faire.

For example, in booth #5212 you'll see the Creative Spirit Café, a new consulting group that includes excellent, business-savvy design pros: Karen Booy, Marie Browning, Cheryl Fraser, Cindy Gorder, Debba Haupert, Jill MacKay, and Debra Quartermain. It's a "creative think tank" for clients. For more, call Karen Booy at 604-820-8424; email karen@creativespiritcafe.com, or visit www.creativespiritcafe.com. (And read Marie Browning's excellent, "Ten Tips To Spot a Trend" by clicking on Designing Perspectives in the left-hand column, or clicking HERE.)

Main Stage. The "Stage" in the convention center will feature a variety of interesting, informative programs, such as Kathie Stull's "The How To(s) of How-To," an interactive experience showing retailers and vendors how to make the connection between "how-to" PBS tv programs and product sales.

SCD. Visit the Society of Creative Designers' booth, #239, to see a remarkable Doll Deco project. For more info, email Debra Quartermain at home@htpatterns.com.

Same-Differences. This is a new exhibitor (booth #7352), a diversity-based sticker company featuring designs that include the disabled, senior citizens, ethnic diversity, and people of different sizes. If your products relate only to white, healthy young mothers, you're excluding the majority of your potential customers.

Symposium. Deb Murphy's trends symposium will feature some of the industry's best and brightest: Brenda Lugannani, former merchandising vp for Michaels; Chris Skinner, President of EK Success; Peter Russo, one of the industry's top product developers – and thinkers; Bob Ferguson, one of the industry's top independent retailers; Jerry Payton, who knows mergers and acquisitions better than just about anyone; and Robert Workman, President of Provo. It's Fri., Feb. 11, 9:30-11:30 am. (You'll need a ticket; it's Event #504.)

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MISCELLANEOUS WAL-MART NEWS

1. Talk about bad employee morale. The Wal-Mart in Du Quoin, IL was evacuated afer receiving a call claiming there was a chemical bomb in the duct system. There was no bomb and police arrested a suspect – a Wal-Mart employee. Police complimented Wal-Mart employees on their handling of the situation.

2. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Wal-Mart reported it had expanded the company's definition of "immediate family" to include civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, the Associated Press reported.

3. To receive his retirement benefits, newly retired Wal-Mart vice chair Thomas Coughlin had to agree not to even talk to a competitor. A total of 31 chains are on the "no-talk" list.

4. A study shows that 9,617 Wal-Mart employees in Tennessee are on TennCare, the state's expanded Medicaid program, the Associated Press reported. Wal-Mart offers a health plan to full-time workers after six months and to part-time employees after two years, but critics said its high cost is out of reach for low-income workers who are forced to turn to publicly financed health insurance – and the taxpayer pays the bill.

5. Employees at a Wal-Mart auto maintenance shop in Loveland, CO were granted approval to hold a union election that could create the first union at a U.S. Wal-Mart.

6. Almost 80% of the 138 suppliers that either volunteered or were ordered to meet Wal-Mart's RFID requirements have met the mandate. The remaining 29 companies are expected to be RFID compliant by the end of this month.

7. By 2010, Wal-Mart will top $500 billion and own 12% of all non-auto/non-gasoline retail sales in the U.S. forecasts the consulting firm, Retail Forward.

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SHOPA FORMS ALLIANCE WITH EUROPEANS

The School, Home & Office Products Assn. (SHOPA) announced a new show, Paperworld USA, will replace its regularly scheduled trade show. The dates are the same – Nov. 9-11, in Las Vegas. The show is a cooperative venture with Messe Frankfurt, one of the world’s leaders in organizing trade shows, and PROPAPER, a Spanish trade association.

In an email to previous exhibitors, SHOPA President Steve Jocober wrote, "Paperworld USA will expand beyond traditional product categories to include office equipment, computers, office furniture, social stationery, greeting cards, technology, and more. New domestic buyers and vendors, coupled with expanded product categories and channels of distribution, will bring tremendous opportunities to our marketplace. Paperworld USA also will bring a heightened global appeal with increased international outreach and unsurpassed member benefits."

The announcement was made late last month at the Paperworld trade show in Germany, which was huge and very busy, accord to U.S. exhibitors. (To read a report on the Paperworld show, click Here.)

(Comment: The traditional SHOPA show has clearly been in decline in recent years and this no doubt is an effort to revitalize the show.)

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RANDOM NOTES, RANDOM THOUGHTS

1. One thing that drives journalists absolutely crazy is interviewing some top exec who regales us with exciting news, wonderful goals, and a perceptive vision for the future. Then the exec leaves the company about 20 minutes after the interview is published.

It just happened to Craftrends. The January issue includes an interview with Rag Shops then-CEO Tom Souza, who apparently packed his bags shortly after the issue landed in readers' mailboxes. It happened to me a few years ago when I interviewed John Menzer, then president of the old, corporate Ben Franklin. John waxed euphoric about BF's ability to overcome its problems. A week later, John took a job at Wal-Mart and the old BF continued its inexorable slide into bankruptcy.

It's no wonder journalists become cynical.

2. Now it's time for my annual lecture: At the CHA show some large retailers will find a great new product in the new exhibitor section, but worry that the small vendor won't be able to service large accounts. The buyer will be tempted to ask an established vendor to copy the newcomer's product.

Don't do it. It's unethical, immoral, and unfair to both vendors. Instead, bring the two vendors together, tell them you want the product but not from the little guy, and have them work out a deal whereby the little guy makes the product, and the big guy handles the distribution.

3. Our very best wishes to two independents who are closing their doors. Russ and Margie Trentlage of Crafts Galore in Centralia, WA and Ruth Ann and Wayne Wheatley of Craft Supply in Oxford, MS are retiring. Another retiree is C. Boyd, a LONG-time, very popular sales rep in the West. We're glad they're all doing so in good health.

4. The nicest news I've heard in a while is that CHA is giving its President's Award to Tom Yaley of Yaley Ent. at the annual business meeting. Tom is basically the creator of candle crafting, and he is as nice as he is smart. To learn more about why Tom has been so influential in our industry, read a CLN profile of the company, click HERE.

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MISCELLANEOUS NEWS

TNNA. The National NeedleArts Assn.'s recent show broke records again: the sold-out show had 705 booths representing 303 exhibitors, up 14%, including 44 new exhibitors. Buyer attendance was up 10% – 2,108 representing 924 companies. The number of classes rose by 30 and 1,500+ attended. The Needlepoint Group's Galleria and the Yarn Group's Fashion Show had significant increases in participation. (To read about the product and design trends, click on Category Reports in the left-hand column or click HERE

MARTHA. The producers of the tv series The Apprentice will film a new reality show starring Martha Stewart. Sixteen to 18 contestants will vie for a one-year job with her company and a $250,000 salary. Presumably filming will not begin until Martha is out of jail.

YARN. Solutia is leaving the acrylic fibers business, pending approval by the bankruptcy court. "... the business has simply been unable to compete as fiber and textile manufacturing has moved outside the U.S.," said John Saucier, president of Solutia's Integrated Nylon division.

PEOPLE. Popular industry veteran Nina Rancourt is National Sales Manager for Delta/Rubber Stampede. Call 800-423-4135, ext 1758 ... Michaels' Logistics VP Steve Gartner has left the company and Tom DeCaro, Sr. VP/Inventory Management, has been given significant additional supply chain responsibilities ... Jo-Ann's named Gertrude Van Horn as Sr. VP, CIO (chief information officer). Van Horn had worked in senior information positions for Office Depot, Limited Brands, American Express, and JP Morgan ...... Jo-Ann's named David Holmberg exec vp, store operations. Prior to Jo-Ann's Holmberg was president of Cole National and Zales ... Kandi Corp. named Joyce Harris as Sr. Account Exec.

SEWING. Robin Lewis, the publisher of Robin Reports and a retail consultant, is the keynote speaker at the Home Sewing Assn.'s show Mar. 21-23 in Las Vegas. "As an expert in analyzing, interpreting, forecasting and identifying strategic growth opportunities for major corporations in the retail and related consumer products industries, Robin will provide significant food for thought for our membership as we chart the retail waters of 2005 and beyond," said HSA Exec Director Joyce Perhac. Visit www.sewing.org. (To read CLN's interview with Joyce, click on Business-Wise in the left-hand column or click HERE.) ... Congrats to Claire Shaeffer, author of Sew Any Fabric: A Quick Reference to Fabrics from A to Z, for first place in the non-fiction technical division in the contest conducted by the National Federation of Media Professionals Communications. Krause is the publisher.

CHARITY. The (PA) Times Herald reported that sometimes when consumers buy a car magnet or bracelet in support of a charity or U.S. troops, none of the proceeds go to the organization consumers think they're supporting. One exception: the article said A.C. Moore donates 30-70% of the profits from the sale of the yellow-ribbon car magnets to the USO.

HANCOCK. Has launched its 4th annual Quilt of Dreams project to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Singer Amy Grant is the spokesperson again. (Comment: This is the best industry-related charity program we've ever seen. Visit www.quiltofdreams.com.)

PAINTING. There are a limited number of 10'x10' and 5'x10' exhibit spaces available for the Society of Decorative Painters show May 23-28 in Tampa ... Exhibitors can also sponsor or co-sponsor various events for added exposure. Call Yvonne Banman, 316-269-9300, ext 109 or email yvonne@decorativepainters.org ... SDP is also sponsoring a CHA workshop, "Crossover Crazy!" to show how painting and paper crafting can produce great products and improve sales. To see the projects, visit www.decorativepainters.org/emails/first_friday_spec2_05.asp.

RESEARCH. Spending on home improvements rose 5.2% to $233 billion in 2003, according to a report by Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies, Retail Merchandiser reported ... ... U.S. consumers spent $705 billion on entertainment and recreation in 2004, up 6.8% over 2003, according to a new study from Unity Marketing ... Fewer households shopped at big chains this past Christmas, according to a new study by Leo Shapiro & Associates and reported by Retail Merchandiser. Chains who scored lower than the previous year include Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, and Best Buy.

INTERNET. The new 2005 U.S. Web2Store research study indicates that in 2004, 83.4 million U.S. consumers made purchases in stores – after being influenced by online information, an increase of 19%. Respondents said they used the web to check prices, product features, availability, stores hours and locations, product reviews, and coupons or discounts.

ART MATERIALS. Online registration is now open for the National Art Materials Trade Assn. show Apr. 14-16 in Chicago. Visit www.namta.org ... Fila, an Italian manufacturer of school and kids products, has acquired Dixon Ticonderoga, the maker of Prang art materials.

SEWING. "Husqvarna Viking dispelled the winter doldrums in New York City recently by hosting a lovely breakfast at the Marriott Marquis for editors and designers to introduce their new line of embroidery designs and kits by renowned textile artist and author, Kaffe Fassett. Fassett has a fascinating background, including designing knitwear for the Italian fashion design firm, Missoni, and designing and making quilts influenced by his love of color. The morning event also included the launching of their new Designer SE machine, a computerized sewing and embroidery machine that is totally interactive and user-friendly. This machine is the first ever sewing machine with a full VGA screen featuring over 65,500 colors. After a fascinating presentation, the audience moved into a classroom and had their turn at using this exciting machine to make one of the pillows in the new Fassett line." – Ellie Joos, Ellie Joos & Assoc.

RETAIL. Federal regulators have cleared the way for Kmart and Sears to conclude the merger between the two companies ... The National Retail Federation predicts retail sales will rise 3.5% in 2005, slightly more than half the increase in 2004. Higher gas prices, mediocre job and income growth, rising interest rates, and no new tax cuts are the culprits.

QUOTATION: "A consumer might buy grocery staples at Wal-Mart and sports clothes at Target in order to afford other goods that cost 200% more than average ones – but have real technical benefits that satisfy emotional need." Michael Silverstein, The Boston Consulting Group (in USA Today).

WRITERS. In the last issue CLN described needlework designer Lois Winston's pending success as a novelist. She's not alone. Visit www.annbenson.com to learn about Ann Benson's historical novels (which are excellent, one CLN subscriber said); her needlework designs; and her bead kits and patterns. Now Ann has even opened a bead store, Beads East, in Vernon, CN.

FRANK'S. The bankrupt, out-of-business, once mighty chain canceled an auction to sell its remaining real estate, which the Detroit News says is "spurring industry experts to speculate the properties will be sold to the nursery's largest creditor, Kimco Realty Corp."

LOOKING TO HIRE. Walnut Hollow is looking for a sales manager with at least five years of industry experience. Will report to the Dir. of Sales and will be responsible for direct selling to major national accounts and for managing independent rep groups. Relocation required. Up to 50% travel ... Also looking for an Asst. Product Manager to assist with the management of new product development. Must have five 5 years product management experience. B.S. or equivalent, etc. Send resume/salary history and requirements to Walnut Hollow, Human Resources Manager, 1409 State Rd. 23, Dodgeville, WI 53533.

LOOKING TO HIRE. Wrights is looking for a Sales VP/National Accounts. Must have five years experience in consumer products sales and managing multi-line product categories and be computer literate (MS Office). Extensive travel required. Submit resume to Wm. Wright Co., Attn: Ed Dembinski, 85 South St., West Warren, MA 01092; email: edembinski@wrights.com.

JOB HUNTERS. Experienced sales/marketing exec seeking involvement with craft industry company. Extensive experience in strategizing and selling majors, with a particular emphasis on Wal-Mart ... Another sales pro with extensive experience in paper-related categories is looking for an account exec position. Email Mike Hartnett at mike@clnonline.com for more info on either.

CORPORATE DOUBLESPEAK. When asked to explain why Best Buy outsourced its information systems department and cut 130 jobs, spokesperson Susan Busch said, "Now we can focus on the things that we do best; things that are customer facing." (DSN Retailing Today.)

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COMPANY PROFILE: LASX INDUSTRIES/STENCILSHARP

You have an idea for a great product, but you have neither the equipment nor the facility to transform your idea into a profit-making reality. Do you give up on your idea? No, you make arrangements with an OEM manufacturer who will produce and package your product for you.

One such manufacturer who has been making its mark on our industry recently is the StencilSharp division of LasX Industries in suburban St. Paul, MN. The company began in March, 1998 by inventing a new laser processing technology, LaserSharp. This unique technology eliminated the need for dies to be made, but the productivity of the equipment can still match the production output of die cutting, while producing highly intricate and decorative designs.

The first applications in our industry were stencils (more than three and a half million have been produced for vendor clients), but company execs quickly realized the capability of the equipment enabled them to provide products for a wide variety of scrapbook and craft vendors.

Because the equipment is digital, it can quickly and easily etch, score, cut, or perforate incredibly detailed and minute designs on/in most materials, such as acrylic, vellum, denim, and textiles.

One of the first vendor clients was Fiskars, who has StencilSharp produce its ShapeBoss™ embossing templates. StencilSharp® provides complete product management – sourcing the material, screen printing the material, package headers, and packaging the line. The results were so successful that Fiskars® had StencilSharp® produce three additional lines, ScrapBoss™ , MiniBoss™ and Parchamore™.

StencilSharp® now provides products for 14 additional industry manufacturers. To keep up with the ever increasing demand, the company is installing a second production system to handle future growth opportunities and is actively pursuing additional vendors. The company will be exhibiting at CHA in booth #5518 where they will display a wide variety of examples of their capabilities.

"Our experience in total product management allows us to be your one call to satisfy your customers," said Amy Ernst, StencilSharp Account Manager. "Our digital work environment allows us to easily and quickly provide prototypes and samples without costly tooling and set-up. Design modifications are easily accomplished to allow you to create the perfect look you envision."

KEY EXECS: William Dianuer, President 651-407-0011, ext 201 wdinauer@lasx.com ... John Dillon, VP Contract Services 651-407-0011, ext 250 jdillon@lasx.com ... Dan Beekman – Graphic Arts Manager 651-407-0011 ext 209 dbeekman@lasx.com ... Amy Ernst, StencilSharp® Account Manager 651-407-0011, ext 224 aernst@lasx.com.

ROLODEX: LasX Industries, 4817 White Bear Parkway, White Bear Lake, MN 55110. Call 651- 407-0011; fax 651- 407-0110; email info@stencilsharp.com; visit www.stencilsharp.com.

Note: CLN will profile one company per issue, which will remain online for at least a year. A Profile is a perfect way for a new company to let itself be known to the industry, or for an established company to enhance its reputation by showing the industry its history, diversity of products, personnel, etc. For more information on how your company can be profiled, call Mike Hartnett at 309-925-5593 or email mike@clnonline.com.

THE CREATIVE NETWORK: JOB OPENINGS

To read the latest listing of available jobs, click on Jobs in the left-hand column or click HERE.

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THE CLN RETAIL INDEX

A. C. Moore (ACMR). Last*: 27.20 ... Change**: +0.10
Hancock Fabrics (HKF). Last*: 8.93 ... Change**: -0.43
Jo-Ann Stores (JAS). Last*: 28.90 ... Change**: +0.93
Michaels (MIK). Last*: 32.65 ... Change**: +1.65
Wal-Mart (WMT). Last*: 53.46 ... Change**: -0.53
CLN Retail Index. Last*: 151.14 ... Change**: +1.2%
Dow Jones Index. Last*: 10,716.13 ... Change**: +1.5%

*February 4 ** from January 14 Prices are exclusive of dividends

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LAST MINUTE TRADE SHOW ADVICE.

1. The long-range Atlanta forecast for this Thursday and Friday: sunny, with a highs of 53 and lows of 31.

2. Wear comfortable shoes.

3. Scrapbook buyers should walk the entire show, not just the scrapbook and new exhibitor sections. Numerous vendors in other sections have memory-related products.

4. Most buyers visit the new exhibitor section first. The result is a mob scene which makes it more difficult to see all of the products in a booth and talk to the vendor. Visit other parts of the hall first, then visit the new exhibitor section when the mob has dispersed and you can actually see the products.

5. Advice for navigating Atlanta, emailed from a native Atlantan: 

Atlanta is composed mostly of one way streets. The only way to get out of downtown Atlanta is to turn around and start over when you reach Greenville, South Carolina. All directions start with, "Go down Peachtree" and include the phrase, "When you see the Waffle House." Peachtree Street has no beginning and no end and is not to be confused with Peachtree Circle, Peachtree Place, Peachtree Lane, Peachtree Road, Peachtree Parkway, Peachtree Run, Peachtree Trace, Peachtree Avenue, Peachtree Commons, Peachtree Battle, Peachtree Corners, New Peachtree, Old Peachtree, West Peachtree, Peachtree-Dunwoody, Peachtree-Chamblee, or Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. 

Atlantans only know their way to work and their way home. If you ask anyone for directions they will always send you down Peachtree.

6. Wear really comfortable shoes.

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REMINDERS

1. For more information on how your business can be the subject of a "Business Profile" call Mike Hartnett at 309-925-5593 or email mike@clnonline.com.

2. If you want a hard-copy of this issue, click on "Printer Friendly version".

3. If your company is a paid subscriber, everyone in the main office is welcome to register, free. Just click on "Current Subscribers Click Here To Register."

4. If you want to recommend CLN to a friend, use the "Tell Your Friends" box on the home page.

5. Creative Leisure News is published the first and third Mondays of each month. Your next issue will be Monday, February 21.

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