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The industry as seen by top designers.

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Scrapbooking, yes, but lots more, too.

by Lynda Musante and Tracia Williams

A few observations from our travels around the ACCI 2003 trade show:

Great influence of paper crafts was felt through out the show -- a trend that has grown in strength since the HIA January, 2003 trade show. Paper has moved to the next dimension with vendors showcasing papers with textures, suede-looks, and embossing. We saw a lot more specialty papers, including petals, mulberry, vellums, and transparents. Many booths featured techniques with paper developed to replicate metal.

Card stock is more visible than ever. Scrapbooking began with using solid colors on card stock, then patterned papers rose to great prominence. Now cardstock is back in demand to provide the foundation to coordinate photos with the specialty paper's patterns and colors.

We don't see demand for paper dying down any time soon. In fact, many vendors were featuring new tools developed for use with papers. Big-dollar tool purchases had been dropping off as many enthusiasts have filled their Cropper Hopper's with their selection of scissors, punches, and more tools.

We were impressed by Provo Craft's Sizzix Paddle Punch to punch holes/cutouts anywhere on the paper; all the consumer needs is a mallet and mat. Provo Craft also showed the Sew Crafty, a battery-operated mini sewing machine that retails around $10 and is very portable for sewing papers, fabrics, fibers, etc.

There also seems to be an increased emphasis on quicker assemblage of scrapbook pages vs. spending time on works of art per page. The consumer magazines seem dedicated to this very topic.

New designs.

The "Urban/Found Element" look seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. While hard to describe, it's not "moldy-oldy," vintage/tea stained, or industrial. This is a completely design-driven look, featuring innovative surfaces, bindings, fonts, papers, metal accents, paints, rubber stamps, and images. Every product is used with a series of related elements.

Design Originals introduced us to this look with instructional books. The only company at HIA totally dedicated to the Urban/Found Element look was 7 Gypsies -- and they were mobbed throughout that show. By ACCI, we saw several more manufacturers who had taken note and introduced similar products. Interestingly, the additional competition did not seem to lessen the traffic in the booths featuring Urban/Found Element products lines.

We also saw papers and products featuring Pucci-like prints, retro-50's, vintage/romantic, and collage. Many designers have been rejoicing about the lessening in the requests for "cute" designs, and welcoming the challenge of using manufacturers' products to achieve new looks.

Crowded booths.

Three booths that we noticed as among the busiest throughout the show:

1. K& Co., which showed a "Ralph Lauren" look: rich, traditional, high-end coordinating books, papers, and more.

2. 7 Gypsies, who were mobbed at HIA when they showcased the urban/Found Element look, and were mobbed again at ACCI until the last minutes of the show.

3. Rusty Pickle was another scrapbooking company that also had retailers placing orders up to the final minutes.

We've been wondering why our industry's large yarn/fiber companies haven't jumped on the fiber wagon for scrapbooking. We imagine they have fibers in a zillion colors, and are eminently prepared to create competitive put-ups.

When EK Success bought the rights to the Adornaments product line, they've dominated that segment of the market ever since. We saw companies in the new vendor area bringing fibers/yarn into this market, so there continues to be interest.

In more traditional scrapbooking, dimensional stickers were pioneered a few years ago with the introduction of Jolee's Boutique. EK Success has now innovated and expanded that line to introduce , which takes that first product line and breaks it down into smaller components for consumers to use. We see this as a good example of the role excellent design plays. This product line has been knocked off -- in fact, knocked off quite successfully at retail -- but EK remains out in front of the curve with its innovation and dedication to quality design. We think this is a perfect example of a product line that would not exist without a continued investment in design development.

Crafts & paint.

Traditional crafts companies who invested in new product and design development were definitely busier at ACCI than manufacturers with displays that didn't look much different than at past trade shows. We're wondering why paint, brush, and surface manufacturers aren't jumping up and down about the increasing numbers of finished goods on display -- a continuation from a trend we noticed earlier in the year at HIA. Pre-finished goods at the major discount department stores look great and don't cost much. As a result, it seems that consumers aren't spending the time or money on classes and supplies to attempt to get the same look through painting themselves.

We noticed a trend at the Society of Decorative Painters show (which continued at ACCI) where the painting community's discussions focused on dropping sales in that category. One thing we discussed with several vendors and designers is that it's been a long time since a new surface swept through the industry like rusty tin.

In the beading category, the key players were busy and their booths displayed a larger variety and additional line extensions. We also saw a lot of containers pre-filled with beads to make it easier for consumers to color-coordinate their jewelry projects -- not kits, really, but a convenience item to make creating the final project easier.

Glitter is making a return! It's not just for kid's crafts, either. Glitter vendors had line extensions featuring special effects, ultra fine, and chunky rock glitter with different finishes. The Atlanta Gift Mart had lots of glitter on holiday products, and we've heard that the floral show in Dallas show lots of shiny things as well.

Overall, the vibe on the floor seemed positive. We had a needlework vendor tell us that the ACCI 2003 show was one of her company's best shows. We saw many chain buyers on the floor and spending time with their vendors.

The magazines were buying designs as well, including many of the projects featured in the House That Crafts Built. It was great to see this new venture receive such wide support from the craft industry. Many designers reported that the Designer Forum on Saturday night was well attended, and they were scheduling design placements with editors, publishers, and manufacturers.

We hope the positive trend continues and look forward to seeing you at the SCD Educational Seminar which will be held in St. Louis, MO October 8-11.

Note: Have any comments for Lynda or Tracia, or any suggsted topics for future columns? Lynda Musante, Nifty Development Corp., Richmond, VA. email Lsmusante@aol.com Tracia Williams, Tracia & Co., Orlando, FL email Traciaw@earthlink.net



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