The industry as seen by top designers.
My Love/Hate Relationship with Michaels, Pt. I
Why chains' education programs aren't what they
by Anonymous (December 6, 2004)
(Note: The following is written by a craft designer who
works part-time as a demonstrator in her local Michaels. We suspect
similar articles could have been written by demonstrators at other
Michaels can't afford to educate its associates? Because that
would result in higher prices and customers shop with their
So what is Michaels telling the manufacturers who are paying for
demos and sponsoring family events, scrapbooking days, kids' club,
project sheets, and end cap promotions? I can only imagine what
promises are made in Dallas.
And what is the reality when these events take place in every
Michaels store? If store associates are demonstrating products they
know nothing about, how is that selling the product?
I am a demonstrator for my local Michaels. I am also a craft
designer with many years of experience who has designed projects for
craft manufacturers including Michaels project sheets, kids club,
kids summer camp, Michaels.com, and Michaels Create! magazine.
If anybody ought to be able to successfully conduct a product
demonstration it would be me.
It seems that a product demonstration would be fairly simple and
straightforward. It is, if a) the product is available; b)
the additional supplies and tools are in the classroom cabinet; c)
the instructions are available with photo illustration two weeks
before the date of the demo; and d) the demonstrator has time
to make up a sample of the project before the demo.
It is laughable to think that a demo would be scheduled months in
advance and yet the product is not physically in the store. Even if
the manufacturer has specifically sent product to be distributed in
each store, that doesn't mean that it will automatically find its
way to the classroom. Also, if the product is not specifically
labeled for a demo, the education coordinator may not realize what
the product is meant for.
If it has to be pulled from the shelf, there's a chance it's not
in the store or it hasn't been stocked. Or it may be in the store,
but no one knows where it is. And if the education coordinator has
been told to keep costs down, and if one brand of product is already
in the classroom, then that is what gets used.
Yes, that's right. If Company X is sponsoring a demo and there is
a similar competitor's product
already in the classroom that has been opened and signed off for
use, that is what will get used in my Michaels.
The same goes for additional tools and supplies. If the project
calls for certain color surface and it's not available, the next
best surface is used. I have seen some demonstrations done with
product substitutions that bore little resemblance to the photo in
Michaels has a plan-o-gram for the classroom cabinet. Only what
is on the plan-o-gram is allowed - no exceptions.
The instructions for demo and event projects vary from well
written with good color photos to non existent.
I have actually had to go home and go to the Michaels web site to
get a photo of what I would be demonstrating because there was
nothing other than a demo title and maybe a manufacturer's name.
But I can do that because I'm a part time educator. When an
associate is doing the demo she doesn't have that luxury.
And the education coordinator doesn't have time to find the
instructions, gather product from the shelves and classroom, and
create a sample for each demo. The education coordinator in my store
is limited to 15 hours a week, which doesn't give her time to
coordinate each day's demo.
Neither do the associates, so they're flying by the seat of their
pants most times.
Is it just my store? I hope not, but I can't see how it would be
much different in others.
(Comment: Once again, chains would claim that spending
more money on education coordinators and demonstrators would simply
cause them to raise prices. But maybe, just maybe, a great class and
demonstration program would cause sales to dramatically increase?
The greater sales might more than offset the increase in employee
Judging from the third-quarter and November sales results, the
current status quo doesn't look that great. Maybe it's time for a
chain to take a few stores, pump money into them for education, and
see what happens.
This column is also an example of the overwhelming complexity of
operating a multi-hundred store chain.
To read previous Designing Perspectives articles, click on the
titles in the right-hand column. To comment (on or off the record)
on this or other industry subjects, email Mike Hartnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.