Local Scrapbook Stores: A Controversial Question

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While perusing the interwebs for scrapbooking news – as I often do because it’s a CAPITAL way to avoid housework – I came across THIS blog post about a local scrapbook store in Minnesota that is closing.

Thanks for the Memories VIP!

Submitted by Kathy on Tue, 2012-08-14 03:25.
Big Change at VIP…
Thanks for the Memories!

V.I.P. Scrapbook will be closing its doors on September 1st. We know everyone will be wondering why we have made this decision and to be honest, it is for a variety of reasons. The current staff has had a great 3 years building our store to where it is today. We are proud of how our store looks, the new product we have continued to get in and most importantly, the relationships we have built with many customers.

It is not a secret that many, many independent scrapbook stores have been closing. In today’s economy as well as the online sites and chain stores, the independent stores have a very difficult time competing. We would just like to remind everyone that if you value the individual attention, free advice, and personal service you can find in many independent stores, then we must all remember to help support them, whether it is a scrapbooking store or a small town grocery store…

When one door closes, another one opens… we, all the staff, are ready to start new chapters in our lives. Some of us have come to places in our lives where we are excited to pursue new opportunities. On behalf of all of us here at VIP, we would like to truly thank our customers that have supported us in a variety of ways. Thanks for all the wonderful memories!

The part that sticks out to me is this:

We would just like to remind everyone that if you value the individual attention, free advice, and personal service you can find in many independent stores, then we must all remember to help support them, whether it is a scrapbooking store or a small town grocery store…

I have seen or heard about statements like this in many a “goodbye” or “holy crap, I’m about to close and I need your help to save me!” posts and letters from local scrapbook stores around the country. I wonder what scrapbookers think about this kind of message being directed to them?

The feedback I’ve heard in the past has been really mixed. Some scrappers feel like it’s not their responsibility to keep LSS’s in business and others feel an obligation to them in varying degrees.


*Random LSS photo found online :)

Here are my feelings about it: As someone who lost 7 local scrapbook stores within a few years and has been relegated to shopping at Michael’s, Tuesday Morning, and one craft store 40 minutes from home, I do feel an obligation to support LSS’s. I don’t think scrapbookers SHOULD have to support their LSS financially by shopping there regularly, but I think they DO have to support them if they want them to stay open.

When times were good in the scrapbooking industry, I think manufacturers did very very well for themselves. But I don’t think LSS owners were ever getting rich, even in the best of times. {I’m sure there were exceptions but none of my 7 store owners were driving Lexi* and drinking martinis in St. Tropez}.
*That’s the plural for Lexus, right??

So when we were hit with the worst of times, LSS owners really struggled. Like I heard an owner say once, “I have to sell a LOT of sheets of scrapbook paper just to pay the light bill.” Then figure in rent, personnel costs, insurance, other utilities, minimum product orders, etc.

The markup on scrapbook products is typically about 50%. So for each $1 sheet of scrapbook paper sold, the owner is profiting only 50 cents. For those $4.99 Thickers you bought, they made a whopping $2.50. So, yeah, they gotta’ sell a lot of product to be viable. LSS’s don’t typically sell many big ticket items like electronic die cutters, larger tools, etc. {we get those for cheaper at big box stores with sales and coupons, right?}. They don’t tend to make a big profit on classes and crops. Those are “break even” events whose main purpose is to draw customers into the store, hoping they’ll buy product while there.

So tangent alert! I did it again (sheepish smile). But my point … and I do have one … is that I personally DO feel an obligation to support the local scrapbook store for almost purely selfish reasons: I want them to succeed so they stick around and I don’t have to keep schlepping to Michaels with my flippin’ coupon and spending it on Herma tab refills because I can’t find anything from this decade, much less the most recent CHA. Or walking into TJ Maxx with my fingers crossed that they have some 2-year-old Dear Lizzy stickers I missed the first time around. Ya feel me?

Two small LSS’s have opened within an hour of me recently. As soon as I heard about each store, I rushed over to support them! Well, okay, I rushed over to see what scrapbook swag they had and to sniff massive amounts of paper at once, but you know what I mean. Sheesh.

They are smaller stores, which I think is a smart way to start, and I will do my best to choose them over the big box stores as where to spend my scrapbooking budget. To me, it’s like picking up litter or letting the one-item gal go in front of me at the supermarket check-out: One person CAN make a difference in her own little way. If a lot of other “one persons” join in, we’re golden, people!

I would love to hear what you think – and please don’t hesitate to disagree. I can completely see both sides of this issue and would love to hear it all.

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22 Comments on Local Scrapbook Stores: A Controversial Question

  1. Fleur Smith
    August 19, 2012 at 11:15 am (2 years ago)

    I no longer have a LSS, the closest one is about an hour drive. I have a Michaels that is about a 30 minute drive but when I had a local store I supported them, they were the only place I bought my supplies. Now I mainly shop online and visit the closest store once or twice a year when I am heading in that direction. It’s sad that so many have closed!

    Reply
  2. smcl
    August 19, 2012 at 12:37 pm (2 years ago)

    I totally agree, but it is the responsibility of the manufacturers to support the LSS as well. My LSS and her group have tried to get deals like they offer on a daily basis to Internet sites, to do a daily deal at their stores and mfg. have refused! New lines came out at CHA in Winter and are on the daily deal sites in May. My LSS has had the line for only 6 weeks at that point! How can a LSS at retail pricing compete with that? Manufacturers need to help out the stores as well.

    Reply
  3. Sherry C
    August 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm (2 years ago)

    I did support my local store but sadly, it did not make a difference. :( I am thankful, however, for some fabulous on-line communities and I now support them!

    Reply
  4. Judy
    August 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm (2 years ago)

    My LSS is in my town about 10 minutes from my house. How cool is that? She just celebrated her 6 year anniversary, which I think is pretty amazing for any small local business. She has a lot of support from her customers. Several have even become close friends with her, volunteering their time to help out at crops and other store events.

    I agree that we owe it to not just the local scrapbook store, but to any local businesses whether it’s a mom & pop restaurant, grocery store, hardware store, consignment shop, etc. When you shop locally owned businesses your money stays in your community. When you shop the big box stores your money is going to a huge company that is most likely not even based in your state. I’m a huge advocate of shopping local.

    I found this blog post on FB through scrapbookingblogs.org . Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Reply
  5. Janet
    August 20, 2012 at 5:34 am (2 years ago)

    I agree to a degree. How’s that for an answer?

    If your LSS is providing much of what you want in your scrapbooking hobby- then by all means you SHOULD and WANT to support them. You would WANT them to succeed.

    For me, I have never had a LSS- in the reagards to being local. The only 2 that were in open were both about 1 hour of me. So not so Local. And that can be difficult for a scrapper when there are lots of ‘free’ shipping options available.
    But when in the area- I would stop and shop. Never participated in events because of the distance.

    I now visit 2 that are about 2.5 hours from me and I do support both when I visit the area. Even when I travel, I search out LSS’s and support in some way if possible. Just to help in a small way.

    I do read that of the LSS that closed, some where due to poor management skills. Clearly. So in that regard, no, I don’t feel as scrapbookers, that should be our concern.

    And as you pointed out, making money from scrapbook supplies is nearly impossible. It is the events and high ticket items that help, and that cost most to do too.

    GREAT POST Ericka- very much enjoyed it!
    Janet

    Reply
  6. Heather
    August 20, 2012 at 6:09 am (2 years ago)

    I think one thing LSS sometimes fail to notice is that many are NOT providing these services or they are very selective in who they provide them to. I live in an area where many LSS have closed. I can’t say that I miss any of them. The staff at these stores were anywhere from oblivious to rude every time I went in. They had no idea about products, seemed bothered by my questions and made it clear that my $20-40 purchase was barely worth them checking out. They held back products for select people, had hours that didn’t allow people with jobs to shop there often and arranged the store in ways that were confusing and/or difficult to navigate.

    Here is a fact if these LSS were providing products and services people wanted and they properly managed their business the doors would still be open. If I opened a store selling baked potatoes and couldn’t pay my $2K rent every month I wouldn’t blame the public for not buying enough potatoes I’d blame myself for having poor business skills.

    Reply
  7. Marilyn
    August 20, 2012 at 7:24 am (2 years ago)

    I think when closing a business it is ok to add in the “support local businesses” spiel, as long as it’s not accusatory (ex: “we could have stayed open if you’d shopped here more often instead of always heading to Michael’s with your coupon”). After all, the business is closing, so the business sending it out is not going to benefit from it in any way. But to send it out as an SOS (ex: “we need more shoppers or we’re going to have to close”) is tacky, in my opinion.

    BTW: when I had a scrapbook store nearby I always shopped there first. It was rare that I left with less than $100 and I did it regularly (at least monthly). However, most of the closest stores closed; driving an hour to shop (as I do now) means I do it less frequently…maybe 4 times a year or so.

    Reply
  8. Karen
    August 20, 2012 at 8:28 am (2 years ago)

    I agree to an extent. I believe that if a LSS has what I want to buy, then I will buy it there. However, there were a few stores locally that I would walk in and then walk out as supply was never updated and a lot of the stock was old.

    I am local to you as well. I know of the one store in AG. Can you tell me where the other store is?

    Thanks!

    Karen

    Reply
  9. Johnna Sengdara
    August 20, 2012 at 8:36 am (2 years ago)

    I agree with your comment. I live in a town of over 300,000 and we have lost 3 LSS over the past few years. Now we have none and I have to travel over 100 miles into the next state for the closest one. I had shopped at these stores on a regular basis and I love the variety they offered. I miss them alot. The big chain craft stores just don’t have as much variety. Now I do the majority of my shopping online, but I miss the hands on experience.

    Reply
  10. Beth
    August 20, 2012 at 9:09 am (2 years ago)

    I do not have any local LSS anywhere in the South Florida area. There were a few that were open at one point or another but I did not go to them often as they were poorly setup and the customer service was horrible. I am all for supporting a store but the store should have what you need and the customer service should be exceptional. I believe that great customer service coupled with a demand for the product that you are selling is what will get you returning customers. I now shop online and if I need something quickly I stop into Jo-Ann or Michael’s and pick it up as my area is saturated with those stores.

    Reply
  11. Abby
    August 20, 2012 at 9:21 am (2 years ago)

    I agree. When we moved a few years ago, there were FOUR LSS in the town. Yes, four….another 3 were 30-45 min away. Within a year, ALL but 2, which were co-owned, had closed. It’s sad to see them all go, BUT when you only have $XX.XX of a budget for supplies it’s easy to go where the bargains are. I am thankful that there’s an LSS where I am now, & I have actually cancelled my kit club sub to support them because the owner has offered to order anything I want that she can get in. That, my friend, is service. :) great post! I miss reading your blog.

    Reply
    • Kendra
      February 13, 2013 at 9:53 pm (1 year ago)

      Just curious, your LSS offered to order whatever you needed that she can get in; would this inlcude paper? If so, how many sheets would you want from one design? Do you realize she has to order 25 for you to have 1 sheet? Other items such as embellishments or tools min. order of an item is 3. So for you to have 1, she goes in the whole to provide that service to you.

      Reply
  12. Debby
    August 20, 2012 at 9:42 am (2 years ago)

    Interesting post. I have been the owner of an LSS for more than 10 years so I thought I would add my .02 to the discussion. Yes, it is true that if the LSS is not supported it will close and the shoppers will have very limited options. However, if a store is not providing the service they should or managing their business in a professional manner than perhaps it is better to let it close. Surprised to hear me say that? Let me explain.

    It is not just about getting the customers to shop local. Back in the early 2000′s LSS were opening up at a record rate. Many were opened by people who had no business experience at all, but liked the hobby and thought it would be “fun” to open a store and be able to “scrapbook all day”. (newsflash people… that is NOT how it works!) Owning a business, even in a “fun” industry is work. Plain and simple. There is so much more involved than just picking out cool products and making pretty stuff. Think financial, marketing, insurance, payroll, taxes, maintenance (yes, we have to clean the toilets and change the lightbulbs). OK, let me move on…. So Susie Scrapbookers opened lots of stores with no idea how to really run them. The fact is no matter how popular a hobby, there is still a limited amount of dollars to be spent. Spread that money too thin among too many stores and nobody survives.

    So the first few inexperienced business owners bail out…dumping a huge amount of product into the consumer market at rock bottom prices. The consumers scoop it up, build their stash and rejoice at how much money they saved. They don’t need to shop for months now and even if they do, they’ve already blown their limited budget on the bargains. Now the remaining stores are left wondering how to get the people in.

    Add in the crappy economy where consumers have to choose between spending their money on groceries or gas for their car and what happens? Yes, a recipe for failure. Do I want people to shop locally (read: at my store), absolutely!!! Do I hold it against them if they can’t, no. However, I do take offense to people who think they are saving money at the box stores when they don’t realize the chains mark the product up over MSRP so they can support those coupons; or when people will drive 20-30 minutes to the chains because they can use a 40% coupon on a pack of adhesive… Do the math ladies, If a product is $4.99 and you save 40% ($2) but you have to drive 20 miles to get it, did you really save anything?

    The point of my post (and I really do have one), is that you should support the businesses that support YOU! As a small local business I am constantly asked to support my local schools and non-profits with donations. I only have so much in my budget for that. If an organization expects MY support I want to get support in return….As a consumer, you should expect the same. If a store doesn’t meet your needs, why should you spend your money there? Local or not?

    Reply
  13. Janelle
    August 20, 2012 at 10:50 am (2 years ago)

    I worked in an LSS seven years ago and I know how tough it is to pay the bills and make rent when you’re mostly selling 99-cent pieces of paper! We have an LSS in our community–the only one left–that has been struggling since the economy went south (it was very successful before then.) So I do try to get in there and spend as much as I can. I value having it; I would miss it very much if it was gone.

    I don’t mind LSS owners reminding people that shopping locally at independent stores is important, because I DO think it’s important, whether it’s an LSS or some other local business.

    Reply
  14. Lisa
    August 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm (2 years ago)

    I’ll chip in my $.02 as a scrapbook store owner too…

    I absolutely believe that as a customer you should support your LSS! But I believe that for ANY local, mom & pop store you want to keep within reasonable driving distance! It is about convenience and how far you’re willing to drive and how much you want to spend on shipping to get your scrapbook supplies. If you are willing to drive 1-2 hours to find a store…no, don’t support local. If you’re OK with buying online without touching and feeling the paper, or seeing the proportions of the pattern on the paper, or how big a stamp is compared to your card, by all means…don’t support local, save your $1.

    Now, is it your responsibility to support a *bad* business owner? For example, someone who has rude employees, isn’t helpful, doesn’t clear out old inventory fast enough for newer inventory? No, I don’t think it’s the customer’s responsibility to keep a bad business afloat. And believe me, I think there were a LOT of bad business owners out there. Like Debbie mentioned before, there were a lot of people who opened a store at the height of the boom and just thought it would be “fun” to own a store and scrapbook all day. Those people are LONG gone as they couldn’t make it work because of BAD business decisions.

    For the stores that are out there now…they’ve proven they are good business owners if they have lasted this long! However, they need the customers help to stay afloat. Without customers they can only last so long. Fantastic customer service, a full class schedule, etc will only get you so far. The customers STILL NEED TO SHOP there! If they don’t feel any loyalty to the store who offers all these great things the store won’t be able to make it.

    As a customer, I understand wanting to get the best price. I do too, as a store owner. I try to get the best pricing from my vendors so I can pass that on to my customers! We try to get the best prices and the best experience for our customers. We take time out of our day to teach customers how to use our products (even if it isn’t in a class setting). You can come to my store any time and ask for a demo on pretty much any tool/ink product we stock and we can show you how to use it, and probably even show you a sample card or layout with it featured. Can an online store do that?

    I also agree with what Debbie said about the local community wants their local businesses to support the schools, summer recreation programs, chamber events, etc. but where is the backwards support back to that store? The seniors that ask me to buy an ad in there annual book, or prizes for senior prom aren’t going to shop in my store! They go to Target/WalMart for the latest iWhatever for college.

    I also think the manufacturers could do a better job of supporting the stores and not selling to the discount online sites, etc. All they are doing is devaluing their product. Case in point…Cricut machines were supposed to be $499 retail when they first came out. It seemed like there was a race to the basement to see who could sell them the cheapest. Now, instead of having a $299 regular retail price that all retailers could make some money at, and customers are STILL getting it cheaper than the original $499 price, no one around my area will pay more than $129 for a Cricut machine because Menards sells it for $129 on Black Friday. My price from Provo Craft is $249.

    Bottom line is, as a customer you definitely have a choice. But if you don’t make a conscious effort to support your store, please don’t complain when it goes out of business and you now have to drive an hour for the local big box store. And please don’t come to your LSS with your Menards/Ebay/Walmart Cricut machine and ask us to teach you how to use it for free.

    Now, as a store owner who owns both a B&M and online store, I hope to offer both sides to customers. I hope to be able to serve the customers who don’t have a B&M store nearby. We try to film videos to teach you how to use our products. While I will not devalue the products by selling online cheap, we do offer sales, shipping specials, etc. We hope to gain customers with our wide variety of selection, fast and reasonably priced shipping, and having a blog updated daily with tutorials, inspirations, etc.

    I love my job and I love owning a scrapbook/stamping/paper crafting store. I couldn’t imagine not owning one after 9 1/2 years. However, without customers shopping at my store, I wouldn’t be able to stay in business. We have gone out of our way to treat our customers as we want to be treated if we were the customer. We try to remember customers by name and special things about them or their family. We keep track of their purchases so we can tell them what album they bought and what refills they need (same goes for adhesives) or I can tell you if you already own the Distress Ink in Broken China. :) It’s those little touches we try to make our customers feel special. But again, if they don’t feel any loyalty to us, we’re sunk.

    Reply
    • Kendra
      February 13, 2013 at 10:12 pm (1 year ago)

      I just ran across this blog. Great response Lisa! I was a store owner, we closed because we moved our family 1.5 hrs. away. However, we truthfully probably couldn’t of stayed open much longer anyways. I ran into the same problems with Cricut as well! And then when the Gypsy came out, it was debuted on HSN from Provocraft with the monthly installments cheaper than wholesale, so what did I do? Ordered four myself on HSN and gave them away to my customers in monthly drawings. That was a great quarter! I also had the added service only a B&M could provide as the personal touch of letting a customer know they already bought that color of this or that, or here is the reinker you need if your out. Or for the gift giver, “Betsy, already has that but she is building the collection of this if you would like to add to it.” Helping the moms with science fair projects that didn’t own Cricuts. I truly loved it, but hearing from customers about their deals they got online from products and techniques I showed them, did upset me.

      Reply
    • Ken Christensen
      October 24, 2013 at 11:35 pm (9 months ago)

      As the guy who tries to stay behind the scenes at our LSS, I was definitely not planning on responding on this topic, even though I did have some things to say. Then I read Lisa’s post, and lost it! In a good way though. Yes, I’m the behind the scenes guy, but I know what Distress Ink is, and I even know what color Broken China is, and I know how to look up and see if a particular customer of ours has purchased that.

      Don’t think for a minute that I’m trying to impress you. It is really to impress upon you just how deep the desire is for us to serve our customers. The bottom line is that we are ultimately not really in the Scrapbooking or Paper Crafting business. We are in the relationship building business.

      Any good relationship is not one sided. Take a marriage, as an example. It isn’t one spouse giving the other half, it is each giving 100%. Now move that into a business relationship. If we only do half of the job, then we aren’t doing our part. But if you don’t support our 100% effort, then no matter how good we are, we won’t make it.

      Now I don’t know the metrics for every LSS out there, but I do know them for ours. And without getting into specifics, or getting in trouble with my wife (speaking of marriage), I’ll simply say to all of the customers of LSS out there, if you simply spent $25 each month at your helpful, cheerful, LSS they would become an even better store, and they would have to expand, not close.

      I know I enjoy the memories, and I look forward to helping more customers get their pictures out of shoeboxes and onto scrapbook pages where they tell stories and can be enjoyed by a much wider audience.
      Ken Christensen recently posted…New Location and ClassesMy Profile

      Reply
  15. Alison Lindhardt
    August 24, 2012 at 6:46 pm (2 years ago)

    Great article!! You hit some key points on the head!! Supporting LSS is very important because that is where the classes are taught and inspiration is pored into. Not to mention one on one service and people who really know what they are talking about instead of pointing to an isle and making you search for it on your own like the big box stores! Thanks for sharing :)

    Reply
  16. CJ
    August 26, 2012 at 9:25 pm (2 years ago)

    I have had terrible LSSs close to home. I tried to support them but in the end either attitude or lack of product drove me away, I am now without a LSS. If it’s between them and the box stores and the online stores… they could go away.

    On the other hand there is a TERRIFIC LSS 2 hours away, shout out to Scrapbook Superstation in Butler, PA. A couple times a year I stop in, sometimes for a crop. I’ve never left there empty handed or lacking inspiration.

    The crops are long and affordable and the kits packaged there at the store offer something you can’t get anywhere else. Combined with great service, good lighting, lots of quality lines, big floor space…. heck… there will never be an Archiver’s in Butler, PA because they.could.not.compete.

    In closing, if it’s run right with someone with enough capital to get the right store going, it will survive. I’m not the only one driving out of my way to get to the good one.

    Reply
  17. Kendra
    February 13, 2013 at 10:20 pm (1 year ago)

    As a previous store owner, the biggest slap in my face was when two women traveled through. I spent 15 mins. showing them all the neat features of the cowboy cricut cartridge (all my carts were 25% off in store to try and compete). One lady said, “I must have that! I will get on Ebay and find it!” I am the one spending the time with them, paying for my rent, electricity and employees and they are going to find it on Ebay from someone laying around in their pj’s in their overhead free home. That was an eyeopener for sure!

    Reply
  18. Nikki Ryks
    February 25, 2013 at 7:23 pm (1 year ago)

    As someone who just opened a scrapbook store in January, this was good to see and think about. My store opened just 40 minutes west of Rochester, just south of a very small town, Blooming Prairie. By no means is it a huge store, but I’m just getting started and it all takes money. Thank you for this post. I’ve helped my family build a “mom and pop” motorcycle business, so I understand small business and I hope my scrapbook store is successful, which in my opinion, means loving what I do, and sharing it with everyone who walks thru the doors that I can help! I love seeing people smile and if there’s something someone wants or needs, I’m going to do whatever I can to help. And at the same time, it’s frustrating to hear people talk about buying things elsewhere with their coupon or ebay because my store and inventory is MY money, but I will just hope that means they’ll use the savings and buy something different from me!!
    Thanks again for this post.

    Reply

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