Did Martha Just Insult Us??

There’s a Wall Street Journal article going around the scrapbook world, and we’re feeling a little insulted. It’s about Martha Stewart’s entry into the scrapbooking and paper crafting industry. Read the article here and come back to me…..I’ll wait…..(getting some coffee)…..(making a layout)…..(reading some scrap blogs)…..Oh, good, you’re back! Well, what did you think? I’m just really not sure how to take that. First of all, the writer Brooks Barnes says, “What does the domestic-arts maven see in a dowdy industry where merchandise is sold in cluttered stores stacked floor to ceiling with pipe cleaners, Styrofoam balls, glue sticks, beads and fake flowers?” Did you know we were DOWDY?? By that, I mean not you and me literally, but the industry that we love and support. I can only suppose this writer visited one craft store in one town, and arrived at this great generalization. I’m sure there are craft stores like those he described, but I highly doubt they are your “average” craft store. I’d bet dowdy stores are actually pretty rare these days, especially with the surge in general crafting which started after 9/11. As the article states, scrapbooking is now an almost $3 billion industry, and that is NOT being fueled by dusty little craft stores. In fact, scrapbooking products are now found in a variety of places: local scrapbook stores, chain craft stores like Joann’s and Hobby Lobby, Target, Walmart, Tuesday Morning, Dollar Tree, Mervyns, etc. I’ve scrapbook shopped in LOTS of places and I’ve been to only one craft store that I would describe as dowdy (the owner was in her 90s and has since sold the store to the younger generation).

On the other hand, I think we should take it as a compliment that Martha Stewart is looking to scrapbookers to save her financial hide. The article further states, “The rollout of Martha Stewart Crafts is part one of a planned merchandising blitz that the company hopes will return it to profitability and deliver long-term growth. Although Martha Stewart Living posted revenue of $288 million in 2006, up 36% from a year earlier, it had a loss of $17 million. It hasn’t turned a profit since 2002, the year Ms. Stewart became entangled in a securities-fraud investigation that resulted in her five-month imprisonment on an obstruction-of-justice charge.” It sounds like she’s really depending on internet sales to boost her numbers and I think that sounds like a smart idea. Haven’t you noticed all the LSS’s closing lately? I attribute that to the growing popularity of shopping for scrapbook supplies online. (I also think there has been a drastic decline in that $3 billion number from 2006, but that’s another discussion). Personally, I think her focus on internet sales is “a good thing”.

I also found this part very interesting: “To protect its brand, Ms. Marino sought an exclusive partnership with a specialty retailer. The company decided that two national chains — Jo-Ann Stores Inc. and Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. — were too downscale, according to two executives involved in the matter.” I’ve never been to a Hobby Lobby, but I’ve shopped at Joann’s and can’t really see a difference between Jo’s and Mike’s. It makes me wonder how factual Barnes’ quote from “two executives” is. I’m always skeptical of mass media and this is no different. Of the article overall, I’d say the reporter had a slant decided before (or if) he even started researching the scrapbook industry and quotes like this support that slant. Besides, this writer is no stranger to creating controversy and ticking people off.

There were some other interesting tidbits in the Wall Street Journal article, such as this: “Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in February said it would stop selling fabric by the yard in certain stores and begin offering crafts supplies.” I’ve heard talk of Walmart getting rid of the fabric section at many stores, but I had NOT heard that the space would be used to expand crafting (which I hope is another way of saying “scrapbooking”). I enjoy shopping at Walmart for scrapbook supplies because their prices are so good, and would love to see that section expand. Heck, you know me, I’d love to see any store expand their scrapbook section so I can expand my shopping!

I think the main issue of the piece is whether scrapbookers will support Martha Stewart in her efforts – will we boycott her, rally behind her, or treat her the same as every other scrapbook retailer? That is the most interesting question to me. Is she too East Coast glam for us soccer moms, college students, and grandmas out here in middle America? Are we angry at her for past indiscretions and current ‘Bossy Betty’ attitudes? Or do we feel like, “Who cares?? If it’s cute, I’m buyin’ it!”? How do you feel about this article and about Ms. Stewart? And did you feel insulted? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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