There is an older post on my blog where I told you about some cool items that were new to Michaels. Here is a comment I recently received on that entry:

A few posts ago you lamented the possible closing of your LSS. Yet it’s posts like this — and all your “look at the mass deals at big box stores and HSN” and “buy from me @ Scrapworks so I can break even” posts — that are helping put the independent LSSs out of business.

I’m not saying that nobody’s entitled to a bargain. But you can’t have it both ways.

When she said, “A few posts ago you lamented the possible closing of your LSS,” she was referring to THIS post. Her reference to HSN is HERE (well, one of my many, LOL) and “. . . buy from me @ Scrapworks so I can break even,” is referring to, I guess, THIS post about my affiliation with MEMORY WORKS, because I don’t recall ever asking you to buy from me so I can break even (?).

Anyway, I was not surprised or insulted by her comment, as its one that I expected to hear, I guess. But, as I e-mailed to the poster of the comment, I think it brings up a very interesting point. I mean, the state of this industry – the scrapbooking industry – does cause quite a dilemma for those of us who would like to support it and keep it alive. For real. How do we reconcile the endless message board posts and blog entries about the great deals to be found at big box stores, et al? How do we explain our online orders to “peachy cheap” sites and the like? How do we defend our copious use of 40% and 50% off coupons at stores like Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and the like? (The commenter didn’t even call me out on that one….but my conscience forced me to confess it, yeah).

Well, here is my story, and I’m stickin’ to it….

{I’m going to repeat things I’ve said again and again on this blog, so you lovely Regular Readers, please forgive me the repetition. But here goes…}

I live in a rural area. A few years ago, there were 7…count ’em, SEVEN…local scrapbook stores within one hour of me. There were 2 LSSs in the town next to me (15 minutes away), 3 stores that were 30 minutes away, and 2 more that were a good one-hour drive. To many, you wouldn’t even call 5 of those stores an “LSS”…how “local” is it, if you have to drive for 30 minutes to one hour to get there? But I considered them my local stores. I choose to live in the boondocks, so I understand shopping here is not at a premium and though someone in LA might have crazy access to the stores of their choice, I don’t. Just the way it is.

But here’s the point: When there were 7 LSSs within driving distance of me, I shopped ’em, baby! That was back when I worked my high-powered job and made excellent money. Scrapbooking was new to me and I had some serious product collection to do, ya know what I mean? I didn’t limit my spending to LSS’s either….I shopped at Scrapbook Expo twice a year (which is made up of manufacturers, and of scrapbook stores from far and wide). I shopped at CKU. When I traveled for business, I found LSSs in the towns I went to and I shopped them Bad Boys, too. Looking back, it was an unhealthy obsession but my point….my point again was? Oh, that’s right! That no one has been a better Supporter of the LSS than me! Seriously.

To go back even further, I discovered scrapbooking in 2001 by attending a CREATIVE MEMORIES party (yeah, fess up, so did you!). I took one trip to MICHAELS way back then, didn’t really care for what I saw, and stayed away for years. I mean, I might go for the basics like adhesive and such but, for the most part, the LSS owned my heart. They had the helpful people, the latest products that I saw in CREATING KEEPSAKES magazine, and I didn’t know from a discount…I happily paid full retail price. Well, until I filled up my “frequent flyer” card at the LSS and got some free product. Shizzle, I was so happy each time, you wooda’ thought I won the freakin’ lottery!

Fast forward to 2007 and…welcome to my world…my income has shrunk considerably and 6 of the 7 LSSs in my area have closed. Now, to digress for a minute…sure the economy played a part in these store closures, and that is reflected in the mass amount of LSS closures nationwide. But to be fair, I would blame at least 5 of the 7 LSS closures on things OTHER THAN the failing economy/industry. MY dream was to open an LSS so, believe you me, I was paying close attention, I was running the numbers, and I was privy to “insider information” on several of these stores. The last thing I wanted was for these stores to fail. It truly. broke. my heart. I WANTED them to succeed. I rah rah’d them every chance I got. I took out of town visitors there. I had them sponsor my crops. I was a hugely loyal customer. I did not criticize them to anyone (in my out loud voice). I just shopped and supported and cropped. So you can imagine my sadness when, one by one, these local scrapbook stores closed their doors.

Okay, so after the closure of 6 of “my” 7 stores, where did that leave me to shop? You guessed it…Walmart. Target. Michaels. Eventually, Tuesday Morning opened 30 minutes from me where, quite by accident while looking for pillowcases one day, I discovered they carried scrapbooking supplies. And, lucky them, they are close to Costco where I shop once a month. Walmart has the basics. I have probably spent $20 on scrapbook supplies there in the past year. Target has slowly rotating stock, discounted prices that have slowly morphed thisclose to retail prices, and the occasional clearance endcap worth shopping. That leaves Michaels and Tuesday Morning, where I do utilize my coupons (for the few items they’re still allowed on, LOL) and I take advantage of the occasional good deal. My point is that (and there IS a point here, somewhere, I swear!), for those of us in less populated areas with no LSS within 30 minutes, do we have much of a choice? Am I not to shop at all, except for the few times per year I can justify driving 45 minutes to a town I have no other business in? My answer, the one I’m completely comfortable with, would be no.

I’m sure there will be those who disagree, and that’s groovy. What is America if not a place where we can agree to disagree, right? But I think I’m doing more of a service toward keeping the scrapbooking industry alive – even if I can’t personally support LSSs the way that I used to – by shopping at the likes of Michaels and Tuesday Morning, than if I did not shop for scrapbooking supplies at all. Let’s face it…in this horrible economy, scrapbook spending of any kind is a luxury. If I can, in my small bloggy way, entice people to spend ANY money on ANY scrapbooking materials, well then, I call myself a winner, damn it! I blog about items and deals at Michaels because that is my mainline to supplies (yeah, that drug reference was intentional). If I had LSSs to publicize, I would. Damn straight. Before the blog redesign (and you loyal readers will vouch for this), I had about a bazillion links to ALL MOMENTS REMEMBERED, my favorite online store, all over my blog. I linked to STACEY and her store every chance I got. Well, now even the AMR online store has fallen victim to these times and, although Stacey still sells supplies online through her ETSY store, there is no longer an AMR online store to link to. {Happy side note: Stacey opened a brick-and-mortar AMR in her town in Oregon and, at last report, it was doing great!}

Bottom line, what I’m trying to say in my as always verbose way is this: I’m doing the best I can. I shop my 45-minutes-away-LSS as often as I can. I shop at Michaels to the point where they yell “Norm!” when I walk in the door. If I see something I like at Tuesday Morning or Costco, I shop and I share. I sell Memory Works so I can make a little mo’ money to…guess what?…spend on scrapbook supplies. I don’t mind if people question my motives or my method, because I know I’m just doing my thang.

And I know that I do it out of the love I have for this craft and my true, heartfelt desire to play a part in keeping it on life support through these crushing times. I hope in my own small way, I inspire and support you in doing the same. Of course, support your LSS! But don’t feel badly if you show your financial support in other ways, too.

Shop on, Sistas!

PS: I would dearly love to hear your thoughts on this issue, but please, keep it nice. No harshing on the nice lady who left the comment that generated this post, or I will edit/delete posts as necessary. If you would like to harsh on me, that’s fine….

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  1. avatar
    Debby says:

    I’ve heard this over and over again. LSS stores closing because we have the right to choose where we shop. We’ve had closings around here too. I always spend a ton of money in the LSS. But neither is it my soul responsiblity to keep a LSS alive and well.

    Personally, I think most LSS are not run out of business because of economy. I believe it is poor business pratices. One of the LSS is right across the street from Hobby Lobby. She has been doing great for 17 years and just added a education wing to her store.

    Another LSS just opened up across from Michaels. Everytime I go in there you can’t get around because of the customers. And she sends people to Michaels.

    I do what I can, but I will go the the box stores to pick up items I can get at a major discount. I’m not going down montarily in order to keep someone else in business. I hope the LSS survives, but maybe seeing CK, MM and others business practice pulling them down is also a big view of the whole industries’ business practice.

    Did I ever dump. I know the point of the comment was to dispute that you wanted things both way. But I thought I’d sound off here. Sorry.

  2. avatar
    Abby says:

    When I was younger and working at a locally owned business in a small town, the owner (who in my opinion was just a grumpy old man) went on a rant about people driving 20 minutes to Wal-mart or some store besides his. He fumed and fussed about shopping locally and the importance of supporting small businesses before they are all gone. At the time, I thought he was insane. I was an ignorant teenager who was barely making enough gas money to put in my car.

    As I’ve grown and matured, I totally get his point. It is important to support local businesses to help out the “little guy” and to keep those types of stores available. That being said, I agree with Debby on her point about not going down personally just to support a local business. When a local store has to have their prices INSANELY higher than other places and I only have X amount of dollars to spend, you better bet I’m going to get the best bang for my buck.

    Take MY LSS for example. I’ve tried to be supportive of them, and I still venture in from time to time. EVERY single time I have gone into that store, I’ve been ripped off. First, they are not helpful. They turn their noses down to me because I’m not a regular and don’t spend $50+ every time I go into there. They have a system in which they INSIST on your personal information, keep a record of every single item you purchase, and NEVER once have used that info to mail me a coupon or flier or anything. Now back to the being ripped off part…they do not post their prices. If they post any, it’s the cheaper ones like, “These 2 pieces of paper are 65 cents.” They then proceed to place paper that is $2.25 A SHEET there with the cheaper papers and not inform you of the insane price difference. Another (I’m sure strategic in their minds) technique is to not turn the register display where customers can see it when they ring up. They just scan the items and inform you of your total. Another annoying thing is that all sales are final. I get this, but if I’ve been ripped off, is my sale final if I complain?

    I’m just tired of wanting to support them and being uncomfortable or treated poorly as a customer when I go into the store. Isn’t the LSS experience supposed to be a pleasant one? I will tell you one thing, the majority of the ladies at Michaels recognize me and are friendlier to me than anyone at the LSS has ever been.

    I totally get supporting the little guy. Although, if the little guy treats me like crap, sells stuff for WAY more than I have to pay elsewhere, and consistently overcharges me for things, you better bet that I’m going to the store where I can get better service for a whole lot less. Poo-Poo on them.

  3. avatar

    I wonder if the person that emailed you never eats at a chain restaurant? Shouldn’t she be supporting her small business owners by eating at their restaurants every chance she gets, even though they may not have the sushi/hamburger/fries/taco that she is craving? Or might be way on the other side of town? Or not open until 4 and it’s only 2???

    Lucky me, I have 3 LSS’s in 5 minutes of me, all of which I frequent for different reasons. I also have Michael’s, Joanne’s, Target and Walmart. Not to mention Big Lots… hello thickers!! (sorry, I digress). I also will drive 20 minutes to Pat Catan’s and a whole hour to shop at the biggest scrapbook store of all.

    And, hey, if I have a 50% off coupon, you’d better bet your sweet patootie that I’m going to get me something! (Usually a $14 punch) That way I can spend my savings on more scrap stuff! :)

    My point is, that I go to each of these places for different reasons. The one LSS is fantastic in that she has a great scrap area, but doesn’t have the type of paper that I like, it seems dated to me. The other LSS has fantastic stuff, and I go there the most. The other LSS is also a part used book store, and I frequent her the least, but she is so nice that I’ll just go in and chat. I rarely buy scrap supplies at Walmart, simply because I don’t like what they carry. Joanne’s and Mike’s are about equal, and I find that usually I’ll favor one over the other every so often — right now it’s Mikes because they have more things that I like. Target, I basically just look there because I’m there already, and I might buy something once out of 5 times.

    I’m sure the person who emailed you could justify her going to chain restaurants for the same reason, each one provides something that the other doesn’t. The same with a locally owned place, you go there for certain things, atmosphere, the pizza…. what have you.

    I agree with Debbie and Abby, the poor business practices that some LSS owners have are what dooms them. Being nasty, not knowing product, ripping you off… I wouldn’t go back either. And trust me, you say one nice thing about a place and you will tell 10 people, but if you have a bad experience… you will tell about 100!


  4. avatar
    AnnieM says:

    Hmmm…this post was SOOO interesting to me…especially the comment about how it is not really the economy that has doomed the LSS. I partly agree with that, but I also think that the scrapbooking “boom” of a few years ago inspired people to open businesses in areas that would not support them when the “boom” died it has now. LSS are a niche industry, and you can’t have too many of those in one area..just not enough interested customers to support them. I do heartily agree that in some case the WRONG people open LSS. They may love the hobby, but they refuse to be customer friendly. I have 2 LSS within 30 minutes of my home, but I choose to drive over an hour to a LSS where the customer is treated like gold, where you can crop for FREE anytime the store is opened, and her “scheduled crops’ are only $20 dollars and include this: (you won’t believe it!) 14 HOURS of reserved (your own table from 10am to midnight) space; unlimited beverages from a fully stocked frig; snacks galore; a full course hot, delicious catered dinner (salad, bread, main dish, dessert) and prizes for EVERYONE. Everyone at the crop gets 10% off all purchases. It also has a computer and 12×12 printer anyone can use; lots and lots of punches to use, stamps, etc…a great clearance rack and awesome supplies. Best of all, it has one of the friendliest owners you would ever want to meet, and who has hired the friendliest staff. If it wasn’t over an hour away I would be there every I go about once a month. She has a blog, and email newsletter published every week. THOSE are the reasons I shop there, but I also shop at big box stores too, because I think you go to each of those stores for very different reasons.
    Thanks for letting me rant! BTW, the store is SCRAPBOOK CLUBHOUSE in Westbrook, CT!

  5. avatar

    I totally agree with you. I do have 1 LSS that I would shop at if it wouldn’t close at 3:00, yes 3:00. I live in a very small town and I’m glad to have a LSS but come on. Anytime I am in a town that I know have LSS, I do visit and usually end up spending money there. I also shop at big box to use coupons are bigger purchases but I still have to drive to shop big box. Bottom line ~ you gotta do what you gotta do.

  6. avatar
    Mustangkayla says:

    I go both ways. I am a true supporter of mom and pop shops and prefer to stay away from larger chain stores if I can. But like you, we went from dual incomes to single income and 2 kids and my scrapbooking budget got the ax (not got smaller, it got the axe). Therefore, in order for me to get larger items that I want, I had to use the coupons and go to larger chain stores. I always felt that the lss should realize that not everyone can afford big ticket items and will likely shop elsewhere for it, somewhere that offers coupons. Just my thoughts though. I agree with a lot of you, I think a lot of lss that have gone out have gone out due to customer service and how they ran there business, I’m sure that the economy played a role in it, but it wasn’t the primary reason in A LOT (not all, but a lot) of store closures.

    Another note, its your blog, do with it what you want! I always love finding good deals and love sharing them and hearing about them. Just cause you go to Michaels and buy $10 worth of deals doesn’t mean you aren’t going to stop by your lss next time you drive by it and spend $10 too. A person doesn’t buy all of their clothes from one store, doesn’t eat at the same restaurant every time they go out, a person is going to shop at more than one scrapbook store, whether it be a big box store or lss.

  7. avatar

    We have only one LSS but she carries very little of the products I like. They are nice enough, but I can get the same things online and pay shipping and still come out with a deal compared to what I can pay locally–not to mention saving the local sales tax.

    I don’t do this hobby as a charity to businesses. I do it because it is fun for me. My income is limited and I don’t think I should feel guilty for getting the best deal I can. Even our nearest Michael’s is over an hour away.

    I really don’t think consumers have the responsibility to keep a store in business. IMO when a store has outstanding marketing practices they keep themselves in business. The places we had that went out of business did so, IMO, because they had very outdated merchandise, exorbitant prices, sales people who were unable to answer questions about the craft and the products, and an inability to choose items that would be best sellers over things that sat and gathered dust for years.

  8. avatar

    I have the same experiences as those who have already posted so I won’t get into it… but I do admire your fairness in all of this, and this includes you asking your readers not to take it out on the author of the original post. You are a true Lady… if there were more like you, the world would certainly be a better place.
    That being said, I would love to be able to afford to support my local LSS but my employer certainly doesn’t support that idea by giving me a pay raise! It’s not an eye for an eye but if I don’t look out for my wallet, who will?

  9. avatar

    It’s all about balance. My lss (45 min. away) sells everything at 20% off and gets a lot of the latest stuff in fairly quickly. I am lucky for that, but I can hardly get there because I work M-F during the day and guess when they are open! Yes, they are also open on Saturdays, but I usually can’t get out there on Saturdays, either. I plan trips to my lss. That’s how I make it happen.

    As far as internet retailers – ummm….just because they are living in the modern era doesn’t mean they aren’t a small business! You go ahead and tout those online shops all you want! They are itty bitty businesses in many cases, too! And…I don’t have to buy gas to get to them!

    Big box stores…I have one 2 minutes from me. Literally walking distance. I go on occasion and walk out empty handed often. It’s an ACM and they just don’t always have stuff I really want. I like Mike’s selection, but they aren’t as convenient. I do go rarely to use a coupon on a product that I know I can only get there or online. My lss can’t carry THAT MANY punches! I mean, really?!

    I worked for Archiver’s – personally, I consider them the biggest threat out there to the lss because they like to put on the ‘lss’ mask. They pretend they are one and then, behind the scenes they discuss how they will take over the market and drive out the small stores. Not kidding. I was in management. People rant and rave over them like they are some kind of god of the sb industry, when the reality is they are a giant corporate load of bs. Just say’n. I’m a bit passionate about that one. That being said…whenever I am around one…even I stop in and I hate the place.

    Let’s face it. We are scrapbookers. If we are at Target buying clothes, shoes, or groceries, and happen to drop a few scrappy products in our cart we are, indeed, normal human beings. No, we haven’t forsaken our lss. I mean really…that comes out of the grocery budget anyway because you got it at Target, duh! That means that I can still spend my scrappy budget at the lss! (Don’t try to pretend you have any other rationale on that matter…it’s universal, babe.)

    One big problem lss’ have is the lack of customer service! Of course, many big box stores have the same problem, but we don’t expect it from them so much. My lss has awesome customer service for the most part. The other one in the area (about 25 minutes away) has a much brighter store, wider selection, and larger crop space…but horrible customer service and jacked up prices. Hence, my journey to the other one.

    Oh…and as far as your Memory Works/ “Scrapworks” business….that makes YOU a small business and as a former CTMH consultant who sold to the owners of her lss…I promise…you aren’t putting them out of business! ;-)

  10. avatar

    MAN! That was supposed to be short and sweet. FAIL! HA!

  11. avatar
    Karen says:

    I am all for supporting LSS and boy do I, I think I am single handily keeping the one in my area in business. But a deal is a deal and if I can get something at Michaels for 50% off than that’s where I going. My local store provides 30% off coupons and they take Archivers 30% off, but 50% off beats them all.

  12. avatar

    I prefer to shop at my LSS but I don’t have one – must shop at HL or Ms or similar place. I think shopping at different stores doesn’t mean you are disloyal or causing the demise of a business. You are just looking for the best values.

  13. avatar

    Why(ne) can’t I mouth off to the lady that left that message? I really want to….please?

    A lot of things push my buttons, but when people try to make me (or anyone) feel guilty… blood boils. It reminds me of mother’s guilt trips (and she wasn’t even jewish…OR catholic…only god knows how she got to be so good at it).

    Let’s see….free country, free trade, freedom of speech. Oh yeah, that’s why my response is going to sound like a creative memories snicker sneeze. GEEZ, I love my LSS. I love all the product they have and I love the owners….but they own the store…..not my loyalty. If it’s written somewhere that I MUST shop only at select stores, someone forgot to give me a copy. I have Carl’s Jr., McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, and Del Taco within five minutes of each other, must I be loyal to only ONE? And what if I’m a semi vegetarian? Or I have a secret crush on Jack (I think he’s so cute!)

    I DO feel loyalty however. I think most of us have a since of loyalty to our local businesses, but it’s all that freedom to OPEN a business and create competition, that allows others to go OUT of business. And sometimes I just don’t feel like driving the extra mile or so to the LSS when Michael’s is closer, or I’m on the internet and something strikes me right then and there.

    And if I have anything else to say, Jingle already said it. Geez, I forgot how funny she is.

  14. avatar

    Anyone know what a snicker sneeze is? It actually hit me that I had typed that instead of “sticker sneeze” while driving home from the store. I shouldn’t stay up so late reading message boards!

  15. avatar

    This is an interesting discussion. I appreciate how you address things diplomatically. I guess everything else I would say has already been said.

    All of our scrap stores in Atlanta are now gone. :( (readers, please let me know if I am wrong about this!)

    Thanks for keeping up the dialogue, Jenn

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