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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  1. avatar

    No, I won’t buy her stuff, but I’ve already spoken about why I don’t like Martha.
    But here’s a question. Are they going to be putting in Martha products at Walmart??? If they think Joann’s is too downscale, what do they think of Walmart? That doesn’t make sense.
    It seems to me that Martha Inc is using the scrapbooking industry solely for the purposes of bringing their sales up. I mean, don’t get me wrong, every one in business is in it for the money. But they clearly don’t appreciate, nor do they understand the love of scrapbooking that we crafters have. And they’re just tapping into it because they think we’ll shell out the bucks.

  2. avatar

    I think I also read in one of the press releases that Martha is determined to bring sewing “back in style”. I am very interested to see what happens with that.

    If she accomplishes her goal in that arena, perhaps dear Wal-Mart will reconsider taking fabric out of their stores.

  3. avatar

    Well the article seemed to be poorly researched. But that appears to be in line with the Martha Stewart entrance into the scrapbooking industry. Most of the successfull scrapbooking companies seem to have been started by people who are into the hobby and understand what it is about aand why people do it. Martha does not appear to have this connection. This just screams of ‘we’re on the bandwagon for the money’. So I suspect she’ll not be able to really connect with the scrapbooking community and will have another dud on her hands.

  4. avatar

    Everything I looked at in the line is made by EK Success. There must be something that isn’t – maybe in the party products, which I didn’t really look at closely.

    She was smart enough to hook up with an established company.

  5. avatar

    I don’t plan on buying anything from her scrapbooking line, like the article said she had difficulty doing a wool bird craft, I’ve noticed Martha having a hard time showing viewers on her show how to do crafts, so I feel like she is not really “in” what she is doing, but just there to make $. Overall, the author made scrapbooking sound like a lame hobby, which it is NOT. It’s is trendy, fun and important! It is a form of art.
    I LOVE my local Hobby Lobby, it’s better than JoAnn’s and WAY better than Michael’s!
    I do however like the part of the article where they say the line will include “paper products unrelated to scrapbooks, as premium and ‘aspirational.’ A white cardboard box for holding cupcakes — think school bake sales or housewarming presents — is based on one from Ms. Stewart’s favorite bakery in Paris. Sheets of colored paper aren’t described as brown, but as “Norwegian chocolate.” Yum.

  6. avatar
    louise says:

    O.K., first of all, Martha didn’t say the industry was dowdy, that uninformed reporter from WSJ did. The article WAS poorly researched, and uninformed– but that is really not Martha’s fault.

    Second, Martha Stewart’s company has always had a focus on crafts and that is what the line at Michaels is–a craft line, IT IS NOT SCRAPBOOKING line. They don’t even use the word scrapbooking, I think they used the term memory keeping or something. The stuff a Michaels are products for making paper crafts.

    Third, they partnered with EK success so ALL the products are manufactured through EK success but designed by the Martha team of crafters, art directors, and graphic designers. And it seems like a lot of it is inspired by projects from MS living.

    Finally, I’m sure money was a factor, but her crafting editors are always saying on her T.V show that they have to go to many stores to make craft projects like the ones in MS Living and Blueprint. Won’t it be nice to find all the stuff you need for a wedding or birthday party all in one store? Just forget for a second that Martha’s name is on the package. If it is beautiful, useful and of good quality why would you let someone’s name stop you from enjoying it? That is just silly and strangely vindictive.

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