As you know, I’m fairly “scrapbook obsessed.” (REALLY???? We hadn’t noticed!). Which means that, yes, I scrapbook but also that I think about it 24/7, read all the scrapping books and magazines and blogs, participate on message boards, watch scrapbooking on tv, attend and hold crops, work as a scrapbooking consultant and have my own little s/b business as a compliment to that, etc. etc. (Yes, I could go on!). As a person who is this involved, I have some opinions on what I think is happening in the scrapbook industry so I thought I would share them and see what you think. Note: When I refer to the scrapbooking industry here, I’m talking about paper scrapping not to include digital. First of all, it’s no secret that in late 2006/all of 2007, the industry has slowed down. By that I mean it’s not making as much money for the biggies, i.e. the magazines and the major scrapbooking product companies. Secondly, tons of local scrapbook stores (LSS’s) are closing with only a few new ones opening. Since LSS’s used to be the heart of the industry, I take this as a major hit. I think there are 4 major reasons for this downturn: the economy, the internet, digital scrapbooking, and the industry itself.
Okay, the first and easiest reason is the economy. Not that the economy is horrible, but it has taken a hit in the last few years with gas prices so high, mortgage rates going up while home values stagnate or recede, and jobs being outsourced to other countries where they can pay someone 50 cents an hour to do the same job an American would be paid $12/hour for (major pet peeve of mine, but we won’t go there). But the bottom line of our economic shift is that we all have less disposable income to spend on scrap supplies. Yeah, I know, horrors! Everyone I’ve talked to – ladies like me who have scrapped and shopped for years – has had to tone down their spending. I used to fill my Honda with gas for $25, and now it costs $45. There went the $20 I would’ve spent on supplies last week, and that adds up to $80 less from this one consumer over the course of a month. May seem small but not when you multiply $80 by the millions of scrapbookers who routinely shop. Before we used to think nothing of dropping $80-100 at the LSS every few months, but now it might happen once a year by using those gift cards from Christmas. Because our money is so tight, we’ve become smarter shoppers who rely on…big box craft stores and their lovely coupons. While this is convenient and cost-saving to we consumers, I feel it has really hurt the industry. I’m the most guilty of it than anyone I know, so I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it, just pointing out that it has had a definite effect. When I can get a Colorbok 12×12 album using a 40% off coupon for $12 instead of $20, or use a 50% off coupon to buy a Crop in Style Cube for half-price, I’m going to do it. But when I do, I’m taking the money I would have spent at the LSS and giving it to Michaels which is a huge nationwide chain. As much as I adore Mikes, they are not contributing to my community, donating items to my crop, or supporting my local scrapbook community like an LSS would. When we continually give our (few) scrappin’ dollars to Mikes, Costco, Hobby Lobby, et al., we are making it virtually impossible for the LSS to stay in business. When I asked one local owner why she was closing her store, she said, “Everyone thinks running a store is so profitable because scrapbook supplies are expensive. But it takes A LOT of pieces of 69 cent patterned paper to pay my light bill.” In other words, sure, there is a good mark-up on scrapbook supplies but it’s not like owning an appliance store or a car dealer where each sale can net you hundreds/thousands of dollars. A person has to walk out of the LSS with a bagful of supplies (or a full-priced Cricut or a full-priced QuicKutz) for them to see a significant profit per sale. I don’t know of one LSS owner who is making a killing, even the very savvy, business-smart ones. When I used to have 7 LSS’s within 100 miles, I enjoyed shopping at them so I could have the latest and greatest and enjoy the atmosphere there, even if it cost a bit more (see THIS POST for more on my love of LSS’s). But after I heard that comment from the owner, I made even more of a point to spend my scrap budget at LSS’s. Now I’m down to 1 LSS and I go there at least once per month even though it’s a 45-minute drive. The rest of the time, I do use my coupons and look for deals at big box stores. I suppose as a matter of principal, I could refuse to shop ‘big box’, but #1-I’m not that strong (LOL), and #2-Would it really make a difference if one lone scrap shopper in America made that effort? Nope. It would take a banding together of many of us, and I don’t see that happening. For most of us, the slowing economy has made it so that we put our budget ahead of the things we enjoy about our LSS’s.
The second trend that has negatively effected our industry is the internet. It’s tied in with the big box/economical reasons above but, basically, there are so many advantages to internet shopping that many of us have transitioned to it either partly or fully. There are so many positives to buying scrapbook supplies from the internet: easily view everything that’s available, compare prices to get the best deal, and take advantage of screamin’ deals on Ebay – all in the comfort of your warm, dry house while wearing your jammies! The only negatives: credit card/ID theft issues, waiting for the package to arrive, and sadly, taking our money away from the LSS’s. The major upside is that the internet has allowed any scrapper who would like to open up their own ‘store’, whether it be Ebay, Etsy, or a full-on store website. As a scrapper who recently quit full-time work and was interested in working from home, I can appreciate how that kind of opportunity could be irresistable and even considered it myself. However, this freedom in e-commerce has led to a saturation in the scrapbook market…and the eventual failure of many online stores. Don’t get me wrong, I think you can still make some pocket money in this type of venture but I don’t see many people making a full-time income from it. There are many huge sites that have done very well for a long time (ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOBBIES, EMBELLISH IT, etc.), but they are rare in my opinion. (If I’m wrong on this, please educate me :-). Bottom line is that if we’re all shopping online and forcing vendors to give us the rock bottom price or go out of business, and forcing the closure of LSS’s which offer all the products that keep the big magazines/companies going, then we as online shoppers have negatively impacted the very industry that we so love.
The third big effect I see involves digital scrapbooking. I don’t know any official statistics, but I’ve concluded that a large portion of paper scrappers (maybe 50%?) have transitioned partially or fully to digital scrapbooking. I base this on the number of people who talk about it on MB’s, post their digital pages, demand representation in the ‘paper scrapbooking’ magazines, and the number on digi-websites and blogs. I’ll bet Costco is making a killing on 12×12 page printing! Digital scrapbooking is very popular and it has to have had an effect on the paper scrapbooking industry. It goes something like this: A paper scrapper wants to try digital scrapbooking. She looks around online and downloads one free digi-kit from 50 different sites. She tries the digital thing and realizes she can complete a whole album while sitting in the car with her laptop at 5 of her son’s baseball practices. Not to mention no fuss, no mess, no sticky desktop to clean when she’s done. She thinks, “Why didn’t I try this sooner?” and tells all her friends to try it, which they do, and they all love it. Ms. Digi Scrapper looks at all of her paper scrap supplies and says, “I’d better stop buying supplies because I will never even use what I have, much less new stuff. And besides, why pay money when I can get all those digi-kits for free?” Now the only money she is spending is on printer cartridges and digital page printing (although I hear from lots of digi-scrappers that they don’t even print most of their pages; the pages live in their computers to view onscreen, post on their blog, or e-mail to relatives). Anyhow, even if some of this 50% of scrappers remain hybrid, I’d bet they still don’t spend anywhere near the amount of money on supplies as they used to. As for the creators/sellers of digi-elements, are they getting rich? Have we just transitioned the profit from the paper scrap companies to the digital designers? Personally, I don’t think so. Again, why pay for something when there are so many freebies? I love the ARTICLE Kim Guymon at Scrapbiz.com wrote about this subject and she explains it very well. But, again, the bottom line is this huge transition to digital scrapbooking has changed the face of the scrapbooking industry as we know it. I imagine if you’ve gone totally digital, you aren’t concerned but as a ‘completely paper’ scrapper, I kinda’ wish it wasn’t happening. I’m not blaming anyone – the digital scrapbookers or their industry – I just wish digital had come along after my lifetime or something, LOL. It’s like when I get mad sometimes and DH says, “Why are you mad at me?!?” and I say, “I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at the SITUATION.” (Pout, pout).
“Fourthly” and lastly, I place some blame on the scrapbook industry itself. I think they have bowed to the pressure we put on them for something new, “the latest and greatest”, all the time and they just release too many dang products! Coming from me, this statement probably shocks you, right? I can shop like nobody’s business and drool over all the new products. I discuss them here on my blog and post links to enable your shopping as well. But just because we want the new stuff all the time, doesn’t mean the industry has to provide it. I think the popularity of the scrapbook magazines with their ads for new products, their awesome pages and articles featuring the new stuff, and all the internet advertising of same has pressured the makers of scrapbook products to keep putting out new collections. Well, I’m no expert but I imagine that costs a lot of money – designing, advertising, attending trade shows, sending reps to the stores, and filling orders. When the industry was really thriving, that was all well and good. But now that it has slowed, we’re still expecting tons of the latest and greatest, and they are still delivering. How can that be profitable? Add to that the new companies that continue to appear and it boggles the mind. A few of the longtime, larger companies have recently gone out of business and I predict that more will follow. I’ve also noticed limits on production that frustrate stores and consumers. It has to eventually fall apart, as much as I absolutely hate to say that.
So there are my thoughts on today’s paper scrapbook industry. I think about it a lot as I read the message boards and hear so many complaints lately like this: “CK has gotten so thin”, “My LSS closed :(“, “The freebies at CKU/Expo have gotten so limited,” and “Why is there no Michael’s coupon every week like there used to be?”. I’ve noticed that CK, the premiere scrapbook magazine, has changed to a company with horrible customer service and thousands of loyal subscribers dropping their subscriptions. I see Creative Memories, the premiere (or at least original) scrapbook home party company, firing employees and making decisions that continue to alienate their consultants and, hence, customers. To me, the answer to these questions and the reason for the negative trends all lies in the fact that the scrapbook magazines and the companies who make the products are not thriving like they used to be. As scrappers, that’s just something we have to realize and live with. Hate to be Debbie Downer, but I think it’s only going to get worse… Please don’t shoot the messenger. I’m not happy about it either, fo’ sho’. Now tell me what YOU think – I would love to know if I’m ‘in the dark’ or ‘on target’.