Jul 11, 2005

My Monday Biz Soap Box

Let me first express my appreciation to the many, many vendors who work with ScrapBiz members. I can't wait to see many of you at Memory Trends! I especially appreciate those who have changed their policies to allow our members to purchase from them! Those that have done that have been very satisfied with the results. If you're a vendor reading this, please contact us if you don't already work with our members. We'd love to have you on board with us!

One of the big values of ScrapBiz is that fact that we have so many members who can get products directly into the hands of scrapbookers at home-based workshops. In fact, that "core value" is what made Epson America contact us last year about a pilot program in which members could demonstrate and sell their Picture Mate (affectionately dubbed "The Matey" by one of our members). I have found over the years that if you can get someone to try a "cool tool", they will usually buy one. But, if they can just view it on the shelf, they may not be sure that they want to invest in one - especially if it's a bigger ticket item.

So, a company that many of our members have accounts with has decided to only work with "Bricks and Mortar" stores all of a sudden and have shut out home-based businesses. Their direct reasoning is.... "we want consumers to be able to touch and feel our products". HUH?! How can I touch and feel something sitting on the shelf at a large national retailer?? (a place their products are sold, incidentally). Isn't their product being used to create something at a friendly, casual workshop in someone's home the BEST way to get scrappers excited about it?

Also, some of the more popular tool companies have the same, ahem, "policy" against the very people (home-based consultants) who can and will whip their product out of the box and pass it around the room for EVERYONE to try. And, the thing they forget is that if the consumer doesn't buy it RIGHT THEN and THERE, they may buy it at the LSS next time they stop by. To quote a very wise person, "A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats". I may or may not sell it to that person on that night, but that scrapper will have tried it and at some point, may buy one elsewhere. No business owner should live under the delusion that they are the only place a scrapper will buy from. We all HOPE they will remember that WE allowed them to play with the nifty $80 toy, but there is no guarantee that they will purchase it from us. That's business!

I started talking with a company last year about our members selling their tool. They stopped responding to me after Christmas after a very positive initial conversation. I must say I am perplexed. Their product sits all fat and happy on the shelf at my local big-box craft store, but just TRY to get someone to demo one for you... I offered them a way to get their new product out of the box and into the hands of scrappers. They missed the vision of the whole conversation because they got caught up in their anti- "home-based" bias.

Consultants teaching classes in people's homes should not be looked at as the ugly step-sisters to bricks and mortar stores. Instead, they should be embraced as a legitimate retail channel. I know SOME retailers feel like home-based businesses are going to destroy them, but, I would argue that they are doing the exact opposite. The store-owners I have spoken with all say that consultants are great - they are the number one way that new scrappers are introduced to the industry (that's backed up by research, too). And, when new scrappers come into the industry, everybody wins!

Just because someone is home-based does not mean they are going to sell to everyone and their dog at wholesale and destroy the universe. In fact, I have run into more former store owners abusing accounts than any other group. It's common to keep accounts open and just sell to all your friends (at or near wholesale) after you close your store. I could name three right now doing that. So, just because they could ONCE send in a photo of their store front, doesn't mean they still have the store front... There are problems with this type of behavior in every channel of the industry - it's not just home-based business owners - as many would like to believe.

Off my soap box now...

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