Nov 26, 2008

Paper Slabs are the Root of All Evil

Okay, maybe that's overly dramatic. But, I believe that we, the industry, made a HUGE mistake selling giant packs of scrapbook paper. I'm firing up to read THE LONG TAIL by Chris Anderson. I haven't read it, yet, so I can't give you a total review. But, the premise of the book is that it's better to sell LESS and more exclusive products over a longer time than it is to sell a bunch of cheap and common products at one time - sort of a "less is more" theory.

When slabs of paper came to our industry, they really should have been met with resistance by retailers. Instead, we got romanced by the GIANT PACKS of pretty papers and we ate them up. One thing we failed to see is that when customers buy 250 sheets of patterned paper at one time that they will really not need paper again for a LONG TIME. Paper is the life-blood of our industry.

Customers quickly started drowning in slabs, pads and bulk-packs. I, myself, had something like 1500 sheets of paper that I finally gave away to schools just to get rid of it. I would never use most of it but at the time, it sounded like a GREAT idea.

In the Long Tail theory, it would have been better for us to sell small packs or single sheets and keep customers coming back regularly. Instead, we loaded them up and kissed them good-bye and thought us very smart to have sold $12 worth of paper to ONE customer. What we failed to think about was that Suzy Scrapper would not need paper again for over a year. And, if Suzy Scrapper isn't coming in regularly to buy paper, then she's missing out buying other things, too. Ooops.

Keeping customers coming in the door regularly is necessary to the survival of your business. The slabs were a big mistake that we can't take back. What we CAN do is encourage customers to use up or even donate their paper to a school or hospital. You could even have a paper exchange program where for every certain number of sheets of paper a customer donates to your store for YOU to donate to a charity, you give them a discount or some free paper with purchase.

Okay, off to start The Long Tail over the long weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

Sandra @ The Memory Workshop said...

Not to mention...half the paper in those bargain, bix-box-exclusive slabs is UGLY.

I'm not talking about the quality paper collections sold by some manufacturers...they are the same paper as you can buy in singles and they are priced at, or slightly below, retail. Consumers buy them because they love the collection, not because they're a bargain.

I'm talking about those flimsy, ugly, not-cut-square, packs full of papers nobody would buy by the single sheet.

In their search of a bargain, consumers end up with hundreds of sheets of paper they would never choose off a shelf, and then they feel guilty and promise not to buy any more until they "use up their stash"...except the paper was a little dated (along with ugly) when they bought it, and its just getting older. Its completely uninspiring so they avoid scrapping so they don't have to use it. Bad, bad, bad all around.

Encourage your customers to donate what they don't love and only buy what they know they'll use!