Dec 1, 2008

Downturn or Shift in the Scrapbook Industry?

About 18 months ago, I had a conversation with my friend, Dennis Conforto, about the scrapbook industry. We were both sort of being demonized for saying that photos, not pretty paper and embellishments, should be the focus of scrapbooking or memory preservation. Some retailers and "artists" were calling us heretics for daring to say that because they felt like it devalued what they were doing/selling. Dennis said something like, "Just wait, in a couple of years, they'll all be saying the same thing we are."

He was right. I'm hearing and seeing more and more scrapbook retailers say, "What can we do to adapt?"

You'd have to be in a cave to not notice that the scrapbook industry has suffered some bumps. I don't believe the industry is shrinking. We've got members at ScrapBiz who are wondering if their customers know the economy is in bad shape. Their customers are still buying stuff like crazy. As long as there are stores selling scrapbook products, there will be women (and men) buying it.

But, there has also been a shift in memory preservation. "Scrapbooking" is just one aspect of preserving your photos and stories in a usable format. Digital scrapbooking, photo books, photo collages, photo gifts, altered art, online blogs, etc. are all now part of our industry. Many of our customers practice a mix of many different forms of memory preservation. Yet, the traditional scrapbook store still looks like it did in 1999 - it sells paper and embellishments.

The latest edition of the Creative Leisure News had a great comment in it.

"A number of independent retailers are having trouble, too, possibly for the same reason. Their closing their doors give the impression that scrapbooking is declining. Cindy Wyckoff. Owner/Editor-in-Chief of Scrapbook Dimensions magazine (, has a different opinion:

"I believe that scrapbooking is not slipping, but evolving. Many people find themselves wanting to keep their memories and do something with their photographs, but don't have the time to do the traditional scrapbooking or have the creative desire to do it. There are other exciting options out there for them. The scrapbooking stores could jump on these ideas, but they don't seem to be open to doing something different."

The December issue of Real Simple published an article, "Memory Keepers," which described various ways to preserve photos and letters - and none of them were scrapbooks. Instead, the article profiled women who made a coffee table photo book, a wall display box, a written book of stories, a cookbook, and a quilt."

The December issue of PMA magazine had a GREAT article about a store in British Columbia. Go to page 38 and start reading. This store is described as "PMA IN A STORE". What a great description. This store owner covers the gamut when it comes to photos and memory preservation - from cameras to photo processing to photo books and gifts to traditional scrapbooking - they carry it all. And, I bet if you could look at their bottom line, they are probably doing better than the traditional scrapbook store BECAUSE of their diversity. They can serve nearly everyone with photos. People generally take photos because they want to remember something special. So, when they come into this store, they can choose the path they want to take to display and preserve those photos. This store aims to serve whatever path their customers choose to take rather than saying, “Oh, you don’t use card stock anymore? Thanks for being our customer. Good luck to you in the future.” Instead, they say, “Oh, we have photo books!” And, conversely, to the photo book customer who would like to make a special traditional album, they can say, “We have those products!”. No one gets shown the door just because their scrapbooking or memory preservation went in another direction.

I am very much looking forward to PMA 2009 and most especially PSRO 2009. I think that scrapbook retailers would be well-served to attend and learn about the various opportunities to tune up their stores and bring them into the 21st century. Because, as Mike at the Creative Leisure News also pointed out, when plastic canvas creations became all the rage, cross-stitch only stores were encouraged to add those supplies to their inventory. Many “pooh-poohed” such things. And, the moral of the story was, “are there any cross-stitch only stores left?” Not many.

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