I'll admit that I have pretty much ceased my scrapbooking. I cleaned out my studio and have a huge pile of scrapbook paper waiting for me to drive it to the local children's hospital. My paper crafting is relegated to the occasional card or tag. I don't see myself doing traditional paper scrapping ever again. I do most of my memory preservation with digital scrapping and print it out in photobooks. In fact, I have my own photobook company now.
I rarely purchase scrapbook supplies anymore. The largest local scrapbook store in my area went out of business this year after more than a decade. I stopped by Michaels today because I needed some paper for a project for the teenage girls at my church. We are making these cute gum advent calendars. I was saddened by the lack of selection of Christmas papers. There was about 10 different ones and none of them very interesting. It was sad that there really wasn't any place else to go for a better selection.
Is the scrapbook industry dead? No, it's not. Has it contracted significantly? Yes, it has. The result is being left with whatever you can find in your area rather than the freshest fun stuff hand-picked by an independent scrapbook store owner based on what her customers are telling her they want.
Does that mean there is room for new scrapbook stores because so many places are left without one? No, I don't believe that's what it means. Although I'm sure there are some who are sort of new to the industry who believe that. It's not that many areas don't have stores because no one has thought to open one. Many areas don't have stores because there just isn't enough business anymore to support one.
I have had the occasion in the last month to correspond with two people who were looking into opening or buying a scrapbook business. Both asked my opinion based on how involved I have been in the industry. While I don't necessarily participate in a business way in it anymore, I have paid attention to what has been happening to scrapbooking.
I get the feeling that the closing of so many retail stores has helped the ones that survived. Although their customers are having to come from farther away. But, as one store closes, another picks up some of those poor scrapbook retail orphans. But I also get the feeling that the new influx of customers just helps them hold steady. They don't really grow as a result of someone else closing. They just replace customers they themselves may have lost.
I am also convinced that digital scrapbooking and photobooks continue to take a tremendous bite out of the traditional industry. I was walking through Michaels today and heard two women discussing how no one makes scrapbooks anymore because they don't have to print their photos. They were just a couple of shoppers - no one special. I was sort of amazed at their insight. They are on the right track. There's no compulsion to take care of that roll of film sitting on your kitchen counter. And, for me, printing THEN scrapping was more time consuming than scrapping THEN printing as I do in digital scrapbooking.
So, as I corresponded with these women who came to me, some thoughts emerged regarding the industry and how you can tell that it's probably not a good idea in most cases to dump a lot of money into starting a business. Does that mean you shouldn't start a business? No. But, you should proceed with caution and with money you can afford to lose. It's advice I've actually been handing out since 2002.
Martha Steward said that if you only seek the advice of friends when you're about to launch an expensive business, you're on the wrong track. Of course your friends will agree that it's a great idea. What else are they going to say? They have no skin in the game so they are totally supportive of whatever you want to do with YOUR time and YOUR money. I daresay, though, that most wouldn't give you a minute of their own time or money to help you. Suddenly, it may not seem like that good of an idea if they have to put something up. And, despite what they say, your own friends will often never spend much in your place of business. I've seen that time and time again. They sort of expect the big discount more than they want to help you pay the bills. You simply can't build a business on the promises of friends.
Seeking the advice of someone who will challenge your idea is the best thing you can do. I will challenge your idea to enter the scrapbook industry. I figure one of two things will happen. I'll either make you SO ANGRY that you set out to prove me wrong and you'll work your rear off to make sure I see that YOU can be successful (which may actually result in your success), OR, you'll get scared and walk away. Either way, you'll probably win. Retailing of any sort isn't for wimps and the scrapbook industry is an especially challenging place.
Consider the following:
- There was once probably a dozen consumer magazines in the scrapbook industry. There are now only a few left and they are very thin due to a lack of ads
- At one point, there was a dedicated tradeshow for the industry. Now, there is only CHA and the scrapbook portion of it seems to be shrinking in size of booths, number of exhibitors and attendees.
- There have been instances of companies debuting products at CHA and then cancelling all orders immediately after the show and closing their business. That's not good when you can get enough orders at the biggest show there is to move forward.
- There were 4-5 trade magazines at the highpoint. There is now one and it's not that good.
- When I started ScrapBiz in 2002, I worked with probably half a dozen distributors. About half of them have now closed.
- Support organizations like ScrapBiz have all but disappeared with just a few left
- Once popular Creating Keepsakes University is non-existent as are many of the expos in many markets
- The big box retailers, who carry what's selling, have down-sized their scrapbook sections or now offer very generic, cheap products in their aisles.
- Most of the direct sales companies dedicated to scrapbooking have disappeared. I get the feeling the ones left are limping along.
- Lots of very popular names in the industry have added digital scrapping to their offerings. Most retailers "pooh-poohed" the idea of digital scrapbooking and paid a price as lots of their customers left to pursue it and never darkened their door again.
You can't blame the economy. The scrapbook industry started to decline in about 2006 - well before the economy started to tank. Do I see it roaring back? Not really. Do I see it continuing to exist? Yes. It's just peaked.
Therefore, I caution anyone looking to start a business in it to do their homework (as I always have). Don't ask your scrapbooking friends if they think opening a business is a good idea. Instead, hunt down former store owners in your area and have an honest chat with them about why they closed their doors. Run the numbers with a realistic look at how much patterned paper you'd have to sell to break even. Look at your finances and decide of you can afford to lose the money you put into your business.
Then, either proceed with your plans to prove me wrong or walk away and save yourself the headache.