Tuesday, 27 June 2006

It's not often that I get to apply my marketing skills to scrapbooking!

It is sad but true – quite a few of the more established UK scrapping shops have closed their doors recently. Some of these closures came as a shock to me, others not quite so but it has generated a lot of discussion on some UK boards. Some fear the demise of the craft, others think that it’s the wholesalers that are the evil ones, others blame “mainstream” stores for getting into the craft and lowering prices, etc.

I think it’s about time I presented my theory: and as it’s my blog I can do whatever I want!

As a marketeer, I think that what is going on is a combination of things. The first one and easiest to explain is the “boom and bust” theory. Mainly, an industry faces incredible growth but at some tipping point this growth becomes unsustainable and there are casualties. It’s a bit like what’s happened with the Internet bubble when it burst: lots of ambitious plans were abandoned but the industry as a whole is clearly still around. The bubble bursting just slowed down growth to more sustainable levels as well as adding a bit of maturity to a very young medium.

The other thing that is going on, I believe, is that most of the scrapbooking shops don’t have a very well defined “personality” (for want of a better word). I think that shops need to differentiate themselves from everyone else and the key to that is to decide if they want to be a specialist (say someone that sells an excellent variety of albums or everything that Scenic Route makes or every single color Bazzill or whatever) or a one-stop shop. Most shops in the UK fall between these two ends of the spectrum and do neither thing well. It’s amazing how many shops I’ve visited that sell lots of albums but not the refills or only four types of glue or a handful of patterned papers.

I realize that being a one-stop shop is difficult and involves a huge supply challenge so it’s actually easier (perhaps) to pick ONE thing they can be really good at (like sell every adhesive available) and work on that. Market on that strength, but of course be flexible enough that the shop can respond to changing trends.

This is probably a good time to mention that I am generally talking about online or online-only shops – B&M (bricks & mortar) shops have one advantage: they allow people to touch and see before they buy and also have the limited benefit of location. They are also more expensive to run, etc etc etc so they should be a separate case.

In very broad terms this is what I think. There are a few other things going on there (some shops could use a course in customer satisfaction, for example, and others price themselves out of the market entirely) but generally the problem with shops is the same as the problem with the magazines: too much of the same. This inevitably means that some shops survive and others don’t because of the market trend downwards and the fact that all the shops are the same anyway doesn’t help.

I predict that even more shops will close but that, like the internet bust bubble, should in the long run make for a stronger industry, with more defined marketing plans and more maturity. I don’t think these shop closures are the sign of a doomed end but rather the beginning of another phase in the development of the industry.

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