The Ugly Reality of the Craft Industry That No One Wants to Deal With - Smart Creative Social

The Ugly Reality of the Craft Industry That No One Wants to Deal With

Yesterday I saw post after post on Facebook about how PaperCrafts & Scrapbooking magazine was closing its doors. I have yet to see the email myself and the PC&S website looks like business as usual but the people posting are trustworthy so I have to think that it’s true that the magazine is closing. All American Crafts Magazines filed for bankruptcy last month after closing their doors in August this year. PaperCrafts is just another casualty of what everyone calls a dying industry.

But is it? Some will blame blogs, YouTube, Pinterest, and social media for creating an alternative place for consumers to get inspiration. I don’t think people have stopped paercrafting altogether so I don’t think that is to blame. Maybe its a combination of factors – big box retailers disallowing consumers to use coupons on magazines, fewer independent retailers ordering and selling magazines, consumers cutting costs and cancelling or allow subscriptions to expire, better access to quality content online, magazines not growing the online side of their business enough to become an income generator in addition to the magazine… who knows?

The thing that is interesting to me is the industry people commenting on this. And there are ALOT of them. Being someone that works in the industry, I rarely buy magazines. But I submit my work to them. People are expressing how they will miss the beloved magazine because they were published in it all the time but did they ever spend any money on it? It’s like the magazine closing is some kind of insult to them. I bet the magazine would LOVE to keep operating. I imagine they are handing out pink slips and figuring out how to liquidate assets and none of that is very fun at all. But if people are not buying, there’s nowhere to get money from to continue operating.

It’s this emotional attachment we have to entities in our industry because we are so tied up in our craft and what we create. But that is a problem because it doesn’t equate to dollars and good business. It feels like a personal attack or like “breaking up” when a store or magazine or product manufacturer closes. If you listen to the news, the economy is picking up. But if we look at the evidence in our industry, we’re still seeing closures on all levels — from magazines like these to manufacturers like Lily Bee to local scrapbook stores like Scrapbook Daisies in Long Beach, CA to big online entities like Two Peas In A Bucket.

Nobody wants to talk about this ugly problem we have in the craft industry. It’s like we’re scared to death to admit there’s a problem and deal with the issue.

I believe the problem is that people have too much stuff. My situation is not like everyone because I receive a lot of product from manufacturers for projects and don’t always shop for product. But in my day when I was full-fledged shopping with the rest of you, I amassed a stash that would make Imelda Marcos’s shoe collection look like child’s play. I am STILL getting rid of stuff I bought because I just lost my damn mind and had to have it all. Really, I need $10,000 in Quickutz dies? Apparently I thought so. We were all caught up in this idea of “limited edition” and that we had to buy before it sold out or we had to be the first one to get THAT HOT line of fresh paper! Stores knew who to call when they got in a new shipment, phoning customers to make sure they stopped by to get their goodies before everyone else. We bought and bought and had to create rooms to put this stuff in and then we bought some more. An entire industry grew to meet demand that they created. It was glorious.

But then things started crashing. People lost their jobs and investments and homes and could no longer buy. Add to that the stores closing and selling everything off at rock bottom prices, the plethora or discounted product in stores like Tuesday Morning and Marshall’s, and crafty yard sales and well, why pay full price?

I just lugged two boxes of product to my son’s school today because I feel I am drowning in STUFF. I have stickers in my stash from 2003. I will never use those! Some of my local crafty friends had a crafty yard sale last weekend selling off their excess. And we haven’t had a local scrapbook store up here for 4 years and I know these ladies have curbed their spending the last 3-4 years. I was in Michaels yesterday and they were doing buy one, get one free on all stamps. They have never done that before in my memory. We all have so much stuff, that we don’t buy unless we have a coupon or the deal is ridiculously good. And even then, I walked out only spending $30 and I have a plan for every single thing I boguht. My average tab in 2007-2009? $400.  And I had no idea what I was going to make. Shoot, some of that stuff is still in the package!

We have a problem with people having too much stuff. They don’t need to buy. So the only way we can get them to buy is to appeal to their wants and desires. Maybe the only way to drive sales is to put pictures of George Clooney and Ryan Gosling in paper pads.

We’re going to see more closures. We’re going to see more sadness. It sucks. It really sucks. Because you can’t compell people to buy stuff they don’t need when they’re still struggling to get the basic necessities. I don’t have an answer. But we need to figure out how to deal with this ugly reality or we’ll go the way of all the tole painting stores and rubber stamp fanatics of the 1980s and 1990s.

About the Author Jennifer Priest

A craft industry professional for over 14 years, Jennifer Priest has been featured in major publications and online by the likes of Apartment Therapy and MSNBC. Jennifer's digital marketing consulting firm, Smart Creative Social, has a prestigious client list in the craft and hobby industry, connecting influencers with brands, developing digital marketing strategy, and guiding clients in creating a solid social media strategy for their brand.

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Leave a Comment:

Terri Burson says November 15, 2014

Thank you for sharing this very insightful article.

Kathy says November 15, 2014

Well said – I have heard many times how much my store is missed… Usually in a aisle at local big box. I am with you I have so much stuff that Ican give him to kids to create art! We have the best looking turkey hanging in the hall at school this year!

Sally Lynn MacDonald says November 15, 2014

The home party companies for rubber stamping and scrapbooking seem to be doing rather well. I think they understood that they have this captive audience of consultants aka salespeople who want everything new when it comes out anyway. Once you retire product the people wanted it at full price are happy to get it at a reduced price from the consultants. And the consultant voraciously want every new thing that comes from the company. I’ve seen the companies like us Stampin Up and Close to my Heart bringing in alcohol based markers similar to the higher-priced Copic markers and their consultants now want that. Whereas they had loyalty to the company and wouldn’t buy product like that before. So isn’t it interesting when both the consultant and company have to have each others backs to be successful guess what? They are.

Sally Lynn MacDonald says November 15, 2014

In a completely different vein, when companies simply copycat each other to death and make the same product over and over again with no differentiation at all between them …how is that not a recipe for disaster and failure?

Every single company that made a spray ink. show me what differentiates your product from the others.

On the other hand you have quality manufacturers who make products in the USA such as Golden Artists Colors. they’ve been a leading manufacturer of acrylic paints and mediums for years. And now they came out with a watercolor paint system and guess what? They made it better. They figured out chemically a way to make it better, to differentiate, to improve the medium. That is something you can stand by and that is something you can point to a consumer and say this is better and this is why.

Versuss take LuminArte/ColourArte for another example. Leslie O. created Twinkling H 2 O’s and Silk paints and she didn’t cut corners on the quality of the ingredients. They were great products period.

The moment Creative Imaginations got involved, it all became about cutting corners and cutting costs and using cheap mica from China. I’m glad she took control of her company again.

But what happens now? Suddenly there is a Perfect Paints appearing on Facebook, associated with the former Splash of Colour. What do you want to guess they’ve just reverse engineered the great Luminarte products with cheap ingredients and no differentiation.

Have some ingenuity. Be inventive. Create something new! Quit being a copycat, and consumers will want your product.

It’s like lyrics from a song by Pink, just give me a reason. Just a little bit’s enough…

Belinda Basson says November 15, 2014

The only time I have purchased a magazine in the last year is when there was an IndigoBlue stamp set in it. Otherwise I generally don’t even look at them. When I started scrapping 10 years ago, I would buy the odd one that had a layout in it that inspired me. In general my modus opperandi was to rather spend my money on stash. Thankfully I was warned at an early age not to binge buy for the sake of buying, but rather to buy when I needed what I needed. Also, my hubby and I rather invest in tools of our trades so instead of purchasing sticker sheets, we rather buy the machine and dies. That way we can make what we want, when we need it, over and over again. No running out of vowels or not having the right colour for my page.

Here in South Africa we don’t have your big stores that discount everything, rather we have your little scrap shop. What kills their business is the exorbitant rentals they have to to pay for their premises and the fact that suppliers will not supply home stores. I understand why suppliers do this, but the industry will die unless changes can be made, cos soon there will be no stores left for them to supply here!

Susan Walls says November 15, 2014

Very well said.

Rochelle says November 16, 2014

Damn! That was spot on.

Dana Joy says November 21, 2014

Hit the nail on the head with this one.

    Jennifer Priest says November 26, 2014


Mary says May 19, 2015

All of these comments are so very right. What happened was the small lss couldn’t compete with the stores that are 100-1000 deep in the world and can buy in such huge quantities that afford them profit even when they sell at 50% off. Lss stores would be losing money at that price. They usually have to pay shipping where big box stores usually get free shipping because they are buying for so many stores. Everything is sent to a warehouse and then trucked to their stores in smaller quantities with other stuff. They carry lots of stuff but not lots of variety. They don’t have knowledge on how to use the tools or some of the product unless they are lucky enough to have someone that enjoys the craft. So the price is cheap, and now I buy it! Then I have to find out how to use it…..YouTube! The greedy big box stores put the little guy out of business because my dollar went further in the big box store. So I’m now guilty of putting my own favorite place out of business. Money is the root of all evil, so they say! Did you ever think how many of those $.25 sticker a store had to sell to pay their rent, utilities, insurance, make payroll, sell to recover from stolen product, and pay for the product to sell, BEFORE they made ANY profit? Yep all that had to be met to make your first $.25 profit. Sorry I ranted on and on!

Annette Johnson says November 29, 2018

I am just reading this article in November 2018, it is still very relevant today. I would consider myself a craftaholic for sure. I have collected and collected way beyond my ability to house it all. I have craft supplies in the craftroom, in my bedroom, in my garage and yet I still shop at Michael’s, Joann’s, Hobby Lobby, Walmart or any other store that has a craft section. I hate that craft shows are a thing of the past but they actually “inspired” me to buy more supplies of all different areas of crafting. I agree, we have too much, yet we still buy more.

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