Ginger Ditton said it was her dream to own her own business. That dream came true in June 2006 when she and her husband, Steve, opened Keepsake Trends, a scrapbook hobby store in Surprise.
It ended when they filed for bankruptcy and closed the store a year later.
The Dittons sank $80,000 into the business and walked away with nothing. “It’s been difficult because having a business has been a dream ever since my husband and I got married,” she said. “To see that end has been very depressing.”
They’re not alone. The scrapbooking industry locally and in the nation has nosedived over the past four years.
The phone book is loaded with independently operated scrapbooking stores with disconnected phones like Memory Lane in Mesa and Scrappin’ Sisters in Glendale.
Scrapbooking was a $3 billion industry four years ago. Today it’s dropped to about $2 billion, said Karen Crisp, vice president of sales for A-Z Media Group, a company that produces publications and offers guidance to help small businesses.
Meanwhile, the number of stores listed in a directory that’s produced by A-Z has fallen from 5,000 to 2,700.
Talk to anyone in the trade and they’ll likely tell you that there are a myriad of things causing the doom and gloom. Some blame “big-box” retailers like Michaels arts and crafts stores, Hobby Lobby and Recollections, a subsidiary of Michaels, which are putting a pinch on mom and pop outlets. Others blame store owners who don’t have a good business plan or aren’t willing to put forth the work necessary to stay profitable.
Crisp said one of the chief reasons is that retailers are failing to attract new customers.
“Nobody in the industry had been actually marketing scrapbooking to newbies,” she said.
Jennifer Wyatt and Kim Johnson, owners of Mystic Paper at Main Street and Macdonald in Mesa, said the bevy of closures across the Valley can’t all be blamed on ruthless corporations eating the lunch of smaller businesses.
“It’s all about having the ability to change and adapt as you grow,” Wyatt said.
The duo said their business is thriving and they aren’t worried. In fact, Wyatt and Johnson are hoping to move into a bigger store somewhere closer to the interchange of loops 101 and 202 where they’ll attract more customers. But that doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention to what the big boys are doing.
Wyatt produced a comparison showing the difference in prices between her store and Michaels, which she readily points out to her customers.
A photocopy with receipts from Michaels — or “the M store” as Waytt calls it — and Mystic Paper shows her store sells a permanent adhesive dispenser that was 20 cents cheaper than the same one at Michaels.
She said that and other examples demonstrate that the big-box retailers aren’t necessarily able to sell products cheaper despite their ability to buy in large quantities.
Wyatt and Johnson said that business owners must work to constantly engage their regular customers while trying to attract new ones.
They do this by maintaining a customer e-mail list and an Internet blog that they use for advertising and offering specials. They also use a Web site.
“If you’re not excited by your store, your customers aren’t going to be excited by your store,” Wyatt said.
Still, others lay heavy blame on forces outside their control.
A posting on the Scrappin’ Sisters blog blamed a number of things.
“We’ve been fighting a losing battle since the opening of Recollections in our area. This was further complicated by the slow economy, the slowdown of scrapbooking industry-wide, and the recent closings of other scrapbook and craft stores in our area. We’ve tried many different things, but we no longer have a choice and cannot hold our lease.”