This past week, Archiver's made the announcement that they were closing all of their remaining stores. For many in the industry, this came as no real surprise after Archiver's declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and closed 11 of their 44 stores. Of course, in their announcement, Archiver's blamed their demise on the changing industry. This, in turn, has made many scrapbookers question the hobby. I have heard tons of people ask over these last few days, "Will scrapbooking survive?"
In my opinion, it is less a changing industry and more on bad business practices that put Archiver's in this position.
I met the CEO of the company at ScrapFest in 2009 and he said that he had headed other companies before, but not a craft company.
This worried me, even all those years ago. In my book, you have to know your business to grow your business. If you don't know your industry, you had better do one of two things: learn it quickly or surround yourself with people who do know it. I was hoping that he would do one of these, or even better, do both of them.
However, as the years progressed. I saw that that was not happening. I saw Archiver's jumping onto what they saw were "hot trends", devoting lots of advertising money and shelf space to what their buyers had thought would be the "next big thing". Unfortunately, the buyers often missed the mark and many of those trends never caught on with consumers, leaving Archiver's with lots of products on their shelves that weren't being sold.
When products sit on store shelves, it takes up room for new merchandise. If you don't get in new merchandise, consumers will go elsewhere to find it. Therefore, you need to clear that space wasted on slow-moving items. The most common way to do this is to put it on sale. However, for some reason, Archiver's rarely put these items on sale, or if they did, the discount was minimal and never increased. Common sense tells you that if something isn't selling at full price, mark it down. If it still isn't selling, mark it down further until it does. But so many times, I went to Archiver's and saw the exact same things sitting there on the shelves that were there last month or even last year at the same price. I often thought that this was just me, but it was confirmed this weekend when I shopped at an Archiver's store near me. As I shopped, I made note of the older products I saw. Basic Grey collections from 2009, tools long since put on clearance at other stores, Crop In Style rolling totes that had been sitting there so long that the fabric was actually discolored -- all of these items still at full price. It was further confirmed by an employee who had worked there since since the store opened; she said that there was product in the store that had been there since opening day in 2007.
When you aren't selling product, you aren't making money. When you aren't making money, you can't pay your suppliers. When you can't pay your suppliers, they stop selling to you. This happened on a large scale with Archiver's. In their bankruptcy filings, you can see that Archiver's owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to their vendors. This kind of debt caused many vendors to scale back or stop selling to them altogether, further lessening the amount of new product coming into the stores.
Finally, the last hurdle that Archiver's never cleared was their lack of advertising. If you want people to shop at your store, they have to know about you. But unless you were a fairly seasoned scrapbooker (or a newbie who knew a seasoned scrapbooker), you probably didn't know about Archiver's. They only sent out coupons to established customers and only advertised in industry magazines. Existing customers can only sustain a business for so long, especially with an ever-changing trend like scrapbooking. To grow, you have to attract new customers, and Archiver's didn't do this on the scale that they could or should have.
With all that said, I love Archiver's. I was lucky enough to have two stores within 45 minutes of my house and I have shopped regularly at both of them. I am truly going to miss them at what they brought to the industry. However, this situation should serve as a lesson to other retailers in the craft industry. Maybe this closure will make other stores better.
Is the scrapbooking industry changing? Of course. It always has and always will. But is it dying? No. Only when it ceases to grow and change will it die. There are too many of us memory keepers out there to let that happen.
JANUARY 6 UPDATE: Many people have disagreed with this article. I admit that this article is my opinion. I am not trying to act like I know things that I don't. I am just stating my views.This was strictly a blog post about what I saw were the problems with Archiver's. Thank you to everyone for reading and commenting and correcting me when it was needed.