Education & Workforce Development and Small Business

Scrapping it: Flurry of area shops close the books on once-hot business

June 26, 2006

Forget-Me-Not in Greenwood will soon be forgotten. The store, which sold scrapbook albums and supplies, closed last month. It was the latest of at least seven scrapbook stores to close in the past few months in central Indiana.

Business analysts are calling the rash of out-of-business signs a cautionary tale for proprietors who invest in "silo businesses" that base their bottom line on a trend or product that may soon be out of style.

"A lot of the mom-and-pop [scrapbook] stores have [failed]," said David Edelstein, co-owner of Memoirs in Carmel's Clay Terrace shopping center, one of the few remaining scrapbook stores in the area. "It's like any hot thing, when something new comes out, a lot of people jump into it. Then they're doing it for a few years and they see they're not enjoying it anymore or they're not making money with it."

The closure of Forget-Me-Not means seven of the scrapbook stores listed in last year's phone book are gone. Only six remain, including just one in Marion County-Archiver's on Southport Road.

The stores probably closed because the market was saturated too quickly after the trend caught on about five years ago, Edelstein said. And now that big-box retailers are selling scrapbook supplies, it's difficult for small businesses to compete.

Business experts see an additional reason.

"It's the cyclical nature of a niche industry," said Sharon O'Donoghue, director of the Central Indiana Women's Business Center, who helps mom-and-pop businesses get the doors open. "People need to ask themselves [before they open a business], is this just a Chia pet or the next pet rock?"

She's not surprised scrapbook businesses are struggling. Pilates and yoga studios could be next, she said.

But that doesn't mean people wanting to teach yoga should put their business plans in the trash, O'Donoghue said. Rather, they just need to proceed with caution.

"You have to stand back and say, who else touches this target market and has enough of a related product or service?" O'Donoghue said. "Where is there some synergy if I can connect the dots?"

For example, if people had approached O'Donoghue about opening a scrapbook store just as the hobby was gaining popularity, she would have advised them to partner with somebody who might want to stock scrapbook supplies, like a camera shop or a drugstore, rather than opening their own storefront.

It's no different from the advice she gives to people who want to open nail salons.

"Why should [a small-business owner] go out and just open a storefront and be one of 300 other nail shops open?" O'Donoghue asked.

Instead, she encourages nail salon owners-to-be to team with places like hair salons and tanning studios. Because people who get their nails done might also be in the market for a haircut and a stop in a tanning booth, sharing retail space can both bring in customers and help reduce overhead costs for rent and electricity.

That sort of thinking has helped Edelstein stay in business. While the majority of his sales come from scrapbook materials, he's also diversifying, so he has more than fancy, colored paper and glue sticks on the shelves.

"We wanted to create a destination for photographers, crafters, hobbyists, scrapbookers and everybody to have one place they can come for knowledge, education and product," he said.

The business hosts a nightly class on topics ranging from digital photography to traditional scrapbooking. It also helps customers turn photos into things like coasters and clocks.

"Photo décor is becoming an important part of the business," he said.

As the industry shifts away from paperbased scrapbooking to more digital products, Edelstein is ready. The store sells cameras as well as personal printers.

But that's not the only business lesson Edelstein offers to others hoping to turn a hobby into a profession. He accumulated more than two decades of experience in the retail industry before he opened Memoirs. He knew the importance of keeping inventory up to date and following what's happening in the industry before he welcomed his first customer.

And unlike some who rushed into the business, he also took time to draft a business plan.

Edelstein isn't the only local scrapbooking entrepreneur with a little business savvy. Mary Jines, owner of Scrapbook Xanadu, helped her husband run a small business for several years before opening three locations.

The experience hasn't been enough to protect her stores from competition from the likes of Target and Wal-Mart, she said.

She recently closed a store at the corner of 82nd Street and Allisonville Road, but still has locations in Avon and Greenwood.

Yet, despite the rough year for local scrapbook stores, aficionados need not fear.

It's now a $2.5 billion industry, and not one that's in the process of disappearing.

"Scrapbooking is still an area that has some growth potential," said Loren Barrows, spokeswoman for the Elmwood Park, N.J.-based Craft and Hobby Association, a group that represents scrapbook retailers and other hobby-related businesses.

Edelstein doubts his store will be the next to close. The rash of recent closures is more a sign of a bloated industry shaking off excess weight.

"We're here to stay," he said.
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