The Growth of Scrapbooking (or Should I Open a Scrapbook Store?)

One reason I focused on scrapbooking for my dissertation research is because the industry grew so quickly in a short period of time. I began working in the industry in 2003, which is around the time the industry was peaking. In this post, I will discuss the growth of scrapbooking and a few reasons why you probably do not want to open a scrapbook store.
1. The scrapbook industry has peaked. The first scrapbooking store opened in Spanish Fork, UT in 19811, 2 and later became the first online scrapbook store in 19962, 3. Scrapbooking grew from a nearly non-existent industry in 19951 to a $2.5 billion industry in 20034. The Hobby Industry Association went from having zero booths devoted to scrapbooking product at their annual trade show in 1996 to 100 booths in 19971. Though the scrapbooking industry experienced a sharp increase in its early days, sales have declined since about 20045. At its peak, scrapbooking was said to be more popular than golf. The pervasiveness of scrapbooking, however, is open to debate due to flawed industry sponsored marketing research (email stephaniemedleyrath at gmail dot com for a copy of my dissertation to get more details on this subject). Scrapbooking is not going away, but it probably will not be as big as it once was unless we take into account the number of people making photobooks. Kim Guymon posted on this very same topic this week (a complete coincidence as this was the next topic in my dissertation following my post last Wednesday). She raises several valid points as to why scrapbooking is experiencing a decline of sorts.
2. Lack of readily available and good market research. To my knowledge, no survey exists that accurately or even semi-accurately measures how many scrapbookers there are in the United States let alone the world. According to one allegedly nationally representative study, nearly 30 percent of U.S. households have at least one member who scrapbooks6. Another study found “that only 1.7 percent of the American population, or 4.5 percent of women between the ages of 16 and 64” scrapbook7, 8. Finally, a third study suggests that 12 percent of households contain a scrapbooker9. I believe the truth lies somewhere in between. Part of the difficulty in assessing how many households or how many people scrapbook has to do with what counts as a scrapbook and the fact that many people may scrapbook but do not identify as a scrapbooker (more on this later posts). Part of it has to do with the motives of the data collectors. It is difficult to get the full details of any of these studies as the data are sold for marketing purposes rather than shared for free with anyone. Even less is known about how large the scrapbook industry is outside the U.S., but it is an international industry. For example, Creative Memories® has consultants in eight countries and its word stickers are available in English, French, and Spanish, suggesting a customer base outside of the United States strong enough to support the production of these items.
3. Ability to break even let alone make a profit. Most of the merchandise in a scrapbook store is very low cost. Pattern paper and stickers can have a high profit-margin, but when you are selling items for less than a dollar or a couple of dollars, you will have to sell a lot of them to make any money at it. Some of the most popular scrapbooking items for sale are high-cost items. I remember when I entered the scrapbooking industry. No one used die-cuts—at least not the cool kids. How old-fashioned! What were we, elementary school teachers (my apologies to elementary school teachers)? Today, the most heavily marketed items are, you guessed it die-cutting machines. These items are high-cost and can be profitable—at least quite a bit more profitable than cardstock. The problem though is that you have to convince scrapbookers to layout an investment of anywhere from around $60-300 for the machine and then get them coming back to you to buy more dies or go through you to download die-cutting software. You know how many abc stickers I can buy for $300? You know how many font cartridges I can buy for $300? I am not completely opposed to personal die-cutting machines (I do own one of the lower-cost models), but I am a serious scrapbooker (which I will discuss in a later post) and I am not willing to invest several hundred dollars in glorified stickers (my guess is the major die-cutting machine manufacturers will not be advertising with me anytime soon).
4. Unreal expectations. There is also a segment of people out there that have unreal expectations about what running a scrapbook store will be like. There are those who believe they will now have more time to scrapbook. Not true. You will have less time to scrapbook but will have to help other people who do have time to scrapbook do it. There are those who believe it is the perfect job to balance work and family. Sort of. Yes, you can bring your kids with you to work. You are the boss after all, but how much work can you get done with your kids with you. But my community needs a scrapbook store. No it doesn’t. I can buy all of my scrapbook supplies online. I can even take scrapbooking classes online. I do not need a brick and mortar store to do those things. Do local scrapbook stores build community? Yes, of course, and I miss that dearly from the store I used to work for that is now closed, but, I can get community elsewhere. I can scrapbook with other people outside of a scrapbook store. A scrapbook store is a business like any other. Do your homework first before pursuing it as a career. If all you can think of are positive reasons to open a scrapbook store, rethink this path. Realize that if you want to be your own boss there are more profitable ventures than this one.
In conclusion, I would love nothing more than there to be a scrapbook store on every corner, but there are many reasons why you should not open a scrapbook store. That being said, maybe you will overcome the odds and you will be my new favorite scrapbook store! After all, most businesses fail and fail quickly, but many do succeed.
1Davis, William A. 1997. “Just Mad About Scrapbooks Makers Go Over the Top with Backdrops for Family Memories.” Boston Globe, August 30, p. C1.
2Helfand, Jessica. 2008. Scrapbooks: An American History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
3Scrapbook Classroom. 2008. “History of Keeping Memories Alive.” Retrieved March 14, 2010
4Castleman, Lana. 2003. “Michaels Succombs to Scrapbook Fever.” Kidscreen, October 3. (Retrieved from LexisNexisTM Academic August 19, 2005.)
5Crow, Kelly. 2007. “Wanted: A Few Good Men (With Scissors); As Scrapbook Sales Slow, Industry Woos Males; Lug-Nut Stickers, $2.49” The Wall Street Journal, April 6. Retrieved February 16, 2010 (
6CK Media. 2007. 2007 National Survey of Scrapbooking in AmericaTM Executive Summary.
7Conforto, Dennis. 2007. “2007 Scrapbooking Consumer Trend Report.” 2010. 2010 Magazine Profile. Retrieved April 13, 2010
9Anonymous. 2007. “Scrap Mania; Hobbies. (launch of Martha Stewart-brand Scrapbook Supplies).” The Economist, May 26, pp. 73.

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