The first time I visited Archiver’s was probably 6-7 years ago in one of their Chicago locations. I was unimpressed. I liked their use of space and their selection. I did not like their lack of customer service. I came out of a local scrapbook store where you greet customers, ask if they need assistance, make small talk about the customer’s scrapbooking projects, and fetch a shopping basket without being asked and before the customer’s hands are full.
Archiver’s did enter the Atlanta market while I was still living there (and still working at an LSS), but they were located a good 30 minute drive (without traffic) from where I lived, so I rarely shopped there.
On a later visit (maybe 4-5 years ago), I remember being suprised that they were selling Shutterfly photobooks in the store. Paper scrapbooking businesses have long been uneasy about digital scrapbooking, but this seemed like a surprising pairing (similar to other stores selling gift cards to other businesses…you get a piece of it, but not the whole thing). Archiver’s, however, had a focus beyond paper scrapbooking or even digi scrapbookers, which was supposed to help them stand out and succeed. They wanted to include photo enthusiasts into the mix. It is possible that going after photo enthusiasts was their mistake because of the rise of cloud computing and social networking sites–sort of a wrong place at the wrong time. Photo enthusiasts had less need for Archiver’s services (even less of a need compared to scrapbookers). I’m also unsure that they kept up with the needs of photo enthusiasts beyond novelty digital storage options. I know less about the needs of photo enthusiasts, but the last time I was in a store (last year), I don’t recall much reaching out to the demographic.
One big challenge for Archiver’s was their locations–shopping malls and high traffic strip malls. The store I shopped at in Chicago was in a semi-great location. It was near Costco. The problem was the traffic–even for suburban standards. It was difficult to get to the strip mall and then it was often difficult to simply drive in the strip mall parking lot. What a pain!
Mall locations are also problematic (I think the locations in St. Louis were both malls, if I remember correctly). First, there is potentially higher rent (I am going out on a limb there as I know nothing about the retail rental market). The bigger issue is that mall locaitons are set up for new customers, not loyal customers. I don’t want to have to run to the mall to get more adhesive. I just don’t. The mall is for shopping but also for browsing and more spontaneous purchases rather than everyday essentials. I don’t go to the mall for more adhesive just like I don’t go to the mall to buy more milk.
Another challenge for Archiver’s was their mailing list. I signed up for their mailing list at least three different times because I kept getting booted from their list. They did not seem to realize that they drew customers from many miles (think 100s) of away. These customers are only going to visit maybe once a year, yet want to remain connected to the store. They want their free cardstock coupon just like everyone else. Archiver’s did a terrible job of maintaining a relationship with more sporadic (but loyal and big-spending) customers. I don’t think they understood this segment of their customer base.
On my last couple of visits to Archiver’s, I left mostly satisfied. The customer service was still mediocre at best. The selection wasn’t anything special (just pleasently organized). And they seemed to have mostly abandoned photo enthusiasts.
Onto the bigger question: Do I think the closing of Archiver’s signals the end to the scrapbook industry?
No. I think they did some things well (appearance), but left other things to be more desired (locations and customer service).
Overall, you have to sell a lot of paper to pay for the square footage of a typical Archiver’s store. That being said, I do think it points to some troubling trends in the scrapbook industry, such as the growth of pocket scrapbooking to the detriment of traditional scrapbooking, the growing behemoth that is American Crafts, the persistence of Creative Memories trying to please everyone, and the shrinking shelf space at the big box craft stores. At the same time, there is still a core market of scrapbookers out there. There are also potential scrapbookers out there. The challenge is for new and current companies to reach new scrapbookers without alienating their current customer base or to just ignore the core and go after the new. Either way, scrapbooking isn’t going away, but the industry is certainly transitioning. I honestly, believe it is transitioning more today than it was during the era of the magazine closures. The magazine closures had less to do with this industry and more to do with the magazine industry and emergence of online media.
Thoughts? What do you think the closure of Archiver’s means to the scrapbook industry?