What Does the Closure of Archiver’s Mean for the Scrapbook Industry?

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?

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  • Becky Nelson

    I’m confused about your Creative Memories comment because they’ve essentially ceased to exist. I haven’t heard much about their new incarnation but my gut feel is that it’s not really grabbing market share at all.
    There is definitely a shift in the scrapbooking world going on. I think there will always be people who scrapbook in the traditional way but my hope is that the pocket scrapping and digi and all the other newer ways bring more people to the hobby of preserving memories. I think the DIY and “maker” crowd is a definite potential consumer base. I agree with you though that I hope they don’t alienate their current customers.

  • I think it’s just going through another metamorphosis. I really see a difference between scrappers who shop mainly at a LSS or box stores and those who are involved online and follow manufacturers blogs and DT blogs. I was in my local LSS the other day and she still has the rolls of stickers, tons of them. I haven’t used those kinds of stickers in a long time. I think we are also seeing a slowing down in purchasing as we find our scrapbook rooms, (if we are so lucky to have them), are bursting at the seams with our hoarding tendencies. I know I am really trying to use what I have after doing a big purge of items I know I will never use.

    In general there is more online purchasing going on for everything from food to TP.
    And to answer the question more directly I think you hit on several key points. Mall locations are not easy access, they are way more expensive then even a strip mall, and your average mall shopper is not there to shop for supplies. I really think from what I have read in different places it was more of a business model issue.

  • DorothyCC

    The local Archivers near me in the Chicago suburbs was located in a strip mall that also featured a Joann’s. Parking was conveniently located right next to the door. Traffic wasn’t any better or worse than for other locations. My friends and I enjoyed meeting at Archivers for Scrapmania on occasional Friday or Saturday evenings. I also came for their free Make & Take demos of new products. The sales people were friendly and helpful, and they introduced me to products that I would never have otherwise bought on my own. Joann’s has started making their classroom space available for scrapbooking parties, but they don’t have Archivers’ wide product selection and specialized sales force. Now that Archivers is gone, my friends and I will be gathering more often in our homes for scrapbook parties. I am starting to buy more product on-line, but videos and photos aren’t nearly as effective as real-life demos and being able to see actual paper colors and patterns.
    I was introduced to scrapbooking by my Creative Memories consultant and by Archivers. Now that both companies have gone bankrupt, I’m wondering who is going to bring in the next generation of non-digital scrappers.

  • Thanks for commenting. Good point about who is going to introduce the hobby to new scrapbookers. I don’t think that the big box stores are up to that particular challenge. While online education might fill this need, a person has to know what they are searching for to stumble upon scrapbooking.

    I’m glad you had really good experiences with Archiver’s. I should clarify, that I never went there often as they were too far (100+ miles from my home). It is always possible that I just had bad luck with customer service on the days I visited (still doesn’t change the fact that I was repeatedly dropped from their mailing list).

  • Thanks for commenting. Yes, I think it was more business model issue than scrapbooking industry issue. But, you also hit on another point: many of us have enough supplies to last a lifetime. I could probably go years with only buying adhesive and new blades for my paper trimmer before running out of paper and embellishments.

  • Thanks for commenting. The Creative Memories point goes to how they went from paper, to including digital, to expanding to include pattern paper, and now their new solution is an app. I don’t know enough about their new product line yet to comment completely. At one point, CM also did framing! I think they overextended themselves in some ways which is why they have ceased to exist as Creative Memories.

    There is definitely a lot of potential with the DIY and maker crowd (and pocekt and digi scrapbooking). I think scrapbooking is here to stay and perhaps some of these changes really are just that, changes, and nothing more to worry about as a traditional paper-based scrapbooker. 🙂

  • Becky Nelson

    Ah – I understand now. As CMs rigid methods began to turn off a bulk of scrapbookers they did indeed do their best to draw customers back by adding on services. I was drawn in by their digital services but used kits from online stores other than CM. After they discontinued support of their digital software, I jumped to Adobe. Anyway, all that to say, I find the analysis of the industry fascinating. I hear similar discussions in the knitting and sewing communities. The key to longevity is always to draw new folks in and keep fresh. I’m so glad there are so many various ways to express our creativity and I look forward to seeing how the various industries adjust.

  • Interesting that similar conversations exist among sewers and knitters. It certainly makes sense. I don’t know how a company can successfully serve the needs to both existing hobbyists and attract knew hobbyists. Perhaps the fact American Crafts has bought up so many scrapbooking companies really is a good thing. They might be postitioning themselves to be all things to all people with their different brands.