Folks associated with the crafting industry probably didn’t see it coming, but the art of scrapbooking literally went from a simple pastime to a full-fledged hobby in the 1980s. That’s when retail stores, clubs and designers elevated the art of scrapbooking – suddenly a verb in addition to being a noun — to the level of crocheting, knitting and photography. If you decide to become a scrapbook materials distributor, be prepared to supply your retail network with a wide variety of goods so they turn to you for everything from paper products to marketing ideas.
1. Check out the competition. Stores devoted to scrapbooking merchandise, clubs and networking may wax and wane with the economy, but competition for retailer loyalty remains strong. To compete with manufacturers selling directly to scrapbooking websites, mega-retailers and big box stores — and cannibalize the business of other distributors — you’ll have to offer superior products, service and prices. While there’s a nice margin in scrapbooking goods, established competitors can make or break a neophyte, so know thy enemy.
2. Obtain a bank loan and set up your business hub. Generate a healthy amount of startup cash because this hobby requires a large and diverse mix of products to satisfy scrapbook retailers. While much of your initial investment may be earmarked for merchandise, you’ll also need cash to set up a warehouse, purchase insurance and pay for the permits and licenses your municipal government requires. Whether your intention is supplying only websites or bricks and mortar stores (or both), you can’t get started without a computer, software and furnishings plus cash for rent, utilities and supplies.
3. Contract with manufacturers. Retailers specializing in scrapbooking supplies love one stop shopping. Who doesn’t? Make it your mission to offer these items, at minimum: adhesives, album covers, cut-outs, scrapbook pages, embellishments, ribbons, stamps, storage boxes, fine point pens, markers in myriad colors, punches, stickers, tools, totes and trims. Using this supply list, seek manufacturers making the most number of product types to avoid vendor and product tracking confusion. That said, never rely on a single vendor: a fire or bankruptcy proceedings can cut off your entire supply of goods.
4. Emphasize marketing. In addition to outwitting the competition, make it your goal to help retailers create communities. Scrapbooking is both a solitary and communal activity so it’s incumbent upon you to stress the importance of education — learning new techniques, exploring new materials and sharing skills. This value added support can boost sales and make you the person scrapbook business owners turn to when they need creative ideas. Help retailers set up classes, organize scrapbooking clubs and events to show that your motives extend beyond sales, even though that may be your distributorship’s main goal.
5. Stay informed. Retailers like knowing that their distributors are invested in the hobby’s future. Prove it by staying on top of fiscal and creative trends. Attend regional and national trade shows to meet new representatives, see product innovations and confer with hobby experts. Subscribe to trade and consumer publications. Importantly, stay abreast of manufacturing news. All it takes is a factory strike in China — a huge resource for most manufacturers — to cause an economic spiral tied to your bottom line. And always embrace new ideas — like virtual scrapbooking — by adding software to your product mix so you’re ready for anything the economy and the hobby throws your way.