PUT IT IN THE BOOK

On shoppers' grocery lists: milk, eggs, bread ... glitter glue, ribbon, beads, button box?Activities related to arts and crafts, including the increasingly popular art of making scrapbooks to preserve photos and mementos, are a growing trend in certain parts of the country. More supermarkets are either carrying or expecting to offer these materials to grab impulse sales and satisfy consumer interest.Several

On shoppers' grocery lists: milk, eggs, bread ... glitter glue, ribbon, beads, button box?

Activities related to arts and crafts, including the increasingly popular art of making scrapbooks to preserve photos and mementos, are a growing trend in certain parts of the country. More supermarkets are either carrying or expecting to offer these materials to grab impulse sales and satisfy consumer interest.

Several factors are driving the trend to make homemade crafts, such as the desire to connect with loved ones and socialize with friends, promote personal and creative expression, and provide a way for mothers to encourage an artistic forum for their children, said retailers and analysts.

The craft and hobby industry was worth $29 billion in 2002, up 13% from $25.7 billion in 2001, according to the Hobby Industry Association, Elmwood Park, N.J. Sales of scrapbooking materials and supplies jumped 30% to reach $1.2 billion in retail sales in 2002, according to Unity Marketing, Stevens, Pa., a research and consulting firm specializing on sectors like the giftware and stationery industries.

Roughly 13% of U.S. households participate in making scrapbooks, and consumers spend an average of $50 a month on materials, according to Creating Keepsakes, a magazine for the scrapbook consumer.

"Scrapbooking goes far beyond arts and crafts," Pam Danziger, president, Unity Marketing, told SN. "It's all about connecting, collecting memories. It's a life-affirming activity." Grocery stores "are behind the ball" on this trend, she said, and retailers must think of new ways of displaying products to enhance the experience of connecting consumers.

"Post 9/11, it's been a growing trend that consumers are looking for ways to connect with family and friends, and become more home-focused," said Jon Hauptman, vice president, Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Ill. "Scrapbooking is a great example of consumers refocusing on families."

Schnuck Markets, St. Louis, has offered scrapbook materials, and other arts and crafts supplies, seasonally in the past, displaying items like beading and molding kits, memory books and journals, said Jean Hoff, category manager. The retailer tends to carry more of these items during the holidays for gift-giving times, as people like to customize and decorate greeting cards and gift presentations, she said.

"People are getting more involved with their families, spending more time at home and looking to get organized," Hoff said.

Connie Taylor, general merchandise buyer, Andronico's Markets, Albany, Calif., said she is in pursuit of offering scrapbook and other art and crafts materials for the retailer's stores. "Scrapbooking is a nostalgic and comforting project that brings families together," she said.

"It's incremental business that we don't do today in food, and it is a category unto itself that has a significant consumer base," said Larry Ishii, general manager, general merchandise and health and beauty care, Unified Western Grocers, Commerce, Calif. "But that consumer base is accustomed to doing their purchasing in other channels, be it scrapbook specialty stores, craft stores or home party programs.

"Also, it is a fairly space-intensive category, which makes it difficult for conventional independent supermarkets to get involved."

While not all stores carry scrapbook supplies, Albertsons stores that have a demand for arts and crafts products may carry them "in an effort to market neighborhood by neighborhood," said Karen Ramos, director of public affairs, Southwest division, Albertsons, based in Boise, Idaho. "Our category managers review new trends all the time in an effort to bring the products our customers look for in our stores."

Harp's Food Stores, Springdale, Ark., has continually increased its arts and crafts section at its Discount Dollar store in Fort Smith, Ark., a stand-alone dollar store attached to a conventional Harp's store, since it opened more than a year ago, said Bob Yehling, director of general merchandise. The arts and crafts section currently stands at 16 feet, he said.

"It's a good category, and it's growing," Yehling said. "But you must have a big variety, which means footage. You must have something fresh all the time." Discount Dollar offers materials like beads, wire, wood products and paint supplies for a $1 price tag.

Another retailer that is incorporating arts and crafts products into its dollar offerings is K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va. This is part of the "Dollar Zone" program the retailer is extending chainwide, where K-VA-T puts in separate 4-foot sections in with existing category sets, said David Lowe, director of HBC and GM.

"We recognized that scrapbooks and children's crafts are a big part of the business today," he said.

The dollar-priced merchandise was put in after the retailer noted success of this category in such merchants as Toys "R" Us and Michaels, Lowe said. "For us, it was an automatic because we thought it would be a market advantage because of the $1 retail," he said.

The selection includes assembly kits of balsa wood models, and other ideas and materials for arts and crafts projects, Lowe said. "It's doing very well. It's performing better than the toy section."

One of the reasons for the success is that it is "family involvement -- children and parents doing something together other than playing video games on the TV," he said.

Scrapbooking is completely unbranded, and manufacturers have tremendous potential to establish a brand that connects with the regular consumer, Danziger said. Ready-to-assemble scrapbooking kits that offer templates and ideas are a good jumping-off point, she said, and "it must be tied with computer technology to grow in the mass market."

Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass., will feature complete scrapbook starter kits for under $20 on a promotional basis starting at the end of the month, said Scott Miller, general merchandise category manager. About 35 of its "World Class" stores will carry the scrapbook kits in the seasonal merchandise section, he said. "[Scrapbooks] are a big deal, and it's something a lot of people are getting into," he said.

Displaying craft items "makes real sense as an impulse item [in supermarkets]" since the primary shoppers for scrapbooks are women, said Justin Ethington, director of marketing, Making Memories, Salt Lake City, a wholesaler of scrapbooking supplies. It's a way to capitalize on impulse while mothers are food shopping since they might not go out of their way to pick up arts and crafts items at a craft store, he noted.

Retailers must have a strategic plan for displaying these products and making them visible, retailers said.

Grant Blanchard, nonfoods buyer, Macey's, Sandy, Utah, had high expectations when the retailer made space for scrapbook materials like stickers, refill sheets, scrapbooks and signs behind its new one-hour photo-finishing center in its 11 stores two years ago. Macey's eliminated the scrapbooking items last month at its Sandy, Utah, location due to poor sales, he said. The other 10 stores still carry these items.

"I thought it would do well, but it just didn't catch on," Blanchard said. Pricing and poor location may have contributed to the slow movement, he said. "It might have done better if we [positioned] scrapbooking before the photo center instead of behind it, so customers would see it walking toward the photo-finishing lab," he said. Instead, customers picked up their pictures and left the section before they could get to the scrapbook offerings.

However, with the right location and product assortment, "retailers have a great opportunity to leverage this trend through dedicated merchandising and offering around scrapbooking," Hauptman said. "It allows the store to be central in helping consumers feel better about themselves, and help consumers capture special moments in their lives."