Scrapbooking: Grandma's hobby now a sizzling trend

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Sandi Genovese, an executive with scrapbook-supply marketer Ellison and host of the "Scrapbooking" show on E.W. Scripps Co.'s DIY cable network, used to get blank looks from strangers on planes when she talked about her work.

Lately, she runs into more people whose relatives make scrapbooks. And, last month, she sat next to a man who claimed to be a fan of the show. When she doubted him, he proved it by telling how he'd run to get his wife during a recent episode when Ms. Genovese cut up a Dr. Scholl's foot pad to use as a rubber stamp for a project.

It's one sign of how scrapbooking quietly has become one of the nation's hottest trends. Sales of scrapbook supplies soared 29% last year to $1.2 billion, according to research firm Unity Marketing. Unity's research finds 20% of U.S. households now have scrapbooks, up from only 13% in a 2001 Hobby Industry of America survey.

focusing on memories

That an age-old low-tech hobby associated with great aunts and geneaology enthusiasts could become a growth industry is surprising. It flies in the face of such current trends as digital photography, time-starved consumers seeking quick fixes and unemployment-induced belt-tightening. But scrapbooking is "part of a broader trend of moving from buying things to focusing on memories or experiences," said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing.

"It was growing pre-9/11, but I think it's really become a phenomenon after 9/11. I think we had a real wakeup call about how fleeting our connections and relationships can be," she said.

Primedia's Creating Keepsakes, the leading scrapbooking magazine, has increased frequency from six to 12 times annually since 1996 and is publishing 200-page issues in this, its first year of monthly distribution. The magazine's own research via TNS's NFO Research pegs the market even higher than Unity, at $1.4 billion-up sevenfold from 1997.

Primary beneficiaries of the growth so far have been specialty manufacturers, 2,000 mom-and-pop scrapbook stores and Creative Memories, a company whose 60,000-plus representatives host Tupperware-style parties to hawk scrapbook supplies, generating more than $300 million in sales last year.

Now, however, major marketers are taking notice. Hewlett-Packard Co. earlier this month launched an online community for scrapbookers and is exploring new products and more advertising specifically for the market, said Hugh Amick, VP-personal printing solutions and accessories. Scrapbookers already are big buyers of high-end printers, scanners and paper, Mr. Amick said. For now, HP is concentrating on PR and viral-marketing efforts, but plans media advertising via Source Marketing, Hackensack, N.J., around the holidays.

Kodak on board

Eastman-Kodak Co. has been one of the major advertisers on DIY's two-year-old "Scrapbooking" show, having discovered that scrapbookers tend to buy 20 to 30 rolls of film a year, vs. eight for the average family, a spokeswoman said. Kodak is advertising its Perfect Touch processing system, which helps correct photographic flaws, on DIY. The service rolled nationally last week after regional tests, and the spokeswoman called scrapbookers "a core part of our main target audience."

Last month, craft-supply chain Michaels Stores opened the first of two Recollections stores for scrapbookers near its Irving, Texas, headquarters. The stores will test what could become a national concept, said a spokesman, who noted that scrapbook supplies are one of the fastest-growing segments in existing Michaels stores.

Based on the 43% of the population that buys photographic supplies and equipment, Ms. Danziger believes household penetration of scrapbooking could double. "I think it's going to continue to morph by moving from the crafting ghetto into the mass market," she said. "Stationery and greeting-card companies are not participating in this yet, which is the biggest missed opportunity I can imagine."

enthusiast market

While Unity's research shows scrapbookers spend an average of $54 a year, dedicated enthusiasts, about 25% of the total, spend about that much each month and have an average of $1,564 worth of supplies on hand, according to Creative Keepsakes.

While scrapbooking might seem low-tech and solitary, it's turning out to be neither, as several companies offer scrapbooking outings, ranging from cruises to conventions.

Karen Tennant, a Dyersburg, Tenn., pharmacist, was introduced to scrapbooking in the past year by a friend, Kitty James, a nurse at a local wound-care clinic . The two will spend more than $200 each next month to attend a Simply Southern scrapbook convention in Nashville, attending themed "cropping parties" that go until 1 a.m.

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