This week, we said goodbye to an old friend – Scenic Route – and hello to a new one, the Cricut Gypsy. We also talked about some friends from “Down Under”, Buzz & Bloom.
Archive | September, 2009
Scenic Route announced today in an email to customers that they are holding a liquidation sale in preparation for shutting down the company.
Scenic Route is owned by Jim and Sarah Milne, and based in Saratoga Springs, Utah. Sarah Milne was a paper designer for Rusty Pickle before starting Scenic Route. A little over a year ago the six-year-old company was flying high in the scrapbooking world. According to the liquidation announcement, the company had its best month ever in August 2008. But the company says it was hard hit by the economic crash of Sept. 2008, which has lead to its liquidation:
Thanks to you, Scenic Route had growth year after year culminating in our best month ever in August 2008. Unfortunately, September 2008 brought economic hardships to our company, the scrapbook industry, and this nation.
Nicole Snow, who recently stopped writing the Salt Lake City Scrapbooking Examiner, came out of blogging retirement to tell the scrapbook world about Scenic Route’s closure:
I was suprised to see that their booth at the Scrapbook USA Expo this month had new paper lines available at a discount. Typically the Scenic Route booth has discounted stickers and chipboard, but their paper tends to remain a bit high-priced (at least by Expo standards).
Looking back further, it’s easy to see that as early as January of this year there were economic concerns at Scenic Route when they laid off well-known designer/instructor Layle Koncar, who was quickly snapped up by Basic Grey. Then in July, the company skipped exhibiting at CHA-Summer 2009 in Orlando, and did not release new product either. This was perhaps understandable given the birth of Sarah Milne’s new baby barely a month before CHA, but the timing couldn’t have been worse for an obviously wounded company.
Scenic Route is holding its liquidation sale on its web store for consumers, and they’ll also have booths at two Scrapbook Expos in California in October.
At Midnight on the 24th, Provo Craft went on HSN for what was described as the “worldwide launch” of the Gypsy.
The Gypsy has actually been available for pre-order at Michael’s since August 15th. Those orders were supposedly available for pick-up on the 24th, and the Gypsy will be on Michael’s shelves on October 4th. Other retailers will be able to start selling the product during the second week of November.
Provo Craft’s Jinger Adams presented the Gypsy package, which was the limited deal of the day. The package’s regular HSN price was listed as $349.95, but the day’s introductory price was $299.95. The hosts kept pointing out that $299 was the MSRP for just the Gypsy and its accessory sleeve, and that when the machine comes to stores it will be a coupon-excluded item.
The package had an MSRP of $483.96 and included: the Gypsy, slipcase, HSN-exclusive carry case, various power, computer & cartridge connection cords, car charger, two full-content cartridges that are exclusive to the Gypsy, and the Don Juan cartridge that previously was only available on the Cricut Create machine.
Buzz about the Gypsy launch was all over the social media sites as midnight eastern approached on the evening of the 23rd. Scrapbookers on Facebook and Twitter were talking about their excitement about seeing the product demonstrated on-air, and about being able to buy one. On Twitter, at least, all this excitement had apparently unexpected effects for the company’s PR efforts.
On Twitter, Provo Craft was directing people to a TweetChat room where all the tweets tagged with the hashtag “#gypsy” would show up to facilitate communication and create a community event even though all the attendees didn’t follow each other on Twitter. So many Cricut fans were tweeting using the #gypsy hashtag, however, that the tag made the list of trending topics that appears on each Twitter user’s profile page.
Experienced Twitterers can predict what happened next: spammers who didn’t understand the meaning of the hashtag and thought it sounded possibly less family-friendly than it was started using the hashtag to get their messages seen by the people who were using searches and tag monitoring. And many of those spammers’ profile pictures and tweets were NSFW (geek to english translation – Not Safe For Work: meaning containing adult content). Understandably, this didn’t sit well with the online Cricut swarm (or should it be band of Gypsies?)
It didn’t seem to completely the disrail the evening’s festivities online but certainly put a damper on them for many participants. The frustrating thing was that most of the spam was coming from only a few accounts, and if Twitter were closer to “real time” in banning spammers the problem would have disappeared before it really disrupted the event.
After the midnight to 1am hour, Provo Craft’s Twitterer said that they sold over half their available stock for the day in that first hour. After several more scrapbooking segments in the next 12 hours that featured the Gypsy package, the noon hour segment began with the announcement to viewers that there were only 680 units remaining. The package was sold out by 12:40pm.
By my count, the HSN event makes the fifth “debut party” for the Gypsy. There were 3 such events the week of CHA-Summer – the online unveiling, the evening invitation-only Gypsy Gala in Orlando, and then the unveiling in the booth the following day. Then there was the buzz the day that pre-orders started to be accepted at Michaels stores, and now this HSN event. There will be a couple more big days in this promotional schedule too, when they Gypsy arrives on Michaels store shelves and is released for general sale. You have to hand it to Provo Craft. They certainly know how to build buzz around an item and sustain it for awhile. Other than the misstep early in the campaign when the response to questions that arose over how the device worked were somewhat bungled, this marketing program has to be judged a textbook example.
People are talking about the Gypsy, and initial demand was good for the item. The question is will that demand for a high ticket item be able to be sustained leading into the holiday season in a poor economy? The answer to that will be of interest to many companies in the industry beside just Provo Craft, because it has far-ranging implications.
It is not even what would normally be considered flu season and already flu is making the rounds since kids went back to school. This has particularly been the case in the southeastern part of the U.S. Almost all of the current infections are believed to be of the H1N1 variety that caused the panic last spring in Mexico, and which has been declared a pandemic by WHO. In our local area here in Florida, we had several confirmed cases of H1N1 among students in our school district’s various summer activities, and since school started we’ve seen a cluster of flu-like illness at my daughter’s elementary school already.
And the flu season hasn’t even really started yet.
Seasonal flu vaccine is already available in many areas and the vaccine for H1N1 will start being available in the next few weeks. But it will be months before large populations have been vaccinated and had time to develop immunity from the H1N1 shot. In the meantime, the CDC and Department of Homeland Security are advising businesses to develop plans for dealing with sick employees and events like school shutdowns in their communities.
The Department of Homeland Security has made a booklet available to businesses to help them plan for, cope with and minimize the possible effect that H1N1 could have on their business. The book can be downloaded in pdf form or viewed on the flu.gov website.
There’s been a lot of adjustment being made lately in the home party industry because of the changing lifestyles of American families. Women (who make up most home party customers) don’t have the time anymore to attend home party events frequently for companies like Stampin’ Up!, Tupperware, and PartyLite. In the scrapbook industry, we’ve definitely seen companies struggle financially as a result of this shift. Most notably, Creative Memories filed bankruptcy last year partially due to declining sales.
Many home party companies have dealt with this by beginning offering their customers online shopping with their consultants, a more convenient option for customers with busy schedules. Now, in an interesting move, Shutterfly is attempting the reverse marketing move – shifting from online sales to home parties, at least for a single upcoming event.
Shutterfly is currently accepting applications for hosts for in-home parties to take place on November 7th, promoting its photo book and holiday card products for the holidays. Party hosts and guests (up to 14) will receive a free 8×8 photo book and a pack of holiday cards. Shutterfly is partnering with a site called House Party to offer party-planning services to their party hosts.
This concept is 180 degrees from what has been happening in the home party industry. It will be interesting to see if it is a success for them, or if they make these events a regular marketing tool.
Australian company Buzz & Bloom, who won the Innovations Award at CHA-Summer 2009, are holding a contest to select their 2010 design team members. The deadline for entering is October 31st and details about how to enter can be found in the contest announcement on the Buzz & Bloom blog.
If you aren’t interested in joining a design team, Buzz & Bloom is offering another contest that may be for you. The company is having a contest to see what scrapbookers can make with their tabbed book kits. Entries can be submitted starting October 31st, and the contest ends December 31st. All the rules and details can be found on the Buzz & Bloom blog.