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Archive | November, 2009

Joann’s Website Down On Black Friday Weekend

Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft stores experienced a major failure on their online store, Joann.com, that left Thanksgiving weekend shoppers unable to access the site or complete purchases for almost the entire holiday weekend.

As of late Sunday evening, the site appeared to be back up and stable. However, some shoppers were still reporting difficulties on the company’s Facebook page with being unable to put items in the site’s cart or with the checkout process. There were also complaints that the advertised prices from earlier in the weekend were not being honored as promised on all items although some items appeared to be priced correctly.

The site apparently collapsed extremely early on in the Black Friday shopping day, although the company is reporting that it stayed up long enough for the advertised Cricut Personal Cutter special – a Doorbuster price of $74.99 – to sell out by 5:30am.

For most of the weekend, shoppers attempting to access the site were greeted with this error page:

JoannWebsiteErrorWeb

Although a few people (myself included) reported being able to intermittently and briefly access parts of the site, from online user reports it seemed the checkout process was not working at all even when the site was visible to a few visitors.

Some customers seemed to be committed to spending their money at Joann.com and spent the weekend (impatiently) waiting out the outage and asking questions via platforms such as Facebook about compensation and extension of the coupons and offers that expired while the site was down. A few customers were able to place orders directly with Jo-Ann’s customer service number, but doing so required getting through on busy lines and having item numbers of products – which could pretty much only be obtained from the website. Jo-Ann’s customer service normally isn’t open on Sundays, but some staff were manning the phones there today during the public relations crisis.

Extensions and replacement sales have been promised by the company. Leigh Anne, the voice of Jo-Ann’s public relations on their Facebook page and message board, posted repeatedly on various outlets starting on Saturday that:

We understand your frustration over the outage on Joann.com. Jo-Ann is committed to providing outstanding customer service, which is why Joann.com will be making up for lost online Doorbuster Deals. We will host additional online shopping events with special pricing, subject to availability, and coupons once the site has been restored, so that you, our online shoppers, can take advantage of the deals missed during this outage. More details will follow.

On Sunday night, a further clarification of this plan was offered by Leigh-Anne on Facebook:

We will offer special promotional events to make up for lost online doorbuster and 3-Day Sale events for items that are still in stock. To avoid further site/access issues, the deals may be offered on different days (rather than large single-day sales events). We will share more information about these events/sales as soon as the details are finalized. Thank you for your continued patience.

Other customers didn’t wait for Joann.com to come back up, however. Corinna McGregor neatly summed up the sentiment of that group of customers when she posted on Facebook on Sunday evening:

i tried to shop friday morning and couldn’t get the site to even come up…..very frustrating……so i spent my dollars elsewhere.

The big question, of course, is how many customers did take their money elsewhere rather than waiting. CLNOnline reported on November 23rd that Jo-Ann’s had an excellent 3rd quarter (which ended Oct. 31st) sales report, with net sales up 6% and 3rd quarter earnings per diluted share expected to be $.88-.90 per share, double a year ago. CLN also reported that “based on the assumption that same-store sales will increase 2.3% – 2.7% for the entire fiscal year, the company increased its expected earnings/diluted share to $1.95 – $2.05 for the year (excluding any gains on debt purchases) from $1.35 – $1.50.” After hearing these numbers, some stock analysts raised their ratings on the company’s stock.  According to CLN, Zacks.com rated Jo-Ann a Strong Buy and Soleil/Stein Research recommended the stock. Wedbush upgraded Jo-Ann from Neutral to Outperform. A disastrous Black Friday weekend (and the flood of angry customers who they may not be able to win back during the holiday season) could seriously undermine sales performance in the company’s 4th quarter and damage their positive momentum.

In a graphic illustration of the importance of building relationships with customers, some frustrated Joann.com customers have even been going so far in online postings as to accuse the company of staging the outage to avoid having to honor the advertised sales. Of course, from a financial and marketing standpoint a plan like that would be the equivalent of corporate suicide, but that hasn’t stopped some people from voicing opinions that the outage was deliberate. These conspiracy theories should serve as an important reminder to other scrapbook companies of the level of distrust with which many Americans view corporate entities, and remind them that they need to build capital with customers that they can call on at times like this.

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Michaels Thanksgiving Report; Amazon Lowers Camera Prices Again

Michaels stores were open from 5pm-9pm today (Thanksgiving Day). I headed out to my local store to do some shopping and scope out the traffic.

Although it is situated in a shopping center containing a Target, a PetSmart, a Ross, and several other major chains, the Michaels was the only store open. There was 15-20 cars in the parking lot when I arrived. The store was bustling with activity – the busiest I think I’ve seen it since its grand opening.

Michaels was offering all of their doorbusters for Friday, along with a special 25% off entire purchase coupon (with exclusions).

The $69.99 Cricut Personal Cutter (online special advertised price – it was advertised in the newspaper ad for $99) was not surprisingly a popular item. I saw several in carts and purchased one myself to explore the world of electronic die cutting a bit. There was a display of the machines set up right inside the front door. Further down the main aisle was the display of heavily discounted cartridges.

The cartridge display was surrounded by holiday scrapbook supplies that make great impulse sales. They got me with a beautiful rubber stamp by Hampton Art of “Twas the night before Christmas” and the Merrymint paper collection by My Mind’s Eye. (Maybe Merrymint wasn’t quite an impulse purchase since I’d been coveting it since CHA.)

The store had plenty of staff on hand despite being open on the actual holiday. At one point during my visit there were 6 registers open to make sure people checking out were first in line at their register (and all the registers were in use).

Interestingly, it seemed like virtually all of the store’s visitors were multi-generational groups – much more so than during regular Black Friday shopping.

Going shopping Black Friday? For details on all the scrapbook Black Friday sales in stores and online, visit Scrapbook Update’s Black Friday Scrapbook Sales page.

Also, a quick note for camera shoppers this weekend: Amazon has lowered their prices on the Black Friday cameras several times in the past several days to make Amazon even more appealing to Black Friday shoppers. The Canon Rebel XS is now priced at $457 on Amazon; the Canon T1i is priced at $699. The Nikon D3000 is down to $469. (All the details on the camera sales are on our dslr Black Friday page.) These prices are way lower than the advertised in-store Black Friday sales.

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Lisa Bearnson Leaves Creating Keepsakes

Lisa Bearnson thumbnailCreating Keepsakes Founding Editor Lisa Bearnson announced via her blog today that she is saying goodbye to the magazine that she founded in 1996. Although she will remain titled as the magazine’s founding editor, Bearnson will have no duties for the company and her Editor’s letter will no longer appear in the magazine.

Bearnson had long ago given up day-to-day editorial control of the magazine, and in recent years had drastically cut back her presence both in and her appearances on behalf of the company. One of Bearnson’s last remaining public roles for Creating Keepsakes besides her Founder’s letter in the magazine was her appearances on QVC, and in May of this year, she indicated she was taking a “leave of absence” from those appearances.

According to Bearnson’s editorial from the upcoming January 2010 Creating Keepsakes issue, which she also published on her blog, this decision was made because she would like to spend more time with her family. She will continue writing for her personal website, and also continue producing her Lisa Bearnson Memory Keeping Collection product line.

Is this goodbye forever? Maybe not. In her editorial, Bearnson leaves the door open for the possibility of returning to the magazine’s pages to “write a feature here and there.” And Creating Keepsakes Editor-in-Chief Jennafer Martin tells Scrapbook Update, “The door will always be open for her to do more [for Creating Keepsakes], should her time allow it.”

2009 has been full of change for Creating Keepsakes. It’s parent company, CK Media, was bought by New Track Media in early July and Brian Tippetts was replaced by former Simple Scrapbooks & Digital Scrapbooking Magazine Editor Jennafer Martin as Editor-in-Chief.   (Tippetts later rejoined the staff as a Contributing Writer.) In September, Becky Higgins announced her departure from the magazine, and then just yesterday, Ali Edwards announced the end of her Studio A column.

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Ali Edwards Ends Studio A Column in Creating Keepsakes

Ali Edwards announced today via her blog that the December issue was her last Studio A column for Creating Keepsakes magazine.

Edwards has written the Studio A column for Creating Keepsakes since January 2006, a run of 3 entire years for the popular column. She was “discovered” by Creating Keepsakes after being one of the winners of the 2003 Hall of Fame contest. Over her time with the magazine, she has also written four titles for the magazine’s book imprint: A Designer’s Eye for Scrapbooking, A Designer’s Eye for Scrapbooking with Patterned Paper, Life Artist, and Sharing Your Story: Recording Life’s Details with Mini Books. Edwards’ handwriting is iconic in the scrapbook industry, available for download as a popular font and as part of the many products she’s been designing recently.

With the Studio A column ended by “mutual” decision with Creating Keepsakes’ editors, will readers see any more of Edwards in the magazine? She says that at this time that “nothing is currently scheduled” but that “you may potentially see some feature articles from me in the future.”

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So what will Edwards be doing in the future with her column to occupy her creativity? She says that she plans to concentrate on her wildly successful blogging, and on her product lines for Designer Digitals (pictured above) and  Technique Tuesday (pictured below).

ali-edwards-stamps

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Black Friday 2009 on Scrapbook Update

It’s time for the Super Bowl of shopping, and Scrapbook Update has all the information that you need on the sales that are most of interest to scrapbookers. This year, we’ve introduced a new feature – the information is in sortable tables that readers can use to have the information displayed in any arrangement they would like!

Black Friday 2009 Scrapbook Supply Sales

Black Friday 2009 DSLR Camera Sales

Are the 2009 DSLR Black Friday Sales Any Good?

As the big day gets closer next week, those pages will be continually updated with new information! Happy Shopping!

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CHA Announces Summer 2010 Show Returning to Rosemont

The Craft & Hobby Association has announced that the CHA 2010 Summer Convention & Trade Show will be returning to Rosemont, IL at the Donald Stephens Convention and Conference Center where it had been held for 30 years until it was moved in 2009. The 2009 show was held in Orlando, Florida at the Orange County Convention Center but the change was controversial to say the least.

CHA will also bring the successful Craft SuperShow event for consumers that it inaugurated this past summer to Rosemont in conjunction with the 2010 summer trade show.

The CHA Summer Trade Show will take place from Tuesday, July 27 through Thursday, July 29th. The CHA Craft SuperShow for consumers will follow on Friday, July 30 and Saturday, July 31.

The experimental move to Orlando was part of an effort to reverse a trend of declining attendance by both exhibitors and buyers at the show. The Orlando show attracted about 5,000 attendees, an increase of about 5% over the 2008 show in Rosemont.

After the show, CHA began a comparison of what attendees thought of the two host locations:

Following the Summer Show, CHA staff started to solicit feedback from exhibitors and the general membership about the experience in Orlando. Based on post-show CHA Summer exhibitor surveys, 50% of respondents preferred Rosemont to Orlando while the other 50% were split among several other venues. CHA hosted several member conference calls in which members commented about a desire to return to Rosemont. Member emails about returning to Rosemont were also sent to CHA staff which drove further discussions on the topic of venue selection for the 2010 Summer Show.

CHA concluded its membership wanted a return to Rosemont. A single-year agreement for 2010, with options for future years, was negotiated with the Donald E. Stephens Convention and Conference Center as a result.

To learn more about the 2010 CHA Summer Convention & Trade Show or the CHA Craft SuperShow, you can contact Anthony Licata, 201.835.1203 or alicata@craftandhobby.org.

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Are the 2009 DSLR Black Friday Sales any good?

If you are in the market for a camera, Black Friday can be a really good time to shop if you do your research and shop carefully. Lots of point and shoots are on sale – your options are limited only by your budget and your preference of brand. Decide what you want, and how much you are willing to pay for it, and you’ll be able to find a good deal that fits your needs.

But the real money can be saved in the area of the higher-ticket dSLR cameras, especially if you are looking to buy your first entry-level dSLR. Historically, most of the large department and electronic chain stores put on sale an entry-level Canon and/or Nikon dSLR every year. The past few years the models have been the Canon XS and the Nikon D40. This year, the companies are moving forward a generation in their offerings and are offering the Canon T1i and the Nikon D3000 as the sale models. (Sears is sticking with the Canon XS in a bid for rock bottom sticker price, however.)

Canon T1iFor consumers, this shift in models is definitely a win. These are two incredible models for buyers to have to choose from on Black Friday. Both have been very well-reviewed by photography experts and there are clear differences between them to help buyers choose. The Nikon D3000 is actually considered a slight step below the T1i. Its direct competitor in Canon’s line is considered to be the Canon XSi. The T1i is 15MP vs 10MP for the D3000, for instance. But the biggest difference of all is that the Canon T1i is capable of shooting impressive HD video, a capability inherited from professional Canon models like the 5D Mark II.

If price is your concern, the D3000 is definitely cheaper (about $200 less than the T1i).

Great cameras….Black Friday sales…this all sounds great, right? But before you go running out to buy one of these cameras on Black Friday, there is something that you should know: All of those cameras with their kit lenses are actually available for lower everyday prices online at places like Amazon.com than they are being advertised in Black Friday ads.

Nikon D3000:

Canon XS:

Canon T1i:

Some stores seem to be recognizing that they just can’t compete in this market, especially given the possibility of lower demand this holiday season for high-ticket purchases like dSLR’s in the bad economy. Stores like Target, Walmart, and the office chains that have historically offered a camera on sale seem to be staying on the sidelines this year on Black Friday, even though many of those stores carry dSLR’s regularly.

If you just want the camera and the kit lens, online is the place to get it. The prices listed above for Amazon may even go down lower on Black Friday because historically they have a camera sale that weekend but details haven’t been announced yet. Sometimes they offer price discounts, and sometimes the sale is in the form of bundles (buy a camera, get a lens very cheaply or something similar).

So where are all the savings on dSLRs? They are in the bundles with the extra lenses. These bundles can be very good bargains compared to buying the items separately, if you want all of the included components. (The sole exception to that this holiday season so far is the bundle offered with the Canon XS at Sears. Its components can be bought separately for less at Amazon.)

Typically the extra lens offered with the bundle is a telephoto zoom in the range of 50-200mm or so. Best Buy’s bundle lenses this Black Friday are a 55-200mm with the Nikon D3000, and a 55-250mm with the Canon T1i, for instance. When I purchased my Canon XS from Amazon last year, I got a 75-300mm lens bundled in with it.

Canon 75-300It’s true these bundle lenses aren’t exactly professional level SLR glass. They are usually lenses with an MSRP of about $200 that don’t have stabilization on them – something that is really needed at those longer lengths to get super crisp shots. But if you are just starting out, the bundles can be a very affordable way to add a second lens (and a bit of telephoto length) to your camera bag. The quality can come later when the budget allows. In the meantime, you can learn on the lower quality equipment. I’ve used my Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III , which retails for $147.78 on Amazon, for everything from shooting celebrities to getting a closer look at my daughter and her cousin’s dolphin encounter from the spectator area across the pool. I won’t be making poster prints from its shots anytime soon, but it is definitely serviceable.

So, if you want just a camera and kit lens – shop online. If you would like some additional gear along with that purchase, it may be worth checking out some Black Friday bundles. But shop carefully and compare prices before you head out to stores!

For the details on all the Black Friday dSLR sales, visit our sortable 2009 Black Friday DSLR Sale reference table!

FTC Disclaimer: Yes, this article contains some Amazon.com affiliate links. But one thing should tell you all that you need to know about any links I post to Amazon: I put my money where my mouth is regarding my recommendation. Every piece of dSLR camera equipment that I own, from my camera right down to the brush I use to clean my lenses, was purchased from Amazon. I recommend them because in my experience they have the best prices and the best customer service, and that makes me a very happy customer.

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