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Breaking: American Crafts Acquires We R Memory Keepers

American Crafts announced today that it has acquired We R Memory Keepers.

Family-owned We R Memory Keepers is based in Salt Lake City, Utah and is known in the industry for its albums, tools and Albums Made Easy pocket scrapbooking collections – all of which make it an attractive acquisition target for American Crafts. It has also been getting attention for products in the home decor and organization markets at recent shows. The company has a licensing deal with designer Teresa Collins to design Albums Made Easy products.

We R Memory Keepers AlbumsWe R Memory Keepers has been having huge success with their “punch board” tools that create everything from flowers to envelopes, but they are also known for the Crop-A-Dile tools and the Sew Easy system. In September 2013, We R acquired Lifestyle Crafts, adding the QuicKutz and L Letterpress lines of tools to their line up at a time when letterpress is growing in popularity.

In addition to their tools, We R Memory Keepers has long been known for the quality of their faux leather 3 ring albums and for their page protectors. The company was actually the original producer of the Project Life page protectors before Project Life began producing the protectors on their own.

American Crafts has bought a growing list of companies since 2009 as the industry has consolidated during the scrapbooking downtrend. The company’s most recent acquisition was Bazzill Basics back in April, but they’ve also acquired Pink Paislee (and Heidi Swapp along with it), Crate Paper, Imaginisce, and Pebbles in the past five years. Project Life and Studio Calico were also been brought into the American Crafts family of brands through licensing and distribution deals.

We R Memory Keepers, which began life as a bookbinding business, was acquired from the Hiller family that has run it for 90 years. “We R wouldn’t join forces with anyone but American Crafts. Their character and quality standards are unmatched,” says Andew Hiller, president of We R Memory Keepers. “We R can’t wait to be part of the team.”

“For more than 90 years, Andrew, his family and team did a great job of building We R into a company that makes unique and creative products,” says Wayne Mitchell, CEO of American Crafts. “We look forward to decades more of success with the We R brand.”

“This is an exciting new chapter in the history of American Crafts and We R Memory Keepers,” says American Crafts president Sarah DeVoll. “We’re very happy to have We R join forces with AC – working together we will be able to provide a broader assortment of top-quality products, a stronger method for innovation, and more convenient one-stop shopping for our customers.”

For the immediate future We R Memory Keepers will continue to operate as an independent entity as always while integration of the two companies is planned and executed. The announcement stressed that We R Memory Keepers will continue to use the same suppliers for its leather albums and tools, continuing the quality that the company is known for on those items.

We R Memory Keepers is attractive to American Crafts for multiple reasons. We R’s industry-leading tool and album offerings enhance American Craft’s less than stellar portfolio in those areas. We R also has successful products in storage, an area into which American Crafts has not really ventured. American Crafts and We R both have major footprints in chain stores and this gives both brands access to each others’ real estate.

While the brands are very complementary in some areas, they are definitely competitive in others, and this will have to be dealt with as the company moves forward. One example of this are the pocket scrapbooking brands of Project Life and Albums Made Easy, which compete with each other. Both brands have serious power in the market segment. While Project Life popularized pocket scrapbooking, We R Memory Keepers has a long history with it as well, as the company produced pocket pages long before Project Life was founded. Albums Made Easy made a big splash at the 2014 CHA Mega Show, especially with its licensed kits by Teresa Collins and its 4″ sized “Insta” albums. A representative for American Crafts assured Scrapbook Update that the popular Albums Made Easy brand will be continuing.

The combining of these two brands, which were the remaining two large scrapbooking mega brands, leaves a competition vacuum at the top of the scrapbook industry. The industry, which 10 years ago had a half-dozen giant brands operating in it, now has American Crafts as the sole remaining mega entity, along with a plethora of mid and small sized companies.

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32 Responses to Breaking: American Crafts Acquires We R Memory Keepers

  1. Amanda June 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    Have to say…..this one caught me completely surprised.

    • Nancy Nally June 18, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

      I’ll admit it caught me by surprise but then the more I thought about it, it made sense that AC would want them.

      • Amanda June 18, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

        I can certainly see why AC would want them. My shock is that I thought the “family ownership” was such a critical part of WRMK that I wouldn’t have thought they’d ever sell!

        As long as the WRMK albums don’t change, I’m fine with it. Obviously AC is a healthy business. Otherwise they wouldn’t continue to make large purchases (I assume both Bazzill & WRMK were higher dollar acquisitions than the small names).

  2. A shocked scrapper June 18, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    . “We R wouldn’t join forces with anyone but American Crafts. Their character and quality standards are unmatched,” This is funny. WHAT quality standards?

  3. akismet-e638164c4e3250320c0a04c2c2a92f3f June 18, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    From what I’ve been told by an AC rep, American Crafts has NEVER approached any company to buy/partner with them. It has always been the other company asking AC to partner with them.

    • Nancy Nally June 18, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

      I’ve heard that too but it’s hard to know for sure what really goes on behind closed doors. Only the parties involved really know how a deal came about and it may not be in their interest to lay the whole story on the table.

  4. Tammy June 18, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    One more step closer for American Crafts to rule the scrapbooking universe! :)

  5. janscholl June 18, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    I have had issues with some of the items from W R Memory Keepers . The Cropadile was probably the best item they ever did. I have the boards but the fiasco from the initial run of the envelope maker was almost a deal breaker The Sew Easy system went right back to the store-I call it So Broken. At least WR fixed stuff even if it took a while. I don’t see that sort of thing happening with a big company like AC. I don’t like AC papers etc. Is Bazzill still being manufactured in the US or is that outsourced now?

  6. Karen Sherman Bushy June 18, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    Wondering what that will mean for those independent neighborhood scrapbooking stores. It is nice to sell to the big chains, but when the customer needs help, wants classes or a way to use the product they come into the local neighborhood store and expect help.

  7. Kerrie Gurney June 18, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    it worries me when one company starts taking over in our industry also WRMK are leaders in Albums and their albums are definitely the best on the market i do hope they don’t lower the standards now that AC own them as i cannot say the same for AC albums.
    will CHA 2015 have one hall filled with AC brands? :)
    I wonder who is next on their hit list?

  8. Sandi June 18, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    I cannot put my finger on it, but for some reason I don’t like the idea at all.

    • The pot calling the kettle black June 18, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

      @Kerrie Gurney, that is a totally ironic statement coming from someone who works for a distributor who is hell bent on taking over the distributorship of all Crafting products in Australia by demanding exclusivity, jacking up the prices and actively seeking to putting others out of business.

  9. KathyinMN June 18, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    Better stockpile some WRMK albums before they are changed. And if AC goes under, the scrapbooking industry will be done for.

  10. Susanne June 18, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    Oh, I like that fact that WRMK had such a strong presence in the pocket scrapbooking market. No doubt AC wanted to make sure they could dominate with Becky Higgins and SC products. This makes me sad – I fear too much consolidation in the industry is not good for the consumer. And it seems like I am making this same comment on a monthly basis here.

    • Nancy Nally June 18, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

      American Crafts’ representative stressed to me that the Albums Made Easy brand will continue. And frankly, it is one of We R’s greatest assets – it wouldn’t make sense to buy the company and then shut down one of its most successful products.

      And don’t forget – American Crafts doesn’t actually own Project Life and Studio Calico.

  11. rorysnonna June 18, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    :( Here is my sad face, I just don’t see this as a good thing.

  12. Colleen June 19, 2014 at 3:14 am #

    I think the issue is not if Abums Made Easy & other WRMK products will continue, but will they continue at the same quality level or sink to what American Crafts deems acceptable? I stopped buying American Crafts products about 5 years ago, but man, I don’t know what I will do when Bazzill starts rolling out under the AC production standards. I would think if American Crafts cared about the quality integrity of their products, they would have done something long ago about the known issues such as poor adhesive on their Thickers products or their non-writing pens, etc. They certainly will have no incentive to improve their customer service nor address their quality issues when they have eliminated the competition.

  13. gabmcann June 19, 2014 at 4:26 am #

    Wow I wonder when the acquisitions will stop

  14. Paulette Sarsfield June 19, 2014 at 7:08 am #

    There’s not much left for AC to acquire :o( … I think the future of scrapbooking is in grave danger unless you are digital… I like both companies… as a matter of fact, I liked all the companies…CHA will continue ( maybe) on a much smaller scale with scrapbooking being a tiny piece of the show, like it was 15 years ago… sigh… I feel saddest for our wonderful designers….

  15. V Bennett June 19, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    I have to say, I don’t see this as a good thing either.

  16. Addie June 19, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    “Better stockpile some WRMK albums before they are changed. And if AC goes under, the scrapbooking industry will be done for.”

    Actually, AC going under wouldn’t be the end of the world for those of us uncomfortable with monopolies. “Too big to fail” doesn’t apply when it’s somebody else’s money! The industry might then end up closer to where it began, with smaller companies distinguishing themselves by their styles.

    • VickyR June 19, 2014 at 11:23 am #

      Addie: I like your thought that the demise of American Crafts could creat a void that will be filled in by smaller, more creative companies. However, someone or some company will have to quickly create a spark that attracts a market of new scrappers. Most new companies will need bank financing and if AC cannot survive in the current market, a start-up will have a very hard time getting the money to get and stay afloat.

  17. itsnotthatimportant June 19, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    I don’t understand why We-R would buy Quickutz (Lifestyle Crafts) and then turn around and approach AC to buy them? That makes no sense.

    And, I too don’t like the “monopoly” feel of AC. I know that they keep the designers and those designers only work on one brand so that the brand tries to stay true to its feel, but I don’t like the idea of ALLL of my products coming from the same company.

    i don’t think this is a good thing for the independents.

  18. Addie June 19, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    I just wanted to add The New Yorker has an excellent book review/article this week on “disruption,” a strong trend in American business. ” ‘If you start a business and it succeeds,’ Linkner advises, ‘sell it and take the cash. Don’t look back. Never pause. Disrupt or be disrupted.’” The article relates disruption to innovation, start-ups, and general business culture in the U.S. I highly recommend it for understanding a lot of what’s going on in the scrapbooking industry: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/06/23/140623fa_fact_lepore?currentPage=all

  19. VickyR June 19, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    I had a feeling that something was going to happen to WRMK. I have recently seen WRMK inventory (current designs) at closeout stores. Every time I have seen more than a smattering of a brand’s obsolete merchandise in surplus and closeout stores, I watch for an announcement from Nancy. Sorry to hear about WRMK, but Nancy is premier the reporter for the craft industry.

  20. Sharon June 19, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    After 90 years as a company, there may not have been a succession plan. The third generation is usually where ‘family owned companies’ go sideways. I will be watching Basic Grey with interest over the next while. BG will become AC, I believe. As independent retailers and consumers, if we want a healthy and diverse industry, we need to be supporting the small independent companies with our dollars. Stay out of big box stores with all their buying power, and support your LSS, so that the LSS can support the small and innovative companies. That’s where the future of creativity is, and, if we want to keep moving forward in fresh ways, that’s where our purchasing power needs to be spent. It’s going to be a long summer!

    • Amanda June 19, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

      Lack of succession plan isn’t something I had thought of. Curious, do you have an sources for the third generation of a family business going ‘sideways’? I don’t doubt you, you just have me intrigued by this statement.

      I echo your closing remarks.

  21. Tanja Rigby June 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    WRMK is 90 years old? Since when? I am happy for AC and keeping these brands alive and in Utah. Not purchasing brands like Ultra Pro did then just tossed them to the way side when the industry got soft.

    • Nancy Nally June 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

      The WRMK **name** is not 90 years old, but the company that was using it is. They did other things before they produced scrapbooking products.

      I agree, it is unfortunate what Ultra-Pro did with its brands. 7Gypsies is still recovering from that, especially since it is now owned by Canvas Corp which is in bankruptcy.

  22. almasmom June 21, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Arrrgh! NO! Not WRMK — say it ain’t so! I was relying on WRMK’s pocket page products for my albums because I didn’t want them to look all AC-PL-SC and now the freakin’ Borg have swallowed them up too. Evil, evil, evil is what AC are. I guess I’d better grab my true-blue WRMK products from my favourite designers while I can: by this time next year WRMK will either be toast, or their products will look like all the other SC stuff. Damn, damn, damn!

    • Nancy Nally June 21, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

      I wouldn’t write off WRMK and its pocket page products just yet…

  23. Scrapbook Obsession June 21, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

    I don’t see why AC would do away with any of the WRMK products that are successful, just because AC already owns or distributes a brand that ‘competes’. We Scrapbook Update readers are savvy to the industry ;) But most scrapbookers don’t know or care that the same company owns them all. If a product is a big seller, AC will likely keep selling it (i.e., the WRMK brand albums and divided page protectors). Whether the quality will stay the same is the question. Recently, WRMK started using cheaper materials in the albums, scrapbookers complained, and they changed it back. I don’t see AC doing the same, unfortunately :(

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