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MEMORABLE PERFORMERS; SCRAPBOOKS AND PHOTO ALBUMS CONTINUE TO BOOST OVERALL SALES.

Byline: Carla Webb, Allison Zisko contributed to this report.

Scrapbooking appears to be the next wave of business in the photo album industry and might possibly be what contributed to the 2 percent increase in sales in the category, to $621 million, this year.

"Our strongest classification [this year] was scrapbooking," said Les Nagel, vice president of MBI Albums, a division of MCS Industries.

"Scrapbooks have propped up the category for the past few years," said Charlie Lawrence, vice president of marketing and product development for The Burnes Group.

Both photo albums and scrapbooks are "a real focus for Burnes," Lawrence said, adding that the company is expanding its offerings with its spring introductions and has "a lot in development for the fall."

Pioneer Photo Albums is also experiencing very strong growth in the scrapbook category "where [the company] offers patented scrapbook top loading pages," said Shell Plutsky, president of Pioneer.

Sales of photo albums themselves have been soft, said Mike Wluka, vice president of sales for Malden. "Scrapbooking has taken over the volume." So much so, in fact, that Malden plans to introduce 25 scrapbooks at the May Stationery Show in New York.

One of the issues that affected the sale of photo albums is the popularity of digital photography. It's easier and cheaper to print digital, and digital photography provides simple storage, Lawrence explained.

And with fewer photos being printed, the page count in albums has shrunk, Wluka said.

"Computers are impacting [the category] tremendously," said Chris Lanci, director of marketing for Lawrence Frames, and photo album sales are "not good."

"Frames can be used as decorative accessories, so [they are] a little more resistant," Lanci explained.

To that end, adding a fashion element to photo albums has been a push for some manufacturers.

"Basically, what we've done is use different materials for the covers, including fabrics, leather, paper and embellishments," said Nagel."

"Fashion continues to be a large part of the growth area in photo albums," said Plutsky. "Pioneer is staying on top of design, new product development and better display systems to increase album sales."

And the added perceived-value bonus is that albums and scrapbooks can be sold at higher price points than previously. The basic books that are very detailed can sell at $25 to $30 an album, Wluka said, and "people don't blink."

"Retailers are looking more at design and fabrication rather than price," Nagel said. "We've shown them some items [with higher price points] and they have not flinched."

This is especially true for scrapbooks, Nagel said. For MBI, the magic price-point range for albums is $9.99 to $12.99, he explained, while for scrapbooks, the company has gone over $25.

The increase in scrapbook sales has also increased business from hobby and craft retailers for some manufacturers. Nagel pointed to AC Moore, Rag Shop and Michael's as examples of retailers that have successfully merchandised scrapbooks and albums, as well as mass merchants, such as Wal-Mart, and drug and grocery stores, like Walgreens. According to HFN statistics, drugstores and mass merchants have grown their sales 3 percent in photo albums in 2004 over 2003, now accounting for 58 percent of the sales in the category.

TOTAL PHOTO ALBUMS

Retail Sales ($ in millions)

2004*: $621.18

2003: $609.00

Change: +2.0%

2004

Department stores: 8%

Mass merchants: 58%

Specialty/photo shops: 34%

2003

Department stores: 8%

Mass merchants: 55%

Specialty/photo shops: 37%

SOURCE: HFN Research; * Projected

Caption(s): Adding fashion elements to albums has been a big push for MBI, which now has a collection of colored leather albums in its line. / Above: Burnes is aggressively pursuing the photo album business and will be unveiling several new lines in 2005, including novel collections, such as these "paper doll" albums, left, and fashion looks like Steinbeck, below.
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Comment:MEMORABLE PERFORMERS; SCRAPBOOKS AND PHOTO ALBUMS CONTINUE TO BOOST OVERALL SALES.
Author:Webb, Carla; Zisko, Allison
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 13, 2004
Words:635
Previous Article:HOLDING ITS OWN; DESPITE FLAT SALES, VENDORS ARE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE CATEGORY'S FUTURE.
Next Article:PRETTY PICTURE HOLDERS; VIVID HUES AND NEW LOOKS ARE BRIGHTENING UP PHOTO FRAMES AND ALBUMS.
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