Monday, February 24, 2014

New Announcements from CTMH

   Happy Monday, paper crafters! I had an amazing weekend crafting with some awesome ladies at my house on Saturday for the first ever "Scrap Your Stash" all day crop! We all had a lot of fun crafting and visiting the day away! There were a lot of CTMH prizes won, and everyone had a chance to participate in challenges to win the grand prize! Congratulations to SHANNON for winning the grand prize; a Large Organizer from CTMH!!

   I hope you all had a great weekend as well, but, as promised, I have a lot of announcements to share with you! I apologize in advance for the length of this blog post, but I felt it necessary in order to include all the details of these upcoming changes! Last week CTMH Corporate Office released a small list of items that are retiring after the Spring/Summer 2014 Idea Book. It is not often that we learn of these changes so early! I am so glad that they let us know, though, because now we have 6 months to stock up on our favorites before they are gone for good! Here is the official press release from corporate:

   With the release of each new Idea Book, we strive to apprise you of key product lines that are being featured in the Idea Book for the last time. While we do not provide early notification on all products, we are providing this selected information so that you can better anticipate changes to core product lines and communicate those changes to others. The Spring/Summer 2014 Idea Book will be the last to include the following products, which are now available on a while supplies last basis:
  • Exclusive Inks™  alcohol marker sets
  • Textiles
  • Faux Leather albums
   Note that on the faux leather albums, only albums with that material will be retiring. The next Idea Book will still feature solid color, post-bound albums in brown and black, but they will be covered with the same coated fabric as our new albums.

   Now I know what you're thinking! I was worried about losing the Faux Leather Albums as well, and I did not know what these new changes meant! So I waited until I heard more before I shared all this with you! Here is the latest information released by corporate about the change in our albums:

   In response to some concerns that have been raised over last week’s album announcement, we wish to emphasize that Close To My Heart remains committed to supporting high-quality scrapbooking albums. Albums are an essential item, perhaps the foundation to memory keeping. As evidence of our commitment to this important product line, the Spring/Summer 2014 Idea Book contains 9 album choices, whereas the prior Idea Book offered only 5. We regret the availability issues we have experienced with the newest additions to the albums line, but we assure you that these products—as well as those we have planned for the next Idea Book—reflect the same high quality you have come to expect from My Legacy™ albums.

    One concern that has been voiced is that the new post-bound albums are not expandable. This change is being made very intentionally. Our post-bound albums will be easier to assemble, more stable than those that have been expanded extensively, and more uniform in appearance on the shelf. In addition, by selling lower-priced expander products it may decrease the aesthetic appeal and functionality of the album when pushed to an extent.

    We know that staying on trend, in design, color, and material, is critical to continue investing in the line. After several years of offering the same colors and fabrics, we have seen the need to update the look in order to drive sales and interest while also attracting new users. We provide advance notice of these changes in order to give those who feel a strong sense of loyalty to the current albums ample opportunity to purchase the products they love while supplies last. View the current Idea Book as a transition period where we continue supporting existing product while also introducing new ones that represent improved construction, assembly, and design of our line of My Legacy albums.

    So what does this mean for all of you that already use our awesome Faux Leather Albums (including myself)? It means that you still have time to purchase any of the Faux Leather Albums to complete your collection (if you choose), but acting quickly would be best since these items are now on a "while supplies last" basis.

   How are the new albums going to work with the products CTMH has been offering? They will work perfect! All of the quality page protectors will still work in the new albums! The main difference is that these new albums (including the newly released Slate Circles Post-Bound Album and the Cocoa Damask Post-Bound Album seen in the Spring/Summer 2014 Idea Book) are not expandable! So you will not need to worry about trying to add in extender posts and tightening the spine screws! The new albums are automatically 1 1/2" thick (the perfect size for any scrapbook album)!

   This morning I read another corporate communicated response to the change in albums. I am including the original response because I think it answers even more questions, and gives a great detailed description as to "why" they are changing products! Here it is:


Lynn Como posted several questions and it looks like many share them, so I'd love to take the opportunity to clarify what I can. Lynn's questions centered on how wide the spine is, how many Memory Protectors the albums are designed to hold, what the price point will be, and what the material is. I hope this doesn't sound flippant at all, but the best place to get all of those answers, succinctly, and ensure your customers do, too, is right in the Idea Book description of the product itself. Here is what the product description says:

"These trendy 12"x12" albums with 1 1/2" spines in two styles, D-ring and post, are perfect for showcasing your scrapbooked memories. The canvas covers have a protective coating. Designed to hold 25-30 Memory Protectors. For consistent size on shelf and improved, easier assembly, albums are non-expandable. (Memory Protectors not included.)"


To go deeper: The coated canvas is the material we'll be working with as we add new albums. The price on future albums will be the price of the introduced albums, $34.95, as shown in the Idea Book. The material can hold a print (like the damask or circle prints shown in the catalog) or take solids equally well, whereas the faux leather was only available in solid colors. We do not recommend embossing; the coating makes the canvas very firm and not ideal for it. Once the retirement of the existing faux leather constructed albums is complete in this catalog, you will see us continue to support a select number of solid-color albums, but in the new coated canvas material and enhanced construction. We have already announced a brown and black option, and may introduce other solids as well. There will also be additional printed options.

The non-expandable spines, at 1 1/2", are manufacturer recommended to hold 25-30 Memory Protectors, depending on the thickness of the layout you've created. Note that this is a manufacturer recommendation; if a user elects to add more Memory Protectors to the album, that is their choice.


You may be asking a bigger question and that's "why change in the first place?" The answers are myriad, but largely come back to Consultants. When we introduced the faux leather albums we were working to do two things typically at odds in product development: keep the price point low to be more competitive with retail, but offer a high quality signature product. While our current albums fill a need, we have seen both in sales performance and years of Consultant feedback that they haven't met either of those goals particularly well—the price point is still somewhat higher than you might find in many retail locations, and the quality is a middle-grade product.

Some of the feedback we have received, likely even from many of you: unscrewing the posts to add expanders or Memory Protectors is difficult, it requires tools, it broke my fingernails, it hurt my hands; spine piece is hard to work into the covers, particularly as the album is added to; the white end papers inside the covers feel "cheap"; the flap that covers the screws can flip up and not lie flat when you close the album; repeatedly removing and twisting the screws has stripped the insides so they don't tighten up evenly/smoothly/well.

I know it feels like hearing a broken record, but it is the most basic truth of product retirement, and that is that Close To My Heart does not retire top-selling product. We don't retire modest-selling products, either, as we are always trying to keep as much stability in inventory as we can, even if it is a less profitable item. But when a product is very low selling—and also regularly receives negative feedback—AND we have increasing difficulty meeting the manufacturer's minimum order requirements--those are products we have to give a hard look to. The faux leather album line has fallen in that camp for quite some time.

We have been looking at options for about a year. Current album performance is such that it has become difficult to manage inventory on the five faux leather albums that we carry. The slow sales of albums are exacerbated when, instead of buying a new album when her album is full, Cassie Customer simply keeps expanding her existing one. In that way, the expandable format has actually further hurt album sales—if we hope to sell albums for the long term (meaning in high enough quantities to manufacture) we knew we needed to move away from an expandable format. And yes, we have also seen many, many albums that do lose their stability and twist/splay side to side with 2-3 expanders in them.

As we looked at all the hard data in pricing, inventory, and sales, coupled with the qualitative feedback and product usage observations, we looked at ALL options: Do we reduce to just a single item number of albums, determining "they don't sell well, but as a memory keeping company we need to offer ONE?" Or do we say "We can't offer a branded album any longer—just buy what you like on the market and use our products in it?" We don't like either of those options.

Our third option was a bolder one, and one driven by Jeanette herself: rather than trying to do two mutually exclusive things part-way (low price/high quality), let's give albums a REAL concentration. As a scrapbooking company, let's introduce albums that we like, that are the best made we can source, and let's see if we can reinvigorate this line, particularly at a time when other stores/companies are pulling back or closing down. The decision to transition was not a step backward, we see it is a needed step forward, as we could not stay where we were any longer.


The new format of album has a number of enhancements we worked to incorporate to satisfy the feedback we have been receiving over the years: it has much higher quality endpapers for a more luxurious feel; its cover board is thicker and heavier; the posts now unscrew with a small flip-up handle that you twist with your fingers (no tools or broken fingernails required); and the flap that covers the screws has a light magnet incorporated to help the flap lie flatter when the album is closed. Yes, the product has a higher price point--it is a higher quality and we believe that the product well represents the Close To My Heart goals of quality and uniqueness. Does that mean that we won't have an occasional issue or defect? Of course not, but our goal is to reduce issues and improve the customer experience.

Ultimately, as with every single product decision we make at Close To My Heart, we are always working to provide you with relevant, fresh, trendy, quality products that existing customers want and that will attract new customers—while also meeting the behind-the-scenes demands of suppliers, manufacturing turns, inventory costs and those many complex issues Consultants do not see. Sometimes that means we have to make difficult or unpopular decisions, but please know that the directions are never made capriciously or with any intent other than to strengthen this company.

We're so sorry that the new albums haven't arrived in stock; having them on hand would most definitely answer questions the best possible way. Unfortunately, it isn't possible to guarantee that stocks on hand of the faux leather albums will last until the new albums arrive. However, prior to the announcement that the faux leather albums would be retiring, we had months and months of inventory on hand for all colors, and in some cases more than a year of inventory—that does speak to the slow sales of the product, which definitely will pick up now that the announcement has been made that they are while supplies last. It is always very difficult to predict how customers will respond to these items—sometimes they buy up stock quickly, and other times, they shrug at a product retirement and the inventory lasts much longer. But if you have customers who prefer the faux leather, expandable style to what is coming, we do encourage them to purchase both the album and any expander products they wish while all five remain in inventory.

Many thanks for reading this long explanation—I felt the depth was warranted, given the concerns. It is always our goal—as a product and marketing team specifically, but as a company generally, to provide you honest and clear communications, as well as products you know have been selected to strengthen your personal business and the business at large. We will continue to do our utmost best in both endeavors.


   If you have any other questions about the announcement of these retiring products, please let me know! I would love to answer any questions you may have, and help you plan your order of these retiring items!

   The next big announcement I have for you involves the EK Success Pens that were released in the Spring/Summer 2014 Idea Book!

   There has been a switch in the type of pen offered by CTMH. Here is the press release information from corporate about this change:

   Our vendor has informed us that they are no longer able to provide us with the EK Tools™ Journaling Pen pictured in the catalog (item Z1979). Accordingly, this item is being replaced by the Marvy® Uchida® LePen™ pigment ink pen, with a .5 mm tip. This is a rolling change that may start as soon as next week. The new pen will have the same price and the same item number.


   The last big announcement I have for you today is about the new Spring/Summer 2014 Idea Book! Have you received your copy of the Idea Book yet? Would you like a copy, but live far away from the Candid Captures area? I have AWESOME news for you! Now anyone can purchase a copy of the Idea Book for themselves from my Online Shopping Site! You can order your copy anytime and have it shipped directly to your home at your own convenience! Do not forget to check out the clearance section online as well! You can combine your order and your copy of the Idea Book in one shipment! Plus did I mention there are a lot of shipping options to choose from when you order online? It's an amazing deal, so check it out today and start shopping with Candid Captures Online to get all your CTMH goodies!

   That's it for today everyone! I know it is a lot to process at once, but I assure you that these are exciting announcements for amazing changes ahead! I get excited every time CTMH announces something new! It's like Christmas all over again with all the trendy and new ideas they come up with! I will keep you updated on as much as I can as more information is released! Let me know, though, if you have any questions or need any assistance with your upcoming order! I would love to help! Until next time;

Here's to life, love, and creativity!