Stationery Industry: The Nail in the Coffin
I just received an announcement that William Arthur is terminating its affiliate program – administered by LinkShare – on May 25th. I realize that many bricks-and-mortar retailers have never actively participated in vendor sponsored affiliate programs, but I have always encouraged dealers to do so. In fact, found below is an excerpt of an article that appeared on the Stationers Guild a couple of years ago, promoting vendor sponsored affiliate programs:
“Supporting the affiliate programs of your vendors should - and most probably will - bring the following benefits to your business:
- Properly used, affiliate marketing will drive traffic to your store;
- Affiliate marketing is a far more effective marketing tool than the Yellow Pages and most paper media advertising;
- Affiliate marketing allows you to build an online presence without the expense and fuss of doing it yourself;
- Affiliate marketing gives you an opportunity to talk about and promote fine stationery and custom invitations;
- Affiliate marketing gives you credibility with your customers to “see” that your store has online product capabilities;
- You earn affiliate commissions when customers buy online through your affiliate ad referral;
- You support your vendor by promoting their brand online;
- Most importantly, you support the stationery industry by promoting quality brands.”
To many dealers, this is a non-event, but I can assure you that this is the final nail in the coffin of the stationery industry as we know it. Why?
The lack of a financial incentive to market brands carried by your store in social media channels will diminish a store front’s ability to compete. Simply stated, every time you promote a “house” brand in the media, you will simply drive traffic to the vendor’s online store – not your own. Sure, some clients may drop by to see the “real deal” and you may make an occasional sale, but most “clients’ will be happy to close the deal online. In effect, you have just become an uncompensated showcase for vendors selling to your clients online. Heck, you may have even paid for the albums that will now be used to promote your vendor’s products online. What irony!
Lest you think this is an isolated event, Crane slashed its dealer affiliate commissions by 70% in March. As Crane now owns William Arthur, this is simply the consolidating end-play to disconnect its bricks-and-mortar dealers from Crane’s online business strategy. Let’s face it, we are the “muppets” and we have been well and truly played.
I do not know what the retail battlefield will look like after Crane’s business strategy is fully played out, but I can assure you that Crane’s brand won’t compare to Smythson of Bond Street or Pineider. Perhaps, Crane will join Martha Stewart in showcasing their brands at J. C. Penny. I doubt that Vera Wang will play along, she simply has too much class.
I don’t know about you, but I will be treating this National Stationery Show as my last. So join me in a trip of nostalgia when you walk the aisles of the Javits Center at this May’s National Stationery Show.
Richard W. May
Founding Member Stationers Guild