Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Imploding Industry

As readers of this blog know, we've been doing this a long time. So long in fact, that I am able to brag to the others at the Senior Center that I knew Frank Schaffer. If you don't know who Frank Schaffer is, let me tell you, he's a legend in the school supply industry. He invented the Cheap Chart! (Not quite at the level of inventing the laser, or the microchip, but...). Our history with the Frank Schaffer company is complicated. Once upon a time, we were joined at the hip. About half of everything we carried had the FSP logo. The company was famous for creating packages every year at the trade show - just buy the package, you get every new product, plus all the racks and displays, you don't have to pay for it for a year and we will take an extra 50% off the price for you. We filled our store with new charts, workbooks, bulletin board sets. When corporate merger fever arrived in the 80's, FSP was one of the first victims. They were bought by Instructional Fair, their chief competitor. That was ok, because we loved IF too. Then the new, merged company was bought by McGraw Hill. We loathed McGraw Hill. They were carpet-baggers, trashing companies, stealing the best stuff for their direct to schools division and firing all the people that made the companies good in the first place. Within a few years, McGraw-Hill sold the now hollowed-out company to School Specialty, who's entire business was selling directly to schools. After that, we dropped all FSP/IF/McGraw products. (By the way, this included dozens of other companies - Ideal, Judy Instructo, ATA, Good Apple etc. that had been swallowed at various times) The good news for the School Supply industry was that most of the great people that had made up all those companies drifted to new, innovative companies that still had ideas and energy. The main place they landed was Carson Dellosa.
Today I received an email telling me that Carson Dellosa has bought Frank Schaffer. This has turned into a giant Katamari that will eventually absorb everything. It's bad news for the industry - less publishers means less quality books. In the short term, it means we may carry Frank Schaffer products again. Wish I could be happy about that. I'll try to write more about this trend later.

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