Local craft wholesaler expands footprint

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 366 views 

SPRINGDALE — Christine Meier, co-owner of Springdale-based Canvas Corp., was bitten by the entrepreneur bug early in life. This savvy business woman left a profitable job as a craft buyer for Walmart to launch her own family-owned venture with husband Randy in 1996.

Together the couple has built three businesses from the ground-up and more recently acquired three additional craft ventures in the past year.

Meier said she runs the marketing side of the diverse craft wholesaling business and Randy, is the chief financial officer.

The couple founded Canvas Corp. in 2006 after selling their first venture, DMD Industries — a wholesale paper business — which was launched in the mid-1990′s. In six years the duo took DMD from a three-man company to more than 450 employees.They sold it In 2002 and it then merged with a group of other craft companies.

By late 2005 Meier was itching to get back into crafts. She began Canvas Corp., selling products under the brand Canvas Home Basics to the scrapbook, craft and home decor market. Although it produces popular patterned papers, the company is perhaps best known for creating products from materials besides paper: burlap, corrugated cardboard, and its namesake canvas.

“Our focus is to bring creative ideas and people back together,” said Christine Meier.

In June 2011, Canvas Corp. purchased Bagworks, a Bentonville venture, that focused on canvas totes for the crafting industry. The domestic sewing division of that company was relocated to Springdale from Fort Worth, Texas as part of the deal. Meier said this purchase allowed Canvas Corp. to blend materials and talents to offer more products to its diverse customer base.

In December, Canvas Corp. acquired California-based 7 Gypsies, a company known for its eclectic vintage-style embellishments used in paper crafting. The 7 Gypsies operation moved from California to the Springdale headquarters, but kept a sales office in Salt Lake City, Utah, to better serve the western half of the U.S.

Before the ink on this deal was dry Canvas Corp. completed the purchase of Tattered Angels, a Fort Collins, Colo.-based company best known for its spray ink and mist paint products. Tattered Angels founder Wendy Senger stayed on as creative lead for that division. The company moved its operations from Colorado to Springdale in February.

Randy Meier, said the reason behind the company’s recent group of acquisitions was to assemble a team of people and collection of products that provides a great platform for creativity to ignite.

“Creativity is our business," he said.

Christine Meier says the fit between these new acquisitions could not be any better as they shared much the same philosophy and core business values.

“In a very short time frame we are see great synergy and are boosting our product inventory and client base,” she said.

Canvas Corp. sells to all the major crafting retailers including Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, World Market, Oriental Trading, the Container Store and Walmart.

The company has about 80 people on its payroll who make, assemble and ship products to more than 27 countries all from the confines of its 13,000- square-foot warehouse facility on Old Missouri Road in Springdale.

The craft supply industry rakes in about $30 billion annually, with 56% of U.S. households crafting at least once a year, according to the Craft and Hobby Association, the industry trade group. In 2010, the paper and memory craft category posted sales worth $3.3 billion with more 18.4 million households involved in scrapbooking. The 2011 industry results are due out soon.

Last week Duncan MacNaughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer for Walmart U.S., touted the effort to add back more crafts and fabric items to its stores in recent months. MacNaughton said he hears from families across the nation tired of seeing their kids spend too much leisure time staring down at electronic games. He said they’ve started devoting family time to crafting — building and painting model cars, learning the arts of quilting and woodworking and scrapbooking with their children.

“Adding back the craft and fabric items have been a very positive move for us.” MacNaughton told the media last week in Rogers.

Industry watchers say the U.S.market is a mature one, but the international possibilities hold great potential for future growth.

Meier agrees. She said the crafting craze is just beginning in Australia and remains popular in France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany.

When asked about Europe’s recent dip back into recession, Meier said crafting seems to do quite well when consumers are home more and looking for ways to save money on gifts and home decor.

She said the company is also seeing a direct correlation in product popularity linked to the social media magnet Pinterest.

“The internet and particularly Pinterest has helped unite legions of crafters, party planners and DIY enthusiasts, who for the longest time existed almost underground. We have really seen the demand for burlap increase given that so many products on Pinterest are made of burlap,” Meier said.

She said Canvas Corp. sources the majority of its burlap from China because it’s a higher quality and a tighter weave than domestic supplies.

“We have handled all international sales on our own, but the Arkansas World Trade Center is very interested in what we are doing and we hosted most recently the delegation from Thailand when they were here working on new and better ways to work internationally,” Christine Meier said.

This veteran merchant has always loved crafts, getting her start as clerk for Joann Fabrics while in high school and then working her way through Kent State University. Her passion is the marketing and product development side of the wholesale business Meier confesses she’s not much of a crafter herself.

Canvas Corp. also has an outlet store at its headquarters which is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday of each week.

Meier said it’s popular with teachers other consumers looking to decorate on a shoe-string budget.