When it comes to crafts, there is one store that truly dominates the market, and that is Michaels Arts & Crafts. Now sure Jo-Ann Fabrics tries to compete, but Michaels dynamic store captivates its consumers through layout, product options, and the overall experience of becoming and staying a Michaels’ customer.

 

Michaels Arts & Crafts turns the “hidden” secondary production, that de Certeau found in the process of a consumer object’s utilization, into an explicit philosophy that is encouraged in the store’s consumption process. Take for example the Styrofoam products. The cones, spheres, and other geometric pieces serve minimal utility value in their purchase. They need to be transformed by the consumer. These Styrofoam pieces become a template and the raw materials for the individual purchaser’s reality. From a child’s school project, to an architect or designer’s model, to an entrepreneur’s artisan craft business, the Styrofoam only gains value and meaning in its repurposing and in the consumer’s production.

 styrofoam

The section of yarn and stitching is an undecipherable abyss to the novice consumer. But to the participatory consumer, the passion of knitting, sewing, embroidering, and other needle based hobbies allows to not only enter into an imagined community (Canclini), that bonds them to other participants, but also to a literal community that Michaels helps facilitate. The store puts out project ideas that encourage consumers to buy products and create a finished project that the collective of consumers could all do simultaneously. Also, Michaels hosts knit nights and classes to not just teach the technique but to foster the lifestyle of knitting as a communal hobby.

 yarn

Michaels’ products require the consumer to invest their emotions and turn the simple use value into a personal, meaningful exchange value. The jewelry department capitalizes on this idea of commodity fetishism. It would be cheaper and faster to buy a bracelet from Claire’s at the local mall, but when spending the money and investing the time in the tools, materials, storage, and other products from Michaels’ jewelry section, the consumer transforms the consumption process into a personalized experience. Whether they are making the jewelry to profit from or just crafting jewelry to fit their own fashion needs, the Michaels’ jewelry department encourages consumers to become their own producers and inject their personal tastes and their emotional investments into their jewelry making.

jewelry

Veblen’s idea of “conspicuous consumption” is rejected in Michaels’ bridal section. The glamour and conspicuousness that shows like David Tutera’s My Fair Wedding perpetuate is replaced with a more homey, self-sufficient, and artisan-like bridal décor. The Michaels’ bridal section does not boast flashy, pricey extravagant products, but rather encourages economical resourcing and crafted personalization. The consumer (the bride) is encouraged to activate her combinational inventiveness. She can purchase invitations from the bridal section, add a personal touch with stickers or stamps, and then wrap them in her own choice and mixture of ribbons, twine, and finishing.

 bridal

 ribbons  stickers

In contrast, the baking department at Michaels looks to encourage its customers to consume conspicuously. From buying and displaying the “Ultimate Cake Decorating Set” to utilizing the decorative pearls and edible glitter, Michaels provides a variety of consumer goods to bring the world baking into the crafty consumers kitchen. The baking section looks to entice its consumer to buy these products to produce skilled baked goods that allow for the consumer to display their knowledge and expertise in the precision of baking. The baking depart also allows the consumer to creatively express their culture and lifestyle in a deliberate outward fashion.

baking accessories  baking

Reflecting Bourdieu’s ideas of taste as a tool to distinguish between classes, Michaels paint department literally delineates between skill levels and the taste and style of the art products one must consume. Ranging from Academic, to Artist, to Professional, these categories are how the Michaels company tells their consumers how they should view their skill sets and in turn how they should view their consumption habits. This distinction can become problematic by wrongfully separating consumers into categories that are too broad to not accurately describe a craft-centric consumer’s eclectic knowledge and varied skill level throughout Michaels’ departments.

artist

Within the stores baking and scrapbooking department, Michaels utilizes cultural intermediaries to bring the established prestige and creativity of their respective industries into their brand and to subtly establish a hierarchy within their products. Food Network star Duff Goldman lends himself to baking products that are both functional and playful. Duff Goldman brings an edginess to cake decorating, and Michaels looks to transform that into their brand ideology. Michaels looks to turn cake decorating in an accessible, manageable, and interactive event that allows their consumer to express their creativity and feel the desire to try and thus buy more products. Similarly, Martha Stewart lends her name to an entire line of scrapbooking products. Her elite status and craft empire gives the Michaels’ consumers the inspiration needed to become the Martha of their own life. These cultural intermediaries elevate their products to a culturally elite good that consumers will buy in order to feel and achieve a higher a higher cultural capital and social prestige.

 Duff  martha stewart

While Michaels prides their brand on allowing consumers to craft their own lifestyle and create their own meaning from their store’s goods, there is one element that seems to counter their DIY, personalization mission. Their custom floral department prepares floral arrangements and centerpieces that enable consumers to passively disregard the consumer’s production element that exists throughout the rest of Michaels. But this one department can hardly compete with the glue guns, the duct tape, the glassware, the woodcrafts, and even just stickers and stamps that allow the consumers to create and produce new products, meanings, and creativity from within the craft store. Michaels Arts & Crafts looks to unite the lifestyles of crafting consumers and create an environment in which the consumer is celebrated and is given the ability and power to command their consumption and present their taste and identity through their production and experience of crafts.

       custom floral

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