IdeaForest Adds Jo-Ann Stores' Offline Acreage

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Popular arts-and-crafts site IdeaForest.com was expected to announce late last week that it had struck a strategic partnership with offline crafts giant Jo-Ann Stores. Under the deal, the site will gain a presence in the chain's 1,100 stores nationwide as well as through its print and television efforts.


IdeaForest.com, which will be renamed joann.com on Sept. 14, will serve as the chain's online e-commerce arm. Jo-Ann Stores, which took a 28 percent stake in the site, is a leader in the $10 billion arts-and-crafts industry. Its main competitor is Michaels, which has 600 stores.


Consumers will be able to search joann.com for decorative, painting, quilting, floral and 10 other categories of 100,000 products. There will be a database of hundreds of craft ideas, complete with step-by-step instructions.


Although IdeaForest.com was pulling in as many as 129,000 unique visitors per month, the deal with Jo-Ann Stores is expected to help the new site achieve its tag line as "the Earth's largest creativity store." At the very least, it should help it pass category leaders such as Craftopia.com, Handcraftersvillage.com and Michaels.com.


The site will lean heavily on the chain's 49-state bricks-and-mortar presence. The Web address will appear on point-of-purchase displays, shelf talkers, register receipts, shopping bags and pins that all 22,000 store employees will wear.


An in-store incentive program will be implemented that will award prizes to the establishments that collect the most e-mail addresses for the company database. To build word of mouth, all employees and their families and friends will receive a special introductory discount at joann.com.


As part of the launch, 1 million bag stuffers promoting the site will be distributed in stores next month. The site also will appear in all of the stores' established direct marketing efforts, including its biweekly direct mailer, which goes out to 3.3 million consumers, and its biweekly newspaper inserts, which reach up to 18 million consumers.


"They have a 5 million-person direct mail database that we can really use to communicate to those consumers," said Elisabeth Charles, vice president of marketing at IdeaForest.com, El Segundo, CA. "Our job is to convert them into online visitors as well."


Beginning Sept. 14, the site will begin airing a how-to show on ValueVision International called "joann.com's Creative World." The hour-long show will air Thursdays and will feature experts who will participate in shows themed around Halloween, Christmas, and skills such as quilting and sewing. ValueVision's home shopping programming reaches 34 million households.


Jo-Ann Stores also produces ETC Magazine, which reaches as many as 300,000 consumers. The site will advertise within the publication and will provide some of its content. ETC is short for "experience the creativity."


"We're surrounding the consumer, getting our message to them anytime, anywhere," Charles said. "We really have with our stores the initial foundation. Now we're on the World Wide Web, on TV and we'll also be in print."


Joann.com formerly served as a content site for the chain for three years. A year ago, it began to think seriously about adding an e-commerce element "like the other bricks-and-mortar companies have. That's when they started looking outside for a strategic partnership," Charles said. This deal was the culmination of the chain's efforts.
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