quilt shop

Changing Times

The times they are a’changin’ once again. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Maddie Kertay shared a couple of posts that bear sharing: the first “How to be a BFF to your LQS” and then “Sew What Now? The Future of Sewing“. There’s some fascinating stuff here. Hancock Fabrics is closing. I’ve shopped in a few over my years of sewing, I purchased a Grace Quilt Frame in what was the nearest store to me, over 90 miles away. Within a short amount of time there were a number of stores that closed due to bankruptcy reorganization, including the nearest to me. Just to be clear This is NOT Hancock’s of Paducah, though their lineage goes back to the same founding family.

This kind of closing has something of a dynamic impact:
1) people are losing jobs. From the hourly in-store workers, and local management to the upper-level management and CEO.  This bites on so many levels. So let’s, for a moment, look at the store level: the impact of the closing goes beyond the store employees to: local deli’s, restaurants, and those other stores that people would stop in to get that one little thing to complete their day. There is a loss of rent in that building and that loss probably started long before the business closed.

When a business closes the others in the area are effected – one person, one business makes a difference.

2) the quilting, sewing, crafting community loses a resource. This is the only place some quilters and sewers can get fabric, thread, notions, and in some cases good information. Because Hancock’s carries fashion fabric this is kind of a big deal. I am not a huge fan of the big box store and will shop in the small business whenever I can. That said, not everyone has a local quilt shop. Hancock’s (or some other big box) probably was their LQS. It may not have been ideal but it was there. Big box business like Hancock’s and the others are, sometimes, a gateway to the LQS. Quilters will discover the LQS, the access to information, then the understanding in the difference in the quality of fabric and the community.

3) there’s the upper management, all of whom are losing their jobs, left wondering what they could have done differently to survive. And let’s remember behind this large corporation closing are people, with thoughts and feelings, they do think about this, second guess what changes might they have tried. I’m sure a lot of us have thoughts and comments on that, whether we know the inner workings of the company or not. We, as consumers, can second guess so much. We can comment on what they should have done, should not have done in order to survive.

Does this mean the sewing and quilting community are dying out? No. Not at all. It means that our communities are going to struggle to find the fabric and tools that we need to make the things we want and what we need. If the other two big box shops are paying attention they will look towards expansion into those markets. If they are smart they will build slowly. And quite frankly I’d like to see them both up their game in fabric quality. Not to compete with the LQS but to complement. With more buying power they can get notions, tools, and fabrics that the smaller shops can’t get. I’d also like to see them limit the coupon shopping and mega-sales. Yes, I said that. We all search for bargains, to get the best price, the art of deal-making is something incredible to watch. Being on the receiving end of said deal-making can be downright frustrating. As someone who sells sewing machines – the supports said machines through teaching and walk-in help – well I could write a whole blog post on its own. The customer gets the lower price, there is still commission, rent, utilities, other employees, health care etc that need to be paid. The shop now has less money with which to do that.

If you have a chance visit your local quilt shop. Check out Maddie’s post for some tips on supporting them. Support schools (of any kind) that teach sewing and quilting classes – perhaps by offering to teach, asking questions, and most importantly by being kind to the staff (they’re people too).  Take a moment to thank them for still being there.

Happy Quilting!



2 thoughts on “Changing Times”

  1. If a business wants loyalty, they need to provide a decent commodity. I’ve tried several times to shop Hancocks, their fabric is the lowest quality. You literally can read through it. I understand the quality fabrics are expensive, but there are ways around that. Quilt guilds usually have fabric swaps/rummage sales. Or garage sales, etc. while this might not be a first choice, I’d like to see people buy quality not quantity. I’ve seen stashes that were obscene. Ten lifetimes couldn’t go through them. It would be better if we became more project oriented. Find an inspiration, then shop for it. As it is, people have amassed such huge collections, they only browse in the stores now. The quilt shows manage to sell new things, but most don’t do big shopping except Houston, Calif., Peducah, etc. Now we face online stores as the main resource for many. I’m not sure there’s an answer. We just had the only true quilt shop close last weekend. The great ones provide classes, fabric, clubs, machines/services, etc. I’d rather see 1 quilt store with many employees. It’s awful to take classes and the instructor has to stop and take care of customers. The bigger privately owned will always be busy as they have figured out how to retail and still run the business. My girlfriend found the secret of kits. Every line of fabric had a sample displayed with kits made up to do the quilt. She had 2 employees that just cut kits. People will buy but an owner has to have an esthetic eye for color and a working knowledge of buying trends. What I’d really like to see is those huge stashes being put to good use. I’d suggest those empty stores set up some quilting retreats to do donation projects. Have people haul in fabric they will never use and put it to use. The store has people in it, and said people rarely walk out without some little something. The store should never be vacant. That’s bad business.
    Just some thoughts.

  2. When I lived in NC I shopped at Hancock Fabrics regularly, especially after my granddaughter found she loved sparkly, glittery, and generally shiny fabrics. Hancocks always had a great selection, and definitely not stuff that my LQS would carry! Great for Halloween and other occasions. I don’t buy fabric as much as I used to due to limited space in my house and a definite downward turn in my available money over the past few years, plus I dye most of what I use now. I try to buy at least some Aurifil or other threads at my LQS, but their stocked fabric just isn’t what I’m into. Trying to keep abreast of trends and keeping customers happy seems an impossible task, I can’t even imagine trying to run a quilt shop!

Leave a Reply