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 Opening a yarn shop
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ikkivan
Gabber Extraordinaire

USA
538 Posts

Posted - 06/18/2013 :  2:33:13 PM  Show Profile  Visit ikkivan's Homepage Send ikkivan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I have some questions on behalf of a friend who is hell-bent on opening a yarn shop in an area where I just don't think it will be successful. This is a rural area with no REAL yarn shops around ... nasty synthetic stuff at the Walmart nearby are what folks around here think is yarn. To my knowledge, there are few knitters but many who crochet, from the looks at the entries in the local fairs (piles and piles of crocheted baby items that all look alike, all of synthetic yarn, and only my knitted socks for knitting entries).

I think she will have a hard time convincing local folks to pay for good, natural-fiber yarns and is going to have a major educational campaign ahead of her. She is a beginning knitter herself, although catching on really quickly. She has crocheted for years, and just recently discovered natural fibers, which she loves.

As I recall, there was a small yarn shop in the nearby county seat back around 1980, in a "store" in the front room of a woman's home. When she became ill and closed it up, there was never a replacement because (I am reasonably certain) there was no demand.

Can this work? Any ideas? I want my friend to succeed, but don't want to see her heartbroken (not to mention broke!). I can't be her only customer if this is to turn out well.

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)

dothead
Gabber Extraordinaire

USA
540 Posts

Posted - 06/18/2013 :  6:14:57 PM  Show Profile Send dothead a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I know of several yarn shops in my area that opened because the owner loves to knit and then was shocked to realize how many hours they had to put into the business to make it run and how much money they were not making.

Several shops closed within 2 years. Another was sold to another owner after about 3 years. It is a tough business.

In 1980, knitting wasn't as popular with all demographics as it is now so maybe your friend could make it work. I do wish her a lot of luck.

Vicki, the Constant Lurker(who sometimes stops lurking and actually posts)
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anderknit
Permanent Resident

USA
2600 Posts

Posted - 06/18/2013 :  9:37:34 PM  Show Profile Send anderknit a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Owning/running a small business is REALLY hard work - any type of business. It takes laser focus 24/7. Besides needing money and a deep knowledge of the industry, one should have retail experience and management experience. Has your friend worked retail before? She should - anywhere - to get a sense of what it's like to serve customers, and to learn from the manager/owner. Has she managed money, accounts, inventory, employees before? Has she budgeted out what it would take to furnish, equip, and stock the shop?

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.' "
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eldergirl
Permanent Resident

USA
1802 Posts

Posted - 06/18/2013 :  9:37:36 PM  Show Profile Send eldergirl a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Donna, your analysis of the "market" for her dreamed of yarn store is perceptive. (I say this not knowing where you are, etc.,so probably grain-of-salt-time.)

But I shall persevere here: I have a great interest in business development, and have put in my time with a dressmaking/tailoring business back in my day. Common sense about your market is basic. I have watched a good friend try what you describe in an exurb of my city, and watched as she turned yarn into quilting fabrics and developed a sideline of vacuum cleaners and large appliances. Lovely yarn didn't make it, and her close-out sales were sad, but wonderful for my stash!

She had to be adaptive to her market, and had pockets deep enough to succeed. So I think your concerns are valid for your friend.

But there is a mysterious force operating in those of us who start creative businesses, I think. There is an intense need to surround oneself with the very tools and supplies one is passionate about. Personally, I couldn't afford the beautiful fabrics I desired, but with a "fine dressmaking" business, I could have endless fabrics and projects to hand!

I will confess there was greed there, King Midas with his gold, perhaps, and certainly blindness to what running and developing a business entailed.

Luckily I was a quick study and learned fast, but after 9 years was defeated by not having deep pockets, nor was I willing to risk a loan to tide me over the oil crisis in Texas where I lived at the time.

So there are many issues to consider, and you know what? She is going to do what she wants to do, however sensible you are! But you can but try.

Best of luck,

Anna

Life is beautiful.
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ikkivan
Gabber Extraordinaire

USA
538 Posts

Posted - 06/19/2013 :  06:31:49 AM  Show Profile  Visit ikkivan's Homepage Send ikkivan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thank you all; I will pass on some of your wisdom (when the "time is right" and she asks, which she does). She does not have deep pockets and has not worked much in retail, from what I gather. I am from an advertising background, and believe in advertising ... what is that old saying? "He who has a thing to sell and goes and hollers down a well, is not as apt to make the dollars as he who climbs a tree and hollers." I don't think she is budgeting for advertising, which I am encouraging her to do.

You're right, Anna, I think she is going to do this no matter what, because she is so enthused about natural fibers ... I will probably help her with teaching some beginning knitting classes (ha, will work for yarn). I just hurt for her because of the huge probability of failure (I am praying I am totally WRONG!). But she IS a hard worker and used to working hard, mostly in construction labor. And she is planning to begin "part time," while holding her current job, with open-by-appointment arrangements for some of it. I just don't know ... Sigh.

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)
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Jane
SustaYning Member

USA
4387 Posts

Posted - 06/19/2013 :  07:07:30 AM  Show Profile  Visit Jane's Homepage Send Jane a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'd also suggest that your friend do serious research into marketing and social media take a class, if possible, or hire a consultant. An active internet presence is essential for any small/niche business. Keeping up with it takes time, but it's as important as the shop itself.

Many of us, myself included, have that fantasy of owning a yarn shop (I've even selected my dream location!), but it takes a massive amount of work and a lot of capital. I wish your friend a lot of luck!

Jane

Betty deserves everything and more: Make a Donation
Blog: Not Plain Jane
Photos: Flickr Album
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robinstephanie
Permanent Resident

USA
1249 Posts

Posted - 06/19/2013 :  08:43:04 AM  Show Profile Send robinstephanie a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I have this pipe dream of opening a yarn and pie shop (I make super-great pie) and was talking to a friend who's owned a small business for years. He took me seriously, and said a business plan drawn up by a professional is essential to giving the prospective owner an idea of how much money it will realistically take to make the idea float.

It's the job of this professional to take market, demographic, advertising, equipment, tax obligations, and I don't know what else because I am not a business planner, into account. Many people don't like to hire these specialists, because realistic analysis can puncture a dream, but better that than the dream get punctured more painfully later. Personally, I know so little about business that I didn't even know such a profession existed.

Robinsteph

Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
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Jane
SustaYning Member

USA
4387 Posts

Posted - 06/19/2013 :  4:48:56 PM  Show Profile  Visit Jane's Homepage Send Jane a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by robinstephanie

I have this pipe dream of opening a yarn and pie shop (I make super=great pie) and was talking to a friend who's owned a small business for years. He took me seriously, and said a business plan drawn up by a professional is essential to giving the prospective owner an idea of how much money it will realistically take to make the idea float.

It's the job of this professional to take market, demographic, advertising, equipment, tax obligations, and I don't know what else because I am not a business planner, into account. Many people don't like to hire these specialists, because realistic analysis can puncture a dream, but better that than the dream get punctured more painfully later. Personally, I know so little about business that I didn't even know such a profession existed.

Robinsteph

Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover



Excellent idea!

Jane

Betty deserves everything and more: Make a Donation
Blog: Not Plain Jane
Photos: Flickr Album
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susan@beeberrywoods.com
New Pal

11 Posts

Posted - 06/20/2013 :  04:36:23 AM  Show Profile Send susan@beeberrywoods.com a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm going to put this out there, largely because I know I will never do it. But I've thought about it. A lot. I believe there is still a place for the local sellers of goods, yarn or otherwise. But what is needed is a new model that makes use of the competition rather than fights it. What follows is my train of thought and rationale.

I had a friend who railed against the internet and the fact that I bought so much yarn and spinning fiber from the 'net. There are risks in that: can't see the actual color; can't feel the texture / hand of the fiber; can't be sure of the quality. On the other hand it is direct from individual mom-and-pop producers / dyers / spinners / small mills. It is often cheaper than from many brick-and-mortars.

Then I thought of the eBay shops that have sprung up in every nook and cranny for people who want to sell their stuff in that giant yard sale site of the 'net but are too petrified of e-commerce to take the risk. Why not merge the two ideas?

Do a sort of reverse eBay store. You, the vendor /shop-keeper of the brick and mortar take the risk and buy samples off line. Develop relationships with some online vendors (as I'm sure we all have) and showcase samples of their goods in your shop. Call it your stash. I would. People can drop by and take a look at what you have, have a feel, maybe even knit a sample. And, of course, place an order. You do the order fulfillment and tack on a handling fee.

You might choose to keep enough on hand to sell in an "emergency," but there is no need to spend the thousands of dollars for inventory that are otherwise required for wholesale contracts. I envision a comfy setting, big coffee table, sofa, chairs, pile of yarn in the middle. People chatting, making swatches, eating pie ( (or if it were my store, muffins).

Susan - on MDI
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sward
New Pal

USA
11 Posts

Posted - 06/20/2013 :  05:52:31 AM  Show Profile  Visit sward's Homepage Send sward a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I agree with the comments. I live close to a city that has the largest knitting guild (over 300 members) in the country and there are two shops that do really well. Fifteen miles down the road, there are still plenty of members but good quality yarn is hard to sell. Some are being converted after they see how nice their new pieces turn out. And many buy from me or online. But there are plenty making the acrylic baby stuff that. like you say, all looks alike.

I would suggest your friend start a small knitting group and start introducing some of the better fibers to the group ... tell them why WOOL and wool blends are so important to knitting and to our environments. It really is soft and in many cases, the "I'm allergic" chant is a myth. Find them a nice shawl pattern and do a group KAL. Get a computer going and get them on Ravelry and to a place where they can all choose a good yarn. It is so much fun getting together with the ladies to knit, or shop, or gab - even in public. One of my groups meets at the cafe of a local grocery store. People are always coming up to see what we are doing and ask about why we are having so much fun.

Many of the new wools are so soft and you all know that some wools shouldn't be worn next to skin. But they are not made from petroleum products. I would also explain that while some of the new wools are machine washable, they are chemically treated to create that property. Real natural wool doesn't need to be washed that often. You're not going to roll around in the grass with it. Baby stuff is so small it can just be rinsed and rolled in a towel to clean.

Anyway - good luck to your friend and happy knitting.

Sharon Ward
Canandaigua, New York

Sharon in Canandaigua
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Ceil
Permanent Resident

USA
1790 Posts

Posted - 06/20/2013 :  06:40:29 AM  Show Profile  Visit Ceil's Homepage Send Ceil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
As I read the first post, what struck me most is "beginning knitter." The passion is too new, imho. And the demographics sound dicey.

I only thought about opening a yarn shop, and probably never will (although there are MANY good suggestions in this thread to follow if I decide to pursue it some day!). But in thinking about it, I don't know that I'd make any money. Where I DO make money with yarn is teaching classes in yarn shops and knitting the occasional commission. That may be where I will stay.

Ceil
(Ravelry: ceilr)
Time is never a factor when joy is involved.
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Stiller1
New Pal

USA
1 Posts

Posted - 06/20/2013 :  06:48:10 AM  Show Profile Send Stiller1 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ikkivan,
New knit shop might be just what the area needs. My advice to her would be to encourage knitters to sit and knit instead of charging. Knitters, crochet ears will usually buy something. I think it's a turn-off to pay to just sit and knit for an hour or so.
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cutlermac
New Pal

Canada
5 Posts

Posted - 06/20/2013 :  07:25:42 AM  Show Profile Send cutlermac a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I had an elderly friend who owned a LYS for many years. She said you could not make a living from it. It paid the rent, it paid the car insurance, and a vacation.

Her motivation for keeping it open was, that it gave her something to do with her time and teach others how to knit.

I taught some classes for the store periodically. She provided a continually running 6 week series of classes and a strict return policy. Some individuals would try to return yarn that was 3 or 4 years old and not purchased from her. She was very cautious about purchasing inventory that was NOT in the chain stores.
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flicka
Seriously Hooked

877 Posts

Posted - 06/20/2013 :  07:30:03 AM  Show Profile Send flicka a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It is so interesting to read this thread. I hope you will keep us posted on your friend's decision, Donna.

Yesterday I was in a small town in Washington state which has a lovely LYS that I visit whenever I am nearby. It is a puzzlement to me how it thrives in an area with a depressed economy (formerly based on logging). It has beautiful high-end yarns that tempt me every time. I have some guesses about its (seeming) success:

The owner has deep roots in the community, especially among crafters.
The clientele is not interested in relying on the internet.
It is a hub of social interaction in the crafting community.
The owner stocks a wide variety of yarns, including acrylics and locally produced yarns.

Whatever the real reasons for the shop's continued existence, it is certainly an unusual bright spot in the local economy.

flicka

Edited, because I called Donna by the wrong name. Sorry, Donna.



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Hez
New Pal

4 Posts

Posted - 06/20/2013 :  07:45:35 AM  Show Profile Send Hez a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In addition to the hours (24/7 no matter what you post on the door), the economy (getting better, but beautiful fiber is still low on the list of may who are struggling)and having to compete with the internet, please let your friend know that despite much press saying otherwise, the US Government is not an encouraging force behind small businesses. Between federal, state & possibly local government, she could get nickel & dimed to death in less than 3 years. And if she decides to hire someone to work in the shop while she goes to trade shows/takes a break etc., it's REALLY going to cost her. My mom owns a small business, as do my sister, & 2 of my brothers-in-law. We ONLY shop small businesses because we know how hard it is to make it and how important small business is to the future of our country. Good luck and blessings on her if she decides to the huge step.
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robinstephanie
Permanent Resident

USA
1249 Posts

Posted - 06/20/2013 :  3:49:48 PM  Show Profile Send robinstephanie a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I just thought of something else. Ciel reminded us you'd mentioned your friend is a new knitter. Ciel's point about it being too new a passion is a good one; some passions just don't stick.

But also, one thing I get from my LYS is help when I'm stuck or confused. And if it's a new shop, and your friend's the only one working there, and she's a new knitter, that might not be something she's able to offer much of.

I might consider honing my skills for a big handful of years, seeing if the idea remains and grows or fades, doing my reseach, including research on what makes a successful LYS successful and vice-versa, getting involved with the crafting community as others here have mentioned, educating myself as much as possible on the varieties and characteristics of yarns and fibers, and saving my money. (And practicing my pie-making skills, of course, but that's just me.)

There is nothing wrong with letting a dream marinate, and good planning helps in any endeavor.

Robinsteph

Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
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ikkivan
Gabber Extraordinaire

USA
538 Posts

Posted - 06/20/2013 :  7:58:34 PM  Show Profile  Visit ikkivan's Homepage Send ikkivan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
So much food for thought (and thought for food, with Robinsteph's pies!) ... at this time, my friend doesn't have a computer, although she does have access elsewhere. I will certainly share ALL these comments with her, and/or have her over here to read them for herself. I am eager for her to hear as many ideas, pros and cons, as possible.

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)
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Thekla
New Pal

1 Posts

Posted - 06/21/2013 :  08:56:23 AM  Show Profile Send Thekla a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Please also remember that crochet takes a lot of yarn, more than knitting many times. Yarn shop should not be either/or establishments, but ones that include all yarn users. We have some folks that use yarn for fly tying! Perhaps getting the established crochet community to upgrade their yarn tastes will keep this shop going.
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lcunitz
New Pal

USA
1 Posts

Posted - 06/21/2013 :  3:44:57 PM  Show Profile Send lcunitz a Private Message  Reply with Quote
A lot of great advice here! I especially like the one about being able to teach and help knitters with questions. There is a new yarn "store" out here in California. It is the Yarn Truck. They outfitted a nice big van with shelves and bring the store to the knitters. Sound like it might be an alternative in a rural area (once she's ready.)
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phlame
Permanent Resident

USA
1559 Posts

Posted - 06/22/2013 :  10:02:47 AM  Show Profile Send phlame a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I suggest that she should check and see if there is a SCORE organization, counseling program, she could consult with locally. These are retired business people who volunteer their time to help people set up new businesses or advise them whether it is feasible. If there is not one locally, she can go online and they will help her there. It is all free. Here is the online URL. It's a really good thing. My husband volunteered there for a long time.

http://www.score.org/

Shirley, Dana Point, CA

...I'm fairly certain that, given a cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world.


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Robyn Becker
New Pal

USA
6 Posts

Posted - 07/14/2013 :  10:47:36 AM  Show Profile Send Robyn Becker a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I did exactly what your friend is thinking about-purchased a shop 2 years ago. The shop is very successful - up 50% each year in sales, but there is little profitability since in order to keep a work/life balance I've had to employ 2 part-time folks for the shop and several part-time instructors since a huge part of the business is classes. And yes you really need to be an expert knitter and crocheter yourself if you want to have satisfied customers. Love of fiber will not be enough. Since your friend is not an expert herself in both crafts, perhaps she might partner with someone who is- achieving two things at once-needed expertise and potentially a work/life balance. If she is not willing to or able to form a partnership she might consider working in a yarn shop or for Michael's or Jo-Ann's to gain the expertise needed. Whatever she decides I wish her every success. Robyn-VA
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