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 Stocking a new yarn shop: foo-foo or basics?
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wagee
New Pal

USA
36 Posts

Posted - 07/01/2005 :  10:10:51 AM  Show Profile  Visit wagee's Homepage Send wagee a Private Message
Hi All,

I'm opening a yarn store in a short time and am very busy ordering yarn. I'm having a difficult time deciding on the product mix. Personally, I'm a "basics" kind of knitter: I love wool, mohair, silk, cotton, and all the different blends. Yarns that make classic sweaters and things that one can wear for years to come. I also like fancier yarns (thick & thin, hand-dyed, etc). What I'm _not_ a fan of is all the novelty yarn out there... eyelash, fur, ladder, lurex, etc. Sure they're fun but they don't rock my boat.

I realize the novelty yarns are popular and need to be in my store. But so many new stores I visit nowadays have mostly novelty yarns and very few basics! I walk in and walk out - nothing for me to buy!

My idea is to focus my inventory on what I believe in and can stand behind: the basics. I'll also have a selection of novelties, but that won't be the focus of the store, and the novelty section will be smaller compared to many shops.

How do you all feel about this? How often do you reach for a novelty yarn when making a project? How is your favorite LYS stocked - mostly novelties, mostly basics, 50/50?

All opinions are appreciated. Thanks!

Warren Agee
www.marinfiberarts.com

knitz2
Permanent Resident

USA
1800 Posts

Posted - 07/01/2005 :  10:31:05 AM  Show Profile  Visit knitz2's Homepage Send knitz2 a Private Message
I rarely use the foo-foo novelty stuff, maybe for a gift item occasionally and there is a lot of it available at outlets such as Wal-Mart, Jo-Anns, Michaels, etc. I say go with the classic stuff with maybe one eyelash people might want for trim. The new LYS which opened last fall near where I work has mostly classic stuff with one "ladder ribbon" type yarn and one type of eyelash. For "novelty" yarn, she stocks linen and bamboo.
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kbshee
Permanent Resident

USA
4165 Posts

Posted - 07/01/2005 :  10:36:06 AM  Show Profile Send kbshee a Private Message
It depends in part about your competition: you don't want to replicate the offerings of other stores (exactly) and you want to have something unique. If you're the third or fourth store in the area offering, say, Cascade 220, you should offer something no other stores have in order to give people a reason for visiting.

kim in oregon
http://kbshee.blogspot.com
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wagee
New Pal

USA
36 Posts

Posted - 07/01/2005 :  11:07:21 AM  Show Profile  Visit wagee's Homepage Send wagee a Private Message
Kim,

I've analyzed my competition and am doing as you suggest - creating a product selection that is quite a bit different. For example, the closest LYS stocks heavily in inexpensive brands - Patons, Bernat, Lion Brand, Unger, etc. I won't be going there. There will be some overlap, of course, but my focus will be different.

The mere fact that I will be concentrating on basic, class yarns will make me unique!

Thanks so much for your input,

Warren
www.marinfiberarts.com
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mokey
Permanent Resident

15375 Posts

Posted - 07/01/2005 :  12:58:36 PM  Show Profile Send mokey a Private Message
Basics are great but a decent selection of novelties is needed. When you take a look at the top knitting trends right now, even items made with basic yarn such as felted bags have funky trims.

"An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Martin Luther King Jr.
www.femiknits.blog-city.com
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gdelrosa
Seriously Hooked

USA
851 Posts

Posted - 07/01/2005 :  1:44:10 PM  Show Profile  Visit gdelrosa's Homepage  Send gdelrosa a Yahoo! Message Send gdelrosa a Private Message
Newer knitters like eyelash yarns. I used to love those until I realized that they are a pain to knit with and take care of. I taught two of my friends to knit and they are loving the novelty yarns right now. I'm waiting for them to change their minds about them soon.

If you want to draw new knitters into the store novelty yarns will do it.

I changed my blog name: www.gailknits.blogspot.com
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Yarnni
Permanent Resident

Canada
1021 Posts

Posted - 07/02/2005 :  05:11:07 AM  Show Profile  Visit Yarnni's Homepage Send Yarnni a Private Message
When I first started, I filled my inventory with yarns that "I" liked. Big mistake! Yes, I sell a lot of natural fibers but a significant amount of my business also comes from novelty yarns. The difference between the eyelash yarns that we carry vs what Michael's etc., carries is quality. Yes, there is a quality difference!!

Novelty yarns are still hot for the Fall and most likely into next Spring also. Your younger knitters want these yarns and you don't want to alienate them.

Also, the colors and textures are becoming more sophisticated. One of my customers mixes these yarns with beautiful natural fibers for one-of-a-kind throws. If I were you, I'd stick to Schachenmayr, Valeria di Roma and OnLine for your eyelash yarns.

Does this help you?

Yarnni
www.knitwerx.com
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knittherapy
Gabber Extraordinaire

USA
375 Posts

Posted - 07/02/2005 :  9:03:08 PM  Show Profile  Send knittherapy a Yahoo! Message Send knittherapy a Private Message
I agree with knitz2, get a few of the novelties but stick mostly with the basics. There are two yarn stores near me, and I always go to the same one first because it has a better selection of basics...the other one is chock full of novelty yarn with few basics I would even use.

Lori [img]http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/knit.gif[/img]

If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

My knitting photos
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Gelliott
Seriously Hooked

USA
911 Posts

Posted - 07/03/2005 :  10:59:47 PM  Show Profile Send Gelliott a Private Message
My LYS has a huge inventory of many different, beautiful yarns. It is a pleasure to just walk around an feast my eyes on the colors. And yet...I have never bought yarn there, only needles and gadgets.
What I look for is wools and wool-blends finer than worsted. The store does not stock plain-colored sock yarn, only the stripey stuff. I love to work with sport-weight yarns in solid colors and can't find any there. I find myself ordering my yarn elsewhere, although i would love to buy it locally.

Gelliott
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HoJo
Permanent Resident

USA
1474 Posts

Posted - 07/04/2005 :  08:33:54 AM  Show Profile  Visit HoJo's Homepage Send HoJo a Private Message
Gelliott:

Have you told your lys that you are having trouble finding specific types of yarn? At each of my open houses, I've asked my customers what I don't have that they might like. When I go to knitting groups, I ask them as well. Then I try to stock at least a few of that type for them to choose from. While I can't have everything, I want customer demand to drive my stock.

Wagee: that would be my response to you as well. Don't use up your entire open to buy on inventory when you first open, hold some back (not enough to make your shelves look empty, but enough to place a couple of minimum orders with vendors). Then ask your customers; tell them you haven't full stocked yet and ask for suggestions. Make up a guest list and have them write their preferences, when it comes in, call or email them to come and have a look (no pressure to buy just feedback). Not only will they likely buy, then will be impressed with your customer service.

HoJo

Our estore: www.fullthreadahead.com
Yarn for the mind, body, and soul

My blog: www.fullthreadahead.com/blog
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wagee
New Pal

USA
36 Posts

Posted - 07/04/2005 :  09:51:24 AM  Show Profile  Visit wagee's Homepage Send wagee a Private Message
Hojo,

With all due respect to the many wonderful posts (and I *do* appreciate them all), your advice is the soundest! It's also the best compromise: stock the store as you see fit, but actively invite your customers to shape its inventory right from the start. I love it.

What I've done is order a smallish selection of novelties (including eyelash) from a variety of vendors that should make for a decent display. I'll leave it up to my customers to decide if they want more.

Warren
www.marinfiberarts.com
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amandaCO
Gabber Extraordinaire

USA
530 Posts

Posted - 07/05/2005 :  08:23:05 AM  Show Profile Send amandaCO a Private Message
I agree with HoJo that you should hold back some of your purchasing power until after you've opened and have heard customer requests, not just for yarn but also needles and books. Personally, I don't buy novelties, but I love looking at them and they often give me color combination ideas. Best of luck to you.
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knittinggal
Chatty Knitter

USA
296 Posts

Posted - 07/12/2005 :  09:04:45 AM  Show Profile  Visit knittinggal's Homepage Send knittinggal a Private Message
I have three lys's close by. One has a fantastic selection of both novelty and the traditional. The other has a smaller selection and is about half and half also. And the third shop prides herself on selling many yarns the other two do not. She has a pretty even mix also and two right off that she sells the others don't have is American Buffalo yarn by Ruth Huffman (yes, real buffalo yarn!) and the recycled silk. I'm a new knitter and I am more attracted to the traditional yarns.

Kay
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allsmile
New Pal

USA
44 Posts

Posted - 07/12/2005 :  10:22:04 AM  Show Profile  Visit allsmile's Homepage Send allsmile a Private Message
One of my fave lys's has basic yarns all around on the walls, and then a center shelf of novelty yarns. I really like that mix, just enough novelty so that I can find something frilly if I want, but more of a focus on other more basic yarns. I'd suggest something like that. Just a small section of a good variety of novelties

*Vicki*

Check out my blog
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kerrymccutcheon
New Pal

USA
16 Posts

Posted - 07/12/2005 :  11:47:48 AM  Show Profile  Visit kerrymccutcheon's Homepage Send kerrymccutcheon a Private Message
I buy most of my yarn from sources other than my LYS for 2 reasons:

1) The LYS has lots of high-quality yarns but they are heavily stocked with novelty yarns and multi-colored wool. Very few solid colors except for Naturespun. Very few plant fiber yarns.

2) If I do find a yarn that suits my project, they don't have the quantity I'll need and for various reasons cannot order it in a reasonable amount of time, if at all.

I agree that you should keep your initial stock order small to allow for a second order driven my customer demand, but I can't stress enough how important it is as a customer to hear from a store owner, "Although we don't have any in stock, I can place an order for you and have for you in two weeks."

Kerry

http://kerrysknits.blogspot.com/

"Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides." -Margaret Thatcher
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KL
Permanent Resident

6041 Posts

Posted - 07/12/2005 :  6:32:34 PM  Show Profile Send KL a Private Message
When our store opened 11 months ago, 95% of our knitters were beginners and wanted lots of frou frou. They have now become accomplished intermediate knitters with the desire to knit with more traditional, luxury yarns. Our stock this year will see a drastic reduction in novelty and a marked increase in better, traditional with also some new vendor additions. Some will be yarns like Fiesta, that are a nice compromise; a bit of novelty to them but still in a more mainstream vein. We are also always looking for the hand painted/dyed yarns to be different. We also will beef up the amount of skeins in any given yarn and color as they are now into much bigger projects. We also allow them to special order what they want as long as it is not just one ball of anything- in that case - we try to find it locally for them. KL
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TaraGel
Chatty Knitter

USA
269 Posts

Posted - 07/12/2005 :  7:40:06 PM  Show Profile  Visit TaraGel's Homepage Send TaraGel a Private Message
Noticed a lot of people are thinking novelty=eyelash yarns. Ribbon yarns, ladder yarns, poufy yarns...love all of that, but hate eyelash. Gotta admit I would find a yarn shop without any novelty yarn very boring and would not revisit. Not every knitter is a garment knitter, some of us do a lot of shawls and scarves for gift knitting.
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BessH
Permanent Resident

3095 Posts

Posted - 07/13/2005 :  03:56:21 AM  Show Profile  Visit BessH's Homepage Send BessH a Private Message
Wagee - good luck on the new store. My first reaction to your question was "depends on who your customer is". Glad to see other experienced shop owners offer the same advise. The last "new" lys I visited held about 80% novelty yarns - very charming, well selected and displayed and they did have one yarn I wanted to buy (and did buy) but it looked so much like a toy store to me. I had a good time but I won't go back for a very long time, unless they hire me to teach.

But I think some glitter really does attract the eye and add movement to the yarn shopping experience. It would be fun, in a display, to see the novelty mixed in among the plain yarns to show how you could combine the two and create a third look.

Obviously - in the end you'll stock what your customers buy - but you can go a long way towards educating your customer to your tastes by offering lots of classes - and not just classes in knitting technique - classes in color theory, design, creativity, or mixed media using fibers will excite your customers and increase the scope of what you might be able to sell them.

Again good luck!

Bess
http://likethequeen.blogspot.com
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fillyjonk
Permanent Resident

1127 Posts

Posted - 07/27/2005 :  07:48:16 AM  Show Profile  Visit fillyjonk's Homepage Send fillyjonk a Private Message
It WILL depend a lot on who your customers are.

My personal choice would be for a good line of "basics" (and large quantities in dyelots of the basics; I can't stand going somewhere and finding they have all but 2 skeins of what I need for a sweater).

But - if there aren't shops in your area already doing the novelty-yarn thing, you should stock some. (I think from comments read here and elsewhere, going "all" or even "mostly" novelty may alienate some of the more traditional knitters - who may well be your main customer base).


Could you go to SnB groups or guilds in the area and give a questionnaire on "what I would like a yarn shop to sell?" Or, could you open with a limited amount of stock and post large signs saying "If you don't see it, ask for it?" and tell people you will update your inventory based on what they ask for?


I know that I would be kind of put off if I walked into a yarn shop and saw that the only yarn available was either (a) baby yarn or (b) furry, fluffy, eyelashy, railroady novelty yarns.

Especially on the baby yarn thing - not all knitters have babies to knit for, and it's kind of frustrating to be faced with a wall of pale-pink, sky-blue, white, duckling-yellow, and mint-green yarns, and not a "grown-up" color in sight - but I've seen some yarn shops that have done just that.
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pamulla@earthlink.net
Chatty Knitter

100 Posts

Posted - 07/28/2005 :  05:37:19 AM  Show Profile  Visit pamulla@earthlink.net's Homepage Send pamulla@earthlink.net a Private Message
Knowing your customers' preferences is important, however, you cannot hope to compete with the big box stores (Michael's etc) on price for the stuff they sell. Stock enough to attract those customers and offer classes for projects using other types of wool.

One rant I have:
Don't overpile your shelves if you can help it and store extra yarn in a back room so people can see everything you have. I hate shopping in a store where you cannot walk much less see the products.

Also,
Don't display by color, display by weight or manufacturer. It is hard to comparison shop for yarn when you have to go all over the store to find what you want.


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KS
Seriously Hooked

862 Posts

Posted - 07/28/2005 :  09:21:15 AM  Show Profile Send KS a Private Message
I agree about not displaying by color. One of my LYS displays by color. It's beautiful to look at when you walk in the door, but I can't really buy anything without help. I don't know the color range of the various companies, so if I find a yarn I like I have to depend on them knowing what other colors it comes in. On the other hand, if I want lace weight, I don't want to look at novelty yarn or bulky yarns, no matter how pretty they are.

KS
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