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 Opening a yarn shop
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Lynne604
Warming Up

USA
55 Posts

Posted - 07/14/2013 :  4:47:53 PM  Show Profile Send Lynne604 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Lots of good advice for your friend. My LYS is soon to celebrate its 10th year. That's a long time for any small business. I used to spend a lot of time at the shop and observed how busy the owner was. She received FedEx deliveries daily which had to be inventoried and put on the shelves. The displays had to be changed often and made to look attractive. She cleaned the shop herself and her husband did the landscaping. But it wasn't just the physical labor.

First and foremost, she had to be a people person. Each customer has different needs. Most are nice, but some are rude and a few downright hateful. One issue that crops up frequently is people needing help with knitting projects not from her shop (yarn purchased elsewhere). Some LYS owners will not provide help if the yarn didn't come from their shop. Others will help for a fee. My LYS owner will provide help free of charge because she sees everyone as a potential customer. She recently started charging $1.00 a skein to wind yarn not from her shop.

She can't afford to hire help, so a few of her close friends who are expert knitters assist in the shop in exchange for discounted yarn. But their availability varies, so she can't absolutely depend on them.

Her beginning knitting class is held on Saturday mornings. Customers can pay as they go or purchase a block of lessons for a cheaper rate. I was there when a woman rudely demanded to "sit in" on the class. She had learned to knit as a child and was sure if she could observe, it would all come back to her. Politely, the owner explained that it would not be fair to the others who had paid to be there.

People think nothing of interrupting her when she is assisting others. "Could you just look at this and tell me if it's right?" Waiting their turn seems to be a lesson they failed to learn in kindergarten.

For quite a while, the owner did not accept credit or debit cards because she had to pay a fee. No notice was posted, so the customer didn't know this until checkout. Sometimes they left to get money from the ATM and never came back, thus a purchase was lost.

Facebook and website had to be kept updated. Since the owner, by her own admission, is "computer challenged", these sites are often months out of date. She listens to suggestions but rarely acts on them.

People sometimes ask her if the shop pays its way. It usually doesn't. She was barely hanging on during the recent recession. I don't know if she pays rent or not since the building is owned by her parents. But the heating/air conditioning bills are high.

Sorry to ramble, but I wanted to share a few observations and ideas.
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ikkivan
Gabber Extraordinaire

USA
549 Posts

Posted - 07/15/2013 :  10:47:33 AM  Show Profile  Visit ikkivan's Homepage Send ikkivan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Wow, so many good suggestions/observations for my friend to ponder. I so appreciate all the response! I'll try to update on this endeavor as it unfolds.

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

1932 Posts

Posted - 07/16/2013 :  08:14:59 AM  Show Profile  Visit purlewe's Homepage Send purlewe a Private Message  Reply with Quote
a friend opened her yarn shop a year ago in my town. Now we have at least 4 major yarn shops and many minor ones here and in the burbs.. and she is coming up on her first yr anniversary. These are just my observations.

1. she does not carry (in general) what any of her competitors carry. she was VERY specific about that when she went into the business. yes, they are competitors, but she feels as if she carries something different then customers have a reason to drop by. also. she talked to these competitors and told them she isn't a threat. Sometimes owners see each other so much as competition they can't have a decent conversations together and then badmouth each other. that doesn't help anyone. She is on friendly speaking terms with her competitors.

2. she has a web presence, but she does not sell on the web. This was a decision she might change her mind about in the future, but it keeps her focused on her store. she is on FB and Twitter and her own site. She has a Rav group. They talk about KALs and what is new in the shop.

2.5 she is on the rav group for yarn store owners so that she can talk about ideas and see what others are doing. talking shop with someone who is in the same situation is very helpful for new owners.

3. she has classes. she feels that this is a way to grow a customer base as well as helping people with new skills. she decided early on that she is not a patient enough person to teach these classes and she has hired friends for that. friends she pays in checks and not yarn. She has friends who make shop samples for her. These friends she pays in yarn.

4. she had a business plan, she worked with the local community business association regarding location and negotiating rent. She advertises in the local mag. she attend the local business association meetings.

5. she has retail experience and she is a very good manager. She uses a local textile school for student workers. but she rarely has a day off. I think she takes 1 day off every 2 weeks. She just started this practice in the last 2 months. So before that I think she took off 1 day every 3 months. she is working on that life balance thing.

6. b'c she is very specific about not having the same yarns as her local competitors she had to find other vendors.. and she did not let the vendors choose her products. it is very easy to get bowled over by a vendor. esp if you are a new business owner and they tell you that you "have to have" products x, y, and z. she did have 1 or 2 vendors who were very forward and pushy, but knowing her business plan and her vision and aesthetic she told them NO. sometimes more than once and sometimes quite forcibly. They tell you they know what sells. they tell you they know how to run this business.. and sometimes they tell you if you don't carry x, y, and z that you won't make it. And maybe it is true.. but if it isn't in your business plan stick to your guns. getting stuck with their contract and their product that won't sell won't help you in the long run.

there are always things we wish she would do. But it isn't our store. And it is true many a rude customer will be able to ruin your day. if your friend isn't a people person, someone who can let it roll off her back and go on to the next customer. or someone who likes to gossip about the last customer. or someone who can't stop an extremely pushy person from grabbing things out of someone's hands and claiming it is theirs. (yes totally happens) if your friend isn't someone who can ask her friends for help, or who has a small friend base to get her started (she had an army of knitters who washed and painted her store and set up all her store furniture so she could display yarn) then I suggest she try working in walmart/michaels/joann fabric/ac moore. see if she can handle the customers and how it works from the retail side of things for awhile.

I am NOT trying to be discouraging. I think my friend is doing an amazing job. but then I also think it is one of the hardest jobs and that even tho I know a lot of the background, it isn't easy to be the person with all that weight on your shoulders.

friendliness. consistency. large knowledge base. business sense. being a strong individual who is able to set a plan and stick to it, but also flexible enough to see when it isn't working and bend to something new. It is a very hard job. I wish your friend luck.

Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming. ~Myrna Loy
http://purlewe.typepad.com/
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ikkivan
Gabber Extraordinaire

USA
549 Posts

Posted - 09/27/2013 :  6:04:34 PM  Show Profile  Visit ikkivan's Homepage Send ikkivan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Update: my friend has obtained her wholesale license and is contacting different distributors. She has ordered some sample yarns ... so she's sticking with it. I'm still not sure of her actual plan for selling yarn, and figure that is still awhile off. I know she is teaching a few people to knit, so that could be the start of a customer base, hopefully. I'm sure eager for a source of good yarn in my area!

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

USA
1810 Posts

Posted - 09/27/2013 :  10:23:38 PM  Show Profile Send eldergirl a Private Message  Reply with Quote
All power to her, Donna! Let's hope things go very well for her, and she can keep her running shoes on!

Best wishes to her,

Anna

Life is beautiful.
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