Have you visited your local wool shop recently?
It seems whenever we stand still for a moment the noise of big business is blaring “Shop online. Everyone shops online these days.”
But it’s not so.
Recent US statistics say that just 16% of all retail sales are done online.
There’s good reason for this low percentage. Service is limited to what logistics can provide. Face to face advice is nigh on impossible and buyers can hardly test quality on a cold screen. Even colours can appear remarkably different in digital form.
Most online purchases these days are made using a phone which makes the process more difficult, especially if the customer wants to compare the dark pink to the light red, let alone look at both together in natural daylight.
The more obvious risks of slow or completely lost deliveries, extra freight costs, additional credit card charges for overseas purchases, not to mention the ever-prevalent scamming opportunities just add to the reasons why the number of online retail purchases are not what big business would have us believe.
In short, a massive 84% of retail sales are completed in a bricks and mortar store. A real shop.
The question is perhaps why that figure isn’t 94% or even 100%.
Your local speciality wool shop is more than just a place to buy yarn. Chances are you aren’t going there just to buy a ball of wool. You probably have in mind to create a stunning pullover, a scarf, a toy perhaps or even something special for a new baby. Maybe you’re not even sure what you are looking for but want new ideas. Independent wool shops make it their business to stock ideas!
Knitters usually want to create a tiny piece of history. A memory.
If an outstanding result is important then it’s worth investing some time in researching the project. That means imagining, investigating and choosing. Exploring textures and real colours in ranges and choices that only a specialty wool shop can offer. Studying a great range of the latest patterns at leisure and maybe asking the staff’s opinion on possible choices because almost always your local wool shop staff have a strong knowledge of both their yarns and knitting in general.
Knitters visit a professional speciality shop because it’s fun and rewarding! It’s a pleasurable experience.
It’s interesting that few of these experiences can be gained in any depth in a chain store. Try asking for advice from the disinterested staff person trying to rewind some shop damaged balls of wool or standing behind the cash register. You might get lucky. Or not.
We live in an age where consumers have been held to ransom by large retailers trying to offset a somewhat mediocre attempt to make your visit worthwhile by shouting – “Cheap! We are the cheapest!”.
The problem is that cheap comes at a price! Most of us are far more motivated by service, convenience, quality, and a worthwhile connection with our shop owners and staff. Price is way down the list. Sure, we all want to know we are getting good value but value is far more than just a “cheap” price.
Most shops run some sort of knit and chat sessions these days. Apart from teaching new comers to knit these are also an opportunity to learn more about knitting, crochet, or associated crafts. Some of us would like to learn new skills or even share our own skills. And the social aspect of these sessions is always fun.
Even if your shop doesn’t offer classes or knit and chat sessions the chances are they know someone local who does.
Just to get off the track for a moment … have you ever wondered what your local community would be like if the smaller local shops weren’t there?
Aside from spending money in other local stores, small local shop owners are the front-line people who also help support your local community groups and sporting bodies.
When the Primary School has a fundraiser it’s the small local businesses who donate the prizes and put a sign in the window. That’s on top of any personal involvement they may have with the group. For many of us these community focused acts are motivation to shop locally and shop small right there. Plus, there’s invariably time for some small talk about local happenings as well.
Our local Independent knitting shops are to a degree becoming an endangered species.
Along with the other shops in your area we need to support them because if we don’t then one day they will disappear and we will be left wondering why there’s another empty shop in the street. We may only make one small purchase but collectively our actions can change our world despite that constant bombardment of advertising noise that only big, remote, national or international organisations can afford.
Support your small local wool shop. They are at the very heart of the craft we love and without them the creativity dies and then the craft dies also.
Visit your local independent wool shop today!
Owner, Extraordinary Yarns