Shop Owners

Have you ever had this experience?  You go into a locally owned shop, the shop owner is not overly friendly, or helpful, and they appear to not need your business by the way their attitude projects outward.  This small shop owner suffers from a disorder that my husband and I, affectionately, refer to as the Quilt Shop Owner Syndrome.  If you own a quilt shop, please don’t freak out, let me explain.

During all the years we worked in the quilting industry, we were on the supplier end of things, so we saw the shop owners come and go, their businesses succeed for a while then fade or be sold to the next shop owner.  One thing we almost always saw in common among the owners who failed was a desperation for $$ to stay afloat and an indifference toward the individuals who could keep them afloat, their customers.

Sure, there are a lot of good business decisions that go into keeping a business running smoothly, but if you don’t have the customers, you can’t sell anything.  Many shop owners struggle because they want to offer a high end product and they cannot afford to discount that product, so their more frugal customers will depart for the national chain down the street.  The problem is that the shop owner begins to look suspiciously at all their walk-in customers as potential lost sales from the beginning and then treat them as such.

Today I was confronted by another of these shop owners.  The other day, I took in some fabric to this shop to have it pleated.  This is a service that this shop offers.  When I called the shop today to check on the status I was informed that the price would be higher for my pleating service because I had not purchased the fabric from the shop.  While I do understand the thinking behind this as wanting to sell more of her own fabrics, what it did was just the opposite.  Wouldn’t it have been better to raise the price of pleating a piece of fabric from $7 to $10 across the board and not have to hassle with whether a customer bought it there or not?  Wouldn’t that just be a great service to offer to everyone?

I will now be buying my own pleater, which I could also have purchased from her, and doing my own pleating.  The shop owner lost my pleating business, fabric sales, and pleater sale business all because she wanted to make a couple of extra dollars from me any way possible.

The thinking that goes into dividing your customers into groups according to what they will or will not purchase from you on any given day is one of the things that ultimately puts these shops out of business.  When I visit a speciality shop, I expect to pay more, but I also expect to walk away with a desire to “Come Again Soon”…


8 thoughts on “Shop Owners

  1. You’ve hit the nail on the head, and it’s not limited to the retail seller you visited — I’ve been subject to the same near-hostility in Yarn Shops. You don’t even think the words “crochet” or “loom knitting” when you enter their establishment for fear of being run out. Even when I graduated to knitting needle status and spent over $200.00 in one trip they still look at me suspiciously.

    Perhaps it’s just me but smug and judgy-judgy doesn’t make for good business sense, and I can’t fathom promoting said attitudes in this (or any, really) economic climate. A buck’s hard to come by, and even harder to let go, right?

  2. My thoughts exactly. There is an LYS in Raleigh that has totally forever lost my business. I have been in there on 4 occasions (and kicked myself the last 3 times), each time being treated like an intruder of being ignored entirely while the click of regulars chats on and on about anything but knitting. I love my LYS in Cary and will never stray again the exception being if she doesn’t have what I need.
    at that point, I’ll do without or go online….not to the other LYS….and they wonder why they have a hard time competing with online stores.

  3. Right on! I spend my “hobby” money as an enjoyment. It’s not toilet tissue, my house can run without it…and I can walk away from a hostile shop and not “bother” them again.

  4. I hate it when a shop keeper makes me feel unwelcome. I don’t really have an issue with a shop keeper charging less for a service involving materials she sold. However, I have a huge issue with the price difference not being mentioned up front.

    If you need a pleater I know someone who has a used on they would be willing to part with. Me.

  5. I totally agree! I’ve worked in a yarn shop and we have quite a few in the larger area, including the big box stores. I hear stories all the time from people I see at knitting groups held outside of the LYS shops. These knitting groups cover the gamut of types, ages, include both sexes and, may I add, sexual orientation.

    What really concerns me is the attitude that a lot of younger people get when shopping…they feel “ignored”, “dismissed” or worse, “not wanted!” Especially if they look in any way obviously “alternative”. They are often treated as if they know nothing about knitting, when in fact, many of them are extremely quick to learn, intelligent and accomplished knitters. Prejudice is alive and well in yarn shops, darn it!

    Some of the worst offenders are the ubiquitous “regulars” and it is often not intentional. They often simply don’t understand the impact their en masse presence has on incoming traffic. The LYS owner should avoid sitting with them. It is very bad when he/she does especially when she/he can’t be bothered to stop talking and get up when a new customer enters the shop.

    When I worked in one of our LYS’s I roped a friend into working there also. We had a great time but eventually left for different reasons. What we did to mitigate the impact of the regulars was ‘manage’ them. One thing to remember is that these ‘regulars’ often bring in ton’s of business and they are loyal and really care about the LYS. Our owner did not like them and could not deal. We did liek and appreciate them.

    What we did is this: Anyone who came in with knitting and indicated by body or verbiage that they wanted to sit at the table was introduced to the regulars. A seat was found, a folding chair brough in, if necessary and the regulars were made to move over and ‘let them in’. We’d start conversation by asking about the newcomers knitting project – whatever it took to get conversation going and the ‘new’ person at the table ‘included’. Doing this had lots of benefits…it created a growing community where many knitters knew each other. We also heloed start knitting groups bylinking people up by geographic area. We created a culture where customers and “the regulars” interacted effectively and frequently. Regulars would help with knitting problems and often show yarn, if we were busy. We sometimes sent customers over to the table for a knitting answer if we knew of a certain expertise. Or if we wanted to open a discussion on a particular question we’d bring the customer over and open it up. We were often told our shop was fun and we generally had much lively interaction going on.

    Of course this did not suit all comers, and one needs to be sensitive to what any individual customer is projecting. One also needs to qualify the customer and find out what they really are looking for, not what they ‘say’ they want. If you interact with all your customers then you get to know them a little bit and can better judge how to involve them so they are happy with their experience and want to come back. I like to think we were very successful and our departure from the shop was truly mourned by customers.

    Unfortunately the owner “really didn’t like people.” I know, that’s a bit of a shocker, but she actually told me that. IMHO yarn shops (and the like, such as quilt shops) are ALL about people! And she did not understand what the word “sales” actually means operated at it’s highest level. It is not about the sterotypical “sleezy car salesman” type of behavior. It is very much about short term satisfaction of your customer building and creating long term business relationships. Few owners seem to be able to bridge the gap between enthusiastic hobbyist and business acumin. One needs both to succeed. It is not enough to just love yarn!

    Frankly I feel that most owners do not sit down and consider what their mission is and how to accomplish it. Is it selling a product, or building a community within which they do also sell product? If you care about your customers as people and attend to their needs they will be very loyal and work to help you stay in business. One case in point: in the early days of that LYS there was a Hurricane, customers flocked to the shop to help pack up the yarn and store it and later unpack the yarn and re-stock the shelves – voluntarily.

    Owners are people too and they all have their individual idiocyncrasies, to be fogiven for them they need loyal customers who know one well enough to forgive the bad days. After we left the owner hired a shop manager and retreated to teaching and the office. Sad to say I do not currently hear the same enthusiasm expressed about the shop, nor the same care being given to customers. One has to work hard to create a warm sharing culture and to maintain it. If owners care about that they can’t take their eye off the ball!

  6. I completely agree!! If you don’t treat the customer like they are the most important part of your shop, you have no shop! It has been proven time and again in business after business. That is the exact reason we have no LYS now! Damnit! I wish I could quit work and start my own shop. 😦

  7. If I have bad service/experience, I let them know why I won’t be back and I do so calmly. That’s the only way they will know.
    I also remind them, that it doesn’t take away only one customer because that customer will tell others.

  8. I didn’t understand why this happens! I thought I was all alone. I love little quilt shops, I enjoy and appreciate the thought of locally owned, I hear it is somewhat as a syndrome with quilt shops. Not to mention that the quilting world in any area is a small community of people and everyone knows where you get the fabric, and there is somewhat a conversation on who is naughty or nice! I shall pray for these owners. ♥

    Great Blog! Keep up the Good work!

    Hosanna in the Highest!!!

    For His Glory,
    ♥ Linda M

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