Quilt World is going through a transformation and nearly every brick and mortar quilt shop knows exactly what I'm talking about. The trouble is...many are afraid to speak up on the matter. I however.... always speak up. If you don't - others will do it for you. The matter, dear Quilters is the continual undercutting of quilt shops by those "on-line only" websites. Before I get too into this topic, I am not referring to on-line only websites that sell products at the MSRP, nor am I talking about discounting of older products. I'm talking about the on-line sites discounting new products before these products even have the chance to arrive on the shelves of your local brick-and-mortar. Most often, these "on-line only websites" are being run out of home offices, garages, attics, basements, off-site small warehouses etc. Sometimes as a secondary business and sometimes to obtain wholesale pricing to support their quilting hobby - always a bonus for those paying for spaces to inspire you and create jobs. To be fair, not every on-line only website undercuts quilt shops but there are many that do. Discounting is the primary way they get noticed, but what beyond that is offered? Are you willing to pass up exceptional in-store service and inspiring displays...for a discount? I've been to places that offer excessive discounting...trust me, service and "inspiration" isn't the top priority. You're lucky if you even get a hello.
I can't tell you how many times I've had this conversation with people visiting the Shoppe when they talk about how so many quilt shops have closed in their area. I then ask them, "Well, did you support the shop? Did you visit often? Did you get to know the owner and let them know what you like?"
GASP! I can literally hear the clutching of the pearls as I say this...
Nobody wants to really have a conversation about it.
The reality is, if you do not shop local, if you do not support brick-and-mortars, they either will start changing their business model, or they will simply go elsewhere.
Your local brick and mortars, whether they be quilt shops or whether they be some other form of small business - pay for not just the space, but for the endless creativity it takes to inspire you including the quilt samples. The employees that help you as you need them - are also not free. I could go on and on and on but I think you get the idea. In today's on-line obsessed world, I welcome new brick-and-mortar businesses. To me it shows they are willing to to come out from hiding behind the computer, serve the people and create jobs. There is a personal connection that you will never receive on-line. Like...ever.
On average you will probably pay $5 for shipping seeew even when you are getting 25% off $10.99 to $11.99 fabric...that's $8.24 to $8.99. Add the $5 shipping and you're at $13 to $14. No matter if you are purchasing 1yd or 5yds, when you add it up, wouldn't it be better to shop your local quilt shop? Sale fabric below $5 and that store is taking a loss. Based on that small example, even our regular price here beats a sale price with shipping. Don't misunderstand...there is nothing wrong with discounts. The problem comes in when folks visit quilt shops to "look at the fabric" or call me to ask product information with the goal of ordering on-line for a discount....elsewhere. Oh yes...I've had people tell me that on the phone. I've even witnessed people writing vendor information from our bolts to order on-line. I'm here to provide complete service, I'm not here to simply give service...away. Didn't know we were opening our doors to be a showroom for the internet. Normally I would shrug it off and not say anything, but it's been happening all too frequently for me to remain quiet.
In the conversations I've had with some of our customers, they told me they shop on-line because their local quilt shop..."didn't really have what they liked." Well, why not get to know the owner? Show interest in their shop regularly and I guarantee your LQS will start listening to what you like. I can tell you from experience that the most vocal employee is not the owner. The owner is often the more quiet one or the one buried in work. If the owners seem hesitant, maybe past history is an indication. Just as an example: People used to ask us to order patterns, we then would order the pattern and call them only to receive this response: "Oh I found it on-line." And therein lies your answer when people ask me, "Why don't you carry...." etc.
I can't speak for everyone, but Quilt Shop owners have to see activity...we can all say we want something, but actions always speak louder than words. If that particular owner isn't able to bring your favorite fabric in, do they have classes you can take? What about their notions? Love us some amazing new notions! I'm sure we all could use a new pattern to break up our stashes! Don't we? There is usually more than one shop in an area - perhaps if your first choice didn't have what you need, maybe your other options will? One shop cannot carry it all, but at least you are supporting your local brick and mortars.
The point is, your support stays local when you shop local. Businesses grow and the community thrives when you shop local. If you have to shop on-line, learn the differences. I figure that brick-and-mortars with on-line websites are wonderful because you can always go in and visit them if you have a question or want to shop the product...and by that I mean..actually purchase it from the shop. They are the ones doing the work, right? Would you want to do your job, but then have your paycheck go to someone else that didn't?
I keep telling people that one day we are all going to look up from our phones and there's going to be nothing to do. We will...indeed...have ghosttowns. SERIOUSLY. When I was growing up, historic towns like ours were filled with local shops. Now today, more and more are becoming filled with bars, restaurants, insurance offices, spas, nail salons, hair salons, accountants, etc. Not very exciting if you ask me. My advice...get out, engage, stay active...be seeew-cial. Thankfully...many of you have and we greatly appreciate it.
Just remember...when the world gets cold, a quilt will be your cover. If you don't love your LQS, who will?
Stay seeew-cial! ~ Brian