Reading time 11min
A woolly friend that I have never met in person but whom I’ve met in soul and sentiment supported me in the idea I am about to unfold and it gave me the balls to get this on paper and out of my head.
This woolly person is a smart person. She has a whole lot of knowledge about our trade. She’s written books about it. That kind of smart.
She travels the world to tell people about wool and the wool trade. She stays in hotels all the time. In those hotels concierges tell her where she can go for a good meal, how she can find the good shows, or where to buy new shoe laces. Just as these concierges guide her on her journey, I want to guide people on their journey with all my experience and front-line knowledge. Making their journey more fun.
Now, like I told her, I know my ideas make sense and I am not afraid of a bit of controversy. But with this one I’ve actually already had some problems ‘selling the idea’ to people.
History has shown that I have been thought quite mad at times but people have been proven wrong too. Some have even admitted this to me. Which was quite a thrill to be honest.
So this is the thing….
Yarn shop owners especially, pay close attention! I’m writing this with you in mind.
“Yarn shop owners especially, pay close attention! I’m writing this with you in mind. “
In the olden days, when myself and my staff sold yarn to people that we could touch, there were hugs, there were pats on the back, there was bust measuring, handshakes, there was actually a lot of touching come to think of it… I’m drifting off… in those days we would spend a lot of time helping them fix their problems. Usually knitting related, but a significant amount of other problems too I might add.
Only 0.0002% (that’s a ‘guestimation’) of our customers used to come into the shop, walked in a straight line towards what they needed, picked it off the shelf, put it on the counter, paid and left.
I have to say I do like a few of those each day.
“Most of our customers want and need our help. Sometimes just a general direction will do but more often we help people with everything except the actual knitting.”
Most of our customers want and need our help. Sometimes just a general direction will do but more often we help people with everything except the actual knitting. Actually… we do that too.
But for this example let’s focus on the shopping part. I’ll set the scene for you;
The knitter comes in wishing to make a thing.
‘Do you sell wool?’
‘Do you offer patterns?’
‘I want to make something, what can I make?.’
Or even with some extra effort vocalizing their very specific and detailed needs:
‘I want to knit a sweater, can you help me?’
To people outside of the knitting world metaphors help to explain my world…
This would be the equivalent of a person stepping into a physio therapist’s office asking questions and saying things like:
‘It hurts. Why?’
‘I have a broken body part.’
‘Can you pull my leg a little, I think it might be better then?’
How about a coach:
‘I have no focus’
‘Why are my energy levels so low?’
‘Can I stay on the couch and still make money?’
As you can imagine those statements and questions need a whole lot more questioning and finetuning before we get to the actual issue and the ways to resolve it.
There is not a one sentence answer to each of these questions. Nor will there ever be.
And still a lot of the similar questions I’ve received these weeks on DM’s, email and What’s app are posed from the well-intended position of expecting a possible one sentence answer.
This is what people need help with. Here are some actual answers I get on a daily basis:
- I want to start a macramé project, do you sell yarn for that?
- I want to knit this pattern, I can find the thickness in the pattern and see there is a search by thickness option on your website, but I can’t feel it, can you tell me what yarn will be most beautiful for this pattern?
- Am I right in saying that color A is more of an indigo and color B is more blueish green?
- I’m having a hard time picking colors from the screen. Can you send me pictures of these color combinations? (a list then follows)
None of these questions are particularly strange in a brick & mortar yarn shop. The thing is, now that Ja, Wol is just a web shop for the time being, these questions can’t be easily, nor swiftly, answered. I want to give accurate information and tell you something that will actually help you and I can’t do that in a few minutes or sentences.
For this I need your time.
And you need mine.
And we all know what time is…
Time is ______. Fill in the blank.
At the end of a consult a doctor or a coach is charging you for their advice. Sometimes using an hourly rate.
We think these things make sense don’t we? I do.
These people are educated, they have spent time and money on their education and practice and they know stuff.
I am like those people though. Very much like them. And you are too!
Back to the brick and mortar/ shop front scene:
At the end of an hour (sometimes even longer) of mapping and feeling, building rapport, teaching, measuring and getting to know the customer, a yarn shop owner has hopefully sold a project amount of yarn. (I did learn to ask for their budget BEFORE starting the quest. Finding out after the process that the answer to all their questions is out of budget is not fun for either of us…)
If we are lucky it is a sweater’s worth of yarn. In reality this is an amount of 30 to 80 euro’s at the cash register. Add a book full of patterns and some needles and it could be 110 euro’s but not a lot more. At least not in my shop…
Now… in the end only 1/3 or so of this is profit. That sometimes means only 10 euro’s. In this situation I have earned 10 euros for sharing all my knowledge and providing the one-on-one project management step-by-step solution.
This is what a brick and mortar shop can do for you, if it’s a good one.
“I don’t think it is realized enough that a brick and mortar shop gives so many extra’s compared to a web shop.”
I don’t think it is realized enough that a brick and mortar shop gives so many extra’s compared to a web shop. And we are all doing this so our customers will return to us and become a loyal customer.
Now…. Let me turn around and talk to our customers.
(Hi there! How are you? We miss you!)
In corona times a lot of yarn shop owners are lucky if they already have a web shop in place. We now mostly run things online.. By ourselves. Some shops have staff but I can imagine some staff will be put on hold for the time being and the owner does all the work by themselves. We are SO HAPPY with all the online orders that keep us going. Every single order feels like a gift and it is an amazing feeling to feel supported this way. They keep us busy and now our time is more valuable than ever. But people are reaching out expecting the usual brick and mortar type service.
“We are SO HAPPY with all the online orders that keep us going. Every single order feels like a gift and it is an amazing feeling to feel supported this way.”
In web shops that do not have store fronts, those big ones, with the cheap offers… they will not offer you all this assistance. It is meant as a supermarket. You do the research yourself, find a recipe, make your shopping list accordingly and then… you shop. (And learn from your mistakes in the process)
Here I am with another metaphor:
Asking a shop owner to step in, make you a personal recipe and tell you stories about the origin of your vegetable of choice, find a good alternative to shrimp -because you’re a vegetarian and the recipe isn’t- and weigh the exact amount of potatoes you need… that is luxury, it’s extra. And I think we should all understand that in these times we should acknowledge this and reward accordingly (if options are made available)* all the web shops that are willing to go that extra mile for you.
*Yarn shop owners can make time slots available on their website for personal shopping via Zoom or another video conference service, they might give all people that are their patrons on Patreon free advice. Or they might think of something else. And if you don’t know how you can thank them, just ask!
You, as shop owners should all be aware that the knowledge you have is also worth something. There is a bigger issue going on here. The yarns we sell a lot of the time aren’t sold for the price they should be sold for, do we always want to stay in the ‘I made my hobby into my work so what can I expect…?’ -type situation?
And yes there are very successful woolly businesses that thrive and are making money. But think about it, those are the ones that get the ‘They are so expensive.’ complaints. True? False? Be honest!
We are molded into the type of businessowner that isn’t allowed to do it for the money because we all came from passion. And passion doesn’t mix with money. I just don’t think that starting a business from a passionate heart should result in not taking yourself seriously as an entrepreneur. We cannot afford to in these times I my opinion.
Being in the hobby trade doesn’t mean that this is our hobby. It is our job. And some of us luckily still feel passionate about it and practice their skills on a hobby basis at home. But these things are separate from each other.
“We can offer all this information for free for all to use. But as soon as it becomes a ‘one-on-one coaching type personal shopping concierge situation’, that’s when we should ask for compensation for our time and knowledge.”
We have to set an example as shop owners. And we can do that by offering blog posts that teach people how to measure themselves. How to calculate the amount of yarn you need. How to choose the GOOD yarns. We can offer all this information for free for all to use. But as soon as it becomes a one-on-one coaching type personal shopping concierge situation, that’s when we should ask for compensation for our time and knowledge.
Running the show from our homes, packing orders, teaching our kids, spending more time on marketing than ever before and keeping your customers close is taking up a lot more of our time than usual and costs a lot of energy. I think we should be proud of what we have to offer and make wise decisions that will keep us going. To each of us these decisions will be different but I’ve hopefully given you something to think and form an opinion about.
Some people will spend the money for the extra service. Some people will choose (or will have to use) the free information. It is not about excluding anyone, it is about keeping our businesses in the air and staying healthy while doing it.
“When all of this is over, when the customers return to the LYS’s (local yarn shops) we can hug them and thank them for their online business and support and continue to share our knowledge with them.”
When all of this is over, when the customers return to the LYS’s (local yarn shops) we can hug them and thank them for their online business and support and continue to share our knowledge with them. And it would be so nice if the concierge’s services then will be noticed as something that’s a gift you receive for coming to the shop, a luxury, an extra service that makes your LYS super valuable.
Take care of yourself,
Take care of your shop.
Yours in yarns and the GOOD goods,
Ps Don’t ever be afraid to ask us any questions, we are here to help. But please respect it when we say some answers need time. I can always give a quick answer, at night, on Sunday’s, when I’m traveling. No problem!
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Find information on how to calculate you’re the amount of yarn you need here (In English and Dutch)
Find information on how to choose conscious yarns here.
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pictures: Marieke Odekerken, picturing Angela & Saskia when they could still work together helping people in the brick and mortar.