The ramblings from a small quilt shop on the South Islands West Coast of New Zealand

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Poaching or just business?

Over the last year or two I have heard of a number of small quilt and craft stores that have had to close due to a number of reasons some of which include a drop in patronage  and a raise in all costs.  Times are tough and losing stores that supply our crafting needs locally is sad but the use of the tool we all ‘play’ on, the internet, has eased the void where a shop has closed, even though it’s not quite the same as spending time in your favourite store.

I run a very small quilting shop and bless every single one of my customers, all of them I value greatly and the ladies that come to t6a0120a6769b0c970c0128776396e8970c-500pihe Sit’n Stitch days are in essence the soul of my store.  Many of my ladies travel long distances to spend a day here, a couple of them travel for over an hour and openly say they prefer to shop locally (me being local), rather than using the internet.  See, I told you they are awesome.   I couldn’t imagine the stress and distress that having to close due to a loss in patronage would bring and hope I never find out either.

Here in New Zealand I know that there are quilt shop ownersA0ZP2BPCA9J56NQCAAS5D9ACAP0PRFECAOMDF4XCALT4G8QCAGKMAKECAAMRXCDCAQSN736CA8DLPOZCAR1TGA3CA5P8R0FCAJ9TQEUCAO217V9CA5QEG7KCANHM2T4CAPFDUIWCAYV97WMCAKMM3PR that ‘poach’ areas, there is one in particular that travels the length and breadth of our islands to sell his wears and has done so year after year for a long while.  Now, locals save there crafting money for a visit from this  traveller and even promote it amongst their own crafting communities. These are the same crafting communities that come to shops like mine for sponsorship and free advice neither of which I would ever turn down.  I continue to promote our craft out of my passion for it but am becoming more and more disillusioned especially when I had a local woman tell me that there is another shop owner that travels over the Alps to sell to the local women and offers them free postage on any mail orders.

I am in a fortunate position in that I don’t pay rent and certainly don’t receive a wage ,so therefore I can hold out but I know there are others that are becoming more and more affected by these poachers infiltrating the nooks and crannies of our lands. What are your thoughts on this type of business? Is it fair, moral or just?  What about the customer loyalty issue (I don’t think everyone is as lucky as I with their customers)? Then there is the sponsorship and support issue? 

I’d be keen to hear your thoughts – let me know them.

have a great week

a name Miche'le


  1. I definitely understand what you a saying. I have been relatively loyal to one of our quilting shops here in Tauranga and I always go there first to see if they have what I want. Which unfortunately is only about 50% of the time. They have a huge range of products but sometimes its still not what I am looking for. As a shopper its really hard to be exclusive when you want variety (both in products and price).

  2. Well Miche'le, you have my support. I have a funny feeling I know the shop you are referring to, that travels to 'the nooks & crannies' of our great wee country selling it's wears. I suppose it is similar to the pioneer days when they had 'Tinklers' ( not 100% sure if that was the correct name). I believe strongly in supporting your 'local' even if it is simply for thread, batting & your basics. I bet these ones that don't support their local would be the first to complain if it closed it's doors.
    I have bought off the the internet, but ONLY if my local doesn't have what I am after....(N.Z suppliers don't buy the same as other countries). At the end of the day we are looking out for N.Z local economy, because small business is the backbone of a strong economy.We might not be able to buy N.Z made, but we sure as heck can BUY from N.Z.

  3. Oh Miche'le, if you ever have to move please come to Mudgee! My nearest patchwork shop is 1.5 hours away. I do shop on the internet but only at Australian stores. Coming from a small town, I live by the philosophy that if you don't shop locally whenever possible you end up having no option but to travel or buy over the internet. The expertise found in independent stores (of all kinds) is invaluable, and I hope people soon realise what they stand to lose. I hope your local girls keep looking after you.

  4. Hi Miche'le, I'm very fortunate for I have 3 very beautiful patchwork stores all within a 15 minute radius from my house. Personally you can't beat good old fashioned customer service. Too many little shops are closing down due to the net etc so I believe that they need local support more than ever. You just can't beat that feeling of going into the stores and receiving those beautiful warm smiles along with the wealth of knowledge. I'm sorry but a key board and screen just doesn't do that for me.

  5. We recently closed our quilting/craft shop after fifteen years. It was the end of our lease, we were both tired, it was just the right timing for us both.

    But I won't deny that the decrease in market had a lot to do with it. We didn't turn away sponsorship, we were always there to offer advice (I see that as my duty - if I don't pass it on, the next generation may lose it) but there were always, ALWAYS those customers who destroy your spirit. I suspect every shop owner knows those sort of clients - the ones who spend no money at your shop, but come in with their bag of fabric purchased from another wanting advice.

    And you always give it. You just do.

    I don't know what the answer is. I suspect we are in a time of change now as the world gets used to online shopping more and more. I guess we just need to roll with the punches and wait and see how it all pans out.

    I suspect it will be that in a few years time, there will be a need for that hands on approach again, and we will see a lot of new little shops open up again. At least, I do hope this happens.

    All the best


  6. Hiya, this is so hard eh. His Nibs sells a distinct range of fabrics that I've not seen in any shop, at prices noone else offers, and so he is providing what customers want that noone else is.
    It's just business. It's tough on businesses who don't want to, or know how to, reach out to a wider market themselves, however.
    The sadder thing for me is that I don't think it's His Nibs and his like who are the real problem, it's outfits like Snotfight, as we call it. Ghastly, nasty dumps with no service, poor quality stock, but because of their size and range, they suck a big chunk of the local market share. They're the real culprits.

  7. Hi Miche’le
    After 8 years in business I have decided it's time to hang up my rotary cutter and close my store. I too, have the same loyal customers who have supported me year after year but it’s not enough. To grow you need numbers so you can hire staff and staff who want to sell and not just play. The problems of a small patchwork business are endless as you know.

    It’s the same story everywhere, in my local area we have the $7.00 man who travels to all the patchwork groups and retreats. Is that business??? I don’t know but it frustrated me to no end.

    Unlike the previous comment I don’t believe Spotlight is the problem, it’s all the little home based internet businesses who undercut everyone on price...they even undercut the designers rrp for patterns and books. There is one Australian online store who is selling the latest Moda fabric at $15.00 metre. There is so much online for customers to buy and with a click of a button they have it.

    Suppliers are also to blame as my local quilting group buys their wadding, threads and haby wholesale which as you know is our bread and butter. The high AUD is also a factor.

    I didn’t receive a wage either but I had rent and that was sometimes that was tough to pay but all that is about to change in 4 weeks when I put the key in the door of the last time.

    I wish you well and feel your frustration.


  8. That's a tough call. I guess everyone has the right to do business in a way they see fit (as long as they aren't breaking any laws, of course :) )and there must be a market for what these guys are selling, otherwise it wouldn't be profitable for them. When you think about it, they are small businesses too, trying to make some money where they can. That being said, it's not good when it has a direct impact upon local bricks-and-mortar businesses.
    I feel for local quilt shops...competing with internet based businesses is tough...but I think they need to offer something that the internet can't offer, be it classes, great service, etc.
    Personally, my local shop is quite awful in terms of fabrics etc, but I always go there for my thread, wadding, needles etc....I would miss it if it closed.

  9. Me again - I just wanted to add that I think there is nothing more despicable than customers who go into a shop to check out a fabric or supply 'in the flesh' and then go order it online. And I also completely agree about the little internet based businesses, esp. the ones who sell on trademe. And for many years, wholesalers wouldn't sell to the public because retailers said that if they did, they would take their business elsewhere. It started happening in the early 90s and stopped for years. Must be the hard times. It's wrong though!!! Retailers are necessary. Sad thing, again, is that all we will have left is Snotfight - in the same way that in so many places, all there is left is The Warehouse, it having killed off all the smaller businesses. I do honeslty think there is a backlash starting, I just hope it takes hold before it's too late for too many businesses.

  10. A very interesting post Miche'le as are the comments. You just cant beat being able to enter an actual shop and being able to touch and drool on the fabric; pull out 20 bolts to find the right colour and sew on. And the friendly advice and atmosphere adds to the experience. Yes, I do work one day a week at 'my local' but I am also a shopper so feel qualified to comment!

  11. Hi Michele I use both but the internet only to get what my 3 local shops are not able to and to see what is new out there. But to see talk have coffee I will go to my local shops any day.If you don't use it you lose it, and in small towns it is then usually gone for good. Darlene


Thankyou so much for popping by and leaving a comment. I enjoy reading your thoughts and ideas and will get back to you if needed, hugs - Miche'le

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