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  • Writer's pictureLonda

Interesting Chain Store News

I receive a trade journal for fabric shop owners,  FabShop News, that had a VERY interesting article in it called Chain Store Strategies by Meg Cox info in it that I thought you might find interesting…AND, I hope, encourage you to support your local small independent sewing/quilting store!!!


1.  Stopped selling fabric at majority of stores in 2008 – now in spring 2011 they announced that fabric, along with other so-called ‘heritage’ product categories like firearms, fishing poles…etc, were being added back in.  This is part of their strategy to turn their nine consecutive quarters of falling revenues around,  (however picked up in latest quarter).

2. They now have fabric – that will be cut be employees (not just pre-cut pieces) in over 2000 stores – goal of 3500 in first quarter of 2012.  The product mix is more inclusive of different types of fabrics – and to this I can attest.  I honestly found fabric at our Walmart  store in Savoy, IL that I almost purchased for my recent creative play with knit tops, T-Shirts.

3.  They are carrying 8 yard bolts – just as JoAnn’s has gone to for more selection.

4.  They will continue to compete on price, but will also have better quality and higher priced fabrics as well.

5.  Traffic is up in this department for them, so it is being well-received by customers.  Realize, in some more rural areas, Walmart may well be the only access to fabric, notions, etc. for a locale.


1.  This chain is considered to be quite a competitor by your local independent fabric shops.  Their massive coupon campaigns are especially well-received in these economically tough times.  Previously thought to be dingy and somewhat outdated with poor quality fabrics, that is changing since the purchase of the chain’s 750 stores last year for $1.6 billion by Leonard Green & Partners, which also owns such major retail brands as Neiman Marcus, Whole Foods Market and J.Crew.  Many stores have been renovated, already, with many more to undergo that renovation in the future.  This includes my local store here in Champaign, IL.  It appears that the major target market for this chain is the hip DIY generation and big-=spending quilters.

2. The mantra of independents that the greige good (fabric base) of quilt fabrics in chain stores not being at all the same as that in the independent quilt stores is seeing an end.  Starting at the Houston Quilt Market in 2009, Jo-Ann wooed fabric manufacturers who have only sold their fabric to independents.  At the time, they already were carrying fabric from Alexander Henry and Donna Wilder (Stonehill collection for Fabric Traditions).  Quilting icon Denyse Schmidt agreed to design four fabric lines a year under the label DS Quilts Collection for Jo-Ann.  Fabric Traditions – the former parent company of Free Spirit is supplying these fabrics, though at a higher price than is usual for chainstores – $9.99 per yard – but that is before the infamous discount coupons.  Though Westminster (who Schmidt designs for) were not happy, Schmidt agreed she wouldn’t advertise Jo-Ann fabrics.  Not a big deal since her followers have found them at the chain resulting in the first 2 collections selling well.  Though this line Schmidt has designed for the chain is not as sophisticated as her other lines, the success of it is mentionable.  Many quilt fabric manufacturers have held out to Jo-Ann’s attempt to add them to their lineup – opting to remain in the independent stores only.

3.  I noticed (and also bought a piece myself) of another new line by April Johnston, a finalist in last season’s Project Runway competition at Jo-Anns.  This apparel fabric includes some textured poly and spandex fabric priced at $14.99 and shows the intent for Jo-Ann’s to compete not only in the quilting realm, but also fashion goods.

4.  The re-models and some stock upgrades haven’t totally transformed Jo-Anns though, as the quality fabric is still mixed in with ‘normal’ chain store goods.


1.  If you didn’t already realize it, Amazon bought in 2008, since which the number of their products has doubled or tripled.  Though owned by Amazon, founder Stephen Friedman says that they run pretty much as they always have without much interference from Amazon.


1.  Regardless of the movement towards more similar quality fabric, chain stores are still lacking what good independents have always claimed is their ‘claim to success’:  The ability to offer SERVICE and COMMUNITY.  Only the independents can offer the classes, the personal touch, the ‘place to go’ that is ‘home away from home’ for a creative soul.  I know those hallmarks are what I always strived to keep alive and well during the 13 years I owned a fashion and quilting fabric shop/machine dealership.

2.  The movement has been successful:  witness even 60 Michaels stores (of 1000 plus stores) now testing fabric sales – ala at this time just in precut yardage.

3.  The fact is that the chain stores are usually more visible due to their huge advertising budgets – so new sewers generally end up there initially.  THEN…they find the small independents as they want to LEARN more.  In fact, one argument in favor of the chains adding more quality goods is that doing so will increase the ‘appetite’ for the whole marketplace – more quality and variety that the chains won’t be able to provide.

INTERESTING facts and thoughts to ponder.  Ponder as you go out and support your local INDEPENDENT store!

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