A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is a story of three orphans and their evil guardian’s repeated attempts to gain control of their family fortune before the oldest of the three turned 18 and claimed control.

What does this have to do with ANYTHING sewing related? Well, as I reflected on the current state of affairs of our local, independent fabric and sewing supply stores, it certainly does seem like we’ve had an evil guardian out there lately trying to do something similar.

Here in the DFW area, we’ve recently lost or seen significant shrinkage in several local stores.  We have lamented this loss in conversations and online.  We lost several retailers in the Harry Hines district due to the tornados of October 2019.  We saw Tissu reduce the size of their store by half earlier this year.  And we saw Fabrique announce the closing of their doors effective December 31, 2019.  As a local sewing community, we feel these losses in very real ways.

What exactly is going on?

In a report published June 2019 by IBIS World focused on businesses providing retail sewing and craft supplies, fabrics, patterns, yarns, needlework accessories, and sewing machines, they state that this industry is hanging on by a thread and that external competition will continue to undermine it. 

How is the industry trending in the US?

The fabric, craft and sewing supply industry has exhibited a stark decline over the five years to 2019. Industry revenue has fallen at an annualized rate of 2.1% to $4.2 billion, including a 4.1% decline in 2019 alone.

What is Driving this Decline?

  • Big-box stores like Michael’s, Jo-Ann’s and Hobby Lobby hold the largest market share of brick and mortal stores, leaving less space for the success of local independents.
  • The advance of online shopping has significantly impacted demand for traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
    • The Good News – Online shopping offers convenience and increased availability.
    • The Bad News – Online shopping depends on the ability to “guess” how fully the purchase will match the look and feel desired.

So what?

What does this mean to you as an individual sewist?  I think it means two things:

  1. First, it means that if I prefer to touch and feel my sewing purchases before I buy, I need to be intentional about making those purchases at local retailers and help them stay in business.  If I prefer the personalized service I get from smaller, independent retailers, I need to frequent them instead of big-box retailers.  These stores go out of business because they can not afford to stay in business.  Here are some local options for you to consider that also offer ASG members a discount:
    • Benno’s Buttons
    • Richard Brooks
    • Sew Dallas
    • Tissu
    • Urban Spools
  2. Second, and in total opposition to the first point, I need to face the reality of this trend and educate myself on options for online shopping.  As local retailers continue to disappear, we will have fewer and fewer opportunities to shop locally.  As an ASG member, here are a few that offer discounts if you use the code in the Member’s Only section of the national website.

We may not be able to turn this trend, but we can make the most of knowing how to navigate it.  As the saying goes, the more you know……

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