April 27th is "LYS Day" - a special time when crafters are encouraged to shop at their Local Yarn Store(s). I've had some people ask me why they should shop at such establishments when they have at least three 40% off coupons to one of the chain craft stores. I have several answers at the ready for such Sally Cynics, as similar conversations happen in the world of paper crafting (another of my hobbies), and I understand from friends who are musicians and artists that they get their share of queries about the bottom line in any transactions.
So I guess a really good place to start the responses is at the bottom line. Investopedia.com helped me clarify that "the bottom line" for companies is the net profit, and that companies strive to "improve the bottom line" by increasing revenue and increasing efficiency. When big stores are able to offer almost every item in the shop at a 40% discount regularly, I tend to question what their initial markup is. I've noticed competitive (if not identical) pricing on Malabrigo Yarns at every LYS that carries this line. I presume this is because each LYS is purchasing wholesale a similar quantity and is using a formula to generate the retail price that allows some revenue to be made. I'm not sure how most yarn shop owners can cut costs to increase efficiency, as they are often one of the few employees - acting as corporate buyer, stock manager, marketing department, education director, and cashier at any given moment.
I just mentioned one brand of yarn I can find at most LYSes (but have not seen at chain craft stores), Malabrigo Yarns. This is a family-owned company based in Uruguay, with a mill in Peru. While the company started when two brothers-in-law started dyeing wool in the kitchen, it now employs mostly women, many of whom had few economic opportunities in their countries. The majority of fiber artists I know are women, so it is a bonus to know that I am supporting a company that employs mostly women when I purchase their yarns. That their yarns are soft, inviting, and have incredible colorways were the initial reasons I purchased the yarn, but knowing more about the company makes me enjoy their products more.
Not every yarn comes from a "company"; often these are independent dyers or spinners, working their passion to create beautiful yarn offerings that cannot be found anywhere else. Stitch In Time is the only US shop to carry Comeragh Yarns and Fiber from Ireland. These pot-dyed skeins reflect much of the natural world dyer Monika O'Brien sees from her home near the Comeragh Mountains in County Waterford. Stitch In Time also carries a number of other indie dyed yarns from within the US and also has an exclusive Stitch In Time yarn! Owner Charlene Hatfield has also designed patterns for her mink yarn.
Charlene isn't the only LYS owner that I have met. In the years that I have been a knitter, I have lived in three different states and have traveled to several others (during which stopping into an LYS is now on my Must Do list). Most of the time, I have the opportunity to meet the owner who, like many small business owners, works in the shop in numerous capacities. Moreover, I think that the type of person who elects to own and operate a local yarn store has a keen interest in what the people coming into the shop are working on and are interested in. It's something that unites makers all over the world, I think.
This personal interest in me (or you) and my (or your) WIPs, FOs, and even hibernating projects is perhaps the most compelling of my reasons for shopping at an LYS. I like that feeling of being connected with others, and I've found that the people in the local yarn stores I've shopped seem to like it too. I've felt it on yarn crawls, as strangers from other states and I have just entered our third shop together and discuss which shop is next on our hop. I've felt it when another customer is trying to figure out which colorway to purchase for a project, and shoppers and employees alike come over to weigh in on the options. We are a community in the LYS, even if it's our first time there.
As community members, we should recognize the value that we receive inside these local yarn stores - from pattern help to project selection to someone celebrating our accomplishments with us. As community members, we need to support our LYS by attending events, taking classes (more about this in another blog post), and (yes) buying from the shop. When the shop is stocked with yarns as soft as the mink blend, as beautiful as the Irish creations, and as reliable as Uruguayan family's unity, it's an easy task!
I hope to see you on April 27th at Stitch In Time!