This Yarn Industry 2017 viewpoint is a broad view of what the yarn industry has been experiencing.
The Yarn Industry (1)
The yarn industry is made up of two segments: Craft Yarn and Premium Yarn. Craft yarn is primarily sold at big box stores and at craft stores, while premium yarn is sold through local yarn shops (LYS) and online stores. Premium yarn includes all the indie dyers, the yarn brands you are familiar with, and some you aren’t. There are regional differences in yarn preferences, and one of the things I love is learning about companies that haven’t penetrated my awareness.
Most of the companies are small. Many are family businesses, or have grown out of family businesses. Many are Mom shops, some are Mom and Pop shops. There are also supporting companies: notions, needles, carry-bags, yarn ball holders, etc.
The Yarn Industry (2)
Like most small businesses, the 2008 economic downturn hit the yarn business hard. As consumers’ disposable income constricted, so did yarn purchases. At the same time (that is always trouble, isn’t it!) more and more yarn was available directly online from small, independent dyers, spinners, mills, farms, etc. Selling online made it possible for more makers to put their products in front of consumers, but it meant that first there was additional competition, and many of those businesses did not know about, or did not see a need to be a part of, an organization like TNNA. Some were able to discount yarns, some just offered things that couldn’t be purchased at the LYS. Many LYS didn’t want to be online because they felt their point of differentiation was customer service. I think many of us did not realize that it was an important point of contact, rather than primarily a selling platform. Regardless, it meant many shops didn’t develop web presences, and may have missed some momentum.
While that economic constriction was occurring, social media was taking over our waking hours. It was difficult to see how to exist in a social media world, and many thought they could just wait it out. That meant that many in the yarn-selling business have been playing catch-up. It has been a tough playing field to be on the past few years!
The Yarn Industry (3)
Remember all that yarn you bought when things were flush? You know. Your stash. Many knitters have been working through their stashes, which means that they are making fewer new yarn purchases. The new yarn purchases they make may be made online rather than in a local yarn store.
The Yarn Industry (4)
In the face of economic uncertainty, many yarn companies made a tack toward more basic and classic yarn. This may have made sense, but it also may have left open the fun end of the playground to indie dyers. Yarn is a business to a lot of folks in our industry. Likewise it is a hobby to those on the retail side. Changes in free time pursuits and interests, social media, and access to a world of products has made this an uncertain industry right now.
Personally, I think we all need to accept each other. Each business needs to be able to do business in a way that makes sense for them. We have so many points of commonality that we could be using to bolster each other. I would like to see more of the younger businesses participate in TNNA; I am amazed every time I find out about a yarn that I didn’t know about before, just because they don’t hit my radar where I live. It is unsettling to see younger businesses come in with different approaches, but they are often pointing the way ahead.
Next week I’ll wrap up with more booth shots and a little more about the things that caught my attention at TNNA Winter 2017