Friday, 12 May 2017

Yarn Shop Day!!!! A rant.

I've done a vlog about how bloody brill Yarn Shop Day but now something a bit more serious really. I must admit, I'm still basking in the glory that was our Yarn Shop Day. And it was bloody glorious!


You can't tell me that's not glorious!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ahhh!!!!!!!!!!! It was busy all day, we took a lot of money but more importantly we cemented more friendships and had more laughs and shared more knowledge (off the top of my head somebody learned magic loop and somebody else learned basic crochet to make the lovely April Towriess crochet cushion) than ever before! We chose our Yarndale uniform. We had a bit of a drink. Cassia got in a basket.

Yarn Shop Day was thought up by the editor of Let's Knit magazine as our very own version of Record Store Day. A day to celebrate bricks and mortar shop. And by celebrate, in reality we mean spend. It might not be pretty but our indie shops, including yarn shops, are businesses and to keep them going we need to spend. They're not just there for the hell of it because, quite frankly, a lot of the time it's not that fun (Yarn Shop Day absolutely excluded - that was fun fun fun!!!!!!!). I don't know about other people's businesses but I need to be making enough money to keep the shop afloat with no input from me and then on top of that to support me. I'm not a lavish person, you all know that, but it was thrilling when last year I was able to buy some actual shoes from an actual shoe shop that have the potential to last longer than a few months. That's where I want to be, I want to be able to buy quality shoes. If I wasn't there by now - after seven years - then I might as well get a proper job.

Quite frankly, I work an average 10 hour day but mostly longer and mostly on my Monday 'day off' too. I answer emails on the tram home from work, ring suppliers/insurers/the council/magazines/printers/whoever on the tram into work and knit samples in the evening. When I'm in the shop I'm in the shop, often editing photos for the website at the same time as chatting to and helping customers all whilst thinking about how I'm going to organise the next event or promotion or what to order next. I put my order in to King Cole at 8am every Thursday and seeing as I've already started the working day I usually ring a few other suppliers then too. There's not a moment of my day that I'm not working in some capacity for the shop. And I'm not complaining really, though I do... a lot... Haha. I'm especially not complaining now that all of my chickens have come home to roost and we've got a sustainable and stable business (crossed fingers).

Bricks and mortar shops are a different beast to internet shops. We do the same stuff that they do - marketing, social media, buying in stock (though we have to have more because people expect to walk out with the products here and there's no way to sneak in an extra day or two of delivery time), answering e-mails/phone calls, paperwork, accounting etc. But we have all of that on top of cleaning, tidying, visual merchandising, and being at customers' beck and call. Emotional labour I called it in a vlog post once and it's true. You are on call. When the shop's open (and often when it's not) you are on call. Something that no internet business has to deal with.

Yarn Shop Day is the day when we celebrate that! Every bloody industry that has indie bricks and mortars should have one! Every industry! But we have one and it's thanks to Let's Knit. Without them there is no Yarn Shop Day. There's no day to celebrate your bricks and mortar shops, the work that they do and the special place that they hold in our industry.

To be part of that - the celebration AND the (hopefully) big glob of money that comes from this event - we have to pay. Like you lot have to pay to be part of Knit Nottingham (i.e. buy stuff from us...) we have to pay Let's Knit to be part of Yarn Shop Say. The amount isn't important, and I don't feel at liberty to share, more for other shops' benefit than mine, but it's a small amount over three months. And in that amount is included advertising in their magazine (the cost of which is usually double so we've smashed it there before all the other stuff) for three months, advertising on their website, a live link on their virtual map, social media promotion of Yarn Shop Day (on a much bigger platform than any of us have), free and exclusive patterns to download and promote, marketing materials like stickers etc., a wealth of advice from the gorgeous Sam who works tirelessly for them and for the first few who sign up some freebies to give away or sell from big yarn companies. West Yorkshire Spinners even went right out of their way to produce an exclusive colourway for bricks and mortar yarn shops to sell to their customers (I ain't got much positive to say about them but they did do that!). Apart from this, you can do whatever you want! WHATEVER YOU WANT! You can get designers in, you can have workshops, spinning demos, charity drives or even - like us - just get tipsy in your favourite shop. IT IS WONDERFUL AND SO VERY WORTH IT!

And now, just days after the triumph that was Yarn Shop Day I find that there's been a backlash. A backlash about having to pay?! That's literally the point! That's the point of the whole day! We are celebrating and supporting businesses who do us good! And by celebrate and support I literally mean spending money! There's no way to put a nicer spin on it than that. These shops are businesses and they need supporting with your money.

But on the flip side, from my point of view, and not feeling able to share the amount it's a difficult argument to win, but if you're not making enough money that you can spare the tiny amount that this costs then you really aren't in business. In olden times (like ten years ago, before instagram haha) marketing should have taken about 10% of your budget. Nowadays you can get away with less than that I think, and even make some money off things like Youtube, but it should be a part of the budget of the shop and it's important. I'm going to go all out and sound like an arsehole now, I take a dim view of hobby shops. This isn't a hobby. The knitting and crochet is, and it's absolutely fabulous that that forms a tiny part of my day every day, that's all excellent but the shop most certainly isn't a hobby. It's a business. And people hobbying around make business difficult for the businesses that are businessing. Sometimes, they drive down prices so that in order to stay competitive we can't make a profit (I say fuck it, price properly and explain - my ideal customers understands and my unideal customer heads elsewhere) but that's mainly a problem with internet sellers (big boys and back room traders alike). But more often than not, they're unreliable which gives us business businesses a bad name. A business business will pay Let's Knit to be part of this wonderful event, a hobby shop would not. Don't take me the wrong way, I had to stretch myself early on to afford this, but stretch myself I did because of the value that this adds - for me, for other businesses and for the industry. This is, and was, part of my marketing budget even when I didn't have any money (and I mean literally taking home less than I would have done on benefits). 

I also need to point out, as if I haven't before, that Yarn Shop Day is about bricks and mortar yarn shops and celebrating the particular (sometimes peculiar) position that they hold in the market. That's why the event and the promotion surrounding it focuses on bricks and mortar yarn shops. As if that's even a thing to question?!

So. Rant over. I, as always want to give a massive shout out to Let's Knit (especially Sam who is bloody wonderful all the time, I don't know how she does it!) and to other wonderful yarn shops that took the plunge and invested in this event, financially and emotionally. I also want to give a HUGE shoutout to every one of you that came to our event to make it so bloody special - especially the ones that travelled loooooong distances and paid for child care and doggie care! You're all brilliant and you're all adding to the world. Well, my little world at least. I felt like the buzz this year was BIG! Here, on the internet and all over. It really feels special to be part of this. Thank you all!!!!!!

Love Eleanor. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx