irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry.
Why Trends Eventually Cool
Yarn sales may have slowed, but that can be
true for any trend. Here's why.
By Deborah Murphy, Deborah M., Inc. (June 5, 2005)
(Note: Deb is responding to 5/15/06 comment in CLN
on why a needlework shop has recently seen declining yarn sales. The
original comment: "The owner of a yarn shop called recently
asking why, after 15 years of increasing sales, his store is now
seeing a decline from last year. I cited three reasons: A) We
may have witnessed a fad. Some college students may have knitted a
scarf and then felt, "Been there, done that." B) The
trend inspired more stores to open or add yarn, so the pie is being
divided into more pieces. C) Anticipating the trend would
continue to grow, the industry made and stocked too much yarn. Now
price cutting and dumping ultimately lessens the allure of his
The decline in yarn sales has also been affected by direct import
and poorly executed private label, two challenges consistently
under-analyzed, under-valued, and under-understood by our industry.
This overlaps your comments about too much inventory, which has
also commoditized and diluted the excitement about the fibers
themselves because yarns have flood departments with masses of
choices that, for the UNINITIATED or CASUAL knitter/crocheter, are
virtually undifferentiated, indistinguishable – and probably
This amount of yarn and the modest differences in the yarns (or,
put another way, the "sameness" in the differences!) has
set up the very problem for the entry-level and/or casual knitter/crocheter
that pantyhose and toothpaste have long been derided about: TOO MANY
CHOICES that present TOO MANY ESOTERIC ATTRIBUTES that cannot BE
UNDERSTOOD or COMPARED easily, and, at the end of the day, are
MEANINGLESS to the stitch-and-go consumer who was responsible for
the huge up-tick in sales.
The excitement was fueled by several things which have been
well-documented by you and CLN. What was perhaps underestimated or
overlooked is that the incremental consumer also glommed onto
knitting because it was EASY for her to understand what she could
accomplish, easy to understand the color and texture, and easy to
understand the project (a scarf).
We made it difficult by providing WAAAAY too many subtle choices
in yarns instead of lots of choices about end-uses, easy techniques,
and affiliation with a MEANINGFUL BRAND that has a relationship to
her life and identity. We've made it less obvious what the buying
decision was about, and confused the new consumer about what she was
choosing between – so she moved on.
A mid- to long-term strategy for the retailer/manufacturer
partnership would have included A) HIGHER (not lower) prices;
B) FEWER (not more) yarns; C) WAAAAY more
end-uses/projects emphasizing event/occasions and gift/self-gift;
and D) DISTINCT BRAND DIFFERENTIATION such as licensed, or
limited and highly differentiated trend-based color palettes, or
well-executed and meaningful private label – or all of the above.
(Note: The following is from Deborah Murphy of Deborah M,
Inc., a trend and product development firm which has recently moved
to 1464 Harvard St. NW, Ste. 13, Washington DC 20009-8341. Call
973-978-9029. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read previous Business-Wise entries, click on the titles in the
right-hand column. To comment on Deb's analysis or any industry
issue, email CLN at email@example.com.)