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A view of the industry through the eyes of a chain buyer.

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How To Capitalize on "Stash Crafting"

Enthusiasts have plenty of supplies? Here are ways to boost sales anyway.

by Janet M. Perry (December 1, 2008)

Today's economy presents us with a dilemma. On the one hand, people are using materials from their stashes to make new projects. On the other hand, giving handmade gifts is a growing trend. What's a retailer to do?

While your first reaction might be to run kicking and screaming from the room, step back, take a deep breath, and embrace the challenge. Although your customers might not be buying all the materials they bought before, you can effectively sell to them and make them appreciate you all the more because you have helped them use up that stash.

They get a handmade project, you get sales and customers, everyone wins. Here are some ideas for promoting stash crafting:


Look for projects that, either explicitly or implicitly, encourage people to use what they have. Then encourage this by selling project books, which do this. Look how popular books of Fat Quarter quilts are for quilt shops? Originally these quilts were designed to use your leftovers. Today they are an important category of sales.

Why don't you look for books that embrace the same mentality? Look for projects which use a single skein, or even a partial skein of yarn, or needlepoint, like Bargello or Scrap Bag Needlepoint, which uses bits and pieces of yarn, or decoupage projects with a scrappy look to use up bits of scrapbooking paper.

If you have an idea for a project of this kind, write it up. For needlepoint, why not create something that mostly uses stash and package the instructions, canvas, and a skein of background thread into a kit.

Then why not run a contest or have a show of the inventive things people have done with their stash?

Finishing: Another perennial problem for crafters is the pile of UFOs (UnFinished Objects), those items that have been completed or almost completed, but just need a little something for finishing. Maybe a scrapper needs something to use small bits of paper, a knitter needs some buttons, or a needlepointer needs a self-finishing project. You sell this stuff, don't you? Why not highlight it, put it into a display, put it on a "reduce your stash" sale.

(Editor's comment: CLN has heard of retailers who sponsor UFO nights in their shops. Customers are invited to bring their UnFinished Objects to the store and finish them together. Invariably, the participants do spend money in the store during the event.)

You could even make it personal by taking a project in your stash, finishing it, and using one of these items to make it a lovely piece. Take pictures along the way and make a display of the progress. Or even have a finishing class or drop-in, encourage people to bring in their projects and learn a new finishing idea.

Another possibility would be to work with other stores in your area to look for non-traditional ways to finish. A needlepoint and scrapbook store could work together to show how needlepoint could be used as a card inset, for example, and embellished with stickers.


It may seem obvious, but few crafters have everything they need in their stash. You can win repeat customers by providing these supplies. You don't know how many complaints I've heard from consumers who have gone into a shop with a project from their stash to buy supplies and been treated badly by the shopowners because the project "wasn't bought there."

Can you afford to have that sale walk out the door these days? No, you can't.

Maybe she needs a skein of yarn to add ends to a scarf she bought at a thrift shop to make it wearable. Show her how to pick up stitches and sell her the skein of yarn. Next time she wants to do a bigger project, she'll think of you first.

Maybe she needs background thread to coordinate with a bunch of thread she already has. Sell her the thread and show her how to make a striped background so the dyelots will go together. When she's buying her next painted canvas she'll stop by. Maybe he needs fabric to bind a quilt; sell it to him, you might be making a regular customer.

Look around your shop. What can you sell? How can you sell it to make your customers feel good about using their stash instead of not coming in because they don't have $50 or more to spend.

(Note: Janet Perry is a needlepoint author, designer and teacher. She has two books in print and is the author of Nuts about Needlepoint, the most quoted blog on needlepoint. She is currently developing products for needlework shops to take their businesses online. Her website is www.napaneedlepoint.com and her blog is www.nuts-about-needlepoint.com.)



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