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What's new in various product categories; monthly update.

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How To Make Needlepoint More Popular...

... And therefore more profitable.

by Janet Perry, Napa Needlepoint (July 4, 2005)

From the things I'm seeing and hearing, I think needlepoint is getting ready for a revival. I hope it will be a big one. But at the same time, I'm frustrated by the attitudes I often see from people in the industry.

The future of needlepoint, or of any craft for that matter, lays in attracting new and younger people to the craft. As long as needlepoint continues to have the perception of being a "old lady's" or "rich lady's" craft, this won't happen.

So I'd like to offer up ten ideas about needlepoint which should spark thinking about getting out there and helping people stitch.

1. Needlepoint isn't expensive. To start you need some canvas, a needle, and a bit of thread. Retailers, why not make a beginner's pack with needle, a small piece of canvas, and one skein of floss or pearl cotton? Sell it for $4. That's less than a lipstick at the drugstore and can be an impulse purchase.

Designers, why not do a beginner's design and sell it very cheaply? If your wholesale price is under $5, then the consumer will also look at it as an impulse buy. I know the amount of labor that goes into hand-painted canvas, but it seems to me that the cheap canvases are now $30-$35 where they were $25 a year or so ago.

For too many people the cost of entry into needlepoint is high. We should be making an effort to make this lower to hook new enthusiasts.

2. Needlepoint isn't "paint by numbers." I find needlepointers to be very open to changing and creating things. And our models should show this. Retailers, why not stitch half a canvas to show how you go from the painting to the stitching? Designers, why not include ideas with shipments or canvases for shops to give out to spark creativity?

3. Needlepoint isn't hard. The easiest needlepoint stitch can be taught in a few minutes to kids as young as 5 or 6. Why not give free mini-lessons to target markets?

4. Needlepoint isn't only for old ladies. I think this problem is more one of shopowners' perceptions and markets than of the truth. We need, as individuals and as an industry, to focus on the market we want. What is this market? The ever-elusive woman with a family and discretionary income. Look at where to find them, and think about how to attract them.

Needlepoint has many features which make it an ideal craft for these women. It's portable, can be done in small bits of time, and creates something of lasting value. Being a soccer mom as well as having been a traveling executive, I have found needlepoint suits both those lifestyles well. I could work it on planes and in hotel rooms, and I can work it in the car while I wait during piano lessons. So find these places, stock items which will appeal to this market, and display them attractively.

5. Tactile is good. And needlepoint is a very tactile art. People are attracted to needlepoint for many of the same sensory reasons they are attracted to knitting. So, as a retailer, do your displays capitalize on this? Is it a sensory treat to come to your shop? As vendors, do you show off your models in ways which attract notice and which give the shops ideas? Is it a delight to your customers' senses? Then it will be a delight to their customers' senses as well.

6. Be "in your face." Knitters have gotten lots of publicity because they knit everywhere. Have you looked for the same opportunity to needlepoint? Find a place and stitch. Do you carry your needlepoint with you? Do you have needlepointed accessories, purses, or belts? Embellishment is hot why not make it needlepoint? Are your clerks friendly, helpful and needlepointing?

That can be a two-edge sword. Too many people talking among themselves looks exclusive, but one person there to stitch and help with the overflow is friendly and will increase your sales. You probably have customers who would love to be asked to stitch models for you and even to do it in the shop. Take advantage of it.

Get a couple of friends and stitch in the local hang-out. Talk to the coffee shop owner about coming regularly. Offer him some finished items for the shop if he'll put up a sign.

7. Be trendy. I'll never forget the day I was at a knitting shop getting samples of yarn from them to use as needlepoint yarns. One of the owners dismissed my request by saying that his mother needlepointed. I murmured something and got out my current project to work on while I waited for the samples. His partner came in and was astonished at the threads, textures, and colors of what was a simple piece to me. My needlepoint was far more trendy than what their most trendy fiber artists were doing.

See the trends, capitalize on them. If a consignment store can have a page of Lucky next to a display of colored shoes, why can't you use a fashion magazine to promote needlepoint items? What's the hot color? Display a page of a fashion magazine with clothes this color next to a display of all your threads this color. Put the page with the quilted clothing next to needlepoint of quilt designs.

8. Promote yourself and needlepoint. Unlike knitting, needlepoint is an industry of small companies, with few people in each business. And there is no overall place for promotion. That means we each have to do it ourselves. Turning people's perception and making needlepoint more visible can happen. Look to books like The Tipping Point or others about the connectedness of our world to see how to do it, and then adopt these ideas into your business.

If needlepoint is far out on the radar screen, do what you can to make it come closer. Your businesses will be more successful for it.

(Note: Janet is president of Napa Needlepoint. Call her at 707-257-6957 or email janetp@napanet.net. Her website is www.napaneedlepoint.com. To comment, email CLN at mike@clnonline.com. To read previous "Category Reports," click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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