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

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The Importance of Tools

They help stores stand out amongst the competition, and can provide big dollars from novices.

by Bob Shroyer, Nancy's Knit Knacks (April 16, 2007)

Here is a little tip for yarn shops that are feeling the pain of increased competition from all fronts.

At Nancy's Knit Knacks, we regularly hear from shops (both old and new) that they have difficulty competing with other shops, online retailers, and the web in general. As a result, they sometimes retreat from their traditional buying patterns and hunker down with yarn purchases only.

This can be a mistake for a shop. The reason is that shoppers are typically looking for solutions and problem-solving techniques and ways to be more productive when working with yarn. Tools and accessories can provide such solutions.

When a shop cuts back and eliminates tools and accessories from their product offering, they hurt their overall competitiveness. Shoppers see such products on the web, in catalogs, in magazines, and if they are not sold at their local yarn shop, they may not only take their purchases for these items elsewhere, but they might also buy their yarn from these other sources as well.

Here is an analogy that compares yarn with lumber: Over the years, I have bought a lot of lumber for building projects at Lowe' s, Home Depot, and other specialty lumber stores. They all had lumber and plywood. Sometimes, the price and quality were different. But in general, the offerings were comparable.

Often times, however, the differentiating feature between these stores was not the lumber that I needed to build my project with, but rather their selection of nails, screws, other miscellaneous hardware, and power and hand tools. Anyone who has ever built something of wood will tell you that these other items are what a person spends the most amount of time selecting and they can often times make the project easier or harder depending on whether or not you have the right tool or fastener.

Typically, one of the stores listed above would always have the better selection of hardware items and tools. Since I did not want to run from store to store to get the best lumber here and the best tools and fasteners there, I would normally just visit the store who had the best selection of fasteners and tools. They both had the lumber that I needed, anyway. As a result, the store which offered the best selection of these non-lumber items always won my business.

Yarn is like lumber in this example. The reason, more and more of the big box stores are selling the finer yarns, and sometimes at a discount! Knitting tools, patterns, and accessories are like the nails, screws, and power tools. These differentiating products are not normally available from these other outlets which allows you to offer your customer a set of solutions which they cannot get elsewhere. If your competition also sells these products, then at least you are maintaining your competitive footing and not losing ground to them.

Don't ever forget about the importance of these items for both your business and your customers. These products can make all of the difference in whether you can attract and then retain those valuable customers during tough times. If you don't offer these other kinds of products, you may well find that your customers will discover other sources for them and possibly for their yarn as well. Bob Shroyer, Nancy's Knit Knacks, info@nancysknitknacks.com

Mike Hartnett Comments

Regardless of the product category, tools can be critical to a retailer's success if the store attracts novices. When someone gets hooked on scrapbooking, she will purchase numerous pairs of scissors, a carry-all tote, and perhaps a die-cut machine. Once she has those tools, then she merely buys the consumables paper, stickers, etc.

Using Bob's woodworking analogy, when he got hooked he probably spent more money on table saws and other tools than he did on wood. Now that he has all these things, he's only buying wood, varnish, fasteners, etc. Jewelrymakers will buy various pliers and a special lamp, painters will buy numerous brushes the list goes on.

That's why it's critical for retailers to attract novices they need to buy tools!



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