Friday, August 6, 2010

Where have all the Fabric Stores gone?...continued!

So what happened to all the family run, independent fabric stores in every town? Our old-world fabric industry has indeed undergone huge changes in the last 3 decades. Stores have closed, factories have closed, women are working more, fashion styles have changed, sewing is not being taught in our schools and current trends toward on-line buying have all contributed to this wave of change.

From my perspective, the initial assault came from those within our own industry. The large chains like House of Fabrics and then WalMart came in to crush the mom-and-pop store and build their own customer base. They would discount 70% off fabrics and patterns constantly until the shops around them all closed. I saw this happening around us and in every community. To make it worse, my own suppliers, such as Vogue Patterns would give these chains lower costs making it impossible for ANYBODY to compete and try and stave off the inevitable...the loss of our customer base. All through the 80's and 90's fabric stores lost their financial grip and closed leaving the large national or regional chains supplying the fabric needs of most areas.

I remember when House of Fabrics bought the regional chain of New York Fabrics. The first thing they did with that amazing store in Emeryville was to take out the nice carpet and put in linoleum. Of course they could never maintain the high quality of fashion goods and brought in their version of fashion fabrics. It was actually a good thing for us at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics because we continued to carry fine wools, silks, cottons, knits and linens. House of Fabrics was super aggressive in it's discounting of fabric, patterns and notions all across the country. Many wonderful stores did not survive like we were able to do.

This trend toward large retail outlets contributed to the downfall of Retail Fabric Stores and was quickly followed by a shift in other industries such as Book, Music and Video stores.

So while a great shift was happening in the lives of the home seamster, chain stores were devouring up the indie stores in every community. Then as soon as they shut down their competition, they stopped carrying high quality fabrics and notions! This has left most cities and towns without access to good fashion fabrics, like those available at Stonemountain & Daughter in Berkeley. Now in all fairness to these chains, like WalMart, it's hard for to rationalize carrying fashion fabrics. It really is not a very profitable part of our business and we know what we are doing! It's super hard for a minimum wage staffer with no sewing experience to really sell quality silk and wool at the chains. I see why WalMart is closing down it's fabric inventory in some of their stores. Our staff at Stonemountain have many skills to help our customers and it's still difficult!

There is so much more to talk about in my next blogs...on a positive note there is Stonemountain & Daughter along with many other great independent fabric stores across North America! Check out a fantastic group of indie fashion fabric stores at I am passionate about the survival of the independent fabric store and have the privilege of being director of this group!

I truly appreciate any comments you have and thank you for your time in this "conversation"! Now it's time to go get ready to hear some music tonight at the Greek Theater! Happy Sewing!