Yes, yes, don't nag. I know it's been ages since I put fingers to keyboard -- but, until yesterday, I couldn't figure out how to access my own blog because we changed e-mail addresses/carriers, and beyond that, it's end of semester -- and here I am trying not to die. Next term, I teach a wonderful new course for which a small but eager bunch of students have registered -- American Frontiers (we have had many of them, and there are several continents to treat) -- so that's a lot of work. And at the shop, we are dealing with a number of things -- good people coming in steadily, as we had hoped would happen when we moved to the west city of the Detroit Metro area, but not quite the autumn rush that we used to have. This is happening everywhere -- the industry is doing a bit of a contraction, and the internet is hurting everyone.
Most recently, my good, good friend Kelly, owner of Knitting on the Fringe, decided to pack up her wonderful stock and sell it on line from a warehouse, along with her gorgeous, handcrafted jackets and yarns. Kelly was a student in my university classes when I still had brown hair and she was still a law student. We met again only a few years ago because of the two yarn shops (I had lost track of her). She joins Sherrie and Carrie of Knit-A-Round (Ann Arbor) and the co-owners of Center Street Knits in Northville, another yarn shop to the northwest of us, and any number of small producers who just can't keep pumping money into their enterprises. The bottom line might be that, if you don't have some kind of outside subsidizing source, it will be difficult indeed (though not impossible) to make a profit sufficient to justify a staff. Larry works for nothing in financial terms; indeed, we both work for the satisfaction of it, not for anything like a reasonable return.
I have said this before, and all I can do is to repeat it: People will learn, sooner or later, that the internet, Ravelry, yarns.com, Crafty, all the rest, are boons to all of us -- I send people to Patternfish, for instance, because it's refereed -- but also a major threat to all of us. We lose the personal relationships that knitting and crochet have to be about, at least in part. YouTube is not a reliable teacher; there are tapes out there that are just plain nonsense. Shop owners and their experienced instructors can be relied on, at least much more often. You can't have a social group on the internet, just virtual groups, and that's not face-to-face. I don't like buying yarn without touching it. I expect that more and more people are simply deciding to meet in coffee shops where they think they won't have to pay some shop owner five or ten bucks, or pay for yarns in a particular shop. That may be right. But it's a risk, because those same shops sooner or later will close. It's a low-profit enterprise as it is. It does make me sad, I have to confess, when people say they think it's unfair to charge them five or ten dollars for a two-hour knitting group. Often, they also think it's unfair to "make" them buy yarn in house. So I think the problem really is the retail problem generally, made worse by internet competition: NOBODY can survive if revenue falls and overhead stays the same. We have no choice but to ask people to help us with overhead.
If I see one more person in the shop with a cell phone in hand taking pictures of the label on some yarn and then leave to check prices on line, I am likely to go out into the street and SCREAM.
All of this just to get people thinking. For now, we're fine, though we're not exactly rolling in it! And now I am going to get dressed quickly and head to the shop. For now, until Wed., when I have to administer and evaluate an MA exam, and then until Friday, when I get hit with drifts of final papers and exams, I'm more or less free! So I'll be back here to talk about other things SOON.