Thursday, 20 May 2010

What would make you buy in a UK fabric shop?

I had a comment from a UK fabric shop last night: M is for Make who said that one of the great things about ordering fabric in the UK is that it comes the next day.  I went over to the blog and shop and had a look around and it started me thinking - what could our UK shops do to entice more of us to buy from them and I came up with a few thoughts.  In the meantime, here is some Anna Maria Horner Little Folks which is available at M is for Make, just to tempt you with a pretty picture.
I don't know if these suggestions make commercial sense for any fabric shops but here goes:

1. Free postage and packaging over (let's take the Amazon figure) £15.
2. Lots of different fabric bundles.  I am not mad on buying individual fabrics as I can't see online whether they really work together.  Whereas if a fabric shop owner has created some fun, different, creative bundles, sometimes all one line, sometimes mixing a line with some geometrics such as dots, stripes, gingham and some solids, I am sorely tempted.  Especially if the bundle gives me a slightly reduced rate per fat qarter and especially if the P+P is free.
3. Weekly or Daily deal - perhaps a bundle, a charm pack, a jelly roll, a special on solids, a notion at an appealing price.  A proper discount - not five percent.  Missouri Star Quilt Co do this and, if they were over here, I'd be buying their Daily Deal almost every day. So quilters, what do you want a fabric shop to do for you and fabric shops, what are your thoughts?


  1. Hi Lynn, thanks for the mention and great ideas, I'd love to hear some more from your followers!

  2. I absolutely agree. I love fabric bundles. I started out buying lots of little bundles of Kaffe Fassett fabrics mixed with coordinating lines.

    And now I have come to realize that when I like a designer's range of fabric I usually want them all, and preferably in selection packs, layer cakes or maybe fat quarter bundles. Having coordinating solids or maybe even suggesting them on the website like Hawthorne Thread do would be really useful too.

    I think I am every fabric shops perfect customer I have phases when I buy a whole big pack of fabric at once. and if I get a discount or free shipping I am even more likely to spend the cash (like this week when I spent 100 pounds on the whole Dolce range by Tanya Whelan at Saints and Pinners and a fabric pack of Patty Young's Flora and Fauna at quilterscloth. ooops :)

  3. I agree with your points Lynne, I to like fabric packs and I think a discount or free p&p over a set amount would also make a difference. Hows the thinking going ? You know you really really want to..

  4. I like the idea of free p&p I know most places do it but I rarely spend 100 or 150 pounds to qualify. Mixed bundles is also a great idea, I'd like a mixed bundle of dots or stripes. Karen xx

  5. Hummm this got me thinking too, good question! I hope these points help :)

    - Prices need to be competitive with the US.
    - I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover but dated, ugly websites turn me off straight away.
    - Sites need to be clean and easy to navigate. I think Fabric Rehab does this really well.
    - I like really nice clear photos of the fabrics.
    - I would really love to see more solids, stripes, dots, checks ect available here
    - I like to see stores carrying whole collections rather than 2 or 3 fabrics from a line even if that means there are fewer designer lines on offer.
    - Good customer service always gets me to shop again and again. Fast turn around and speedy, helpful answers to emails is great.
    - I totally agree with your second point on fabric bundles – more please :) You can’t really tell if fabrics are going to go together if they are not from the same line so make it easy for me and show me which fabrics are perfect together. Im more confident buying bundles online because even if the colour is not quite how I imagined I still have a selection of fabrics that go together. Etsy sellers do this really well!
    - Offer samples
    - I would love to see more uk sellers on Etsy. Search for ‘fabric, uk’ on Etsy and there are only 25 pages and none of it is really what im looking for… someone is missing out on an opportunity here. Even if you only have a selection of your fabric on Etsy you could use it as a tool to direct shoppers to your online store. Sellers like FabricWorm and The Fabric Bar do this really well. I have shopped at both the Etsy and the .com store with them.

    sorry for leaving an essay! Alex :)

  6. ps...i hate when stores have a flat rate for shipping its lazy and only a good deal if you buy lots :(

  7. At the risk of sounding nuts, I'm now going to comment on my own post!

    1. I agree that a pretty website really helps

    2. A website where you can find fabric selections quickly and easily is also a big draw.

    3. I think a blog is great for letting us know what's in, what the fabrics shops are loving, new packs that have been put together. If you are in someone's blog reader, they are reminded of your existence every time you post.

    4. Quick delivery and attractive packaging (eg a ribbon tied round the fabrics or a paper sleeve round fat quarter bundles) make a good impression.

    5. This may sound silly but one UK fabric shop does not do this and it felt wrong (!), a bundle of fat quarters should be properly folded.

    6. A little something special is a huge bonus. Seamstar have a lovely information card which is really pretty. What about shop labels attached to ribbon tied round the bundles in the shape of popular patchwork templates - hexagons, hearts, flowers etc. Just a thought. It probably sounds a bit naff to the shop owners but I would LOVE that!

  8. This is such a fab discussion! I agree with the more bundles so you can see how fabrics work together and also its a must that fabrics come prettied up packing wise. I like the idea of weekly offers, that are offers not just a 5 or 10% off and postage is always a biggy, I'd like free postage if spending £20 or more as I don't often spend £50 or more as I shop little and often! Justine xx

  9. I'm with the free postage on smaller amounts of fabric - I really can't justify buying too much. Each and every purchase has to be carefully considered. So if I was getting near to free postage I'd probably throw in another fat quarter!
    I like to read blogs to see what's just come in and also find it useful to see fabric made up (using the shop's patterns maybe?) - it gives a much better idea how it will work even if its not a pattern you'd use yourself.
    Quick delivery definitely. Attention to detail with packaging.
    A good number of fabrics from each range.
    Not so fussed about bundles (makes me wonder if I'm missing something here as everyone else seems to love them?!) - I really enjoy picking and matching fabrics myself, its my favourite bit. But obviously the colours on the site need to be 'true' for that to work.
    Great idea, Lynne, to put this together. Juliex

  10. Agree with all the comments. I would also like more info on the pattern itself - specifically how big the pattern repeat is. I have done a one block wonder quilt before and am still looking for a fabric for another one so the repeat is important.
    cheers Shev

  11. I hope that Seamstar has a lot of these points covered (like nice website and packaging, speedy and great customer service) but on some other things mentioned:

    I've been working for a week or so on more and varied bundles (hope to have them on the site by the weekend). As well as coordinating bundles, also bundles for example, using fabrics with small prints from different collections. I know some customers need small prints for things they are making and aren't bothered if the bundle co-ordinates (I think we fabric shops get a bit hung up on coordinating everything!).
    About free postage for lower value orders, that is hard for me as a small shop (hence why big shop Amazon can do it). As our Offer of the Month I have in the past offered free postage on orders over £30 (instead of the standard free postage over £45). So you can check the OotM from time to time for a postage deal.
    As mentioned elsewhere I will be stocking Kona Solids which I think someone mentioned above and these will also go in the new bundles.
    Having more info on the pattern repeat is a good point. I'll be sure to include that in future.

    I'm constantly trying to make the Seamstar website more user friendly and include things that I think Customers would want. So really helpful discussion thanks!

  12. I second the comment about more from a particular designer or range. I get all excited when I think I have found what I want in the UK then discover it is just one pattern from the collection, and usually not the 'must have' design!

  13. Me again! I would be interested in finding out why it is so difficult for UK shops to get fabrics. I am guessing it must be to do with money and exchange rates, or is it something else? Don't they like playing with us in the UK?!

  14. Seamstar - we do all think you do a great job and you have a lot of fans. I'm excited about the Konas and I'm looking forward to seeing your mixed bundles. I think free P+P over £30 as a time to time offer is great and I will be looking out for that.

  15. Great comments from everyone above .. It is a little hard for shop owners here, mostly to do with the exchange rate. Buying fabrics in from the US, Japan Germany was great a couple of years ago when the pound sterling was worth so much .. now it is much more difficult as you just don't get as many yards for your money and import costs are horrendous. With so many smaller online fabric outlets available trying to stock a varied collection of fabrics for its customers. I know for me anyway that sometimes buying a whole collection from one designer is just to much of a risk as to whether it will be popular or not also, often fabrics that are available to the US are just not to us retailers here. There has to be a demand in the UK for the suppliers to want to supply us here as the market is so much smaller. There is an increasing range of online fabric shops popping up all the time and they each have their niche market as to the style of fabric that they want to sell themselves and perhaps what they think there is an opening for. The etsy market seems to be so saturated with Fantastic American websites with huge stock levels that often us small retailers just don't get a look in..
    Anyway enough jabbering on. As your comments above .. thank you I am sure that there are sooo many of the above comments that I really need to pull my socks up on... I do try and give one weeks free postage (usually at the beginnging of the month) .. purchases over £35.00 .. and I also have a loyalty scheme - which I think is great for customers as it gives them a chance to save their vouchers for a rainy day.. Fabric stacks/ or bundles are great for customers, as even for us retailers we often order fabrics thinking the same thing .. will it go with what I have already ordered .. or complement a fabric that I have in stock. So we shop owners do be looking for the same things when buying as you customers do. Thank you Lynne for getting this little post going .. keeps us retailers on our toes ..

  16. In response to bellsjo - I think there are just too many lovely fabrics to choose from as a starter! But when you find a collection you like then it comes down to cash! If you think of a collection it can have around 10 prints and usually at least 3 colourways so just that as a basic can cost around £3000. I always say if I win the lottery I'll open the biggest and best fabric shop anywhere (I do have a ticket to check so fingers crossed!).

    & thank you Lynne - much appreciated!

  17. Interesting thread. For me, it all comes down to price...sorry! I know I could technically have the fabric quicker if I ordered it from the UK but in 9 out of 10 cases I'm just stash building anyway so it makes no difference.
    What would make me buy from a UK supplier would be if there was something different that I couldn't get anywhere else - and for that I would be prepared to pay more.
    For example, in the Netherlands. A brilliant quilt shop in the centre of Amsterdam that not only sells all your regular quilt lines but also prints and distributes Dutch antique reproduction fabric. Or this in Australia - - quite different fabric to what is generally out there - Red Pepper Quilts has used them. Or even if we had a British Spoonflower - - that would make me place an order.
    If I could get what I get in the US in the UK at a place that also had different stuff...then I'd be interested!

  18. I am someone who usually buys either online from the US or at my local quilt store. I was thinking about what attracts me to these 2 options and what UK fabric sellers could do. The US - it is mostly the price (which I know can be difficult to compete with) and the range. I can now see all the lovely ranges on the sites Lily has mentionned which are lovely. One range I love is Tilda which the US sites don't stock so this is something I would like to see more of in UK sites as its really difficult to find.
    Local shop - I pop in and see something I love and impulse buy! So a blog from a UK store which updates in my reader with new products or deals is very likely to convince me to buy! I also like the help I get in matching fabrics and advice on a possible design for quilting something. I know online shops may not be able to do this due to resources but customer service where you could phone or email and say I have these fabrics and need a blue solid or green spot to bind a quilt in and could you suggest something would be great. I also love modern websites which are easy to navigate and a frequent shopper discount does inspire loyalty.

  19. Hi, as a shop owner (I run sewbox these comments are very useful... I am especially interested in the comments on postage. I offer a flat rate postage of £2.50, largely because doing postage by weight / dimension is extremely difficult - I sell patterns and buttons and other items as well as fabrics, so it is extremely hard to get the system to estimate the cost.

    One thing I would be interested in is how people like to get samples -- do you mind paying a postage charge of £2.50 to receive samples? Do you like to order them piece by piece or would you prefer to receive a swatch of the complete range, for a small nominal cost? Any feedback would be really appreciated! Happy sewing everyone... Leah x

  20. oooh, just found some Denyse Schmidt (Hope Valley) at Fabric Rehab. wish there were more (just 6 different fabrics) but at least it's an improvement.

    This also made me realize the sellers in the UK would benefit from including the Designers' names on their website to make it easier for us to find fabric.

    We all love certain designers' lines but can't always find them. I just came across some of Patty Young's Flora and Fauna on Ditto fabrics called "dusky kingfisher dot" or something. Had I found those when I googled Patty Young's fabrics in the UK I would not have bought the whole line from sellers in the US.

    So British sellers should keep that in mind. If we can't find these because websites aren't organized very well then they will lose out.

  21. Haven't managed free postage i'm afraid but I am having a £1 postage day today that your readers may be interested in. Details on my blog. Thanks Lily.
    k/r Courtney


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