Advice on growing Crochet Business…
Spending a full day at a successful and popular LYS last week gave me some great observation time. Ever the analytical type, I took the opportunity to observe the customer/sales personnel interactions at our generous hosts, Twisted.
Now before I say anything further, let me tell you what they do correctly, because I think that Twisted is an excellent yarn store on many levels. They are craft friendly, not just crochet friendly. They are welcoming, and have engaging and pleasant sales people, who are also quite knowledgeable, especially about fibers. Whereas, they have the latest trends to meet that market need, that is not the whole of the stock. There are wonderful yummy exotics, and interesting novelty items, as well as full shelves of “workhorse” yarns. Their reference book section is excellent, yes it’s mostly full of knitting books and patterns, but their crochet section was one of the more complete I have ever seen. They also have books on other techniques ranging from spinning to hand felting and basketry: All, very good signs of a fiber educated store.
When customers walk in the door, they are greeted. When someone brings in a show and tell project it is given attention. When someone brings in a problem, they discuss solutions and refer to a member of the staff who is the most knowledgeable in that arena. Again, exceptionally positive!
They have a good selection of tools and supplies. The crochet hooks range in many sizes, and brands, and yes, the needles are more prominently merchandized, but it’s not hard to find the hooks, and they have a lot of them. It’s not crochet heaven, but it’s certainly better treatment than most anywhere else.
They have comfy chairs for people to sit in, and they sell a wonderful variety of teas to sup while visiting with friends. Lots of patrons come in for classes early, grab some tea and sit, chat and work on projects. The ambience is relaxed, and friendly; once again, this is a lovely store. If I lived in Portland, it would be one of my favorite haunts.
So, why the tips? Because, as it so happens, I was spinning up some final yarn for Rockpool Candy to work her crochet magic on the almost completed spider’s web, when a customer came in needing advice about crochet.
The sales woman, who is an exceptionally accomplished knitter, who is not biased against crochet in the least, addressed the customer’s questions with patience and interest. But, when it came to finding a starting book, she was unsure of which direction to go in. I would have had the same problem if someone came asking about knitting. I could find the beginning books, but I would have zero idea about which one would serve best given what a customer asked. I haven’t read them.
It just so happens I was right there and went into Fearless Leader mode. The customer wanted a beginning book, and had tried to teach herself off the internet videos and information. She was confused about making a crocheted circle. She knits, and crochet was feeling counter intuitive. I get that, knitting feels counter intuitive to me. The two media operate quite differently.
The sales woman was beginning to pull off books, felt unsure and it showed. Luckily, I was there, and she asked me what I thought. So, looking at the book titles, knowing the customer wanted to make hats, I pulled off three books from the shelf. “The Happy Hooker”, “Hooked on Crochet”, and “It’s Hip to Crochet”, all three of these books are good beginner crochet texts. I explained the benefits of each book, stated my preference, stated what I knew other’s felt about each book, and let her decide for herself. When she opened the book, and showed me the diagram of making a circle. She pointed to it and said, “That’s what confuses me, how do I get the stitches into the hole?” she had been trying to “pick up stitches” and it wasn’t doing what she wanted.
Luckily, they are having a crochet motif class starting in December and had some really nice samples out on display. I picked up one, and showed her on the squares, and suggested that after she went home and played around a little bit, that she might want to sign up for a crochet class to take some of the trial and error frustration out of her learning curve.
She bought the book, I don’t know if she will sign up for the class, but maybe she did.
Had the customer been asking for knitting, I know that sales person would have known just what books to pull off the shelf, and would have been able to help. Her uncertainty almost lost a sale, because the customer herself was so uncertain in her crochet skills.
So some helpful tips:
LYS owners, make sure your staff is educated on which ever crafts you cater to in your store. One of the reasons you may have more knitting clientele is because your expert sales staff are expert in knitting. Expert isn’t just being good at doing something, it’s understanding it intimately.
If you carry books on any subject, you sales staff needs to:
a) Know the titles and authors
b) Know which level of competency the books address
c) Which books are most popular
d) Which reference books are must haves
If the book is hot right now, find out why it’s hot stuff. Go onto Amazon or Ravelry.com and read reviews from people who have purchased the book.
Make sure one or two people on staff have more than a passing knowledge of crochet.
a) Granny squares are a good introduction to crochet, but experienced crocheters won’t be interested.
b) Make sure you have samples of crocheted projects. What a great way for staff to learn about crochet! They can make the items! (It will also give them more of a teaching repertoire.)
c) Have some crochet swatches in different stitch patterns in some of your yarns.
d) If you are trying to get more people into these crochet classes, why not offer Tunisian and/or Broomstick or Hairpin lace. You don’t have to have mad crochet skillz to do these well. In fact, they may be the best way to introduce knitters to the many possibilities in crochet.
Having been in sales most of my working life both on the line, and as a manager and trainer, the key to good sales in any business is knowledge. Understanding a subject is so important, being able to tackle questions, find information, and source for your clients is the difference between a small bottom line, and huge repeat business.
Like I said, I like this store; if I lived in Portland I would patronize this store. My suggestions are merely how to increase a certain aspect of this businesses bottom line. I happen to know they are very interested in offering crochet; they are supportive and welcoming of crochet. But, I can say this, it’s not unfriendliness in their way, it’s the lack of crochet confidence. Thank heavens for that problem, because it’s easily fixed!