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Old 03-24-2014, 04:54 AM   #1
Marthe
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Online yarn shop
Hi everybody!
I need to make a business plan for one of my modules at university this year. The module is called New Business Development. For my project I chose to do an online yarn shop, since I've just recently got back into knitting. I have gotten estimates of prices from different yarn distributors, which has been incredibly helpful! However, I would like to ask for help regarding the trends of yarn shopping. This is in terms of what yarn sells most during which seasons (e.g wool in winter, cotton in summer), and what the high and low seasons are. If anyone has any information on when an online yarn shop can be expected to break even, this would also be very helpful!
I have already tried to go to the local yarn shops but they have not been willing to help me. I have also emailed several online shops to ask for help but so far none have replied. Any information at all would be very helpful!

Just in case it would make a difference, the business plan will assume that the yarn shop will be based in the UK.
Thank you

Marthe
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Old 03-24-2014, 08:50 AM   #2
Gemini
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Hi Marthe

Good luck with your project!

I can only speak for myself of course but regarding buying trends I tend to knit more in the winter than the summer. I tend to sew more in the summer.

Although I am sure some avid knitters knit all year round!

I do sometimes knit in the garden in the summer but if it is very hot I don't knit so much - and I don't like to have the extra layer of 'clothing' in my lap in the heat especially if I am sitting in the sun. I prefer to be holding an ice cream!

For other people they might be knitting for new school uniforms needed in September so school uniform colours of black, navy and red, etc. might be quite popular coming up to that time.

I think if you were starting a website for selling yarn it would be very important to link yarns with patterns so that potential customers could get a good idea of what yarns would look like made up.

People often buy patterns and yarn at the same time as well.

I think also it is very important to have the best photographs possible on your site because yarn and fabrics are the kind of product you would normally like to touch before you buy. The colour representations should be very true-to-life as well otherwise you could get disappointed customers.

Also I think if you were a small business selling alpaca wool it would be really lovely to have photographs of your animals and their names! I think the customers would love that.

I think if you ever want to start any business you will get more helpful ideas from asking potential customers than any business advisor so I hope you will get some good feedback from this forum to help you.



If I think of anything else I will come back to you.

PS. By the way I never buy real wool because it makes my skin itch.
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Old 03-24-2014, 09:39 AM   #3
Marthe
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Originally Posted by Gemini View Post
Hi Marthe

Good luck with your project!

I can only speak for myself of course but regarding buying trends I tend to knit more in the winter than the summer. I tend to sew more in the summer.

Although I am sure some avid knitters knit all year round!

I do sometimes knit in the garden in the summer but if it is very hot I don't knit so much - and I don't like to have the extra layer of 'clothing' in my lap in the heat especially if I am sitting in the sun. I prefer to be holding an ice cream!

For other people they might be knitting for new school uniforms needed in September so school uniform colours of black, navy and red, etc. might be quite popular coming up to that time.

I think if you were starting a website for selling yarn it would be very important to link yarns with patterns so that potential customers could get a good idea of what yarns would look like made up.

People often buy patterns and yarn at the same time as well.

I think also it is very important to have the best photographs possible on your site because yarn and fabrics are the kind of product you would normally like to touch before you buy. The colour representations should be very true-to-life as well otherwise you could get disappointed customers.

Also I think if you were a small business selling alpaca wool it would be really lovely to have photographs of your animals and their names! I think the customers would love that.

I think if you ever want to start any business you will get more helpful ideas from asking potential customers than any business advisor so I hope you will get some good feedback from this forum to help you.



If I think of anything else I will come back to you.

PS. By the way I never buy real wool because it makes my skin itch.
Thank you Gemini This is very helpful information! And you are right, asking potential customers is a good way of getting information. After all, you are the ones which, theoretically, I'll be trying to sell to. This would also be very helpful when I have to defend my business plan to my lecturers since I can say that market research and potential customers showed me that so and so is the trend etc.
And also, great idea about the pictures and the animals
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Old 03-24-2014, 05:12 PM   #4
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In Britain, local/heritage breeds of sheep and their wool are very big. This might be a way of separating your (hypothetical) on-line yarn shop from others. One book that goes into this trend is Pure Wool, by Sue Blacker, a shepherd in (?) Devon/Cornwall with several heritage breeds.

For heritage-breed enthusiasts (like me), season means nothing. If it's a breed I want for a specific set of qualities, or a breed I haven't yet been able to work with, the time of year doesn't matter. Your on-line stock would vary, though, depending on shearing time and processing time (converting fleece into yarn). You would most likely deal directly with shepherds (breeders) and local mills/spinners/dyers rather than a centralized distributor system.

For a polar opposite (I have no idea what your project entails), an on-line shop catering to beginners and relatively new yarn-crafters (thus including crochet as well) might want a selection of acrylics and superwash wool yarns. It often takes a while for newcomers to yarn to learn about the importance of supporting small, heritage breeds--if they ever do. It doesn't appeal to everyone.

The difficulty with the "newcomer" structure is that you'll be competing with low-budget shops and may have trouble coming out ahead (profit margin), esp. when shipping costs and payroll are included. The "heritage" model is also difficult, but those who support the heritage breeds are willing to pay whatever is reasonable (living wage, artisan quality) for the yarns, often preferring roving or simply washed fiber/unwashed but weighed fleece.

Good luck/bonne chance with your project!
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Old 03-26-2014, 07:07 AM   #5
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I think Dogcatmom's idea for a USP is really good because you have to ask yourself why anyone would buy from an online shop rather than a local one.

You have to sell things more cheaply than they do or you have to be selling something that they aren't.

Otherwise you could be selling to customers who don't have a yarn shop near them to go to.

I think some breeds of farm animal became rare because there was such a cull of animals at the beginning of the Second World War and now there is a movement to make sure that they don't become extinct. People who buy knitting wool can support that just as much as the people who are breeding the animals.



What about yarn on cones for machine users? Yarn on cones has always been more difficult to buy in local shops than yarns for hand knitting.

It was available from catalogues before online shopping took off.

The manufacturers sent out sample cards with their catalogues so that potential customers could feel the yarns and see the colours as they were.

If you wanted to send out sample cards you would have to think about the cost effectiveness. How many people would ask for one and then not order?
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Old 03-27-2014, 04:14 PM   #6
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thanks guys! I'll definitely look into the idea of wool from local/heritage sheep. It would most certainly give a good distinct advantage online. As I'm going a bit short on time (too many assignments!!) I might not be able to get price estimates however I think I could argue for the idea even though, in terms of bringing in more brands etc to the shop as it grows. That way I could also be able to introduce already existing customers to different types of local yarns. I think that I should be able to make some good arguments in the report for that

Again, thanks to the both of you, this is really helpful!!
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Old 03-28-2014, 09:29 AM   #7
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Hi again Marthe.

If you want to get an idea of prices have you seen these websites?

www.teeswaterwools.co.uk

http://organicpurewool.co.uk

www.rarebreedsessex.co.uk

www.farnellfarm.co.uk

www.blackeryarns.co.uk
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Old 04-01-2014, 04:50 PM   #8
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I can say that if you offer coned yarn (even acrylics) at a reasonable price online that machine knitters would flock to your site like bees to clover. I could only buy coned yarn online in the US, and I often bought from UK providers willing to ship to the US. Also if you offered machine knitting supplies like sponge bars. Those wear out faster than anything. There's much more of a machine knitting market in the UK than there is in the US.
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