Saturday, February 13, 2016

Items to consider before opening a needlepoint shop

I have to preface this by saying that I deal with Facebook only because I think it is a business necessity.  I love my friends dearly, but I am not really interested in the minutiae of their daily lives. I am too busy with my own life, especially running Needle Nicely.   That being said, I am a member of the Brick and Mortar Shopowners Group because it is a nice coming together of shopowners to share problems and locate odd dye lots of fibers.  A win-win.  Less a favorite of mine is the Needlepoint Nation.  I seem to find myself sucked into discussions there that I wish I could ignore.  But someone Wednesday night asked how many canvases a medium-sized shop needs--my head exploded.  I recognized her name and know that she travels far and wide and stitches in classes and participates in clubs. I know that it isn't my business whether she opens a shop or not. However, I am of the ilk that I will try to save the world if I can. First she asked how many canvases a shop might have.  So I started telling her by category--belts, 400; Christmas stockings, 150; etc.  Ironically, she wasn't interested in fibers, even after I mentioned how expensive they were.

A shop cannot operate with canvases alone.  You must have a variety of fibers--and a variety of canvases.  Years ago, when Trubey and I were in Blowing Rock, NC, women would come into Needle Nicely because they had heard it was such a wonderful shop.  They wanted to own one like it.  They would talk with Trubey and me about how they were friends and were both getting 2nd mortgages on their homes so they could open a shop like ours.  I'm not sure you can imagine our horror.  Whatever you do, do not attach your home to opening a needlepoint shop.  All the women we have known who opened shops as dear friends and partners are no longer speaking to each other.  The needlepoint industry is brutal.  They are always undercapitalized and therefore guaranteed to fail. People looking to open a needlepoint shop are idealists.  They really don't want to face the realities of running a business.  To start with, if you are in a year-round area, you must have a minimum of one year's rent in reserve; a seasonal shop needs 1 1/2 years rent--as a minimum.   No one wants to believe this formula, so they open and they struggle for several years--and then they fade away, hopefully before they have endangered their home.  Those who survive often require an infusion of cash periodically.  That is just a fact of life.  Many shopowners do not take a salary.  I do, but sometimes in the summer I skip a paycheck because summer is our absolutely dead period.  I try not to do this very often.

There are rewards to owning a shop.  You encounter many creative people, both as customers and as suppliers.  Mixed in with both are some real dweebs that you would prefer to never see again.  But you have to suck it up, smile and not let them know they are on your last nerve.

You also have to make a decision about the parameters of your inventory.  What fibers are you going to stock?  What types of canvases are you going to stock?  Do you want only hand-painted canvases on Zweigart mono or a mix with some pre-worked on penelope and some giclee (computer generated and they look it).  Are you going to stock counted designs?  Usually, after a shop has been open for several years, you can gain a better idea of what the customers are looking for.  My customers are not fond of overdyes, so I have them in the fiber sale bins.  In fact, I just reduced them even more in hopes of having someone fall in love with them at a very reduced price.

There are many more considerations, but I think this is enough for now.


  1. Don't you enjoy your shop at all? So negative.

  2. A very realistic view of one element in the retail world. Retail is tough stuff--both of my boys worked in retail at one time, so I've heard the horror stories. On a lighter note, I'll get back to you on the overdyes in the sale bin--I've been stitching solids way too long!


  3. MA, I have to say Needlepoint Nation isn't a favorite of mine either. It is starting to really eat into my stitching time. Pretty funny, huh? Seeing that I accidentally founded it. Someone Up There has a real sense of humor!

  4. I have a good friend that owns a very small needlepoint store, in her home, for many years. I agree with everything you have said. I have seen her try to decide what to buy at market that would sell in her area, even items she personally disliked but knew her customers would love. The anguish of new colors and new fibers and finding the room and money, to stock or not. She will be closing soon and then so many will then understand the great asset she has been to them and their passion. Bless you for your generosity in sharing your love. I am a lurker but had to respond.

  5. I once considered opening a shop. Then I worked in one for awhile. It is a mostly thankless job that is 24/7/365. There are no days off. And you are really lucky if you can make a profit, just a profit, not a living! Most shops are run on pure love! I thank all shopowners out there. You do a real service and get little recognition.

  6. Good and honest info. I wholeheartedly agree...if possible do it on your own. Partnerships rarely work. Sadly I found this out too late. People say but I love to stitch and would love to have a shop. You can kiss your stitching time good by. It is the same as people who want to be a realtor with the sentiment, I love seeing peoples homes. There is SO much more to it!! Best of Luck!