Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: So Much To Learn At Quilt Market

Each quilt market is a life experience in and of itself.  I always learn so much about this industry, business, life, people, social media, the world, selling, buying and the list goes on.

Here are some things I learned while speaking with customers, co-workers, competitors and sages of the industry…..you know, those guys that have been in the fabric business for a lifetime and are a wealth of knowledge.  Kind of like my dad who has worked for over 50 years in fabrics, or like so many others that I spent time with at market chatting about all the changes taking place, the challenges and how fast everything is happening.   It is remarkable how fast things are moving.

On the blogging front I received so much constructive and valuable feedback. For example, I was challenged to make up my mind about who my blog audience really is.  Is it consumers or shop owners?  Hmmm, that was an excellent question.  Well, I didn’t consider my audience as much as I considered my blog brand name:  Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive (TOAFGTE). That is my mantra and I am sticking to it.  Am I being selfish?   It’s always about you Scott.  You sound like my wife.

Anyhow, these are my stories, 50 or so a year, take them or leave them. Read them or don’t read them.  I will just continue to kick that can down the road for now.  Selfish again? I just can’t please everyone. I do acknowledge the suggestion and appreciate the constructive criticism, but I am sticking with my guiding (TOAFGTE) force.

Another suggestion I heard was that I should avoid the grinchy and negative blogs.  I can live with that suggestion because no one cares to hear about my problems, but maybe on the other hand they do.  Usually my most grinchy blogs stimulate the most comments and discussions. That being said, the lawyer in me wants to retort that I am just not happy with everything all the time and I like to tell it how it is without sugar coating. Unfortunately, life is not always filled with rainbows and ice cream, although that would be fantastic.  If you want happy boring Scott, I guess I will have to give in to that one the best I can.  I am going to need to order more happy pills.  I freaking hate happy boring Scott and I am not sure that you will like him either.  Anyway…I guess we will have to wait it and out see.

Another suggestion was to write shorter blogs and newsletters.  (I write those too for SE & BQC in case you were wondering).  You want shorter? You got it.

TO BE CONTINUED……….

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: What Can I Do To Help You Sell Studioe Fabrics?

The clock is ticking down until yet another Quilt Market.  With market in mind, I have been thinking a lot lately about the business environment and trying to wrap my brain around what the future might have in store for this industry.  The conclusion, I have no freaking clue and to be perfectly honest and that makes me a little nervous.  So what’s a textile executive to do or anyone in our industry for that matter?

Here are some simple answers in no particular order:

  • Work hard.
  • Keep designing beautiful prints.
  • Stay on top of technological advances.
  • Be active on social media.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Plan for the future and not just today.
  • Have a plan.
  • Take care of customers and continue to work under the mantra that the customer is always right. (Customer service)
  • Be aggressive.
  • Be kind all the time.
  • Focus on what has worked and maximize its potential.
  • Think a lot and try to think outside of the box.
  • Be different and innovate where possible.
  • Take calculated risks.
  • Be surrounded by smart and creative people.
  • Question things that don’t add up.
  • Crunch numbers.  They can be your best friend.  They do not lie unless you have a crappy calculator.
  • Be willing to change when the circumstances dictate.  Don’t be satisfied with status quo or mediocrity.
  • Ship as quickly as possible.
  • Offer competitive pricing.
  • Hire knowledgeable sales people.
  • Don’t give up.
  • Care for those around you.
  • Be respectful.
  • Be compassionate.
  • Be patient.
  • Share with others who are less fortunate than you.  Donate fabric.
  • Help customers succeed.

Today, I do want to focus on the last item on the list:  help customers to succeed.  Hence the title of this blog, What Can I Do To Help You Sell Studioe Fabrics?

I am vowing right here and right now to help Studioe as well as Blank Quilting, Henry Glass & A.E. Nathan customers succeed. You might be thinking, damn Scott, that will be a huge undertaking. What are you thinking?  The thing is that I am not afraid.  I am in an 87 year family business and I am part of the fourth generation with my very capable brother and of course my wise father too.  I am going to be 45 this year.  I can handle this and I will handle this. What do I have to lose?  We didn’t make it 87 years in the business having family members that were scared and we aren’t starting now with me….that’s for sure.  And with that, I am not going to slack, but rather I am going to embrace this situation head on and take the bull by the horns.

So where do I begin?  Starting right here and right now, I am going to start spreading the word that I, Scott Fortunoff, am on a mission to help you, however I can within reason, sell fabrics from family of companies. Essentially, I am now transferring the burden on to you and asking you to challenge me.  Yes, I am talking to you. How can I help you today, tomorrow or next year?

Get in touch with me asap with your ideas.  I promise not to disappoint you.  BRING IT ON!

Scott Fortunoff

800-294-9495 x218

scott@jaftex.com

I will be at booth 2915 at market and will be waiting for your challenge.

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Quilt Market Is Quickly Approaching, Here’s What You Can Expect From Studioe

Happy Monday To All,

The countdown is on until we start to pack our bags to head to St. Louis, Missouri for what will be something like my 25th international quilt market.  As usual, I am pretty psyched because I will have the great opportunity to show off all the new things that Studioe Fabrics and our other companies (Henry Glass Fabrics, The Blank Quilting Corp. & A.E. Nathan) have to offer. I will be at booth 2915 and I still have time slots available if you would like to set up an appointment with me.  Feel free to email me at scott@jaftex.com to set something up as I would love to show you all the new lines or just chat and catch up.

As you probably know, I have been pretty aggressive about putting out the open invitation to just about anyone in the industry who wanted to have a free dinner with me and a great crew of “quilting” people on Friday night at Ruth Chris.  We started with a small room and have since had to upgrade to a much larger room to accommodate all the additional requests. This is definitely a good thing!  That being said, it is time to rescind the invitation because if too many more people come, the night will lose its importance and just be a big mish mosh.  You could go to someone else’s party if you are looking for something like that.  I want to be able to try to talk to everyone attending and if more people come, it will be too impersonal and no fun.  I am really pleased with the mix of people that we have coming and I look forward to a great evening.  If you missed out this time, you will probably have another opportunity to join me at a future market.  I hope to have a couple of future blogs about the evening.

I wanted to let you know about the exciting Studioe Fabrics schoolhouses that we are planning for this market so that you can start marking up you calendars.  You aren’t going to want to miss these.

First up, Heidi Pridemore of The Whimsical Workshop will be talking about fabric book panels as well as other easy project ideas.  She will be in room 261 from 2:35-2:50.  Heidi and her team are our go to for all of our free projects needs.  She is very knowledgeable and creative and her schoolhouses are always invaluable for shop owners.  In fact, the last time she spoke, several people went out of their way to find me and tell me how great she was.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Anyway, you should make sure to come see Heidi perform. I am sure that she will be talking about the ever-popular Huggable & Loveable books that Studioe creates in conjunction with esteemed author Sandra Magsamen.  I have spoken about these books many times, but I call them books “on steroids” because they have appendages that hang from the top, bottom or side of the soft fabric book.  For example, we have hats, antlers, tails, feet, tires and so much more.  We can’t reorder these fabrics fast enough, so if you don’t know about them, you should certainly check them out and Heidi’s schoolhouse too!

Next up, we have Pepper Cory.  Need I say more?  No really!  Everyone knows Pepper and we are so proud to have her on our team.  She helped to put Studioe on the proverbial map with her Peppered Cotton shot cottons and we can’t thank her enough for that.  This time Pepper is mixing it up a little school housewise and not only talking about the Peppered Cottons. This time around Pepper is going to demonstrate a marketing campaign to help you sell fabric. That sounds like a must see if you ask me.  She too will be in room 261 and will be speaking from 2:55-3:25.  I am sure that Pepper will impress you with some fresh ideas.

Finally, we have Janice Pope of The Anything But Boring pattern company. In addition to being a pattern designer, Janice is one of our top fabric sales reps. Janice will be speaking about creating projects with non-traditional fabrics.  She will be in room 261 from 3:30 to 4:00.  I don’t know the entire agenda, but I know that Janice will be demonstrating ways to use gauze fabric and yarn dyed flannels to name a few.  I am sure that she will have a lot more up her sleeves.  So come on down to check it out as I am sure it will inspire you to step out of the box of just using 60×60 construction cottons since most everyone knows what to do with those by now.

That’s all that I have for you this week folks.  I hope that you take advantage of all that Studioe and the other Jaftex companies have to offer this quilt market.  I look forward to seeing you real soon.  And listen, it would be awesome if you came up to me and introduced yourself.  I love to continue to meet customers and people who read my blogs.  Safe travels.

See you soon!

Scott Fortunoff

Studioe Fabrics President

 

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Interesting Concept About Quilt Market

Hello All,

Hope you had a nice weekend.  My weekends are just insane these days with sports, sports, more sports and some birthday parties peppered in. Not only do I attend the sports, but I coach both of the kids and scream like a lunatic, so it’s just like work (minus the screaming), but with employees that are the most challenging ever….5 & 8 year old boys.  If I could tell you how excited I was to start my weekend today (Monday), you wouldn’t believe it.  That all being said, I do get a vicarious thrill watching my boys in action and it’s awesome to see them grow up and mature.  I just wish the clock would slow down a bit.

Alright, so what does Senor Scott have to say about Quilt Market this time around?  Hmmmm…..   Let me start off by saying this is going to be a constructive blog with a point, so everyone could stop tensing up.  This one will be clean and gentle.  Anyway, most of last week I was in the Carolinas making my rounds filming the Studioe Fabrics May release Youtube video, visiting customers and our warehouse.  During one of the sales calls a very interesting commentary was made to me about quilt market and I thought I would share it with you.

Rumor has it from the Fabric Yenta that the fabric vendor quilt market roster is getting smaller.  Yes, I heard that a handful of suppliers will not be attending market and I am not totally surprised, but upset to hear that nonetheless.  This is not good and I hope more don’t follow suit.  Here is the gist of the comment from the person I spoke with:

The word on the street is that many quilt shop owners aren’t writing a lot of business, if any, with the fabric vendors at their booths at the show. The customers usually say that “they will wait for their sales rep to visit or that they already saw the lines.” They are spending more time in the school houses and with the smaller vendors who they don’t get a chance to see more regularly.  That all makes sense and is well and good.

However, here is the counterargument that I feel is way stronger than the latter point.  If customers don’t write business with the fabric vendors, the vendors will stop coming to market.  This is a vicious cycle. The result of that will be that the quilt market won’t survive, the smaller guys won’t have a place to show their products, there will be no more schoolhouses and there will be no inspiration for the shop owners to utilize in their own shops.  Not a good result if you ask me.  Don’t you agree?

In closing, if you want to continue to reap the benefits of what market has to offer, make sure to save some time to sit down with some fabric vendors and write some orders.  And don’t let me forget to tell you that if you want to make an appointment with me at market, email me scott@jaftex.com.

Until Next Week,

This is Scott, the Fabric Yenta’s alter ego.

Scott is MIA Today

MIA – Yes, Scott is “Missing In Action” from the blog today. Pay careful attention to the word ‘action’ though. He is so busy preparing for the launch of new fabric lines on May 1 and Quilt Market in St. Louis May 19-21 that today he missing from his space on this page. Believe me though, he is still in action.

Comment below if you missed him today. (It will make him feel guilty.)

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: You Can’t Keep A Good Yenta Quiet!

APRIL FOOL’S blog readers!  You can’t keep a good yenta down.  Did you really think that I was going to end my blogging career like that?  I think not.  When it is time for me to go, when I have nothing more to talk about with respect to our industry, that is when I will pull the plug.  In the meantime, see that picture below?  You know what that is?  That is the pile of irate letters that I received from people protesting that I was going to stop blogging.  It’s crazy!  Who knew?  Not to mention all the phone calls and emails I got too.

That is the crux of what I wanted to report this week especially since we are in high gear at our offices preparing for the ever-important May Quilt Market release.  Speaking of Quilt Market, I continue to hear that more and more vendors and shop owners won’t be attending.  This is very disappointing and unfortunately there appears to be no end to the troubles that we all face with quilt market, its future and its importance.  When is the downfall going to end?  In addition, with the couple of mergers & acquisitions and companies going out of business, that won’t help market either because that too will reduce the booth counts.  Anyway, I will be there with a smile on my face, ready to show our newest lines and to take orders. I will look forward to seeing you too.  If you want to set up an appointment, please email me at scott@jaftex.com so we can get something on the calendar.  You can also email sales manager extraordinaire, Cliff Garfinkel at cgarfinkel@jaftex.com.

Speaking of mergers and acquisitions, I continue to hear that a lot of companies are looking and talking.  They are kicking the tires around. Lots of rumors.  So you should expect to see some more deals coming in the future because where there is smoke, there is fire. Unfortunately, at this time we haven’t found another company to bring in to our organization, but that it not to say that we are not looking.

Hope you had a nice Easter and/or Passover.  Have a great week.

Sincerely,

The Yenta Is Back, Scott

 

An Interview with Sandra Magsamen, author, artist and encourager.

On a recent Friday, Sandra Magsamen gave StudioE a few minutes to catch a glimpse into her life and work. She was in route from her home and studio in Vermont to visit family in Maryland. She was at that moment a perfect passenger with hubby at the wheel and plenty of time to chat.

Sandra with daughter Hannah in Paris

I commented on how many of her recent Instagram photos were in Paris! Sandra’s daughter Hannah has been living there for the past five years, having completed grad school, she followed with a certificate from Parsons Paris in painting and dedicated herself to becoming fluent in reading and writing French (says proud Mom).

Sandra joined her daughter in Paris for a month-long visit in January and had her own reflection period. The kind that one can only get in a distant place. Fine French food and fabulous museums doesn’t hurt, either. She jokes that she ate her way through Paris. And the happy outcome is that daughter Hannah decided to move home too, to start putting roots down closer to family.

Children enjoying one of Sandra’s books.

At the core of Sandra’s time in Paris, during her personal reflection period, she got to think about what excites her most which is; connection from the heart. She immensely enjoys her work writing for the young.

That is where her soul is drawn. In a larger sense she is a giver, and creates all things in her art to give to another for the sole purpose of making a connection with a heartfelt message.

Sandra with the book panel for “My Little Chickadee” from Sandra’s Huggable and Lovable collection with StudioE Fabrics

In a moment, she was happily talking about the books she has designed for Studio E Fabrics, and shared how she imagines them being used.

One of the books from StudioE’s Huggable and Lovable collection, “Because I love you”

She has fond thoughts of mothers or grandmothers making them for their children, or perhaps for a new baby. She imagines a young mother reading a fabric book made with love to her new baby. From the creation of her designs, to the selection at the store, to the making of the books and the final act of sharing, Sandra’s hope is for connection.

Sandra’s compassion began at a young age when she herself went through her own trauma. At 12, she was accidentally pinned underneath a piece of one ton farm equipment. She credits her twin sister, Susan, for supernatural adrenaline and the power of love to lift the equipment off Sandra to save her. Sandra spent a year sheltered away, first in the hospital and then home convalescing to recuperate. During that time, her very close family encouraged her to make things to send to school to her school mates that she missed. With four sisters to help serve as messengers, Sandra’s days were spent making drawings, knitting, painting, sewing or crafting up all sorts of things, to be delivered to those whom she wanted to keep connections.

Sandra in her home studio that she shares with her husband.

That beginning is the legacy of her work. “Ultimately, we all want to connect to be loved”, she says.  While much of her book writing (over 55 now) has been dedicated to the very young, she has found that all of her art is about finding that language of encouragement. She has been an art therapist working with deaf children, as well as older adults who are facing difficult seasons of depression or mental digressions.  She has also written cards for Hallmark.

So, what’s next? Sandra wants to enlarge her sphere of influence to begin writing for the young school-age child. She recalls the books we read as children ourselves that influenced us toward transformation. She envisions sharing through nature and metaphor that a young child should begin by believing in the wonderful grown up person that a small person will become.

Flowers harvested from the community garden where Sandra and her husband have devoted their time.

She also excitedly shared a local community project that her and her husband have undertaken by partnering with a local school and delivering a horticultural program for young students by way of a community garden.

Sandra Magsamen has lots of fires burning on all fronts; creatively, in business, in her community and for her family. Her calm soft voice communicates that she is confident and clear of them all having a positive outcome. She is lucky, she says, to be able to follow her dream and to have had the experiences and travels that she has enjoyed.

All her experiences can be summed up in the mission she describes quite simply; to connect one heart with another.

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive Is Officially OVER!

Not so happy April folks.  April means the start of a new quarter and with a new quarter, we have new budget cuts.  Yes, budget cuts!  Guess what?Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive is on the chopping block to be some of the carnage from the cutbacks that need to be made during the market contraction.  THE PARTY IS OVER FOLKS! An analysis was done by the book keeper and it was determined that the cost of the blog on an annual basis was $253,004.11.  It sounds high, but you think it is easy to write nearly 52 blogs in a year, with photos, editing, etc. I don’t work for free! Also, you can’t forget all the lost sales from the time it is taking me away from selling fabric and travelling.  The point is to sell fabric, RIGHT? Not write blogs!

The irony is that I don’t get paid for the blogs and I totally should. When I broached the subject recently about not getting paid for the blog writing, that too contributed to the decision by my dad and brother to cut it. Anyway, the truth is that they think my blog sucks and is a total waste of my time.  I kind of enjoyed it if anyone cares.  Do we get more sales because of my blah, blah, blah, blog they ask?  I have no idea, but I can think of a couple of people that will be happy to see me go. Regardless, the point of this blog is that I am done blogging.  I am out of here.   What do you think about that?  Post your comments and I will make sure that my dad and brother see them.

  Studioe Scott

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: The Yenta Is Baaaaack!

Happy Monday Yentees,

The Yenta is back with another installment of news a.k.a. gossip.  Like I mentioned last time, I don’t really consider it to be gossip since it really is all fact in spite of what some want to believe.  The only thing is that it might be gossip to you since you haven’t heard it until now.  Before I get in to the heart of the Yenta for this week, I wanted to clarify one thing from the first Yenta installment.  Regarding the contraction that I predicted in the fabric industry, you should know that the contraction will affect everyone including my companies too. Unfortunately, no one is immune.  So in spite of what some might have thought I said, the contraction is hitting everyone, but it just hits everyone differently….some worse than others.

Anyway, last week I discussed the unfortunate demise of a couple companies/divisions to the benefit of the rest of the industry, but this week I am discussing the combination (mergers & acquisitions) of others. I have two to discuss:

  1. This is old news by now, but news nonetheless.  On or around the time of the 2016 October Quilt Market, Wyndham bought Anthology Fabrics.
  2. Just this past week, it was announced that the distributor, Troy Corporation, out of Chicago, Illinois was purchased by a company that I had never heard of before, Midwest Embroidery Supplies out of Farmington, Missouri.  I look forward to meeting the new owners and working closely with them as we have had a longstanding and fantastic relationship with the Troy’s.

Congratulations to all companies involved with these deals.  Good luck!

My brief comments on the M&A are this.  The Wyndham deal is a good one for our industry as it combines two entities that can now benefit from the synergies of being one combined entity.  More  deals like this would be welcomed in our industry as far as I am concerned.  It would also help to reduce the number of suppliers as there is just an overabundance.  On the other hand, the Troy/Midwest deal doesn’t really have any major benefit to the future of our industry because it really just keeps Troy in the game under a new owner who isn’t a big player in fabric at all.  That being said, it is probably a good deal for Troy, but it doesn’t help the other fabric distributors or convertors who are dealing with the contraction.

Mary Jo Cloninger of Mary Jo’s Cloth Shop.

I unfortunately have some very sad news to report.  This past Friday I got an email informing me that Mary Jo Cloninger of Mary Jo’s Cloth Store in Gastonia, North Carolina passed away at 85 years old.  Since I go down to the Carolina’s most frequently on business, I often had the opportunity to work with Mary Jo on various occasions.  The one thing I would never forget about Mary Jo was how she would always insist on 20-25 yard bolts.  She would always say anything less than that is a remnant.  She was always shocked to hear that the chain stores were taking 8 yard bolts. Anyway, the fabric industry is losing a true gem.  Rest in peace Mary Jo, you will be missed.  My thoughts and prayers go out to your family.

On a lighter note, as a follow up to my previous blog about Monopoly changing their game pieces, it’s official that the thimble, shoe, wheelbarrow and iron are gone.  In is the rubber duck, penguin and Tyrannosaurus rex…really?  They will join the Scottie dog, top hat, cat, race car and battleship.  Next year, we fabric people should vote for the sewing machine.  The Yenta is now out of ammo for the time being.

Until Next Week,

This is Scott Fortunoff the fabric yenta signing off.

PEACE!