Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: The Revolt Against Craftsy & All That Sell To Them

Two weeks ago I had the great pleasure of visiting quilt shops with my sales reps in both Tennessee and Florida.  I really love travelling with reps because I always learn new things and get to hear all the juicy gossip from all the friendly quilt shop owners across the country. 

During these visits, it was the first time that I heard about the backlash against all that is Craftsy, among some other less juicy gossip that isn’t worth discussing further. 


So what is this big gossip about Craftsy anyway?  I am hearing two different stories.  One of the stories is related to teachers for Craftsy.  As the story goes, the teachers feel like they have been taken advantage of by Craftsy and that Craftsy did not stick to terms that they promised.  In addition, a lot of designers have pulled out from making videos for Craftsy due to Craftsy heavily discounting the classes.  Shame on your Craftsy!  

This reminds me of the same sort of complaints from the teachers that offer classes at Quilt Market.  Here I go again with the quilt market drama…  The teacher complaints are that they are not being fairly compensated for all of their hard work and efforts that go in to presenting their classes at market.  Moreover, instead of making money from the Quilt Market, these teachers are actually losing money, breaking even or just covering their costs.  If I haven’t said it once, I haven’t said it a million times, people go in to business to make money!  This is a very simple concept.  It is really insulting that these certified and talented teachers aren’t being fairly compensated.  I find this totally sad and feel bad for those who are being taken advantage of.  We would never treat our licensors or contract workers this way.    

      

So the other major complaint about Craftsy is that they are selling their fabrics way too cheaply.  This is harming everyone else in the market place, especially the quilt shops, because Craftsy is selling so much cheaper than everyone else.  What can be done to stop this? 

Well, apparently the people at one of the big quilt shop magazines is  leading the revolt and boycott against all convertors that sell to Craftsy.  This is one way to try to get the message across.  But who is kidding who? I highly doubt that people are going to drop Moda for Studioe, Henry Glass or The Blank Quilting Corp. as much as I would relish that moment more than life!  Other convertors could see a drop in sales, but for the top guys like Moda, I am doubtful.  I guess time will tell.  In any case, I would be super happy to see an uptick in our businesses for us having not sold to Craftsy ever.  One company’s loss is another’s gain.

This brings up an entirely different discussion about economics and free markets for which I am not going to delve in to because we are fabric people and not economists.  But, in order to stay in business, all the quilt shop only fabric companies out there need to sell as much fabric as possible to whoever they can, excluding the big box chain stores.  However, every once and awhile a customer comes along who really rocks the boat like Craftsy and suppliers need to take a long hard look to determine if the risk/reward of selling a Craftsy is really worth it in the end.

This too reminds me of the complaints I have heard about Mass Drop.  They too sell fabrics very cheaply.  Our fabrics had been sold to them thru one of our distributors, but after a couple complaints and seeing how low they sell their fabrics, I made a corporate decision to not sell to Mass Drop ever again.  I kindly asked our valued distributors to do the same and they obliged.  I determined that it just wasn’t worth it! 

If a vendor decides to sell to Craftsy, they are rolling the dice in an already challenging selling environment.  I would suggest that all fabric vendors reevaluate their future with Craftsy now that the word is out or suffer the potential consequences which may trickle down to their bottom lines in the coming months.

That is all I have for you on this subject.  I would love to hear any further details you may know about this new Craftsy controversy.  I would also like to know if you plan on boycotting vendors that sell to Craftsy.  All other info welcome too.  I want to know what you think.

Thanks for your time
This Is Scott “NOT SELLING TO CRAFTSY EVER” Fortunoff          

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Fortunoff’s The Source vs. The Fortunoff’s Of Fabrics


I recently had the opportunity to travel through Florida with the local Studioe sales rep.   As we were driving down the street in Boca West we happened to have passed a store called Fortunoff’s. The rep pointed out the store and asked me the question that I have been hearing for my entire life. “Do you own that store?”  I chuckled.


 
I presume at this point that all of my blog followers know that my last name is Fortunoff.  Most people from New York are well aware of Fortunoff’s the retail store that has been around since 1922 selling anything from jewelry to outdoor furniture. 
 The Fortunoff’s of fabric (think Studioe, The Blank Quilting Corp., Henry Glass, A.E. Nathan & Fabric Editions), my immediate family, have nothing to do with the retail store.  We also have very little to anything to do with the “real” Fortunoff’s (lol) that own that store except for the fact that we are distantly related and share a last name.  There really aren’t that many of us with that name especially because some family members along the way changed their last names.  I think they too got annoyed being asked so many times if they owned the store.  Just a little side note, one family member changed his name to Fortune and the joke was that his wife was known as Miss-Fortune (ha, ha!).
 

So anyway, I wanted to relay a funny experience that I had related to my last name.  When I was about 15, my immediate family and I attended a family member’s wedding. It happened that those “real” Fortunoff’s were also in attendance.  So I did have the opportunity to meet the real owners.  We chatted for a little bit and then I mistakenly told Mrs. Fortunoff that sometimes when people ask me if I own the store, I tell them that I do.  She said that she already knew that.  Hmmm, I wondered what she meant. 
 
Then Mrs. F. proceeded to tell me how her son was working the counter at the Fortunoff’s jewelry store one day.  He was working with a customer who wanted to make a large purchase.  The friend found what he wanted and was getting ready to pay and here comes the funny part.  My friend (to this day, I still don’t know who it was) proceeded to signal to the salesman to come closer like he had a secret to share. 
 

Psst!   Psst!   As the salesman moved in, my “friend” said, “Hey, I am a friend of Scott’s, can I get a discount?”  Needless to say, no discount was given and I was pretty embarrassed. 
 

Until Next Week,
This is Studioe Scott and not Scott the Source
 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: The Quilt Market Conundrum


It has been a little while since I last discussed the ever exciting Quilt Market predicament.  I continue to get lots of calls and emails on this subject which is a good thing because it is still on everyone’s mind.  I hate to say it, but I don’t think this discussion is going away until there is some major change and unfortunately I don’t see that coming anytime soon.  The fact that I did not get one response from anyone at Quilt’s Inc. this entire time while blogging and speaking publicly about the problems with quilt market just shows that these people could care less about public opinion.  They just think this will fade away, but I personally think the attendance by vendors and quilt shop owners is going to start to drop precipitously and Quilt’s Inc. will be forced to take action or fold. 

This is the first year that I am starting to hear from people that they are not going to attend the May market.  I am talking about people that have had big booths at market in the past and are big players in this industry.  Also, those who typically have big footprints at market are reducing those footprints dramatically to reflect the real decrease in sales and attendance.  For those who have attended quilt market in the past, are you going this year in May or October or both? 

People are still feeling that the Quilt Market isn’t worth the time and the money to attend anymore.  In other words, the risk reward just isn’t there.  These are the questions that I am most frequently asked:  Are we attending market?  Or are we boycotting?

So what are the Jaftex Companies (Studioe Fabrics, The Blank Quilting Corp., Henry Glass Fabrics, A.E. Nathan & Fabric Editions) going to do?  As of right now, we are attending market.  Unfortunately, it is a necessary evil and one of the most valuable things about market is that we get to meet with our International distributors who we only get to see 2 times a year at each market…if they attend.  The problem this time around is that the dollar strength is hurting all of our foreign partners so badly that they too don’t feel a need to attend market.  Another reason for us not to attend.

However, this year we are doing quilt market differently than we ever did it before.  This year, we will not be participating in sample spree.  We will have fewer booths for all of our companies.  We will have fewer of our team members attending market and we will actively be bringing people in and out so as not to overspend on travel and hotel.  We are simplifying our booths so as to reduce that cost.  We will however be participating in schoolhouses.  That just about sums it up.  As for the future after that, we will just have to see what this quilt market brings, but if we have to, we will continue to downsize with the possibility of simply no longer attending.  We just aren’t there yet.  Stay tuned.  

Please share with me what you have planned and what you have heard.  We need to keep the pressure on. 

Thanks
Salt Lake City Scott
       

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Choo Choo Quilt Guild Here I Come


It has been a long time since my last speaking engagement in front of a quilt guild.  Recall my trip to speak in Jackson Hole Wyoming in late 2014.  Well, I am back.  This time I am staying a little more East where I am heading to Chattanooga, TN to speak with the Choo Choo Quilt Guild thanks to an invite from my sales rep in that territory.  Here is the announcement about the event.  If you are near Chattanooga, please come on down and hear what I have to say.  Maybe you will learn something or maybe I will learn something which wouldn’t be so bad either.

Way back in 2014 was when I was still having glossophobia issues (fear of public speaking), but since then I have been working hard to put this fear behind me.  Like anything else, practice makes perfect.  I am not perfect, but a lot more comfortable.  So I am ready for you Choo Chooers.  The one thing that I am sure going to want to find out is why they are called the Choo Choo Guild.  I will also want to pick the member’s brains to find ideas for future lines and business in general.  The knowledge gained from trips like this is invaluable because I don’t often get the chance to be in front of so many fabric consumers at one time.  I am very excited about the possibilities and the opportunity to meet all the Choo Chooers.  I sure hope that the members get a lot out of my visit.  

So what am I going to talk about?  I am not totally sure.  I hate to come to these events with prepared statements because that could get boring and I certainly didn’t travel all this way to bore everyone.  I could do that in New York!  What I really like to do is give a brief intro and then let the questions from the members help to form the discussions that we have.  Not only that, but I like the conversations to be interactive because aside from hearing what I have to say, I like to hear what everyone else has to say.  This brings me back to my joyous days in law school with the Socratic method…note the sarcasm.  I will certainly come bearing fabric gifts.  So stay tuned for my future blog when I discuss what went on at the event.  Hope to see you there!  Chattanooga here I come!  Choo Choo!

Wish me luck!

Scott            

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: December & January Sales Slowdown?

Do you believe that February is already here?  Time sure is flying by and personally I am happy to be putting December/January behind me. December is typically a slow month for receiving new orders and shipping orders as a lot of stores take inventory or just slow down in general for the holidays.  January, however, is typically when shops start ordering for the year ahead and things start to pick up again with the optimism of a new year.

This January unfortunately wasn’t as strong as hoped for our companies.  I have heard of more shops closing and we have received more cancellations of orders than normal.  Moreover, I have heard from many other suppliers, quilt shops owners, sales reps and retailers that they too have seen a slowdown in this time frame.  So, what gives?

I can definitely come up with some potential explanations for this slowdown, here are a few:  

It could be that consumers bought a lot of fabric towards the end of the year when it was on sale during the holidays.  Now their stashes are full and their needs are down…for the time being, but this too will pass….hopefully.  I do recall that something like this did occur in previous years.

It could be that the weather is keeping people from going to stores. We folks on the East coast recently got hit with an enormous snowstorm and many other locals have seen all sorts of wicked winter weather.

It could be the economy.  For those of us that follow the stock market or read the business section of the newspaper, how could you miss the pain that has been seen in the stock market since the beginning of the new year?  Are we headed for a recession?


 
I really can’t say for sure what the cause is, but I can make some suggestions on how to deal with the slowdown.  For me, on the corporate level, we will probably order a little less back up stock for future lines.  We may consider reducing the number of lines that we show from each company.  We will work on coming up with some promotions that benefit our customers and encourage them and their customers to buy our fabrics.  If we see a more protracted slowdown, we may even have to take more severe actions like firing staff or making more cuts to certain expenses.  I can tell you that we won’t be sitting around watching business drop precipitously without taking action.  You can’t be afraid to make changes to survive in the business world.  I know that we survived in business for 85 years because we tackled problems head on and didn’t just try to sweep them under the rug.  You should not be afraid to do the same.

For quilt shops and retailers selling fabric, I could offer some suggestions on how to deal with a slowdown, but for sure you the owners know better than I do:  

One suggestion would be to have some sort of event in your shop to create traffic.  Get the word out and come up with an event that people will want to attend.  “If you build it, they will come.”  

Another suggestion would be to use social media to inform people what is going on at your shop.  Make sure to entice people to come visit by advertising a variety of different fabrics and products so as to appeal to as many demographics as possible.  

Alternative suggestions are to cut down business hours or decrease staff.  

When business gets tough, it is time to hunker down and make some tough decisions.  Don’t be afraid to do what you need to do to survive. Unfortunately, the cause of this slowdown may be out of everyone’s control and we all need to hang in there as long as possible in hopes of a brighter future.

All that being said, good luck.  If you can think of anything that I can do to help you, please feel free to contact me.  Aside from that, I would love to hear your ideas on how to survive and/or why you think this slowdown is occurring….if you are actually feeling it.  As for consumers, I would like to hear about your current shopping habits and if they have changed or not and why?

Until Next Week,

Hopefully No Slowdown Scott