I wrote “The Ideal Crocheting Customer” for Yarn Market News. This was the January 2007 issue. The three steps yarn shop owners can take are still relevant today.
This is the second of six News from the CGOA columns I wrote beginning with the May 2006 issue. Text of my original, updated submission follows.
The Ideal Crocheting Customer
If the ideal yarn shop customer is enthused, skilled, confident, open-minded, and spendy, find and keep these “supercustomers” with a few simple steps. My focus is on the crocheting supercustomer. Few people seem to know how to reach this untapped market.
Step 1. Sharpen your Focus
Depending on your locale, you’ll find big differences between the crocheting general public and CGOA members. The latter, especially conference-going types, are the avid connoisseurs of the crochet world. They’re likely to:
- take an artistic approach
- know how to read crochet patterns and how to crochet clothing
- have more funds to play with
- be well-educated
- aspire to design professionally
- be fiber savvy.
Step 2. Reel ‘em in! Before the Competition Does!
Who is already serving this market? By default it is primarily the yearly CGOA conferences and internet groups. An intensely gratifying sense of community is not available to them locally year-round. In other words, no one locally, yet.
What many don’t realize–whether they be shop owners, craft store execs, or the many disaffected crocheters themselves–is that crocheters simply don’t have community pit-stops. That’s what most yarn shops are for knitters. Contrary to popular belief, the big craft chains do not serve this function. Whether or not a crocheter buys hooks or yarn there, the craft store is not an irresistibly cozy community magnet for crocheters to “hook up” with each other and stay in the loop. Not yet, anyway.
The need is there and it’s increasing. Proactive yarn shop owners who are community builders for local crocheters now will be locked in with fiercely loyal hookers in the event that the chain stores decide to do the same.
Offer enticements that you’ve seen work for knitting groups—a discount on purchases, or refreshments, for example. If classes work well in your shop, consider helping a chapter bring in a guest teacher. CGOA chapters tend to be education-focused.
No CGOA chapter in your area? Step 3 is for you.
Step 3: Turn Existing Customers into Supercustomers
Be the shop that starts a new chapter, or helps interested customers or employees do so. Then, brag about it. Post a simple sign near a crocheted swatch about CGOA or how to join your chapter. Do you do email blasts? Add a recurring “Proud to be a supporter of the Crochet Guild of America, click here for more” link.
Many yarn shops I’ve visited don’t have much information available (if any) to customers about CGOA. At yarn shop “Knit’n’Bitch” groups I’ve gotten blank looks when I mention a conference. Yarn shop owners think I’m referring to TNNA shows or Stitches Expos. Customers are often unaware that crochet and knitting guilds exist, or else they picture guild members as doddering grandmothers.
The reality is that serious crocheters attend CGOA’s Chain Link conferences to stay current and to be creatively challenged. The sense of community is intense and electric.
The Conference Quotient
Why should you put a tent sign near the register announcing an upcoming Chain Link conference? Crocheting customers who start attending guild conferences will:
- sell for you! After the intoxicating exposure to information, authors, and products at conferences, they return home with stories that excite their fellow customers who didn’t attend. Their fresh enthusiasm for your shop items is contagious.
- become skillful and confident quickly. They’ll not only need much less in-store hand-holding, but they can provide valuable help to other customers while you’re helping someone else!
- take on more challenging projects and are less likely to have stalled projects at home that inhibit new yarn purchases.
The conference-goer is a shop owner’s dream customer who already has the true community spirit. S/he’s just waiting for a way to hook up locally, instead of going online while waiting for the next conference to come around.
Since 1995, CGOA has run at least one Chain Link conference a year (sometimes two). That’s over 20 years, which makes it the longest-running crochet event—often the only crochet-focused event. If you as a yarn shop owner haven’t yet attended one yourself, now is a great time.
Don’t feel you have a good sense for how to have crocheters beating a path to your door? This is how to get in the loop fast. These conferences are where the serious Crochet Culture happens. Don’t make your crocheting customers rely on the internet for community for the rest of the year.
Immerse yourself in the thriving crochet culture. Witness firsthand which classes, teachers, designers, vendors, and products generate the most buzz. Meet the designers or national-level teachers your customers want to learn from in your shop. Some of the most prominent crochet designers have actively supported CGOA for years. They’re very accessible to their fans at conferences. This keeps the inspiration stoked, which pays off for the shop owner who takes advantage of it.
A few yarn shop owners have been attending CGOA conferences all along. I have a feeling, however, that many others do not see it for the business-savvy trip it is.
This article is the second of six “News From the CGOA” columns I wrote for Yarn Market News. Find links to all six in the Advice for Yarn Shops blog post.