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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Official "Buyers"

Rick and I will be making another trip to the wholesale fabric shop in Pembroke this week. I've never really thought of myself as much of a shopper ... I go looking for a specific item, like a pair of shoes for back to school, or a pair of sneakers every other summer. Every few years, I'll buy a bag of multi-colored summer socks, or take a trip up to Freeport, Maine to find wool socks for the winter. I don't have the knack for looking at clothes on a rack and figuring out which of them would fit me well. I tend to buy the same clothes over and over ... dungarees in the men's department, turtleneck jerseys or mock turtle sleeveless for summer wear. Whichever is on sale is the one I decide is right for me. And now that I'm retired I don't need to think about school clothes and can simply wear what I already have on hand. What a relief!

But shopping for fabric - that is a different thing altogether.  It's a little overwhelming to walk into a building with four floors of fabrics, plus notions, and crates full of batting and remnants sold by the pound. It took a bit of getting used to, but I'm beginning to know where to look for certain items. And I'm learning to remember to bring a specific list with me, and cross things off when I either find them or see them and decide I don't need them. Most important is having Rick with me, for he remembers where we've already been and what we're looking for on a certain floor.

In any fabric shop I'm used to always buying a bit more than I think I need, because yes, I have been the quilter looking for just one more row of that certain fabric for a nearly-finished border. But in the warehouse, most of what I buy comes in bolts of 10 or 15 yards. So the dollars add up quickly! The workers will, for a very small fee of $1.00 per bolt, split a bolt in half. That's what I've been doing with some of our first bolts, to add some variety without overbuying anything. Until we see a steady customer base we're buying blind when building our stock.

I will shop for my customers at the warehouse if what they need is what I could also sell in my shop. If they want just a few yards of a certain fabric, and I have to buy at least 7 or 10 yards, it has to be something I believe others will want to buy as well. And it will have to be in combination with other fabric and notion shopping  for our own business, because there is a minimum purchase amount for each shopping trip. I'll talk with customers as they visit the shop and invite them to search the warehouse on-line catalog for notions, threads and such, and perhaps a bolt of fabric that we can split.

A salesman called a week or so ago and introduced himself to me and asked if he might come by to show me fabric samples. I told him we were working with the warehouse in Pembroke, and he said he is, too. So I invited him to come, and he brought in large portfolios of fabric samples. Truly, I think he had a Mary Poppins' bag, for he pulled sample after sample until my entire cutting table was covered about twelve inches deep! He had many of the fabrics we'd seen in Pembroke, and new fabrics due to be released this spring. I decided to order half a dozen bolts with him of what is called "blender" fabrics ... small prints that coordinate with the dominant blocks in a quilt. They will be delivered by UPS, and we'll know then how much the shipping weight is.

Rick and I may, in time, be comfortable ordering by telephone or email from Pembroke and having fabrics shipped to us. Right now, when we go down and buy several bolts of fabric we think we are saving a lot on shipping cost. We estimated, using the federal mileage reimbursement figure, that each time we travel down to the warehouse we are using about sixty dollars in reimbursement or deductible terms. Until I'm able to purchase fabrics without touching them or holding them side by side, we'll continue to shop in person. A day on the highway with Rick is always a pleasant day, capped off with a brownie and lunch on the way home.

We plan on running the Quilters' Quarters and Wooden Toy and Gift for the next few decades; the characters in my new mystery series, Helen and Henry, are foreshadowing folks whom Rick and I might become in time. It's like writing a script of what we'd like our future to look like.  And when something is written down, it's not forgotten and can become a road map of where we want to be. That's a powerful feeling!



  1. Terry I just got to this post today. I truly do not know where the time hoes but I swear I used to get so much more done when I lived up North years ago. Still not sure if it is South Florida or MS but I still don't get to finish much of what I set off to do. I utterly enjoyed this post it is nice to hear other sellers going through the same things. This weekend I was a vendor at the Hammocks Middle School Rummage Sale. I had quiet a bit of things form Pixies Closet I wanted to get rid of and very low prices so I figured why not try it. I paid the 25.00 feel to rent my 10x10 space. It has been two years since I dealt with the public in sales. I chose things that would sell at low prices to take with me.I realized two very important things:
    1. that I still have a knack for what people like in and specifically in what areas. I knew where I was going and although EVERYONE had a suggestion as to what I should lug out with me,
    a. I took into consideration the area the school was in for the social economical criteria on what they would spend.
    b. also keeping in mind the demographics in that area as to what would be liked more. I know that sounds a bit stereotyping but marketers do it all the time.

    2. I still have a knack to sell and to approach people to make the sale.

    a. I knew when to back off because the person didn't want information but to shop alone and not feel watched. Although in these types of outside sales you always have to be aware of things that get stuck to peoples sleeve and accidently fall into purses. :-)
    b. the buyer that does want to be talked to and kind of given the ok to buy and wants the extra attention and information.

    These are important points because if you're wrong and don't read the buyer correctly you might end up bringing everything back home with you. Kind of like choosing fabric I guess. I'm pleased to say that Pixies Closet did quite well considering everything that was sold ran approximately $3-16 and we almost made 200.00 taking away the 25.00 spot. Also the event was only 7-noon. Just proved I was right on because the very few pieces I took that were at the 20.00 ALL came right back home with me. I'm glad I went with my instincts. Since SPMS I second guess myself a lot I am just glad I did not do that this time.

    This was not only a very profitable Saturday for Pixies but moreso for Restore Hope with MS that is receiving 60% of the profit. I well I got so much more out of it; confidence!

    Thanks for sharing Terry!!!

    1. Thanks for sharing this post and your thoughts on marketing. Rick and I are happy with the new direction of our shop, and enjoy having people come to see us at the shop. Be well, Liset!