Labor Day in the United States was earlier this week. While many school districts around the country opened their doors in August, September always seems like back-to-school month to me. Since I run a business these days, I think of it as back-to-business month. You have four months to really rev up to meet those goals you set early this year.
While it is back to business for many of us, it has been a changing business landscape over the summer in the sewing, quilting and crafts fields. Here is a roundup of what has happened and my thoughts. It’s likely you already know about some of the changes.
1. In July, Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine announced that it was folding with its October/November 2016 issue. QNM, owned by F+W Media, was started in September 1969 by Bonnie Lehman at her kitchen table. That first issue cost 35 cents, and the magazine went on to be a leader in the industry. I don’t think the industry would be where it is today without her foresight and willingness to help it grow. I was a long-time subscriber and still have a stash of issues. Magazine publishing is a hard business. I focused on magazine publishing getting my masters’s and was in it for 20 years. Magazines thrive based on a variety of factors, including advertising and circulation. Advertising is what pays the bills for most magazines and in today’s environment the competition for the advertising dollar is steep. It’s not just from other print magazines. Ad dollars are spent on the Internet. Advertisers see where the buyers/readers are and go there. Today, so much is available on the Internet. What can stop other magazines from the same future as QNM? Support your favorite magazines. Tell the advertisers in them that you found them in the magazine. Current QNM subscribers will receive Quilting Arts magazine until the subscriptions expire.
2. In July, American Quilter’s Society announced that it will stop publishing books in 2017. AQS was formed in 1984 by Meredith and Bill Schroeder, who were collectors and publishers of books for collectors. The business went on to sponsor quilt shows, host a television show, and publish magazines. If you look at the quilt and sewing industry, you will find lots of competition for the crafter. I have always been amazed at the numbers of quilt and sewing books published each month, so it does not surprise me to see a shake-up in this area. Again, consumers are looking for how-to craft information, and, in addition to finding it in competing books, they can find it on YouTube or online classes. AQS has also found an audience online with its iQuilt online quilting classes. (ASQ is also reducing its number of sponsored shows to six from eight next year.)
3. Also in July, the International Machine Quilters Association closed its doors to the surprise of its members. The decision to dissolve both IMQA and the Machine Quilters Showcase was announced by the board on July 26. The association was started 20 years ago by Marsha Stevens, a pioneer in the machine quilting industry. Again, I don’t know the particulars and the website is no longer active. IMQA was a volunteer organization, so it relied on its members to run the association and put on its annual show. Something that becomes harder when you rely on volunteers. IMQA’s focus was on the business of machine quilting, and its members will miss that focus. (At the end of 2015, the National Quilting Association, another volunteer association, dissolved.)
4. In late August, Craftsy announced that it had laid off 24 employees in its video production end. Craftsy, long known for its video tutorials, had expanded into more new markets, including producing its own yarn and fabrics. Because of the growth in this area, the decision was made to slow down video production, according to John Levisay, its co-founder and CEO. This is the second layoff in one year in the video production area. (Additional information can be found here.)
4. This summer I also learned of quilt shops for sale or being closed. One is Spool in Chattanooga, Tn., which is owned by Maddie Kertay. Maddie wrote in her blog that the decision is so she can focus on the BadAss Quilters Society, which she founded nearly five years ago. And after nearly 20 years in business, New York City’s City Quilter is closing its doors in October. The owners, Cathy Izzo and Dale Riehl, have decided to retire. The timing was right as the rents in the city are high and the owners were not willing to gamble on a new long lease. They will keep the proprietary New York city-themed fabric, which they will sell online. An additional search on the Internet also leads to other shops without naming them. In my own area in the past few years we have seen shops close, shops open and shops change hands. While some closures came from bad business decisions along the way, others are just an example of the evolution of business. Some owners change their focus, others retire.
If I look at all the changes, I do not see this as a bad thing. During my long tenure in the industry, I have seen this happen before. The natural ebb and flow of business. Shops open and close; magazines and book publishers stop publishing; shows close their doors. It is about supply and demand. Sure the availability of learning on the Internet has something to do with this. In the end, the cream rises to the top. Our industry will thrive.
What does this mean for you as a business owner? I think it offers the impetus to go back and dig into your business. Ask yourself if you know your customer — who is she (or he) and how they want to be served.
Another important lesson for you as a business owner: Running your business requires making money and achieving your other objectives each day, week and month. It also involves seeing industry trends in advance and making the appropriate changes before you are between a rock and a hard place. That is really a critical difference between being an effective manager and being a leader. A good manager might say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” A great leader, by contrast, looks for ways to break open the business and make it better, even when the business is going well.