The end of the affair

Remember the Yarn Affair concept?

The fledgling business idea didn’t get off the ground. The organizer just sent out an e-mail today announcing that they decided not to go forward, no reason given. But apparently she may be interested in allowing someone else to “take over” (does this mean selling the mailing list? domain name? suppliers list? licensing them?).

This started me thinking about other knitting-related money-making schemes that take advantage of a pre-existing personal relationship, like the local stitch-and-bitch. The big roadblock with with a Yarn Affair-type business is that at the outset, the person in the role of franchisor/wholesale distributor has to make a major cash outlay (or incur a significant debt) in order to provide products that are competitive with locally available goods. Otherwise, the local “consultants” have nothing to sell.

But why sell anything at all? Why design your business model to make money directly off the individual knitters? And why enter into competition with established mills, distributors, and retailers with their “direct from the mill” private label brands?

Don’t compete with ‘em, join ‘em. What I haven’t seen yet is an advertising feature that targets stitch-and-bitch groups directly. Imagine: one advertising coordinator sets up a biannual or quarterly print newsletter, and a pile of sample cards — preferably slightly in advance of the season — to sent directly to the coordinator of every stitch-and-bitch group, for free. The advertising coordinator sells ad space in the package to the distributors and mills. If they want to be included, they pay money and send enough sample cards or sample skeins to represent their yarn line. If the knitters want the yarn, they go to online or bricks-and-mortar shops that carry that line (a customized list of local sources could be included in each package), not a sales rep who infiltrated herself into the local group.

The value provided to the manufacturers by the advertising coordinator is the editorial content (bought, of course), and the mailing list — not just some easily-compiled e-mail list that anyone firing off cease-and-desist e-mails can grab, but real, physical, mailing addresses.

Yes, it’s a half-baked idea. What do you want? I’m supposed to be working.

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4 Responses to The end of the affair

  1. 3c says:

    You know, if I’m understanding the model, this is kinda like the “Yarn Store in a Box” concept that built Halcyon’s mail order (and later, web-based) business. It was something like a box of color cards for all their yarns, plus quarterly updates to the cards, and a newsletter, but I’m not sure how it works now. This model would use SnB’s as the subscribers instead of individuals and more than a single store’s offerings? I think it would be hard to keep a list of local suppliers truly current (plus, what if no one in a given locality carries a particular yarn at all?) and equally hard to manage a gazillion little localized ads, but what if there were recommended online sources for the stuff, with maybe a few of the larger metro areas having local bricks-and-mortar participation? Larger vendors with a web presence might have more of a marketing budget to supply cards and buy space or become ‘valued partner’ (whatever the current lingo is), plus anyone anywhere can order from them via phone or computer?

    It’s a fun idea to play with….

  2. Kristi says:

    Sure, I wouldn’t turn down free yarn sample cards. I also like it better than having a sales rep taking orders at every meeting. I imagine an eager rep always there with a clipboard full of order forms would make me feel a subtle yet constant & annoying pressure to place an order.

  3. j. says:

    Well, if the project was announced generally via a website or advertisement in the usual print or electronic channels, and then interested groups signed up and provided a mailing address… (hello, privacy policy.)

  4. Janice in GA says:

    You’d want to have an opt-in system, though. Otherwise, you’re just spamming.