How to Stock a Yarn Shop

How to Stock a Yarn Shop

Mar 02, 2023Dana Chadwell

One of the most fun, least fun things I do is choose what we stock. I love yarn, unabashedly. I care DEEPLY about quality, functional tools. And I have OPINIONS.  It seems like it would be a breeze, right? Just buy all the stuff I love and hang it on the walls!

Alas, I find that this is not a sound practice for establishing and maintaining an inventory. Nobody wants to shop at the "ALL GREEN YARN SHOP."

I started out with a spreadsheet of types of yarn, sorted by weight, that I thought were absolutely required to get the doors open with a respectable stock level. On opening day, all I could see was "holes" in my stock -- yarns that I thought I needed to have in order to be a fully stocked yarn shop. Since October 1, I've been strategically increasing my stock levels to fill those holes. 

How do I figure out what's missing? I listen to you. Whenever I have a hard time matching a customer to a just right yarn, I really analyze why it was difficult. Sometimes, they really are looking for a super-specific color to match some existing item, and there's no way to really stock every variation of every color in every yarn in every weight. But sometimes, they'll be asking for something that I truly believe we need a better selection of or that we really don't have at all and need. For those must-have yarns, I have been strategically filling in the holes since day one, and I try to bring in a BIG color line any time I'm stocking what I consider to be a core line of yarn. I've brought in the full color line of several of my customer-favorite yarns and it has been a great advantage for me and my customers.

With tools, notions, and accessories, I've tried to always have all the must haves, and have been carefully expanding into the nice-to-have and fun-to-have items over time. I try to keep an ear to the ground in the industry whenever a new doo-dad comes out so that I can have some fun stuff and new stuff all the time. I also have to keep in mind how much stock I need to have of any new line of tools I bring in and where and how I'll display it (**squints at my needle display**).

But I am ALWAYS listening to you. I absolutely hear your suggestions. I research items you request. I ask for samples from yarn and accessory companies and test them out. Sometimes I decide it's not right for this store, that I don't like the quality of it, or that the required minimum purchase is unreasonably high for something that I'm not sure will sell. But sometimes I go all in on a new product or yarn once I get my hands on it.

I'm fortunate to be in an industry where the manufacturers, distributors, and salespeople are accessible and willing to share samples, and are happy to talk though my questions and address my concerns. The yarn industry is an industry of very small companies, and the level of personal contact I get with my suppliers is extraordinary. 

I also try to stock some fun and appealing non-yarn-specific items -- locally made soap and candles, great tote bags and cases, stickers, stationery, and appealing little gift items. That's a part of my stock that expands more slowly, as I always focus on the core mission of the shop -- to serve and expand the local yarn crafting community.

Just know that I'm always listening to you. If you visit a shop that you love, find a yarn you can't live without, or try out a tool that makes your life so much easier, tell me! I promise I'll check it out!

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