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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sewing Patterns - What's happening?

Pattern Sales - What has happened??? What I'm writing here is just MY OPINION - and I invite your comments on this post!

I've been selling independent designers' patterns retail since 1990 when I first opened my retail store. (In fact, I also produced patterns for women in the heirloom sewing style/industry in the late 8o's and early 90's.)

I believe the designers seek to offer something different, and more 'interesting' than the 'Big' pattern companies. For myself, I also sought to 'teach' through my patterns with wonderful, COMPLETE directions. The main companies then included Vogue, Butterick, McCall's and Simplicity. Burda, Neue Mode, & Kwik Sew have now added to those major players in a significant way.

Price? Well - we all know that even though the Big companies have generous pricing, that they are ALWAYS on sale - everywhere from $.99 to 75% off the top Vogue pricing - and almost everyday. When they're not - well another SALE is just around the corner, and us prudent sewers await! Independent pattern pricing ranges everywhere from $8 (rare) to $20 and more. Sales from the designers are rare (with the exception of expo show specials).

Instructions? Well... of all of them, I can only personally 'brag' on two to three lines for better than normal instructions. In general, I see - and hear of problems with everything from pattern pieces that don't align, to lack of any uniform sizing, etc. In fact, these 'problems' led to my decision to add value and help insure success with this investment by adding my "Londa's 2 Cents Worth" - writing a review, and adding to the directions, clarifying, teaching, etc. to include with the patterns sold at my sites that I'd personally stitched up. This became the backbone of my Londa's Fashion Club.

Marketing? Regrettably, even as a 'seller' for the designers, usually I find out about a new pattern issue in a magazine ad. Hardly any support or merchandising exists on the part of the designers. But then - they like to sew and design, not market. I understand that. Regardless, a little help would be great. Only a handful do this at all! Makes it kinda hard as a retailer...
Also - with slow pattern sales, it is very, very hard to keep patterns that might be ordered in stock, as all have minimum orders that have to be placed - so where does that leave me if I get an order for a pattern I don't have - but really only need that ordered pattern, as I have the others in that designers' line well stocked??? Very few work with distributors - and the few that do, even their lines are not fully represented, so that is not a solution either. I'm sure you can see the problem that puts retailers like myself in...

Design? In general, the designs offered at what are really high priced patterns really aren't anything different from what can be found in the 'big' companies. If I'm going to spend some extra bucks on a pattern, it needs to be something DIFFERENT! IN fact, some of the better designers (Connie Crawford, Marcy Tilton, etc. are with one of the BIG companies now anyway.

I'm bored to tears with simple T-shirts, tops, simple skirts and endless 'perfect' pant patterns. Hey - for me, I BUY those boring garments! AND, I do so at prices that I can't afford to take my time sewing them instead. Just Dec. 24 I the "After Christmas" Sale at Chico's caught my eye. I dashed my hubby off to the coffee shop, and In I went. Half off of already reduced pricing........I left with a pair of velvet knit pull-ons for $19, black and grey poly/rayon fine, wonderful gabardine trousers with back tailored pocket, invisible zipper (nicely inserted, and stabilized, even with a ribbon around the bottom of it inside), and a great facing treatment ('interfaced' with slightly stretched firm elastic!) - LONG enough too! AND - golly gee - I'm a Size 2! (Would have been a 1.5 if they'd had them - but hey, I sew so I can take them in a bit! ) What did I pay for these $88 regularly priced (and worth that in my book!) trousers? $19 each!

Confessions: Over the last year, I've also become a big fan of 2nd hand ReSale Shops. Here in town, Karen's is just great. I've gotten like new pants, jeans, etc. for - sinfully LOW investment! It's great!!!!

Time is my issue! Running business and this Grandma Duty thing leaves me painfully little time to what time I do have must be spent to nourish my soul - and that is my own designing of FUN, CREATIVE JACKET sewing...whether it be my sweatshirt jacket variety, or other jackets. I must add, that I also took many of the Chico jackets into the dressing room - only to be pitifully disappointed! Lack of interfacing, pulled linings, etc.... VERY disappointing!
The truth is, I don't NEED many clothes - my lifestyle just doesn't support that. Hey- I work from home! My game plan 3-4 years ago was to stitch away on great garments, testing patterns, and making great samples - then to sell them at my online website devoted to that, and at fine art fairs around. That worked for awhile - but comparatively, the sewing expos are far more monetarily successful than these types of shows! Also - business has grown to the extent that it is often 3 or 4 pm before I'm done with business and would have time to sew anyway!

Just me? I really don't think so. I see fewer and fewer of the designers around at the expos - at least the ones I've attended. I know the expenses of doing these shows, and I can easily see that selling patterns alone in a booth would be a hard way to go to have a 'successful' show. The successful ones are selling great fabrics, or something else as well. I load up a cargo van to the hilt with a variety of different products to attract and keep buyers in my booth. I've lugged boxes of these patterns to the shows, only to lug most of them back home again.
I note some are not advertising in the print magazines any longer - understandable - you wouldn't believe the prices of those small ads!

Reviews? Rarely do I see the independent patterns reviewed at Pattern these days. Hummmmm....... I see more reviews for 'self drafted patterns' - the pattern-making software is definitely making inroads, and hurting these pattern sales - at least it appears so to me.

New Sewers? Yep - there's lots of them - and HOW EXCITING! Take a peak at They are re-cycling, sewing by hand or on very inexpensive, basic machines, re-fashioning, and doing their own thing! I can't see this crowd spending $16 for a simple pant pattern - no way! 99 Cents - yea...

My Business Reaction/Decision is to sell out all in-stock patterns EXCEPT what I consider to be valuable, creative JACKET and VEST patterns.

All in stock pants, skirts, and dress patterns are at 40% SAVINGS - and this went into effect December 24, 2007 -
Have Fun Shopping!
Your comments are most welcome. I'm anxious to know your feelings/experiences, etc. Women can always change their minds! In the end, good business practice rules where I invest my inventory dollars.

1 comment:

Pinkscissors said...

I agree with just about everything you said, Londa. The think most of the independent designers have really lost their design edge. The patterns are very simple designs and instructions are either lacking or really convoluted.

I purchased Christine Jonson's Princess Wrap top from you and received your 2 Cents Worth. It was fabulous! I must say Christine's pattern was really good, but your 2 Cents Worth was very helpful. Some of the information is transferable to other garments I will be sewing. Thanks, Londa!