Saturday, January 17, 2015

selling like hotcakes

small town store front

Growing up we made most of our own clothes. In our small town, the local fabric shop had everything we needed, because if it wasn't there we didn't know about it, therefore didn't need it, and there was nowhere else to go.
There were bolts of fabrics for making clothes, polyester that wouldn't wrinkle, corduroy, denim, wool, double knit in bright colors and patterns, after all it was the late 60s and like they said - anything goes. Oh and those giant pattern books!
There were no quilt shops back then, quilts were something our grandmothers had made, old fashioned frayed things made in hard times when there weren't so many pretty fabrics like now.
The little fabric stores tried to stay in business, but competition with the big box fabric stores and cheap store-bought clothes pushed many of them out.
Then in the 80s quilt shops started popping up here and there, selling pretty cotton fabrics for making quilts. People young and old wanted to revive quilt making, learn the skills of their ancestors that had been all but lost.
Around that time I was out of college and looking for a job, I ended up working for a fabric manufacturer. I was the only girl on the sales team, and got the worst route to travel, a few dying fabric stores and a couple of new quilt stores, traveling winding roads through rural Americana.
The fabric company would mail out swatches of their new line, all different colors and patterns, encouraging the fabric stores to order bolts and bolts to sell. It was my job to follow up the mail-out and stop by the stores to take orders. I would ply them with our free stuff like yardsticks and tape measures. The complaint was always the same, the swatches were too small to tell anything about the fabric.
One day I went back to the factory and out to the floor where the fabric was being made and convinced the foreman to give me the ends they cut off the giant rolls. I made up a sample sales kit of 5" squares of the latest fabric line to take back to the stores. The store owners loved them!  They wanted to keep the sample pack of squares to look over. So I made up more kits and gave one to each of my stores. Orders came flying in for the new fabrics. On my next round of visits I was surprised to see that some of the shop owners had used the 5" squares to make a sample quilt to display, which sold even more fabric. I was at top of the sales board in the break room!
I got to know a lot of nice folks in those little shops. The shop owners would show me what they were working on, told me how they loved the little sample kits because they didn't have to cut the squares, and that they were all coordinating colors and patterns, making it easy to put together in a quilt, and when could I bring more, different colors?
Being on the road that much, you get to know all the good places to eat. Small town diners are the best. After my last stop, I sat at the diner counter eating a piece of pie, thinking about what I had just learned…
So the ladies like these pre-cut fabric pieces, interesting. I thought a lot about this and then convinced the boss to cut up some of the beautiful bolts of fabric and package them into 5" square kits - and they sold like hotcakes!  Yes, just like yummy hotcakes... we should name the fabric square kits something delicious and irresistible like cookies or tarts. Light bulb moment. The ideas then started pouring in like glaze on a hot donut. Why don't we make different sizes of pre-cut fabrics and name them after something yummy, like say cakes and pies and donuts! 

Of course this story is fiction, but the Moda company has gone and done just that, with other fabric companies following suit. You can get Layer Cakes, Jelly Rolls, Honey Buns, and Turnovers at the Moda Bake Shop or your favorite fabric store!

Layer Cake - 40 pieces in 10" x 10" cuts
Jelly Roll - 40 strips 2-1/2" x 44"
Honey Bun - 40 strips 1-1/2" x 44
Turnovers - 80 pieces in 6" triangle cuts

PRECUT fabrics, what marketing genius! There are so many ways to buy fabric now, bundled up into little packages, all matching and cute and with such delicious names. It's no wonder I get so hungry when shopping for fabric online. But they also have the FAT eighths and FAT quarters which is what I will be if I eat all of these yummy treats. Oh wait, these delicious fabric portions are calorie free!

Jelly Roll®, Layer Cake®, Honey Bun® and Turnover® are registered trademarks of Moda Fabrics/United Notions. ©2009-2014 Moda Bake Shop


Buddy said...

As I have always said, you are the writer in the family, the storyteller and the one with vision.....I just work here. Well Done!!Your Partner! Buddy

Linda J said...

You really had me believing this was true, Susan! But you know, maybe that is how it came about or something like that? Then people started coming up with all sorts of projects to utilize them, little quick tricks.

And tell Buddy I think he is a good writer as well or at least has the gift of gab and then writes like he talks.

Sharon McCartney said...

Your story was great. I thought it was real!!! I remember when we where young at Mother Hanie's house you always was busy making project books. I can not wait to receive your top selling novel... So, get busy Cuz.

Lainee said...

What a great story!

I've heard talk of another quilt shop opening in town...let's hope it's not just a story.