Help Beta Test Project 95′s Independent Fabric Shop Database

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Project 95 is a worldwide network of independent quilt and fabric shops, e-tailers and design studios who have joined forces to promote shopping independents.” The number refers to the 95 percent of sewists who make most or all of their purchases at chain stores. And we all know these stores cannot even begin to approach independent shops in customer service, product knowledge, and quality. Your local fabric shops are embattled on many fronts and need our support.

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Project 95 just launched the beta version of its humongous independent fabric shop database. Please help them make it better by testing it out and emailing your comments/additions to Sarah (contact info in the post).

Simply enter your zip code, how far you wish to travel, and up pops a Google map with every shop (including those online-only based in your area). You can zoom in for better view, and keep in mind you must click on the map pins to see the information. Don’t take it as gospel yet, since there may be several shops and designers listed that don’t have retail storefronts. But I found a couple shops in my area that I’d never heard of, so already it’s been of value.

Related: One of the comments echoed something I’ve been thinking about lately:

… To all fabric shop owners who might be reading — I am 100 times more likely to visit your store if you have a website that has at least your current contact information and looks like it has been updated recently. So many of them are outdated, incorrect, have newsletters from 2005, or don’t even exist so I have no idea what type of store you are or if you are even still in business. I Google everything first and I’m sure I’m not alone. I recommend you just get a BLOG, like from wordpress, typepad, blogger, etc and keep a monthly journal/newsletter of what’s going on in your shop along with your contact info. You can even register a domain name for $8 (godaddy.com) and forward it to your blog! I’m mostly looking to find out about classes/events and the type of fabric you carry. I know it’s not the first thing on everyone’s mind but there is a whole new generation of “Sewists” out there and we could be easily reached by something like this! I WANT to shop local, I hate the poor quality fabric and poor service at the big box stores, but I can only put so much effort into it. You must also do part of the work so that I can find you …

While I support anyone’s right to remain Luddites*, I do think it’s a BIG missed opportunity when craft/fabric stores do not take advantage of the web — blogs, social networking sites, email lists, anything to keep customers informed of new merchandise, sales, classes, and to get feedback on what buyers are looking for. If you’re web-savvy and your local fabric shop isn’t, it can’t hurt to offer your services, perhaps for a trade?

p.s. just learned that the term “Luddite” originally referred to weavers protesting the use of mechanical looms during the Industrial Revolution. How apropos!

7 Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, Kim! We appreciate your helping get the word out for us. And it still is in beta-testing stage, and we’re looking at ways to improve the search. Also, it’s just for the U.S. for the testing phase–international is in the works.

  2. Lili says:

    I completely agree about having an online presence even for small brick and mortar fabric shops. Most traditional quilt stores do the work to produce a newsletter, why not put it online?

    A friend of mine has recently started a group blog, for yarn store owners, to encourage yarn stores to establish an online presence. Its new but I think it will offer a good support system to creative shop owners just starting out on the internet.

    http://yarnstores.wordpress.com/

  3. Kris says:

    Thanks so much for this link! I was in the process of assembling this kind of map for where I live!

  4. Barbara says:

    I’m curious where the 95% statistic comes from, it seems rather high.

  5. Marsha Riti says:

    Hey I live near Silk Road and Love it!!! This is a great application I hope other people find it useful too.

  6. Marilyn McDaniel says:

    I agree with your reader’s comment about a Web presence for small shops. So many times I have googled a store to find out when it’s open, and then – nothing. Even one page with directions, hours, and a brief statement regarding inventory would be very helpful.

  7. Sarah says:

    @Barbara The 95% figure is a result of over 12 years of research and tracking of the fabric industry by The Fabric Shop Network–the trade association for independent fabric shops. And, keep in mind, it’s is 95% of shoppers, not purchases.