Selling fashion fabrics to the conventional ‘HOBBYST’

LOCAL BUSINESS STORY (Previous Draft): By Shraddha Gupta

Located literally on the corner street of Mass Avenue in Arlington, is Fabric Corner Inc., a mom and pop fabric store that gloats over its 47 years of successful history.  Since its inception in 1968, the business has gone through several reinvention overtime, finally settling in for a highly niche target market, that of a ‘hobbyist’.

“My market is mostly made of local residents, who are very involved in sewing and like to knit, people who like to crochet, to quilt or to make clothing and basically sew”, said Mark, the owner and also the mind and heart of the store. Even though the store caters to a variety of clientage such as students, designers and home decorators, it is the residential community of Massachusetts that brings in its maximum revenue.

According to Mark, sewing today is not out of need, it is really more of a hobby, and a luxury item. As compared to before, everybody used to sew to make their own clothes because it was cheaper to sew, but it not cheap today. “People do it to keep their hands busy, keep their minds active, and it’s a good stress relief after a long day of work when you come home, sit behind the machine and maybe make a skirt or a dress. A great thing about sewing is that mothers can do it together with their kids, so it’s a great activity to build family relations”, he added enthusiastically.

Amongst a wide range of fabric types, the evergreen ‘cottons’ are the store’s most popular fabric category that stay in demand all around the year. Selling at an affordable price of 12 to 13 dollars a yard, customers use cotton fabrics to make all sorts of products, be it a skirt, a dress, bags, coats, or ponchos and raincoats with specialized laminated cottons.

The harsh New England winters also seem to have no effect on the store’s cotton market as people like to layer their self-made cotton clothing with other woolen cover-ups in the winter months. “Even our wools come at a reasonable cost of mid 20 dollars. So if we consider that a wool skirt in the market probably costs around 200 dollars, to make it yourself you would need around 1.5 yards of fabric that you can easily get for around 50 dollars, which is a big saving”, said Mark.

While keeping it simple and small is Mark’s key to a successful enterprise, he also agrees that fashion indeed is a dynamic business, with new trends and looks floating in and out of the fabric market all the time. Carefully incorporating the changing needs of the consumer in his collections, he reworks his merchandise 5 to 6 times in a year, always rolling in a new look or two. “I tend to buy trends and looks that are a little bit in the middle and something that everyone can use. My taste is more towards the traditional side, and classics luckily always stay in fashion. Also thankfully, this is one category in which we don’t make too many mistakes,” he explained.

In order to keep himself up-to-date with trends, he visits a lot of fashion stores regularly, looking at what is in stock and mostly what people are actually buying. To stay ahead of the rest in market, he added, “I also read a lot of fashion magazines and surf online for new looks and colors. I visit stores such as Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, Lily, Liberty of London, Brooks Brothers for men and also some boutique stores in Newton. I believe that if you stick with companies which are successful with their trends, you tend to go on the right track. Also, as these clothing stores are a little bit ahead of time than the fabric stores, I can therefore go out and see what is actually selling, and then look for similar stuff for my store”.

After almost 4 decades of catering to a highly fashion conscious yet conventional customer, Fabric Corner Inc. is striving to keep its business small and focused to the local sewer, by buying smaller quantities of fabrics and in return having a lot more choices of its consumer.


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