LOCAL BUSINESS STORY (Final Article): By Shraddha Gupta
On a bright sunny weekend, Mark Winer, the Vice President of Fabric Corner Inc., a mom and pop fabric store based in Arlington, is found strolling on the local streets of Newton, keenly gazing through the show windows of every clothing boutique store in the area.
With a small diary and a pen in his hand, he is cautiously making notes of the most prominent colors, prints and textures of latest collections, that are attracting customers into these shops in search of new looks and trends. He then calmly observes what they are buying and appreciating the most, making a rough draft of his next merchandise.
“The key to run a successful fabric business, is to understand the pulse of the people and the market, both at the same time. The products that these boutique stores are selling, and the trends that their customers are eventually buying, are directly promotional to what a fabric store like ours sources and sells ahead with profit,” said Mark.
Adding further, he also claimed, “Our biggest challenge is to maintain freshness in our merchandise. To to keep our customers engaged, we always have to be on our toes to introduce updated styles of fabrics every couple of months, based on constant market research”.
Being one of the oldest fabric stores in Massachusetts, the company today, gloats over 47 years of a successful history. Since its inception in 1968 by Mark’s father, the business has gone through several reinventions overtime, finally settling in for a highly niche target market, that of a conventional ‘hobbyist’, which has directly influenced the kind of trends that the store stocks.
“As fashion is a dynamic business with new trends coming and going each day, it is vital for us to understand the kind of crowd our store attracts and what is our target market, to source the right material for them”, he said. In Mark’s case, his 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 their own clothing and basically sew. “For them it is a hobby, an activity that mothers do with their daughters and sons, to build family relationships. It’s all about classics for them, to make things that can stay with them for long,” he added.
To avoid the possibility of dead stock from season to season, Mark tends to source trends that are a bit in the middle, not too contemporary, not too dated, and something that everyone can use. As he puts it, his taste is more towards the traditional side, and according to him, “Classics luckily always stay in fashion. For instance, we will always have a choice of liberty prints in the cottons sections, as that is one style that always remains in trend . Then there are the evergreen plaids, checks, and flower prints. Also thankfully, this is one category in which we don’t make too many mistakes”.
To stay ahead of the rest in market, Mark also makes it a point to read a lot of fashion magazines and surf online for fashion forecasts. Some of his favorite stores to visit for research are, Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, Lily, Liberty of London, Brooks Brothers for men, apart from the boutique stores in Newton.
“These clothing stores are a bit ahead of time than the fabric stores, which gives me the chance to bring in something that I know people are looking forward to buying. Also, I believe that if you stick with companies which are successful with their trends, you tend to go on the right track”, he concluded with confidence.