This week I was involved in a bit of a perfect storm of occurrences, from a conversation with a friend, to a shoe shopping expedition, to reading a business article, all of which led me to wonder ‘What makes people keep coming back to a brand?’ and then ‘What drives them away?’
The photo at the top of this post is from Remnant Kings on Argyle St in Glasgow that I took some time last year. I can remember this shop from when I was first a student in the city 18 years ago (um, eeek!), and I can’t even begin to describe how different it was then. Light and airy were definitely not words I would use to describe how the shop was then, but it was at least a bit of a treasure trove as it was packed to the gunwales with dressmaking fabrics of all sorts, piled up somewhat precariously in every nook and cranny forming a sort of maze from door to door. A few short years later they decided that they weren’t really making it with what they had and they entered what I can only begin to describe as their annus horribilis. Actually it was more anni horribiles, as they spent several years in a kind of weird place selling costume accessories and an odd selection of dressmaking fabric. Gone was the fair sized selection of bridal fabric, to be replaced by lycra and netting and… well, other oddities. The next reinvention included selling gifts. We’ll gloss over that period too. Finally, a couple of years ago, we got to the above – a redesign of the shop layout, a rethink on the fabrics and finally they stocked things that I actually wanted to buy again!
When I posted the photo on Instagram, there were definite expressions of jealousy from my followers who wished their fabric shops looked as good, but I will admit that in the caption and replies I didn’t mention the decade or so they’d spent in the wilderness. Why did I keep going back? Well to be honest in their dubious years I didn’t really unless I was desperate for a spool of thread or a zip and didn’t have time to hike up to the other fabric shop nearly a mile away across the city centre.
Because there’s a small chain of Remnant Kings shops, I suspect there was support for this branch from the other shops through the hard times, but I admit I was surprised that the Argyle St branch weathered the storm every time I passed it during those lean years. Although the Remnant Kings brand had been around since the 1940s, the Argyle St shop just wasn’t commanding the loyalty in the noughties that such an established local business might expect. I wonder if that’s where many LQS’s go wrong, they expect to keep everything the same as it always was, and for the same customers to keep coming back because they’ve been there for so long as an established brand.
When did I return to being a loyal customer? Well I was already hanging out with their home decor fabric branch across the river to buy bag making supplies, but then a friend started to work for Remnant Kings and they started to expand into quilting fabric that was far more to my taste than that in the other fabric shop, so I started heading back into their city centre shop. Had my friend not gone to work there though, I might never have set foot in it again – I no longer work in the city centre and to be honest, hanging out ‘in town’ of a weekend is something I rank up there with ‘getting wisdom teeth pulled’ or ‘the Chinese water torture’ in things I like to do. Now, if I’ve walked along the river to the Clyde Place branch for bag making supplies on a sunny Saturday, I will often change my route home to take in the Argyle St shop, just in case there’s something exciting that’s come in that I *need*.
So what makes you keep returning to a shop for your sewing supplies? And what drives you away? Is your local shop evolving and exciting, or is it static and lost? Has it driven you entirely online? Answers in the comments box!
Can I tell you how many times I’ve gone into my local ‘modern quilting’ shop and they’ve asked me “why don’t you just order it online’????!!! It’s that kind of non-service that really puts me off. Our other local shops are very traditional, but go out of their way to help you, and to know your name, and that keeps me coming back despite the fact that I rarely buy fabric there, they have no zippers or other bag/clothing making accessories and carry a huge array of batiks, mostly with otter and moose on them! Despite their traditional bent, I often take classes there as the teachers are top notch, it’s very inviting, and as I say, they welcome you in and are interested in your business :0
Customer service. I don’t want to be fawned over (yuck!), but I do like friendly and interested staff. My LQS doesn’t fit in that category (apart from one member of staff who has been there throughout all the changes and always says hello) so I don’t go in unless I need an emergency skein of thread or similar.