and a passion for bringing the very best of it to their customers.
With 3 shops in the Sew-In stable offering a wide range of knitting, haberdashery and sewing products, Sew-In of Marple, Didsbury and Buxton delivers the most comprehensive service for the textile crafter in South Manchester. I asked David to tell us more about the shops, what they offer and their plans for the future.
1) Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Sew-In of Marple and Didsbury.
Karen and I started in Marple 20 years ago this year by buying a branch of an existing yarn, haberdashery, needlecraft and fabric retail group Sew-In (Sew-In was a 6 branch business originally started in Buxton in the 1970s). We then acquired the Didsbury branch in 1997 from the Sew-In group, followed by Buxton in 2006 when the owners finally retired. It was a complete career change for me as I'd spent the previous 14 years in construction management. Buying the first store in Marple was a great opportunity to run our own business based around our cross-stitch hobby.
2) How do you go about choosing brands and products for your shops? There is a vast array of beautiful yarn available now, so what is it about a particular yarn that persuades you to carry it?
We effectively 'inherited’ core yarn brands such as Sirdar, Wendy and Stylecraft when we bought the business which was then and still is a leading regional Sirdar stockist. Gradually we introduced new brands in the middle market such as Rico and King Cole and at the premium level we took Rowan and Millamia which happily filled a gap in the market. The South Manchester Rowan stockist closed so we decided to carry Rowan to enhance our ranges, but we also wanted to include new cutting edge brands so we took on Millamia.
As for product choice, we aim to constantly carry the best from each of our brands. Some seasons this means more of one brand than another while in other seasons the decision might be different depending on the strength of each brand's new season offering. With the brands we've introduced we look for quality (both brand and product), range, design and service. In the case of small brands we want to see ‘personality' - I very much believe that the Supplier/Retailer relationship is and should be a partnership and therefore relationship with each brand's principals is very important.
|The Buxton shop|
3) What is your favourite MM product and yarn colour?
We've stocked MillaMia since March 2011 (after meeting the MillaMia team at Stitches) and MillaMia Aran since its launch last year. There really is no clear favourite colour as each lends itself to particular people and projects. Of course the high plus point with the brand is the intensity of colour, even the soft shades have strength and aren't wishy-washy!
4) Describe a typical Sew-In customer. What are they likely to be knitting?
Across our 3 branches I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical customer! We have everyone from early teens to ‘end of knitting’ people. As a ‘high street’ business we cater for most knitters needs which means we stock baby, sock, lacy and very thick yarn, from 100% man-made to 100% natural fibre. Knitters will be knitting to suit their needs/desires/the season but there is always baby knitting going on.
|The first shop that David acquired in Marple|
5) What is the strangest or funniest request you’ve ever had?
We regularly have ‘requests’ that could be called strange or funny. Maybe a case of customers not engaging their brains before asking . . .
‘My friend was wearing a pink cardigan last night, have you got the pattern for it?’
‘You had a pattern in the window when I was here on holiday last summer, can I have a copy?’
Customer approaches the counter with a pattern torn from magazine which clearly states that the yarn is only available as a knit kit from …….. and asks ‘Can I have the yarn to knit this please?’
|Inside the old Didsbury shop - a veritable Aladdin's cave of yarny delight!|
7) If one of our readers has never been to one of your shops, what is the one thing that you offer that means they should?
Service and technical knowledge, together with a passion for the craft – everyone we employ is an expert knitter, more than one is a designer, one has had a book published, all love to help customers achieve their individual knitting goals.
8) Lastly, what does the future hold for Sew-In?
Well, we have exciting times ahead. After 20 years of growing the business from branches that were already established not only in terms of brands, stock etc. but also position, layout, fixtures and fittings, we have embarked on an adventure with a ‘blank canvas’ - a new branch that have created from scratch. While still continuing to serve a loyal local customer base, we are also striving to create the South Manchester independent wool shop Destination of Choice for a much wider audience. Opened early in August 2015 - our brand new shop in Cheadle village is well worth a visit.
|Inside the new Cheadle shop|