The decline of fabric and haberdashery stores in many Dutch cities and towns is something worth attention. We, semi-professional and hobbyist sewers, find it incredibly regrettable that there are no longer physical stores where you can casually walk in. Places where you can touch the fabrics, wander endlessly, and eventually come home with a stack of 'spontaneous' fabrics. And of course, score some bargains! Because we love that!
The disappearance of fabric and haberdashery stores is a reality. In most cities, there are no longer any fabric stores, and a major chain like Jan Sikkens recently threw in the towel. So sad, because every fabric store was fantastic for sewers.
In Stadskanaal, there was a large store with a bigger assortment of fabrics than the average fabric market in the Netherlands. Seriously! People came from far and wide to this store, and fortunately, there was also a coffee and sitting area because you could spend hours browsing. And then suddenly, the store was gone...
Why????? Some reasons for the disappearance of fabric stores:
Shifting consumer preferences:
Modern consumers have become increasingly accustomed to the convenience of online shopping. This has led to a shift in preference from physical shopping to online purchases. Online shopping offers the convenience of shopping from home and comparing products without limitations in time and location.
Major online retailers and chain stores have gained a dominant position in the market. This has resulted in intensified competition for local fabric and haberdashery stores. The smaller, independent stores sometimes struggle to compete with the pricing and extensive range of these giants.
High real estate costs:
Renting retail space in busy city centers can be a significant financial burden for small businesses. The high real estate costs, combined with other business expenses, sometimes make it challenging for traditional stores to remain profitable.
Exorbitant parking fees in city centers:
Who wants to pay so much extra for parking? You immediately think twice when planning a shopping day in the city... High parking fees and expensive hospitality options discourage consumers, directly impacting the commerce in the (inner) cities.
In Stadskanaal, there was a brief period when zealous parking attendants roamed around and the 'blue zone' policy wasn't in place yet, causing confusion regarding parking regulations. A woman who had just bought fabric in the store paid, thrilled with all her choices and bargains, and walked outside only to find a 90 euro parking ticket on her car. As I walked by, I saw her crying... I can imagine that the woman was so frustrated that she'd think thrice before venturing to a fabric store in an unfamiliar city again.
Rise of online platforms:
Digitalization has led to the rise of online platforms offering a wide range of fabrics and haberdashery. This has made it attractive for consumers to easily access a diverse array of products without leaving their homes."
Online Shopping: A Blessing or a Curse?
While online purchasing of fabrics and haberdashery undoubtedly offers benefits such as extensive choices and convenience, there are also drawbacks associated with it:
Lack of physical experience:
Online shopping deprives consumers of the ability to physically view and touch fabrics and haberdashery before making a purchase. This can lead to uncertainty about the quality and properties of the materials.
Shipping costs and wait times:
Ordering fabrics and haberdashery online might come with additional shipping costs. Moreover, longer delivery times could pose problems for projects with tight deadlines.
Online shopping can result in excessive use of packaging materials, which isn't always environmentally friendly. Ordering small quantities may contribute to unnecessary waste.
Are there other options? Alternatives may be limited but there are a few worth considering. Let's share those!
Fabric Fairs and Markets:
These events still offer the chance to physically experience fabrics and haberdashery while engaging with local artisans and suppliers.
TIP: Subscribe to newsletters from fabric fairs. This way, you can plan well in advance if you intend to attend such an event.
Keeping sustainability in mind:
While online shopping, consumers can consciously choose sellers who employ sustainable shipping and packaging practices. Some ship in plastic bags, others in reused cardboard boxes. The latter feels much better, naturally.
Tip: Consider using pickup points in combination with other errands, saving a separate delivery to your home.
Buying fabrics and haberdashery elsewhere:
Explore the curtain sections of larger stores in industrial areas like Leenbakker, Kwantum, and Ikea. They often have more fabrics than you'd expect, along with a range of haberdashery!
How to find great items for your sewing projects in thrift stores? Here are some tips: Finding Beautiful Sewing Supplies at Thrift Stores
In a time where the way we shop and consume is evolving, fabric and haberdashery stores, online platforms, and alternatives such as fairs and markets can all play valuable roles. By consciously choosing where and how we purchase our fabrics and haberdashery, we aim to preserve the rich offerings while considering convenience, sustainability, and local economies.
On this website, we'll continue sharing even more tips and experiences with each other.
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