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June 2009
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Remodeling the Fabric Business

For some time now WalMart has been phasing out the fabric departments at many of its supercenters.  Estimates are that approximately 60 departments per month are closing, and almost 700 WalMart stores will no longer have a fabric department by the end of this year.  Still others have been switched over to pre-cut, pre-packaged lengths of fabric in an effort to eliminate the necessary personnel to cut fabric.

The changes are part of a national store remodeling project and many WalMart customers across the country are up in arms over it, there is even an online petition to save WalMart’s full service fabric departments that currently has over 43,000 signatures. 

Local alterations shop owners and seamstresses across the country are wondering how they’re going to find an emergency zipper or thread at eleven at night.  Still others in rural areas without a nearby JoAnn’s, Hobby Lobby or Hancock’s are trying to figure out how it will affect their prices (and profits) when they have to start ordering notions through catalogs and must also pay shipping that in some cases costs more than the actual item.

At the same time, JoAnn Fabrics reports a 2.6% increase in its sewing business and is hoping to further increase its share as more WalMart fabric departments close.  JoAnn’s is planning changes of its own, what it calls “optimization projects”, intended to focus more on fabric offerings and craft merchandise and reduce area currently used for seasonal merchandise.

On a happy note, Hobby Lobby has opened several stores this year and JoAnn’s has opened twelve stores so far with plans to open 20 during its current fiscal year.  Hancock Fabrics reports having opened one store during the first quarter of this year, and I’m personally excited to announce that another one will soon be opening in a shopping center near my home. 

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