Visiting a quilt store

Advice to Quilt Shops: Quilters Have Their Say! Are Quilt Shops Listening?

Advice to Quilt Shops

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Let’s talk quilt shops and what we would love to see in our beloved stores! I asked a question in a large Facebook group recently, “What do you love or would love to see changed in brick and mortar quilt stores?” And wow did I get some great feedback! So let’s continue with Advice to Quilt Shops!

I had nearly 300 responses. Here are the results, a bit of what was stated, and also a little of my opinion. I wrote down responses and counted the “likes” of each response for the information below. If you want to see what people want out of online quilt stores, you can read that soon in an upcoming post.

Quilters have their say! Are quilt shops listening? Advice to Quilt Shops Blog Post
Me at Hancock’s of Paducah 2018

Customer Service

Knowledgable, friendly, non-judgmental staff is at the top of consumers concerns and it comes as no surprise. 225 people had this as their priority/want/complaint. 16 of those felt that the younger generation of quilters are not taken seriously and not given as much attention and help. I have experienced a staff issue at quilt stores at about the same rate as any other retail establishment, but I feel that quilters expect a higher standard of customer service.

Why we have a higher standard

Quilt shops are hobby shops and people who are coming in are fulfilling a part of what they love to do. They walk in with enthusiasm and passion unlike our trips to the grocery store which are out of necessity. They more than likely want to be met with that same enthusiasm. We expect staff to have quilting knowledge and input when needed. Quilters are excited about what lies behind those wonderful front doors and what colors and ideas will hit them the moment they pass through them. 

Now imagine after walking through those doors you are not happily greeted. Or worse yet you are ignored or treated with zero enthusiasm! It’s a blow to our emotions, more than if a grocery clerk isn’t pleasant. So finding the right staff members to fill your store is critically important. It truly will lead to more sales, more classes being filled, more word of mouth advertising, not to mention the impact of the consumers day and even life. You are helping to fulfill that persons passion! So my personal advice to quilt shops is to be a part of that passion!

Customer Service Feedback Support Innovative Quality Excellent Friendly
Great customer service advice

Place to rest / clean bathrooms / vending

A total of 83 people chimed in with this as their request. Vending was a smaller majority here but enough that I thought it worth mentioning. I do think that larger shops could definitely benefit from some places to sit and rest. Dedicated places would be best instead of expecting customers to assume they could use empty classroom chairs. A spouse area would definitely be quite useful too! So many quilters are traveling and they work in fun stops at quilt stores along their way, often with spouses in tow. Of course they can wait in the car, but wouldn’t it mean much more for customers to see you care about the spouses as well? Of course! 

Quilters are still an older generation for the most part and have bodies that fit the part. Sometimes they need a little sit before taking on the rest of your store. And again, maybe they won’t get lots of use, but seeing it there and knowing the shop cares is that extra step. And chairs might just be the lifesaver for several customers who find an outing exhausting but one they crave so much. 

Man waiting for his quilting wife in a store

Table to hold bolts or for previewing fabrics while shopping

This is a fantastic idea I had not thought of but 75 others thought it would be a great addition to a store. Some dedicated table space would be really handy for customers and I could definitely see using this type of space myself. Many times we are matching fabrics or looking for backing and just need a little space to spread out for a bit. Cutting tables are not dedicated space that most shoppers would be comfortable plopping down their stuff to spread out and do their figuring or choosing of colors. I really feel a pre-designated spot would add value to a visit.

Expanding on the idea of tables…

Empty shelves by the cutting table, as a sort of holding bin where you could simply stand your bolts up while you are shopping, could really catch on. The bonus to this would be other shoppers would be able to see the fabrics there as well in case they needed to purchase some after the initial quilter has completed her cutting. When the customer is ready, the fabric is right there by the cutting table and a staff member can easily retrieve it! Another idea would be if a staff member offers to place their things in the bin for them, and adding their name to a dry erase board located at each bin, much like clothing stores do for dressing rooms. So my advice to quilt shops is this would be great personalized customer service that is really helpful as well!

But our shop has limited space!

Maybe consider a special sort of bolt cart with small notion carry basket attached. 20 others agreed with this as well. The customer could wheel around up to 6 or so bolts that are standing and match as they go. Regular grocery type carts are too big and cumbersome for most shops, and while I have seem them used in larger shops, they still feel cumbersome. We need to design this ASAP!

Quilters have their say! Are quilt shops listening? Advice to Quilt Shops Blog Post
Accessories for patchwork on a white wooden surface

Wheelchair accessible

This really is such a no brainer and 73 other people agreed. I do realize that old houses or some shops just don’t have the space. But again, given the age of the typical quilter, it seems like a bit of a miss that stores are not more set up for those with mobility challenges. 

Height challenges too!

53 of those who participated do not like tall shelves with bolts on them! Too high to reach and try to maneuver them down or back up in their spot. Also complaints were received about shops who also cram the bolts in to tightly. When this is done you can’t get it back in without crumpling all the bolts around it and I agree with them wholeheartedly. But definitely keep those bolts in proper reach for all. High bolts are kind of a pain even for tall people. I’m 5’10” and bolts can be awkward and matching colors is rather difficult if the bolt is shoulder high or above. 

Good lighting

As we continue giving advice to quilt shops, good lighting was shouted by 43 people! I guess I have not experienced this too much but it does seem rather obvious. People need to see color with great clarity so that they can match their fabrics to make that beautiful quilt. I definitely think natural light is a great choice if at all possible.

Classes, classes, and more classes

The most predominant request from these 35 quilters was that classes be more accommodating of those who work. 14 as well indicated they would love an open sewing time for people to gather. A great comment that was brought up referenced the every popular painting classes that are hot right now. Recreating something like that but with open sewing with some fun, wine, or games could be a really big hit. Wouldn’t that be a lot of fun?! My mind is already thinking of a sewing potluck, notion trading, etc…

Sort of related to classes being more available, 12 people really would like some later hours for the shop itself. We do have a much younger crowd getting interested in quilting and after business hours would be a necessity. And during the week classes really pique their interest to!

Quilters have their say! Are quilt shops listening? Advice to Quilt Shops Blog Post
Quilters enjoying classes and camaraderie.


Equal numbers of people thought having quilt samples on display was marvelous! And others suggested having batting samples, that are quilted, would be extremely helpful. Both great ideas! We are used to seeing quilts hanging. But having the pattern easily identifiable to purchase, along with the fabrics used, are not always easy to locate in shops.

Also quilted batting samples are pretty ingenious and I’m not sure why that isn’t being done everywhere that sells batting! An outstanding idea and a great sales tool so that the customer can get just what they want for their project!

Quilters have their say! Are quilt shops listening? Advice to Quilt Shops Blog Post
One of my latest! Pattern is Walkabout Time by Amy Newman

Wrapping Up Some Other Requests

Frequent Shopper Discounts

Here we are going to wrap up the rest of the wantings that were expressed during this advice to quilt shops post. 14 people did not want frequent shopper discounts. I can understand both sides of this. I’d like to know I am getting the best price possible on my own without additional gimmicks. However I do also understand rewarding return customers who spend a certain amount. What is absolutely insulting is paying for a frequent shopper punch card.

Frequent shopper discounts should be kept track of by the shop. If you value us, truly value your repeat customers, then celebrate us by keeping track. Another perk you could offer is a birthday discount, or a free fat quarter, offered during their birthday week or month. If done right, it adds to your bottom line and their stash!

Another great idea is featuring a quilt of a customer. You can’t get much better customer appreciation than that! Hang their quilts on the wall behind the register, out of harms way, and labeled boldly with their picture, name, pattern, and fabrics. Can you imagine the pride that will cause? The sheer happiness of recognition? Isn’t that what we need more of in this world? Yes! Yes! And Yes!

Fragrance Free & Clear Signage/Pricing

Rounding out the last few pieces of advice for quilts shops was several requests for fragrance free for those with asthma and clear signage and pricing. Forgo the burning of candles and using heavily scented items in store. You can even promote this – again it shows you care about your customers even if the people who read the sign are not bothered by fragrances. Clear signage and pricing should not need mentioning, but please help your customer make a decision with all the information they need.

I would like to add to the list my own opinion on a certain matter of the No Photography rule and give a bit of perspective on it so that quilt stores can take it into consideration. Check that out right here in my blog post Quilt Shops and the No Photography Rule. See if you agree with me!

I appreciate your feedback and look forward to hearing from customers and quilt stores alike. And in my next blog I’ll tell you what I love and would love to improve about online quilt stores! 

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