Did you hear about the Jo-Ann concept store that opened this summer? It has features that turn my crank as a garment sewist, including:
- A Creators’ Studio, an open space for classes and community events.
- The ability to rent sewing machines and tools.
- Concierge services for tailoring and home-decor sewing.
The Jo-Ann concept store is a great start for satisfying a new generation of sewists, but I think the retailer could go further.
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How to Level Up the Jo-Ann Concept Store
I’ve got BIG IDEAS for the big-box retailer. Here’s what I think garment sewists would like at the Jo-Ann concept store:
Offer a swatch service: Samples help sewists plan projects and build a fabric reference library.
Sell indie patterns: There are more than 10,000 tags on Instagram for #indiesewing. I’m pretty sure indie designers and sewists would love to see indie patterns so easily available.
Have a PDF printing service: This would be mega-convenient for a lot of sewists AND basically a way for Jo-Ann to print money (if the pricing were right; I suggest a flat fee).
Start a subscription box: Jo-Ann has the vendor connections to get dope sewing goodies for a subscription box. What a great gift for sewists!
Recycle fabric scraps: Seriously, Jo-Ann — if H&M can recycle textile waste, you can, too. I think the store has a moral imperative to recycle fabric.
Test drive notions: Invite vendors to come in for product demos. Let sewists try before they buy.
Pursue collaborations with indie pattern and textile designers: I guarantee if Jo-Ann approached a big-time indie designer to develop patterns, a line of fabric, kits, tools, etc., sewists would shell out.
Be a champion for sustainability and ethical labor: Advocate for greater transparency about where fabric comes from and who made it. Offer sustainable and organic fabric options. Again, as the big dog in town, I think Jo-Ann has a moral imperative to use its influence for good.
Build community: I am IN LOVE with the Creators’ Studio community space. Jo-Ann needs to get down with sponsoring frocktail events! Wouldn’t a nationwide frocktails day, where sewists all across the U.S. party down at Jo-Ann, be THE MOST FUN?
Connect with big names: Hold an online class or teleconference with a sewlebrity or sewing insider: Mimi G., the editors or Threads or Sew News magazines, pattern makers at McCall’s, etc.
Welcome experts: Have an experienced seamstress hold “office hours” for hands-on help.
Introduce the Big 4: My perception is that younger (millennial) sewists don’t vibe with Big 4 patterns. Host a crash course on sewing a Big 4 pattern and make the case for these legacy pattern companies.
How Jo-Ann is Missing on the Fundamentals
Now that you’re all psyched about the Jo-Ann concept store and the future of Jo-Ann’s offerings, it’s time to pump the brakes and bring us back to reality. Jo-Ann is on to something, but the brand still has room for improvement when it comes to the basics.
My nearest Jo-Ann is 1.1 miles from Van Handel Headquarters. When the weather’s nice (and if I don’t have to buy too much), I walk or bike to the store. But, I don’t go to Jo-Ann with a skip in my step. Too often, a visit feels like a chore. Here’s why:
The quality of the garment fabric is inconsistent. This is the No. 1 reason why Jo-Ann misses with me. Yes, I’ve made some cool projects with fabric from Jo-Ann (e.g., Simplicity 8379, Cali Faye Valley blouse mini muumuu, Victory Patterns Jackie dress). But, for my sewing practice, Jo-Ann’s selection generally is too polyester for me, and I also worry about how well garments made of Jo-Ann fabric will hold up with regular wear, tear, and care (for the record, I baby my me-mades).
The coupon gymnastics annoy the crap out of me. Does anyone else feel like Jo-Ann is telling customers that its products are overpriced because of how often you’re blasted with coupons and sales?
The store staff lacks garment sewing knowledge. It’d be nice to roll in and ask an employee where the good stuff’s at, you know? Instead, I feel like Ron Swanson.
The Jo-Ann concept store is cool, and these biz ideas could help the retailer level up this good thing it’s got going on. I think, however, that until Jo-Ann nails the fundamentals — specifically the quality of its garment fabric — the big box will continue to be The Store We Love to Hate.
Over to you, my sewing sisters and brothers: How do you feel about Jo-Ann? What do you make of the Jo-Ann concept store? If you were running the show at Jo-Ann, how would you evolve to attract more garment sewists? I value your insight — give it to me and your fellow sewing friends!
P.S. ICYMI, here’s the previous post: Tracing Sewing Patterns: How I Attack My Least Favorite Sewing Task.
P.P.S. Hey, the holidays are here! Shop this mega gift guide and be happy: 53 Gifts for Sewists: The Ultimate Guide to Gifts for Sewing Lovers.
P.P.P.S. At the end of every post, I insert a button to the Sie Macht newsletter. In case you didn’t know, it’s a monthly email of sewing goodies, including what amounts to a bonus post, an exclusive video, and general behind-the-scenes intel. I suspect that if you made it to this the P.P.P.S., you’re a Sie Macht fan and you’d probably love the email. Here’s a link to the November email; why don’t you check it out and sign up if it tickles your fancy?😘
Jo-Ann Creators’ Studio photo by Jo-Ann Fabrics