It's surprising to me just how many knitters I speak with, whether online or in person, complain about their LYS. Recently, I had another such conversation with a group of knitters via an online chat. One knitter expressed how she only has one local yarn shop in her area and is made to feel very uncomfortable when she visits the shop. Another knitter expressed how there are many shops in her area and how she loves each one for different reasons and different supplies, but that several of them treat her like dirt if they find out that she's bought her yarn elsewhere. And yet another knitter was bemoaning her LYS questioning her about the needles & yarn she had because they were purchased online and were obviously not from that shop. Nevermind that this knitter spends quite a bit of money at that shop, apparently they feel she should only buy things from THAT shop. So what do you do if you find yourself in this predicament? Drop 'em like a hot potato - that's what!
Okay, I hear the gasping and the jaws dropping.. But, KnitPurlGurl, our LYS is our lifeline, our community.. Not anymore. Here's the thing. I regularly shop at Target, Kohls, Old Navy, Macy's, et cetera. At NO time have I had any one of them give me crap about shopping at another store. And to put this in terms for small business: I've shopped at my local hardware stores, of which we have 3, and no one is whispering at True Value that they heard I'd visited Ace Hardware. And no one at Ace is giving me the stink eye because I've shopped online for 3/4" bolts. Let's get real here, people.
Local Yarn Shops are quite the conundrum. These shops provide something that many online or big box stores cannot: a place to commune with fellow knitters and look at/touch products in person. They can be the mothership, if you will, or they can be a place that you dread visiting. Here's my take. In my area, there are several yarn shops. I think they all have something unique to offer. If I have a LYS get mifted, or snub me because I haven't be able to visit (don't get me started on my car issues) or because I visited another LYS, then I can't be bothered with them. Google+, Twitter, Ravelry, podcasting, & Facebook have given me a knitting community that is always in place online. I can pop on Plurk and ask if anyone wants to participate in a VKN (Virtual Knit Night) when I have a spare hour, and usually there's someone who is available. OR I can pop on Plurk and see that someone is hosting a VKN and pop in to chat (on webcam) with them while knitting. It's wonderful! As for knitting together in person, in this day and age, all one needs is a computer. You can Facetime, Skype, or Hangout on Google+ virtually, OR you can search Ravelry, Yahoo Groups, Meetup, or your local guild to find groups that meet at various coffee shops or cafes weekly.
Years ago I wrote a post called, "Advice to Local Yarn Shops." I had posted it for the very same reason. There were a few LYS that were driving me bananas. It's been almost 4 yrs since I wrote that post and you know what? Knitters are still complaining of the same issues. Sometimes it's CROCHETERS complaining because LYS haven't figured out that crocheters are hungry for a home too AND that they use YARN! Go figure.
Don't get me wrong. I don't want this post to come off as a way of bashing all LYS. BUT I do want knitters to realize that if your LYS treats you like crap - DON'T spend your time and $$ there. Life is too short! Time is too short! And everyone is short on money! A terrific LYS can be a knitter's best friend; a welcome respite from the housework, endless responsibilities, and the daily grind. If you have a great LYS, I'm thrilled for you! If they never make you feel like an intruder, like a criminal for shopping elsewhere on occasion, or snub you for liking several shops, than you should embrace that shop and do what you can to promote a responsible and awesome business owner. And owners: if you are guilty of these things - get over yourselves. Instead of trying to guilt customers into being repeat customers, use your time and energy to show them WHY they should be repeat customers. Don't balk at customers with needles purchased online. Don't pout when a customer is at knit group and mentions she bought a skein of yarn at another LYS. Treat your customers like royalty and they will naturally seek to visit your establishment most often.
The reality of today is this: Knitters and crocheters can and do meet up for knit groups that are organized online in a variety of locations that are NOT LYS. Knitters and crocheters can meet up virtually with a webcam, and join knit group in their jammies! If your LYS snubs you, don't fret over it. And don't continue to throw money at them. Find a local group or start hanging out online with your web cam. You can still be a part of this vast and amazing community with just a click of your mouse! :)