Today is the last day that Yarndogs will be open. It was a quick sale, starting last Wednesday with 50% off most things. The first day of the sale the line to get into the store wrapped around the block. After today there will be only 5 stores left that I would call "local". The Knitting Room, Continental Stitch, Uncommon Threads, Purlescence and Green Planet Yarn. On the outskirts (from me) there's still Nine Rubies in San Mateo, The Golden Fleece and Swift Stitch in Santa Cruz, and Yarns by the Sea in Aptos.
Back in 1998 when I was still a newbie to knitting there were about 5 stores close to me, of those only The Knitting Room, Continental Stitch and Uncommon Threads (new owner) are still around. At the end of 2007 there were 12 South Bay stores! 3 closed in 2008, and since , 1 would move and 5 more would close. I have to admit, as populated as the area which I live, 12 stores was a bit much. But oh the choices! And the yarn crawls! So much fun. So much creativity. Each store had it's own unique offerings, from special yarn to fashion shows to all star instruction.
So what happened? Economics? Did the internet take business away? Sure, I buy online, Webs usually has some good deals and Jimmy Beans always has things I can't get anywhere else (at any price). And now with Craftsy, even classes are easier to come by. So what's left for a local yarn store to offer? What it has always had the advantage in, service (sales, support as well as instruction), inspiration, community and instant gratification. Give me a reason to go to a yarn store and I will buy something. But it isn't just about the goods, it never has been.
I'm a mature knitter so I don't need much in the way of support. And with my stash, I've long passed the need for more yarn. But I will always crave inspiration. And community? What knitter doesn't need that? What online stores and classes can't offer is that um-hmm, yup that's it moment when you need some acknowledgement that you are doing things right. Whether that's a technique, getting gauge or picking colors that go well together. And what about encouragement when you've finished or nearly finished something? These are the reasons to go somewhere local, meet with friends, learn new things, be inspired. And oh, by the way, when you're there? Buy the yarn.