As we roll into a new year we’ve been reflecting on the impact of this pandemic on our little business and decided to put some of those thoughts to paper. So here goes.
Our business has (had) 3 components:
Retail sales of quilting supplies
Quilting services including rental of the long arm
It is not at all surprising that this component took a big hit during the last two years. Our sales compared to 2019 levels were 53% in 2020 and 72% in 2021. There are several factors that play into that.
First, quilt shows were becoming a big part of our spring and summer season. There have been no shows in the last two years. We’ve also had to curtail all in store events and promotions that, besides being fun, also brought quilters into the store.
Secondly, people are not traveling as much. Pre pandemic we had regular customers from all over the Interlake and all parts of Winnipeg and occasional visitors from afar. Now it is mostly local quilters and purchases incidental to the quilting services.
And lastly, while we have no data we have heard anecdotally that many more people are shopping online now. This is not something that we are interested in doing. The barriers to entering that space are high for us and we don’t see where we would have any competitive advantage. We are going to stay with the bricks and mortar, or should we say cedar and nails store.
This part of the business has been remarkably stable. There was an initial pause in the spring of 2020 while we all tried to figure out what was going on and how to live with it. Since then the quilting services returned to the same levels as before. It seems that people are still making quilts. And some people are making a lot of them.
Helen is as busy as she wants to be and sometimes a bit more. For the most part she continues to enjoy it. So provided that the long arm keeps working and we stay healthy we plan to keep doing it for the foreseeable future. Workshops:
Workshops came to a screeching halt in 2020 and we haven’t yet made any plans to restart that part of the business. We did make some changes to our classroom space to make it a little more comfortable and safer. But that’s about all. We’ve had a few inquiries but we are still not comfortable with the idea of spending a long time indoors with a group of people in close proximity. Helen has done some one to one tutoring, pro bono, because that is who she is.
We are aware that there seems to be a growing opportunity for virtual workshops and some people are doing quite well at it. For us there is a small barrier in the form of better equipment and learning how to use it effectively. Geoffrey used to like doing that sort of thing, but he is getting lazy in his old age. We are not saying “never”, but for now, we are keeping our hands firmly on the PAUSE button for workshops.
On a personal note:
Throughout all the turmoil of these “interesting” times we have managed almost miraculously to remain healthy and happy. The social aspect of the business has necessarily been scaled back quite a lot. But we are getting by. The quilting business keeps us occupied and the house is large enough to afford some personal space when needed.
The only significant bump in the road came last January when we suddenly had to part ways with our charming greeter, Chewy. His departure was both sudden and unexpected. He was quite the character and we still miss him immensely. Anyone who has had a dog knows how they can burrow a hole in your heart.
In April we recruited a new greeter, an energetic and loving Sheltie named Kaya. She is slowly training us to attend to her every need and desire. Who says you can’t teach an old couple new tricks?
In sum, while much has changed for this little enterprise over the last two years, we feel we are still able to provide a service to quilters in the area and maybe have a little fun. We really appreciate the support we’ve received from so many quilters and the friends and acquaintances we’ve made along the way.