Condo Blues: Joann’s Fabrics and Crafts is Broken and Here’s How to Fix It

Friday, March 29, 2024

Joann’s Fabrics and Crafts is Broken and Here’s How to Fix It

If you've ever wondered why Joann Fabric and Crafts corporate office seems to make purposefully terrible business decisions, let me assure you – it's not in your head. The truth is, the upper management at Joann’s has a long history of being completely out-of-touch with their stores and customers. This finally led to the company filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2024.

Joann Fabrics made 210.9 million to 212.9 million in profit dollars and added 9 million new customers by the end of the 2020 fiscal year.  A lot of this is due to 2020 lock downs when people were turning to old and new hobbies to pass the time. If Joann's corporate was smart and paid attention to what their customers want and need, Joann’s would still be riding this customer wave, but they didn’t.

Going from being profitable to bankruptcy in four short years takes a lot of talent in upper management to screw up a company that much. Corporate tries to explain it away by saying customers are skipping discretionary spending, but that’s only a tiny piece of the puzzle. Do you know what people do in tough times? Make, repair, or upcycle things instead of buying a new one.  There is a reason visible mending is a popular trend right now! It sure would be nice to buy a cute iron on patch at Joann’s to fix my favorite pair of jeans but I can’t. Those shelves at my store are practically bare and have been for a long time.

Joann Fabrics files for bankruptcy March 2024

I took these photos of my local Joann Fabrics store in February 2024. Please share this article with your friends!

Which is another reason why Joann Fabrics is failing, corporate doesn’t follow or stock their stores with trending craft supplies, or if they do, it is long after the trend has passed. For example, according to my sources (former and current Joann employees,) when kids were going nuts making Rainbow Loom bracelets (you can learn more about the Rainbow Loom here) you couldn’t buy the loom or the rubber bands in a Joann’s store until long after the trend was over. The stores couldn’t even give that stuff away but somehow that was the store’s fault and not the corporate buyer. Huh? (Disclosure: I am including affiliate links to other retailers in this post for your convenience.)

Apparently having a crafting hobby (sewing, knitting, painting, whatever) is not a Joann Fabrics Corporate Office job requirement like it should be. Time and time again, I go into my store to buy apparel fabric and I all I find is low quality quilting fabric (that’s not great for clothing,) nursery fabric (again, not for baby clothes,) flannel (even in the summer!) and fleece. So. Much. Fleece. No one needs this much fleece year round!

Here's how Joann Fabrics can fix their failing company

I visited my local Joann's store to buy fabric to make a pair of shorts. I left empty handed.

What Joann Fabrics Needs to Do to Stay in Business

At the end of the day, Joann Fabrics is known for one thing – fabric. So let's stick to what they used to do best and cut out all the extras.  Let's focus on quality fabrics, like proper garment materials, wool,  knits, linen, and cotton fabric of all types. And please, no more fleece overload! All you have to do is page through the pattern company catalogs (which, by the way, are good about releasing patterns to make current clothing trends) to see what kind of fabric and trim to stock so customers can make those items from supplies we can buy from your store. Once upon a time I could buy a sewing pattern and the fabric and supplies to make it. Not anymore. Why?

How to make Joann Fabrics profitable

Oh look. More fleece for spring and summer! The bottom right photo is a new "designer" fleece fabric that no one asked for and is actually a relabel and price hike of a brand Joann's already carries.

Customers would like more quality yarn choices for crochet and knitting. The cheap Big Twist yarn has its place but it is often too scratchy to use to make apparel. Customers would like more choices of nice, quality middle of the road yarn for those items instead of the two to four types of yarn they currently sell. Amigurumi is popular and even more once Woobles hit the scene (you can learn about The Woobles beginner crochet kits here) but customers have to hunt to buy the supplies if they want to crochet any other amigurumi pattern, or yarn project for that matter. Why?

Customers come to Joann's for fabric and craft supplies, not knock-knacks. We don't need
home and yard decorations, candles, puzzles, or children’s toys and if we do, we’ll go to Target, or any of the other gazillion stores that sell those items where the selection is better and prices are cheaper.

What we do need are the supplies to make candles, pillows, and decorations. We just want fabric, yarn, and the necessary tools for our favorite crafts that we can buy in store because your online shopping is still stuck in 1994. For example, I don’t get a notice if something in my online shopping cart is out of stock. I can’t cancel the order of an out of stock item. I usually have to call customer service (because an email goes into a black hole) and ask when my order is coming. That’s when I learn if the item I paid for is out of stock and I shouldn't have bought it at the time. And the most fun of all, I never know when to expect my on line order to arrive. That’s why I shop in store. Besides, most customers need to see and touch craft supplies in person before buying. Corporate doesn’t understand that either. 

Oh and while I am on the subject of Corporate not understanding their customer demographics, it seems that Corporate is under the impression that their customer base is little old ladies who are not tech savvy and only make fleece quilt blankets for grandchildern. If I had a dollar for every time a Joann's manager told me I didn't look like a person who *enter the name of the craft or sewing project here that in some cases I learned as a kid and still do* I'd have enough money to create my own craft and fabric store empire. In my personal experience I know a wide age range of men, women, and children who sew, make cosplays (a HUGE area Joann's ignores,) knit, crochet, paint, needlepoint, leather craft, and more that are under served at a Joann Fabrics and Crafts store.

And while we appreciate the effort, the high prices and complicated couponing system needs to go. Joann’s prices are much higher than their competitor Michael’s (which doesn’t sell fabric in store.) Sometimes the price can be brought down to their competitors’ pricing with the ton of coupons Joann’s customers can get by text, on the Joann’s app, email, and snail mail (how quaint.) This trains Joann’s customers to shop only if/when they can use a coupon just like the old Bed, Bath, and Beyond stores. Look where that got Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Joann Fabrics and Crafts files for bankruptcy March 2024
But, wait, there's still more! I counted 27 areas of the store that had fleece fabric on the shelves and  zero fabric I could buy to make a pair of summer shorts

Joann’s needs to find a middle ground where they can make a profit without overcharging their loyal customers. For many of us, Joann Fabrics and Crafts is the only game in town. If they go away, a lot of Etsy shops, fundraisers, school groups, scouts, 4H, plays, etc. won’t have anywhere to go for the items they need. Joann’s corporate office does not value their store employees. They are the backbone of the store, and they deserve to be paid fairly and given enough hours to do their job effectively. I’d like upper management work the floor of several Joann Fabrics stores Undercover Boss style but without the kid gloves and feel good TV stunts. Make them work in the stores, on the floor, on the cutting counter and the register with minimal training while being expected to be an expert in every craft imaginable. And let's get customers involved too. Have them storm the stores with their crafting questions, and then have a big delivery truck arrive so management can see first-hand how impossible it is for 2-3 people to run a store the size of a Kroger.

I shot this video in my local Joann Fabrics and Craft store February 11,2024. Believe it or not, the store was even more empty on my previous visit in January 2024!

Especially since corporate has reduced the number of hours (and pay) store managers are allowed to schedule their store employees. You know the people responsible for  selling the things and the place where Joann Fabrics makes its money. And yet, somehow, they found the money to give Joann’s CEO who sank the financial ship into bankruptcy a $400,000 retention bonus if he doesn’t quit his job during the company’s financial reorganization during the bankruptcy period. Is it any wonder why no one wants to work at a Joann Fabrics store?

I love Joann Fabrics, and I know you have the potential to be the best fabric and craft supply store out there. And yet, the question still remains – why is Joann continuously making poor decisions that ultimately harm their employees and their business? It's a question that only upper management can answer, but until they do, it's clear that they have a long way to go in truly understanding and valuing their workforce. Not to mention, Joann Fabrics corporate offices have some serious damage control to do in order to regain the trust of their customers and vendors.

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1 comment :

PaulaShort said...

Yes, yes and yes! You hit the nail on the head! This is a great article. I noticed everything you mentioned at my local Joanne's too. If I'm looking for something and it's over priced I end up going to Michael's. You're also right about Joanne's selling over priced premade items like decor and pillows eetc.Please, no more fleece Joanne's, C'mon.
Visiting today from #Alittlebitofeverything 304 #29&30

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