All of my favorite crafty/handmade things are moving online. First, the Stitch Lounge closed up shop. Then, Whizbang Fabrics shut its doors. Today, Craft Magazine announced it will no longer be printing. What gives? Around the holidays all I kept hearing was that the craft market was growing, as people started making rather than buying things to save money. Anecdotally, here in the Bay Area this does not seem to be the case. All sorts of crafty ventures seem to be eliminating overhead and staff as they rush to move online.
Though I have never run a fabric store, a sewing studio, or a magazine, this seems to be a mistake. The essence of craft is that’s it’s tactile. How can you shop for fabric online, where you can’t feel the weight or the texture, and the colors aren’t accurate? Not to mention it’s simply not as inspiring to “browse” online as it is to be completely surrounded by a rainbow of physical materials. Online tutorials are no substitute for a live, in-person instructor, and I won’t read anything digital in bed, in the bathroom or at the beach.
For me as a diehard craft consumer, moving exclusively online basically ensures your crafty business that I will no longer be a customer. I might still visit occasionally, (if a favorite blog happens to mention something interesting about it, for example) but if a new, physical rival opens up, my alliance instantly switches. I don’t know how many people feel the same way I do, but if it’s significant enough, moving online might just deal your company’s death blow, despite saving money in the short-term.
In the end, if going online is the only solution you can think of in a bad economy, maybe you don’t deserve to be in business anyway. At least not in a creative business, because going web-only is perhaps the least creative solution I can think of.