Thoughts on Shop reviews and John Lewis price 'response'

I have now finished my series of Glasgow shop reviews, which can all be easily accessed here. Thanks to everyone who commented and I hope the posts will be useful for anyone wanting to shop for fabric or yarn in Glasgow. I thought I'd do a round up on the posts to mention a few things that arose during the process.

The posts are written from own perspective as a knitter and dressmaker. I don't know much about quilting and craft cottons for example, so I didn't make much mention of these. I had used all of the shops personally before writing the reviews, none were completely new to me. All the reviews are independent - I have no stake in this apart from to let people know about the shops we have and the kind of things you can buy there. Of course, each shop has different strengths and I wanted to show this. I would describe my posts as a review in a sense that they provide some kind of survey of what each shop offers. I will try and update them if anything significant changes as I want the reviews to remain relevant for as long as possible.
I tried to standardise the way I conducted the reviews in that I used the same questions for each one but my approach had to vary slightly according to each shop. If it was a small shop I always mentioned to the person working there what I was doing, as it was awkward to take sneaky photos.

The main things I didn't include were areas of the shop that were not relevant to me and also any mentions of experience with the staff. I considered including this as I have had some great customer service experiences. However, the main reason for not including this was from the selfish reason that I use these shops myself, and I don't want to get dirty looks when I go in, if they have found out that I have been talking about them online! Also, bad customer experiences are often down to one person on one day and it seemed unfair to immortalise that experience online.
In the end I did 8 reviews. I actually intended to do 10 but there were 2 wool shops that I decided not to review - the Bargain Wool Shop in the Barras (Barrowland) and Marjorys Wool Shop in the southside. The reason is that both are your traditional wool shops selling predominantly acrylic mix wool and standard patterns. They don't really hold any interest for me - I bought wool once in Marjory's last year and it was good for what I was using it for, but when I went to the Barras wool shop, I felt that there was nothing I could really speak enthusiastically about. Yes, acrylic yarn has its place but it doesn't exactly get my heart beating in the way that a lovely skein of real wool does. Am I a yarn snob? Yes, probably. But each review is written from my own point of view and this blog is for me to write about things I am interested in, so there you go.

Having written these reviews I can see that we have a rich resource with our shops in Glasgow. Small and independent shops are very strong which is great news - I hope this series of posts encourages people to go and support their local independent shop as they really earn their place. Plus they are often cheaper. Interestingly, the largest shop and the only one which is part of a national chain (John Lewis) is the one I have most reservations about, and I feel you can often find the same products for cheaper elsewhere in Glasgow.
I contacted John Lewis to ask about their procedure for price checking items in their Fabric & Haberdashery section and I sent them a link to my post as I thought they might be interested to read about the items that I, and others, had found to be expensive. However their reply was a generic email with a link to their 'Never Knowingly Undersold' policy on their website (which obviously I already know about since THAT'S WHY I WAS EMAILING THEM) and they seemed not at all interested in responding to my specific enquiry. When I asked for a more specific response they said:

"If a customer has seen an item with another retailer at a lower price, and reports this price difference to us, we will price match that item for the customer. This holds for all items sold by John Lewis including Furnishing Fabrics, and Haberdashery.

The item has to be like for like, and the competitor must trade on the same basis as us, for example we will not match online only retailers, mail order only or show-rooms attached to internet-only orders."

So, yeah, not impressed by their lack of engagement. John Lewis' response does state that their price match should hold up in this department like any other but I highly recommend you shop at the many nicer and cheaper small and independent stores in Glasgow.

Do you have any comments about my review series? Do you think I missed anywhere? Please email me or comment below

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the series

K x

16 comments:

  1. I found your reviews to be beneficial to me, but in a different way. I live in the USA so the odds of my visiting these shops are slim to none. However, it did encourage me to find local yarn shops in my area. Not too many of them I must say. When I compared the price of yarn from a national chain versus a local shop, the price difference was maybe 25 cents cheaper in the retail chain. Other items like knitting needles were about the same price. I would rather spend the extra dollar and get great knitting advice from the small shop owner. It was also nice to see how the shops in your area are run. I'm still trying to get some courage to ask shop owners if they would sell tea and pastries. All in all, I would say that your posts have been beneficial to me. As far as the generic e-mail from John Lewis goes, I have had the same experience here in the states. I think the smaller shops have a smaller profit margin and a vested interest to see their shop succeed so they go the extra mile.

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    1. Thanks pattyc. I agree about getting the specialised advice too, it's lovely just to be able to chat to someone about your hobby.

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  2. I think it's a shame that John Lewis responded as they did, when generally they value their customer service so much. I hold them in quite high regard so am disappointed by their lack of engagement. Good series of posts though. I am keen to try some of these out at some point! Thanks. X

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    1. Great, glad you found out about some new places to go

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  3. See, I love the Bargain Wool Shop, but then I prefer the cheap wool for most things because I mostly knit/crochet smaller scale things (seriously, this jumper is about three weeks in the making and I can't wait to see the back of it!), so I get that not everyone will be a fan. I've never really thought about the local stores being cheaper but I'm glad I mostly frequent them anyway. I've bought yarn online the odd time but it's one of the rare things these days that it's nice to touch and see in person. That's a bit annoying about John Lewis but not really surprising somehow :)

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    1. I know you're a fan of the Bargain wool shop and it makes sense to use acrylic yarns for crafty projects rather than garments. When I am able to work out how to crochet Christmas lights like you did, acrylic will be ideal not least to get great bright colours.

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  4. My honest response to this is that, I suspect a more traditional, male oriented management structure like I predict there is at JL, has little or no interest in the haberdashery department. I doubt anyone in charge of that department who cares ever saw your email either. They just see it as a trend to cash in on, and don't appreciate the impact of social media. I love how the McCalls pattern team is following blogs and commenting and engaging.i hope they learn, and fast, because their business model is so cool and they should do better!

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    1. Yes, no doubt you're right that no-one related to the department saw the email. There was no care taken to respond to any specific issues I raised and it is disappointing because John Lewis trade heavily on their reputation for good customer service. The structure is that the business is owned by the people who work there and they all share in profits and benefits and therefore all staff should be invested in producing happy customers. That makes it all the more disappointing because the ethos of the company suggests that they would be more motivated and interested but perhaps in the end they are just the same as any large company.

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  5. I suppose John Lewis is occupying the most expensive land in all parts of the country so they have to charge more, One thing I did appreciate this year is that they carry some patterns which are not available at my local shops, where as soon as the pattern books change, they remove all the old stocks of deleted patterns. These deleted patterns are however often still in stock at John Lewis, with the sales discount if it's sale time. Their website means you can get them delivered to your local waitrose a few days later. John Lewis can't compete on price but they can do things that other small suppliers can't.

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    1. According to their own price match claim, John Lewis should not be charging any more for equivalent items. However their lack of interest in engaging with it makes that claim appear a bit hollow and suggests they are just continuing to pay lip service to it. It's good to know that they might have older patterns which are not available elsewhere but generally I disagree that they provide services smaller suppliers cannot. They do not offer the range of products, prices and specialised advice that I found in other shops in Glasgow.

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  6. On the subject of social media and specifically McCall's responsiveness - I too was delighted that they wanted to know more about what their customers wanted. But looks as if they have basically ignored that and gone for what their "marketing" deem to be sellable. More 1950s and not as good as what Vogue and Butterick do. They have basically lost their nerve having put out one poor 1930s offering, they have assumed we don't want that era or their splendid 1940s back catalogue. Selling is about understanding your customers and they clearly don't yet have a clue.

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  7. I guess John Lewis has to pay the penguin out of their haberdashery profits?!

    I love your review series and live thousands of miles away and usually only make it as far as London when I'm in the UK, but I know where to look if I finally make it to Scotland. The fact that you have that many shops selling craft goods is amazing to me. Where I live I've got a couple of chain stores for fabric basics and one independent yarn shop in town. San Francisco is my nearest city and there are a few fabric shops and several yarn shops, but you've got many more options. If only we could find a way to make more time in the day to work on projects...

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    1. Oh yes, I think the gift of sewing time would be the best thing this Christmas! You should definitely engineer a way to get yourself to Glasgow and sample the shops for yourself :-)

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  8. To be honest JL is my 'in desperate straits' option for fabric and haberdashery - the fabric section used to be bigger and better, but they downsized a few years ago and meh, not doing it for me now.

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    1. Ugh, disappointing. I think they must have downsized before I got into sewing as I don't remember it being any bigger. They do seem to have more items in that area than a few years ago but they are craft kits, needles or other accessories rather than fabric

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Thanks for reading and commenting - I love to hear what you have to say