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Thread: Cranston / VIP / Quilting Treasures - no longer selling through distributors

  1. #1
    Super Member Favorite Fabrics's Avatar
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    This is a follow-on from a thread posted by another reader.

    Cranston Print Works (VIP & Quilting Treasures brands) will no longer be selling through distributors after August.

    I've spoken to their customer service department to find out exactly how this will work, so that I can share the information with anyone who would like to know.

    They will sell direct to business customers, through their sales reps (or over the phone), but you have to buy a minimum of five bolts and you have to have a tax id (to prove you're a business or organization).

    Quilt shop owners (such as myself) probably already know this... it's the crafters that I'm concerned about. The "little person" has either been buying at Wal-Mart (not a common option anymore, as they close their fabric departments) or via the distributors, where you can pick and choose a bolt from this maker and a bolt from that. I do a lot of business with Cranston (they're very, very nice to work with) and I feel like we have a very good relationship, good enough that I can speak openly with them. So I explained that if they weren't careful, they could lose that whole segment of the market (crafters and other cottage industry businesses). After much discussion, this is what they came up with: anyone who would like to order their products (by the bolt) but can't meet their 5-piece minimum, can order through me, and they will drop-ship directly to the customer. It won't quite be a wholesale price or even a Wal-Mart price - I don't qualify for the kind of pricing that Wal-Mart and distributors get - but it will be a much better price than regular retail because we will not have to handle the goods ourselves plus Cranston surely gets a better rate from UPS than we do. :wink:

    This is all new territory for us (both my little business and Cranston) - and anyone with questions is welcome to send me a private e-mail.

  2. #2
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    Is is five bolts of the same fabric? How can we see what fabric is available? This makes no sense to me why Cranston is making it difficult to order through them. Seems they would want any customer they could find. At least they are giving you some leeway to be helpful.

  3. #3
    Super Member butterflywing's Avatar
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    does 'business customers' mean chain stores? LQS's? i know it digs into your business, but will it be available online. now i'm curious: what percent of your sales would you estimate is cranston?

    i agree with bellaboo. where can we see it? hunt it down and ask to see it and then not buy there? not fair to the seller. will you be selling it by the yard? ooops. that may be a boo-boo.


  4. #4
    Roben's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by butterflywing
    does 'business customers' mean chain stores? LQS's? i know it digs into your business, but will it be available online. now i'm curious: what percent of your sales would you estimate is cranston?

    i agree with bellaboo. where can we see it? hunt it down and ask to see it and then not buy there? not fair to the seller. will you be selling it by the yard? ooops. that may be a boo-boo.
    Favorite Fabrics' post is clear to me - she identifies herself as a quilt shop owner, and will stock some VIP/Cranston/Quilting Treasures fabric. Her percentage of sales is certainly none of anyone's business but her own; the thought that anyone not privy to her private conversation with the VIP people would know what does or does not constitute an 'boo-boo' is ludicrous.

    Favorite Fabrics, we are all not rude and inconsiderate - I'm sure quite a few quilters here really love VIP fabrics and will be glad to know it will be available to them when (not if, but when) it is no longer available at WM. I look forward to seeing more information about it when you get all the details ironed out!

  5. #5
    Power Poster Rhonda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by butterflywing
    what percent of your sales would you estimate is cranston?

    I don't think this is a personal question just a percent of the fabric people like to buy not how much she makes off of it. Is Cranston popular?

    Will you be offering very much or only a limited number of their fabrics if you don't sell enough of it?
    Can we order what we want from Cranston through you or do we have to choose from what you stock in your store? By the bolt?

    I have been trying to get a particular fabric they used to sell to Walmart. Walmart phased it out and last I knew Cranston still made it but I couldn't find anywhere to order it through. I would be interested in trying to get this one fabric line. There are 3 colors I like and I don't know if they still make it or not.

  6. #6
    Super Member Favorite Fabrics's Avatar
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    Ok... I'll try to answer all the questions!

    First, I'm not offended by any of the questions.

    Cranston's five-bolt minimum is any five bolts. It doesn't have to be five bolts of the SAME item. And it can include QT (Quilting Treasures) or the VIP line. They'll be happy to sell any combination of fabrics. It just has to be full bolts. Usually the VIP fabrics are 10 yards per bolt but it could be less; they tend to wrap the number of yards per bolt depending on what their biggest customer for that pattern wants. For instance, their Hautman "wolves" line is still carried by Wal-Mart, and those have been 8 yard bolts lately. Most of the rest are 10. The QT line used to be 15 yards per bolt and most still are... but this spring they said that they were going to go to 12 yard bolts as it made it less costly for a LQS to stock a greater variety. But... I'm still seeing a mix of 12s and 15s. It's the nature of the business that the number of yards per bolt can vary a couple of yards either way. You never know exactly what you're going to get, until you have it in your hands.

    Where to see their offerings? Cranston's website is http://www.cranstonvillage.com; you can see the VIP line there. For the QT line go to http://www.quiltingtreasures.com. For what it's worth, they update the QT site very regularly but the VIP side of things has not really been updated much this past year. (I believe their mind has been on other things...) These websites show what is currently available, not the future groups. For now, you can see future groups at the distributors' websites. Here are some: http://www.eeschenck.com http://www.checkerdist.com

    You probably won't find much of the VIP line at LQSs as by and large small shops don't want to carry fabrics that Wal-Mart or other chains do. We can't compete with their retail prices and coupons. I carry VIP because I like the designs. The VIP brand is priced less than quilt-shop-only fabrics, which means that I have something to offer at a lower price-point.

    You may love or hate their designs, but I can't say enough good things about the people at Cranston! We probably buy more product from them than any other brand; in part because they refer customers to us, both for bolt sales and smaller, by-the-yard quantities. We don't stock ALL their lines (we wouldn't have room for it!) but are certainly open to suggestions about what we SHOULD be carrying as to by-the-yard retail fabrics. For full bolts, we can get anything that they currently have available with the exception of a few licensed fabrics that are simply not available to the retail market (Mary Engelbreit, for instance).

    As to what percentage of our sales is Cranston products... I really don't know, as it changes all the time. I can say that when their Garden Tales (Peter Rabbit) collection came out, that one line accounted for 10% of our total sales (when the collection was new). But that was a rare and wonderful occurrence, to have such a single strong seller. We definitely enjoyed it, while it lasted!

    One good thing I'd like to mention about the VIP line is that there has been such nice longevity to some of the prints. For anyone who likes to be able to count on a print being around for a while (including crafters and other small manufacturers), VIP's line has been a consistently reliable choice; some of the prints have run for many years.

    In case anyone is wondering why I'm so keen on Cranston products, it started because they were still printing in the US, and I'm frankly very passionate about the concept of "buy USA-made/local; it feeds your neighbors". And Cranston knew it. That's why they called me to personally deliver the sad news about the mill closing. And now, since we have established this history and good rapport, even though they no longer print in the US I will still do what I can to help them succeed.

    A question was raised as to the definition of who is a "business customer"... that's basically anyone with a tax id. It would include chains, LQSs, and "professional" crafters. I think, though I'm not sure, that this would also include organizations such as churches and schools... though the final decision on that would rest with Cranston.

    And as far as no longer selling through distributors... they are not the first to go that route; Michael Miller stopped using distributors a year or two ago. The difficulty - and this is the "inside scoop", as you wouldn't know this if you've never been in on a sales call from a distributor's sales rep - is that many of the distributors have their own lines of fabric which they prefer to show first, and then the various other makers don't get their lines shown as much. For instance, E. E. Schenck has the Galaxy and Maywood lines, Troy Corporation has Riverwoods, Needlecraft shares their warehouse with Elizabeth Studios (which has helped that new company to get launched)... and so on. As a buyer, I can't possibly buy all the lines that I'm shown... and so I tend to "shoot my wad" on the first things I see, and by the time I get to the bottom of the stack of fabrics, I can't afford to choose any more. You get the picture. The reps come through the door with several SUITCASES of goods. (Yes, it is SO MUCH FUN! Until the money runs out...)

    I think I've answered all the questions - at least, all the ones that were posted before I started composing this very LONG reply.

    Any others, go ahead and ask. I don't want my posts to come across as advertisements (other than a plug for Cranston, in this case)... so if you have a question which you think would be better sent as a private message, you can always send me one.

  7. #7
    Super Member butterflywing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roben
    Quote Originally Posted by butterflywing
    does 'business customers' mean chain stores? LQS's? i know it digs into your business, but will it be available online. now i'm curious: what percent of your sales would you estimate is cranston?

    i agree with bellaboo. where can we see it? hunt it down and ask to see it and then not buy there? not fair to the seller. will you be selling it by the yard? ooops. that may be a boo-boo.
    Favorite Fabrics' post is clear to me - she identifies herself as a quilt shop owner, and will stock some VIP/Cranston/Quilting Treasures fabric. Her percentage of sales is certainly none of anyone's business but her own; the thought that anyone not privy to her private conversation with the VIP people would know what does or does not constitute an 'boo-boo' is ludicrous.

    Favorite Fabrics, we are all not rude and inconsiderate - I'm sure quite a few quilters here really love VIP fabrics and will be glad to know it will be available to them when (not if, but when) it is no longer available at WM. I look forward to seeing more information about it when you get all the details ironed out!
    i don't want to know HOW MUCH she makes on sales. why would you think i need to know that? only just what percentage of her sales are actually cranston as opposed to other brands. the boo boo i referred to was that admin might not like discussing business in posts. the other was that it wasn't fair to store owners to have us look at their stock, with their help, to see the cranston fabric and then, say, order online from favorite's. if you were a shop owner would you like that to happen in your LQS? especially since the backing for a queen requires more than eight yards, that means a big loss if you don't buy it there. if you're talking about a king then the 10-yard bolt is not out of the question.

    seeing fabrics online at their website is not the same as touching and feeling.

    no, roben, we are all rude and inconsiderate.

  8. #8
    Super Member Favorite Fabrics's Avatar
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    I wouldn't want anyone to go to their LQS, shop and then take the business elsewhere, at least *not before* asking the LQS if they could order the fabric by the bolt at a fair price. Anyway... most of the time, the work of identifying/selecting a fabric can be done online at the maker's website.

    As to being able to feel the fabric... if you've ever had a piece of QT (Quilting Treasures) fabric, they print on the same greige goods (basic undyed fabric) all the time. So if you've felt one, you've felt 'em all. Their VIP line is printed on one of four different greige goods/finish styles. This is the first part of their FULL pattern number and it is a 4-digit code such as 1005, 1012, 1021 (and I forget what the fourth is). I don't think that they show that information on their website, but it is in their printed catalog (released twice a year) and you could always e-mail Cranston (or me) to ask about it. 1005 is fairly lightweight. 1012 is 60x60 weave. 1021 is 60x60 with their Cransheen finish (slightly shiny or chintzed and my favorite for home dec work).

    Quick rundown: their blenders and most of the basic calicos are 1005. The sunflower group is 1012. Vineyard (grapes) and the Hautman wildlife ones are 1021. Their "Anything Goes" group is done on the fourth type of fabric and is about as heavy/thick as the 60x60 but it's just a slightly different weave as the vertical (warp) threads are closer together.

    You should always give your LQS a shot at your business before taking your shopping online. It's just a matter of being kind to your neigbors! But unless it's a very large LQS, they may not carry all brands, or patterns/collections, in which case it's perfectly fair to shop elsewhere for what you cannot find locally. (We can't carry everything, either... in my shop's case, we're heavy on novelty fabrics because you can describe them in 2-4 words and type that into Google's search box.)

  9. #9
    Super Member butterflywing's Avatar
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    thanks for the info. i know, for instance, that VIP is lighter weight but much silkier. i love it. but others might not know that. they could be surprised by what they get online. ( i think the colors are much sharper, too ),

  10. #10
    Super Member sewjoyce's Avatar
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    OMG -- such beautiful fabric everywhere!! Thanks for the links -- I think! I could lose hours just looking.

    And if you order/have any of the "tiny taylor" bird fabric (Quilting Treasures), I would love to see what you have -- that is just gorgeous and I can see lots of projects....(OK, gotta clean up drool now.....)

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