Wednesday, 19 January 2011

What are John Lewis thinking?

What, please, is wrong with the knitting department at John Lewis Oxford Street?

No Addi Turbos - no Addi of any kind. No Manos del Uruguay. No Malabrigo. No Shetland. No Artesano. No Habu. No Colinette. No Wensleydale. No organic Welsh natural colours. None of that beautiful Argentinian cotton I made the chemo hat out of. No mercerised cotton. Not even Opal or Cherry Tree Hill sock wool. They've stopped doing the Cygnet Superwash pure wool that I used to use to make my knitted animals, that came in all those good strong colours; there's absolutely no point in going there any more. What are they, a dozen years behind the times? I see young, starting-out knitters coming in and going away puzzled and disappointed, having had their time wasted with this stuff. (If that's you, try here instead).

All they've got is overpriced boring big brands, Rowan (with their boring boring coordinated-wallpaper colour schemes and they've never even managed a proper blue or a proper red), a few cheapo rubbish needles (like they've never heard of magic loop - you certainly couldn't do it with anything they have), Debbie Bliss, a wierdly enormous pile of not-very-useful Noro, a small batch of very scratchy Fair Trade product in muddy colours and some ghastly soapy acrylic.

I entirely agree that it's essential to provide some low-budget yarns - but they don't even do that well. And is it really the low-budget knitters who fight their way through the Oxford Street crowd to go there? If you're that low-budget you'd be better off at that department store in Ealing, or down Walthamstow Market.

I can only conclude I'm not their target market. But I'm not sure who is. Clueless knitters only, who don't expect any better? That doesn't seem like a sound long-term strategy.

Do they sell ball winders? How about the rug-hook for attaching zips? No.

And the haberdashery is just as bad. I want to make myself a carefully-fitted wool skirt in a specific design. I just want some good quality wool cloth in a choice of colours. Can they help me? Nope.

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Update, promoted from Comments:

Sharon Neale said...
Hi, my colleagues at John Lewis came across this post and shared it with me. Thought it would be worthwhile responding.
John Lewis always welcomes customer feedback and we are currently looking to strengthen the range of brands and accessories across our entire haberdashery range, especially knitting - so please watch this space!
Our existing assortment is generally proving popular with our customers but we constantly look at ways of improving our offering so thank you very much for your feedback.
Sharon Neale, Buyer for Haberdashery at John Lewis
Hedgehog here: I'd be a lot happier if the Cygnet Superwash, or any other superwash pure wool at the same price point in a range of strong colours, in a DK and an Aran weight, and maybe a sock weight, came back. That's something a department store can really deliver. Together with maybe some quality needles. The rest of it, to be fair, is relatively low-quantity stuff that I can get elsewhere.

9 comments:

Elizabeth said...

MsHedgehog,
Alas, I have these same troubles regarding art supplies, and fabric. Also many simple good materials, (hide glue, various old style pigments, etc) seem to be gone. It must be that people do not make good things so much anymore, and that is very very sad.
E

msHedgehog said...

Elizabeth - the funny thing is there are lots of out-of-the-way boutiques that do this stuff, so it is available. John Lewis is a huge department store chain (with an interesting business model - it's a worker-owned cooperative, and generally very profitable). And they have lots of space in the best possible location - I'd expect them to do better on what I'd consider basic requirements of quality and range. I'm baffled as to why they don't want me to buy the premium products from them, as they have real buying power and would probably be able to offer them cheaper.

So I conclude you must be right - the small scale of the market just doesn't make it worth their while.

Romney said...

I've never understood the logic of the knitting department at John Lewis. I can only assume the staff never knit elsewhere (and they do knit at least, I've seen them) and don't know what else is available. If you're in the area, Liberty is smaller but much better focussed. The needles cost more, but they're a brand I can live with (albeit still not Addis. You'll have to go to iknit for that).

Sharon Neale said...

Hi, my colleagues at John Lewis came across this post and shared it with me. Thought it would be worthwhile responding.

John Lewis always welcomes customer feedback and we are currently looking to strengthen the range of brands and accessories across our entire haberdashery range, especially knitting - so please watch this space!

Our existing assortment is generally proving popular with our customers but we constantly look at ways of improving our offering so thank you very much for your feedback.

Sharon Neale, Buyer for Haberdashery at John Lewis

msHedgehog said...

Hello Sharon - thank you very much for your response! (I wouldn't dream of talking to someone in store because it's far too crowded and rushed and I'd be so cross). Get the full range of Cygnet Superwash (or any superwash pure wool at the same price point and in a strong range of colours, not pastels or the bottom of a pond) and I'll be a lot happier. Addi Turbos and some Manos del Uruguay silk/wool mix would be a bonus. At least I can get those elsewhere.

msHedgehog said...

I'll promote the comments into the post later on.

Anonymous said...

just come across this post. love the blog - dancing and knitting two of my fave things! re waterproof mascaras - you should definitely try 'blink' - stays put and then you kind of have to wipe it off rather than using an oily make up remover. i really agree re john lewis yarns - some stronger colours and fresh desings would be great. spud and chloe have some fun colours but i think mainly available in america. millamia also has really nice bright shades and great designs. will haev to check out cygent. at least JL have noro. would be nice to see something new though and love the idea of being able to get quality needles like addis there. think the ribbons etc good and button sortiment also good but loads have been out of stock at oxofrd street recently. keep dancing! - Vicky B

jennydaisy said...

I'm really sorry to have to add to this post but I really have to endorse the negative comments. I have loved John Lewis for years (and I'm talking 50 years here) and am an avid knitter and sewer. Both yarn and fabric areas have gradually diminished. Yesterday I went to the yarn department at the Oxford Street branch. There were plenty of customers but the staff seemed to be avoiding eye contact and only stopped talking to each other when directly approached. There were at least three people who needed help. One girl, who was trying to buy yarn for her mother, was eventually driven to asking me to help her. Perhaps it is the internet which has deprived the stores of their sales and have pushed them into reducing the displays- it can't be lack of interest in knitting or sewing-you only have to go to Alexandra Palace in October to realise how many people are prepared to spend money on these activities. I was intending to buy enough yarn for a blanket but came away with nothing

msHedgehog said...

@JennyDaisy - I don't think it's just the internet, because I don't think most of the internet yarn shops are that great (although it's good for needles). And you have to be able to touch a new brand. But the smaller stores are excellent and the big stores just aren't doing their job - which, for me, would be mid to low price superwash pure wool in an adequate quantity and choice of colours.