Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Economics of Knitting - Classes in Yarn Shops

I worked off and on at my LYS until a few years ago when the owner retired and was unable to sell the business. I was there part time, between corporate jobs, both teaching and working the floor of the shop. 

Retail store owners use classes to bring customers into the shop and as an added value to their customer base. They hope that students will buy more product once they are in the shop for a class. Instructors are paid better than the hourly rate of retail staff but at the very low end of the scale for anyone who is an educator in any industry.  The time it takes to develop course materials is not taken into account. You are typically paid an hourly rate for the class time which is predefined but in reality often runs over as you are in the shop, so it is not unusual for students to pop back in for one on one questions and assistance. I always happily worked with these students as I'm passionate about my knitting as are all of us who pursue this as a career.

Sometimes on busy shop days we would have to ask students, (outside of class time) to wait while we looked after other customers in the store. Most were happy to do so but occasionally there were students who were not pleased by this. One of my co-workers who did not teach, also pointed out to me that attending guild meetings was becoming a problem for her because so many customers  would approach her about shop business during what was a social evening out for her.

Classes were often canceled if not enough students registered. That would mean that an instructor may have prepared materials that did not get used if the class was never run. That results in an instructor being out of pocket on those costs for both development time and hard costs like paper, printing and yarn for samples. Those of us in the industry think of this as a cost of doing business but I'm sure most knitters have never realized that this happens often.

The owner of the shop calculated costs very carefully for classes. They had to break even on the cost of paying the instructor with the amount charged to the students. So that number was the break point for canceling a low enrollment class. I'm not making a value judgment on anything I've written about today, this is just the way it is. These are the realities of the economics of knitting. I suspect that most consumers are unaware of how this all works so I'll continue to share more information in future posts.


  1. Yes, all true.

    When you travel to teach, how does that work? Because I don't know that I could make up travel time and expense when teaching semi-locally (1-2 hours away), but it's a good way to become better known. Trade off?

  2. Thank you for this report! It is very interesting to find out how very simmilar economic of knitting works in international context. I've experienced the same here in Austria and wondered about the reasons. Somehow I thought that in USA or Canada is much better, but it is obviously very hard business everywhere.