Charlotte Now on Patternfish: Thoughts on the Digital Age

I have finally entered the fray of pdf downloads. Not myself personally, as I don’t do retail myself…but through Patternfish. I will be adding all of my pattern leaflets eventually, but started with Charlotte (link to page on Patternfish) as I had a nice lady from Norway contact me and ask if it were available in pdf. I had already decided that I was going to go ahead and go the pdf route. I know that there are many LYS that don’t like designers offering their patterns in pdf download. What many designers have found in practical experience (those that do sell directly to shops and also sell pdf downloads themselves), is that their market has increased with no real difference in sales. Their volume to their B&M (Brick and Mortar, or traditional shops), has not changed. What has happened instead is that they have widened their market by including these types of knitters:

  • Knitters in other countries who otherwise have no access to their designs
  • Knitters who only purchase pdf patterns (yes they do exist, it is their preference)
  • Knitters who do not have access to a LYS and purchase everything online

In the end we all have to do what we feel is best for our business. It was a hard decision for me to make in some respects because I am aware of the struggles that many LYS face, and I know the feelings many have about this issue. However, I have to stay competitive myself with other designers and stay current with market trends. I cannot wallow in previous business modes or decades and commiserate in sympathy and not grow my business. There is a large segment of knitters that only go online. There is a large segment that don’t go online. I know that there are only so many knitters, and the pie only gets divided so much, but I would like to be able to offer my patterns to knitters that are in other countries and don’t otherwise have access to them.  I want to make it easy for knitters to be able to get my patterns. It is all about distribution.

The thing that interests me most about this issue is that in many respects the LYS nor the distributors look at what is competition for the Designer. They add new patterns, new Designers, new products, without real concern other than how it makes their product line look. Which is to be expected…they have to look at their business and how the products they offer work together (you don’t want alot of the same thing). They view pdf as competition for them, and they are not happy about it. Some won’t purchase patterns from Designers who offer pdf downloads.

In the business world, everything is competition. The same people who are very unhappy about the competition of the pdf will think nothing of the added competition they give me as a Designer by adding more Designers to their line up, but they don’t want me to offer pdfs because it gives them competition.

I have to think of my business and what I feel is best for the knitter, and do so in a way that I feel is ethical and fair to the LYS. I will always support and defend the LYS to the best of my ability.

What I love about Patternfish is it is essentially a digital store. They take a cut from the amount just like any other retailer. And they earn it too. They offer responsive customer service. They really listen to what their customers want. They also support Designers. That itself is near and dear to my heart. They have security features on their pdf’s (they are watermarked too), so that folks are not just going to get a digital copy of one of my patterns and start their own little side business. Or “sharing” it with their knitting club. They have ease of use for the person who purchased the download, yes.  But peace of mind for the person who owns the rights to the intellectual property. The keys to the kingdom, as it were. My income.

Patternfish is essentially another store, like other stores that sell my patterns, only they sell a product that would be difficult or impossible in many respects for me to coordinate in a way I am comfortable with. I don’t do retail, so I would be dependent on whomever I am in business with to be scrupulously honest in their accounting and so on with the digital sales. How would I have any way of knowing in this country, let alone another country? I would go through a business that does that sort of thing, like Patternfish or Interweave’s download store. They have gone to the work of having everything set up so that it is both easy for the knitter and secure for the Designer. And they don’t sell anything else. They don’t sell yarn, they don’t sell notions. All they sell is pdf downloads. They send the knitter back, in essence, to their favorite store for the larger ticket items. In the end, I see little difference in a knitter purchasing a pattern from Patternfish, or another source for a pattern. Yes, they are all competition for each other. That is the nature of commerce. It is because we have choice that we have competition. Remember, there is competition for designers too, and it can be keen. Designers have businesses just like the LYS and others in the industry. We have to look at things that impact our businesses like changes in culture, distribution, and technology.

When technology changes it can be challenging to find ways for businesses to interface effectively with those changes. I believe that good customer service will always bring loyal customers. In the digital age, nimble business owners that are in areas where the online world is a factor would be wise to incorporate the online experience into their business model instead of running from it. It can be a powerful tool for their business if the knitters in their community like to go online.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace


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