The crippling of Cotton + Steel and the death of Whipstitchcraft

I have a lot of feelings about what's been going on with Cotton + Steel, so I thought I'd throw in my two cents.  After all, we launched this shop stocking only C+S and Kona solids, C+S is the keystone of our business!  So when we heard about the departure of our favorite 5 (the fab...ric 5 if you will, ha!) we were a bit heartbroken.  The brand will no longer be what it was.  They are bringing on "friends", aka independent designers, but there is no longer a cohesive aesthetic. It's a bit disjointed.

Before we get into the now, let me start from the beginning.  When we first started setting up for our September 1 launch, back in the spring/summer of 2017, we knew where we wanted to start: with Cotton + Steel.  We loved everything about the aesthetic.  This modern vintage feel that couldn't be found anywhere else in the industry!  We opened our account with RJR... and that's about where our problems began.  You see RJR was in the middle of a very big mess.  They operated entirely on paper, and while they had hired a website designer, the designer botched the job and left them in the lurch.  As inconvenient as that would be, what made it even worse was the fact that their paper operations were so disorganized and unreliable.  Orders were lost, delayed or duplicated so often, one would imagine they were hemorrhaging shipping costs and man hours to correct all the issues.  Our sales rep was unreachable and never returned emails or calls, so we were always having to call the call center, and spend a lot of time reiterating information our sales rep was supposed to already know.  Our opening order - what we were supposed to have in stock during our grand opening - what we were promised to arrive by August.... wasn't delivered until November.  Our preorder reputation was shot from the get go.  We weren't even open, and we were already seen as unreliable.  We were off to a slow and frustrating start.

After dozens of disheartened phone calls, our rep finally made an appearance for ordering the winter 2017 lines.  He arrived with one of the managers from RJR to profusely apologize for all of the problems we'd been experiencing.  I felt really terrible for what they were going through!  When we got to discussing the new C+S lines coming out, the tension started to rise.  There was obviously something going on behind the scenes with the way the RJR manager spoke about the Fabric Five.  I am a feminist at heart (hopefully we all are...) and the way he referred to "the girls" made me feel both uncomfortable and curious.  Little did I know what was on the horizon!

When they finally got their online operations up and running, the paper orders from winter 2017 were hand entered into their system, in no particular order, and promised ship dates were once again missed with no warning.  Luckily the quilting community is pretty understanding and kind, so we didn't have to endure many upset customers, but we still felt terrible.  We knew how it felt to be on the other side, anxiously awaiting an order to start a project, only to be told it's delayed over and over again.  It was impossible for our brand new reputation not to have suffered.  There are probably thousands of dollars in repeat customer spending that we lost.  

So when we heard about the departure of the Fabric Five, we were heartbroken, but not surprised.  But by that point we'd spent enough time and effort trying to recover from the small business destroying Algorithm. Now the Cotton + Steel foundation atop which we built our business has crumbled. Add to that the shady fee increases at Etsy (gross profit for the first quarter of 2018 was $79.6 million, up 27.9%, but they need to nearly double their seller fees and percentages?  But that's none of my business  🐸☕️), we just don't see a way for our business to continue.  There is no support for small businesses anymore in this country.

To end, we will be selling off our inventory and that will be that.  It was a fun adventure, and we learned a lot.  Thank you to all those who have supported us from the beginning! We will, of course, keep our social media up so we can post all of our makes.  So be sure to keep in touch!  And subscribe to our newsletter so you can be the first to know about great sales :)


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  • Nancy on

    Well, DAMN!! That’s so sad and such a shitty way for you to try to plan an opening and be excited for your venture. You’re exactly right, big business has run over everything. I still to this day seek out independent shops where I know people and know the bottom line isn’t some big heartless conglomerate.
    I’m sorry you had to experience the unpleasantness of business. It always is an honest struggle for the little guy.
    All the best in your future endeavors. I know it’s hard, but try not to let it jade you. Every stumble helps us grow, it’s just hard to bumble through in the meantime.
    Nance
    Nancy

  • Jenni Hunt on

    I am so sorry. 😞 So hard to see a shop have to close because of so many negative outside circumstances.


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