SIC 5949 Sewing, Needlework, and Piece Goods Stores


SIC 5949

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of sewing supplies, fabrics, patterns, yarn, and other needlework accessories.



Sewing, Needlework, and Piece Goods Stores


Although this industry was dominated by a few large national chains, hundreds of small shops were scattered throughout the country. Because many of these small businesses were privately owned, the size of the industry was difficult to determine. In 2004, the two largest companies in this sector, Jo-Ann Stores, Inc. and Hancock Fabrics, Inc., generated approximately $2.2 billion in sales, or one-fourth of industry totals.

Since all the stores in this industry carried limited product lines, albeit deep selection within those product lines, they were classified as specialty retailers. Within the broad category of specialty retailers, the sewing, needlework, and piece goods industry was populated by two different retail formats. In the sewing and fabric category, large "super stores" were the norm. The needlework stores, on the other hand, were usually small boutique-like shops.

Although these two types of stores often carried similar products, they had different competitive priorities. While the large fabric retail chains, such as Hancock Fabrics and Jo-Ann Stores, carried large inventories of varying quality, the small independent shops focused on providing high quality products and services. Rather than competing on the basis of price, they pursued customer satisfaction strategies with low turnover rates and more sales expertise than the large chain stores. The small stores, moreover, usually carried products related to only one or two segments of the industry, such as quilting or knitting. The local stores, therefore, exuded distinctive competence in service and quality, while the national chains emphasized selection and price.

An increase in the popularity of arts and crafts and a surge in home decorating prompted renewed growth in the sewing, needlework, and piece goods industry. Although the industry demonstrated enviable vitality, competition was intense. The attractive growth rate encouraged new entrants to the industry and convinced discount retailers to devote more resources to craft items. Retailers in this industry also competed with some hobby retailers classified in SIC 5945: Hobby, Toys, and Game Shops, that carried craft supplies such as yarn and fabric.

Faced with this competitive pressure and the threat of new entrants, industry leaders worked hard to maintain market share. The businesses in the sewing, needlework, and piece goods industry were searching for new ways to gain a competitive edge. Super store conversion, increased customer service, more creative marketing, and expanded inventories were high on the agenda for these companies.


Many of the businesses in this industry opened in the 1940s and early 1950s as basic fabric outlets. Carrying garment-oriented sewing supplies, these stores catered to the post-World War II mother who sewed a large percentage of her family's clothing. Throughout the 1950s and into the early...

To continue reading