Local Fabric Retailer Shutters Nine Locations
After 45 years of business, Eden Prairie-based fabric supplier Mill End Textiles is closing.
The company, which offers fabrics, quilting and apparel books and patterns, and various sewing aids, is discontinuing operations, which includes Minnesota locations in Burnsville, Crystal, Eden Prairie, St. Paul, Rochester, and St. Cloud. It is also closing its stores in Fargo, North Dakota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
According to a notice posted on the company’s website, the fabric supplier is hosting a final sale, which began Sunday, to sell its remaining merchandise.
Mill End Textile representatives could not immediately be reached on Monday to comment on the store closings.
All Mill End Textile locations are expected to close by February, or when all merchandise has been sold, according to media reports.
The shuttering of Mill End Textile’s business comes as smaller fabric retailers are facing increased competition. According to a “Sewing, Needlework, and Piece Goods Stores” report conducted by industry analyst The Gale Group, Inc., the retail fabric industry consists of two business types: fabric “super stores” and smaller “boutique” shops. Smaller fabric stores tend to carry products related to only one or two segments of the industry while the “super stores” boast large inventories and products in more than one category. Small fabric “boutique” stores also face competition from discount retailers, such as Wal-Mart.
While fabric “super stores” have the advantage of a larger client base and inventory over “boutique” fabric retailers, fabric retail chains also face competition from each other. In 2011, Leonard Green & Partners, L.P., a Los Angeles-based private equity firm, purchased Jo-Ann Stores, Inc.—one of the retail fabric industry’s largest companies. The New York Times reported that the Hudson, Ohio-based company, which was acquired for $1.6 billion, was a prominent buyout target in the retail industry. The now-private Jo-Ann Stores reported $2.2 billion in revenue as of November 2012, according to Forbes.
While Jo-Ann Stores’ experienced steadily growing success, even during the recession, another leading fabric retailer—Hancock Fabrics, Inc.—underwent significant changes. According to the “Sewing, Needlework, and Piece Goods Stores” report, the Baldwyn, Mississippi-based fabrics, sewing, and textiles accessory retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2007, closed approximately 200 stores, and was temporarily delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. It emerged from bankruptcy the following year but still faced significant debt and declining sales.
Although Hancock Fabrics’ sales have fluctuated annually since it emerged from bankruptcy, the company most recently reported sales of $278 million in 2012—a 2.2 percent increase from the previous year. Currently, its common stock is running at $0.99 per share.
The Gale Group, Inc.’s report suggests that the declining growth in the retail fabric industry dates as far back as the late 1960s, when the home-sewing market first began to decline due to increases in affordable, off-the-rack clothing, and in the number of working women. The retail fabric industry then began catering to a niche market for hobbyist sewers, and thus saw a significant decrease in its consumer market. The retail fabric industry’s move to the “arts, crafts, and home decorating” sector has extended into recent years, where it continues to face competition, according to the report.