I've been hearing for a while, from various sources and online groups, that we're at the start of a knitting recession. Many knitters may not remember the last one - maybe they weren't knitting or they may not have been born! But it hit hard. Those who suffered the most where local yarn stores. They were closing by the dozen, yarn companies closing or reducing output as the demand just wasn't there.
The last boom and consequent recession here was in the 80's. The UK economy suffered for all sorts of reasons (and we know who to blame for that!) and no doubt knitting was affected as a consequence. This time round, I think the cause is different.
We now have such a variety of yarns, patterns and notions available from the high street but mostly online, that I fear the market has flooded. Everybody wants a slice of the action. The choice is amazing. Independant companies, designers and spinners (myself included) have been able to gain sales and give the knitter or crocheter whatever they desire. As tastes change (thank goodness that novelty yarns are dying out), the market shifts to suit. But perhaps now, there is too much choice and competition.
There is also an increase in knitters buttoning down the hatches, attempting to reduce their stash and thus are not buying as much. Even back in October last year at Ally Pally, several sellers I know where commenting that they'd noticed yarn sales decreasing for a while. There is now perhaps the widest choice of free patterns available - the upside and downside of the internet. Shops and businesses are finding it hard to compete, and before long they will start to close.
This may sound a little drastic, but it could happen quicker than we know it. You still here folk complaining that they don't have a LYS, but those that do have one - are they being supported? Are we doing enough to ensure they remain open and encourage the craft in it's popularity?
There are of course other things to consider. The mindset of the general population has been changed due to the massive amounts of cheap imports - very few customers are prepared to pay appropriately for quality items. If they can get a bargain or get it free, they will. This affects all of us, I'm no exception. I can't afford to spend what I'd like to, and I'm sure many other people are the same. Stores and yarn companies are already producing stock to reflect this, or are offering 'special offers' which many smaller stores can't compete with.
What concerns me the most is that we will lose the variety. The independants that offer the unique, off the wall yarns and supplies will crash first. The big companies and mills will switch back to cheaply produced yarns as they will remain saleable for much longer. The one exception at the moment seems to be sock yarn - it's the most popular yarn purchased and seems to be the one excemption on most folks' reduced yarn habits! It will be damn frustrating to see shops stocking only sock yarn, because it's the only way they can make money and keep their business afloat.
There's no finger pointing, blame or criticism here, just an observation. But it is happening... just ask your LYS or independant dyer/spinner/designer.