$.99 sales be damned

It was with great sadness that I read this article about the Simplicity Pattern Company today. Still, it came as no big surprise to me. The major pattern companies just can’t turn a good profit any longer with patterns being practically given away at chain store sales all across the country every few weeks. What next?

News of closing brings sad response

By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 10:21 AM EDT

NILES – Many are saddened by the news of Simplicity Pattern closing its doors in Niles by the end of September.

The company has operated in Niles since 1931 and employed thousands of area residents, making it hard for some to believe it’s coming to an end.

It was announced Monday that the company, headquartered in New York, will end all production and distribution operations at its Niles facility, outsourcing the work to a company in Wisconsin.

This move leaves many questions about job losses here, particularly when combined with the closing of United Fixtures, as well as what will become of the Simplicity building.

“It’s sad to see, but this is the product of changing times,” Bob Tracey, a 15-year employee of Simplicity Pattern said Monday afternoon. “I left in 1984 and it was going downhill at that time.”

Tracey continued, saying when he left there were around 400 to 450 employees. Simplicity employs less than 150 at its Niles plant today. Ninety are expected to lose their jobs.

“It’s also sad for the community. It was such a big part of Niles. Now we will have another big, empty building. What is Niles going to do with a building that size? Especially if the bigger businesses aren’t coming around,” Tracey said.

Barbara Gaedtke was employed with the company for 22 years. She started out as a hand folder. When the company purchased folding machines, she ran those.

“It was really a nice place to work. I enjoyed it and really liked the people I worked with. There were always rumors going around, though. We heard the business was going to close, we heard it was moving south. It was always one rumor after the other. Now that they really are closing, it’s sad to see,” Gaedtke said.

She explained the lack in business having to do with the fact that no one sews anymore.

“When I was employed, there were a lot of jobs, but it wasn’t doing the best then, so I can’t imagine how it’s been just in the last few years.”

Gaedtke also made mention that this is not good for the community.

“Niles wants all these new things, like schools and other businesses, but we are losing jobs everywhere. They just can’t keep business and that’s not real positive for the town,” Gaedtke added.

Dolpha Reed was a 30-year employee of the company and her job included folding patterns, which kept her very busy.

“I worked there during a good time. They employed a lot of people. I really enjoyed the job. It was nice seeing all of the wedding and ballroom-type dresses. It was a good place to work for,” Reed said.

Simplicity was founded in New York City in 1927 and began manufacturing its patterns in Niles shortly after.

Today, the company’s production, distribution, administration, customer service and customer relations, accounting, billing, credit and information systems all operate out of its 740,000-square-foot facility in Niles.

Simplicity is headquartered in New York, where it houses its executive management team, sales and marketing and product design employees in 42,000 square feet of leased office space.

Simplicity has retained CB Richard Ellis to market its Niles property for sale.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “$.99 sales be damned

  1. “Nobody sews anymore”??? Excuse me, I sew and know lots of other women who sew and I love Simplicity patterns. Of course, I guess I’m guilty since I only buy the Big 3 patterns when they’re on .99 cent sales. Maybe they’ll all go on clearance and I can get a ton?

  2. I read this as they are closing this facility only, not stopping Simplicity patterns. Am I misunderstanding it? Do they have other facilities?

  3. Very sad to read this, but very happy to see you posting!

  4. That is really too bad. I have trouble believing that they will farm it all out and maintain standards and it is terrible for all the people who worked there. Ultimately I think it is terrible for all of us as well.

    As for people sewing, perhaps we sewists know others who sew, but I think it is a small part of the population who sews clothing, and an even smaller part of that who will buy patterns that aren’t on sale. I actually very rarely buy patterns on sale, because I think the price of the pattern is small enough for what I get and for various reasons it is more hassle than just buying what I want when I need it.

  5. Sewing Betty

    The constant demand for the 99 cent pattern has led to this, and also to chapter 11 for Hancocks . This is bad for the pattern industry(Whats left of it). Beware you’ll soon have one company under 3 different brand names controlling the entire pattern market. I for one do not look forward to that time.

  6. Melissa

    I guess I don’t see how the $.99 sales have contributed to Simplicity closing the plant. The sales are put on by the fabric stores, they are the ones loosing money by underpricing the product, not Simplicity. After all, the fabric stores buy them for a set price from the manufacturer and choose to put them on sale (just like when a grocery store puts milk or bread on sale for extra cheap – they want you to come in and buy other non-sale items).

  7. Sewing Betty

    Not so Melissa, non of the fabric chains pay a fixed price for there patterns, they all take stuff on consingnment and bascically pay a percentage of the take to the pattern companies. That is a fact.

  8. Sewing Betty is correct, the chain stores take all patterns on consignment. The pattern companies are the ones taking the hit for rock-bottom sale prices. Unfortunately for them, the chain stores have them over a barrel.

  9. That’s interesting about the patterns being sold on consignment. I assumed the same as Melissa. How come then a friend of my son-in-laws sends me the discontinued patterns that they are just tossing out? If they were truly on consignment, wouldn’t they send them back to the pattern company? (I believe these were New Look patterns.) Does it vary by pattern company? How would one find out?

    Gigi – glad to see you posting again. Have you been sewing? Hopefully you are having a fun summer and you and your family are well.

  10. Claire, when I worked for a fabric store, only the envelopes were sent back to the pattern company. The patterns themselves were/are supposed to be destroyed. They do it that way to save on return shipping, I’m sure.

    Thanks for the well wishes, not much sewing going on yet but hopefully soon!

  11. Mary T

    There is an interesting thread at Patternreview.com about this. What I gathered is they are outsourcing to a company in WI, that the plant in Niles is very old and out of date. It was built for thousands of employees, and just is a white elephant now. Also, that Simplicity is a victim of corporate raiding as it had too much in cash and liquid assets at one time.

    For years, so many sewists bashed big 4 patterns whenever and whereever they got the opportunity – instructing new sewists to run not walk away from big 4. That always upset me. I for one could not afford independants at the time, but I’m more than willing to pay more than $1.99. Regardless, we all have a limit to what we’ll pay on any day for patterns. We’d just be a whole lot more selective if we had to pay Hancock’s, Joann’s and Walmart’s “half off the msrp” normal prices. If I buy 3 @ $8 instead of 10 at $1.99, I’m spending a little more, but I’ll likely really use those 3 patterns as opposed to those extra 7 that will sit there until they are out of date.
    What would really make it sad if Simplicity were to go under, is that it was one pattern company that truly listened to the complaining and totally improved their patterns over the last few years. I sewed with Simp even when it was not “cool” to sew with them, and I would literally sit down and cry if there were no more Simplicity patterns!

  12. I’m wondering if the new producer in Wisconsin will be able to print wider pattern pieces than the old production plant that is now being closed. I talked with Connie Crawford before she found a Big 4 home for her pattern line and her trouble in designing patterns for plus sized women was that the printing capacities couldn’t accomodate the larger pattern pieces. I know from seeing Simplicity representatives at different sewing expos that Simplicity has been pressing to keep itself cutting edge and competitive. I hope this is a move based on those corporate goals!

  13. robyn

    Simplicity has turned itself around and is my “go-to” company of the big 4. This is bad news for the people who will be loosing their jobs, but I certainly hope that Simplicity is just adapting and will continue on.

    Gigi, like everyone else, I’m so happy to see a post from you. Best wishes.

  14. Terry from Chicago

    As someone else said above, Simplicity is NOT going out of business…they are simply moving pattern production to a printing plant in Neenah, Wisconsin–which actually makes a LOT of (green) sense, as lots of paper for the commercial printing industry is produced in Neenah. The plant in Neenah IS a contractor, not owned by Simplicity, but it has modern equipment. They will be adding 50 employees to accomodate the additional production. Here’s an article from a Milwaukee Business paper:

    http://milwaukee.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/2007/07/02/daily14.html

  15. katharinec

    Thanks for the update, and glad to see you’re around on the blogosphere again! I’ve missed you a lot. Come back again when you’re ready.
    showers of love–Katharine (in Brussels)

  16. Wow. I had no idea this was the trend. You are right. It is very sad.

  17. Oxanna

    Sad, if it’s indeed related to profits. I, too, am one of those who rarely buys a pattern unless it’s on a major sale. But…IMHO, they’re not worth that much more to me because of their problems. Retail is $16 for some patterns, which is ridiculous. Many chains discount 40%, but still, I think that’s silly. Why? Because their sizes don’t often fit me – mainly because they have ridiculous amounts of ease (the latest fiasco was 2″ of ease in a skirt waistband). Aside from my own personal fitting issues that have to be adapted from the standard size, I have to deal with these poorly drafted patterns. Nice versions of trendy styles often come out later than the trend’s opening time, which doesn’t exactly net young sewers. Also, fabric prices go up, while RTW costs go down. Especially at chain stores, which have huge markups on fabric. This makes it more expensive to sew clothing, and adding an expensive pattern gives sewing an “ouch” factor.

    99 cents may end up being unsustainable; however, if you don’t put out a quality product, $8-16 for a pattern is unreasonable.

  18. Hi Gigi,
    I just returned from the ASG conference in Sacramento where I met 2 executives from Simplicity. They had a booth there as Simplicity is a sponsor of the event. I asked them what’s up with Simplicity and they assured me that all the changes are for the best. They plan to lease out the big plant which had become a white elephant with football size space for folding patterns, now done in one small room. They are contracting out printing which will result in better pattern paper and envelope printing. All good things for us and for them. They were very excited about the future for Simplicity. Ann