Tuesday, July 25, 2006

But why is everyone calling them cheap?

Ok, I understand some of you love the Options needles from KnitPicks. Me, personally? I like a lighter needle, and my tastes run pretty parallel to our gal Grumperina except for my preference for magic loop. I've got a really nice collection of INOX Express with 40" cords, a smattering of Addi Naturas and three Turbos. (I don't like how blunt the Turbos are, but I'm stuck with them for size 0 magic loop.) So Grumperina did this test where she weighed the needles she bought, and they were all about twice as heavy as her other needles, and she sent them all back. I think there were dpns, an Options circular, a Classic circular.

So okay, you use the needles you like and I'm not gettin' preachy about it. Just saying that there's scientific evidence to back up the reason I'm not interested in buying them.

On to the slogan: Only knitters could come up with something this cool. Oh yeah? Apparently these people have never felt the sleek caress of a sports car on their behind. (Or all the car designers at BMW are knitters.) Dumb slogan.

I think their other (main) advertising slogan offended a lot of people - not the "traveling the world" slogan but the way they kind of act like "why would you ever go to an EXPENSIVE yarn shop when you have us?" Which is kind of sad - there is plenty of room in the market for Rowan and KnitPicks both. (Personally I wonder if they were aiming straight at Rowan when they said all that, but it could just be indigestion.)

The yarn isn't bad, though the shipping is pretty atrocious. In contrast, try ordering something from KPixie, the online shop KnitPicks filed a lawsuit against because they thought people were confusing "Knit Pixie" (an upscale, online knitting boutique) with "Knit Picks" (totally the opposite except for being online). If you order from KPixie you'll have your yarn in two days, tops. Order from Knit Picks and you'll be lucky if it's shipped in five.

Again, not picking - you can order from wherever you choose. But what I have a beef with is knitters calling this Options set "cheap."

Ok, maybe the materials are cheap, and that explains the weight. The packaging certainly is, and is another reason I've no desire to own them (sorry, I'm a designer at heart and I've been known to put a Bible back on the shelf because I didn't like the way the type was set, so I'm just being consistently anal).

But the prices? The circulars are comparable to INOX Express, and the Options kit has 9 needle sizes and 4 cables. For $60. And that is most certainly not cheap.

Controversy like this in the knitting world is often very amusing. You get people who say "YES, BUT HAVE YOU TRIED THEM" - my answer is no. I will take your word for it that for you they are the best thing you've ever used. Other needles are that for me - just try to understand - no need to tell me you feel that way. You get other people who don't really care except for a few bizarrely misplaced words in their campaign (like me). And then there are people who already have Boyes or Sister sets or Denise who are just fine with them and have no need to spend $60 on another needle set.

See, Mom and I were talking yesterday morning in another context about the reasons people buy things. Status. Price. Value. There's one other, but Consumer Behaviour was quite a few years ago in my lift. A Status shopper is probably going to go for all Addi, all the time. Or a Sister set. Price people will go for the cheapest thing they can get their hands on. They'll shop within a context (Wal-Mart) and if they don't find something that's what they need, they won't buy it. Value shoppers, however, are willing to look around for a bit. They dig a deal (see Hype handbags at TJMaxx) and are willing to look for it. They may be status shoppers at heart who will actually spend $210 on a purse, but not until they know they can't find a better price anywhere else.

I think Knit Picks is trying to hit the Value segment, and I think they overshot the price points by about $10. $49.99 would have seemed like a bargain for this set. $59.99 sounds a lot higher, though it's only $10 more. But I also think that the Knit Picks brand has become so associated with Value shoppers (those willing to wait for shipping to get a deal, or deal with not seeing the yarn till they get it, or whatever) that most people ordering Options needles feel like they must be getting a deal because it's Knit Picks.

Now, love them, hate them, adore the needles or ignore them, that is a stroke of pure marketing brilliance. When you can take a set of heavy needles in cheap packaging that are absolutely minimal in features, make people wait 2-3 weeks for shipping and still charge them $10 more than a bigger set they can drive to their local yarn shop to get, your brand has some power behind it.

It won't, ever, with the Status knitters (which is lucky for yarn store owners because those are the people who will seriously spend money), and some things will hold certain Value shoppers back (ahem). They'll never get the Price knitters. But it's a decent market chunk, and they've obviously created a strong brand.

And now I'm off to work to do some branding of my own.


Anonymous P-la said...

I was one of those people who bought a lot of Addi's 'cuz everyone was going on and on about how wonderful they were. I used them until I bought my first Inox. Now I've sold all my Addi's to my friends and ADORE my Inoxs. (Inoxes?) Live and learn.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I jumped and bought the options... I like the flexi cord and the point...
I don't like the advertising and the "searching the world" phrase... more like searching for cheap mills outside the US is more like it.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Betty said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Rosa said...

I agree with the INOX--they're good. I bought a set of 2-15 40" circulars from an Ebay dealer a couple of years ago. I don't have the issue of trying to find my DPNs, I use circs for everything; wash cloths to magic looped socks--even teaching myself to knit two on one circular.

It does depend on the knitter's taste and needs.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Martina said...

My... I have never thought as much about knitting needles! I grab what I need. I have noticed though that if I have a choice between plastic, steel and wood I will choose the wood. I have handmade dpn's made out of hard wood and some bamboo needles. Can't say as I ever pay attention to brand.

9:03 AM  
Blogger wannabe said...

HERE HERE! And about KPixie...I placed a HUGE order on Saturday. I GOT IT YESTERDAY...MONDAY! Yes, the is literally one shipping day. I have never been so happy with any other online yarn store as I have been with KPixie and I love how they feature unique yarns from small business owners like Knitterly Things and All Things Heather! LOVE LOVE LOVE Kpixie!

9:47 AM  
Blogger turtlegirl76 said...

I haven't had a lot of exposure to other brands of needles, apart from Clover and Addi, the only other's I've seen were the Susan Bates and Boye. I almost wish I were able to do a real comprehensive comparison of brands, but I've been happy with my collection of circs so far. I really, really wish I hadn't bought all those aluminum straights when I first started though. You make some great points, and I agree with your observation that just because it's coming from KP then people assume it's a bargain. I think the more you're willing to research and learn, the more you'll find that this isn't the case. That's when your stash starts getting more diverse, and some might say, "nicer". I'm all for nicer.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Peevish said...

I'm kind of a status shopper and kind of not.... We don't get Inox here in Australia (or not that I've seen, anyway), but I have tried both Clover bamboo and Addi turbo circs, and i will go for Addi every time. They absolutely suit me to a tee - when I need a new needle, I go for Addi because I know I'll be happy with the result. Of course, KnitPicks are evil and Do Not Ship Overseas And Please Stop Asking so I won't get a chance to weigh in on that side of the debate!

4:39 PM  
Blogger Tygher Knits said...

I'm still not exactly sure how one can call a difference of 6 GRAMS "heavy", but whatever floats your boat I guess. I personally won't write off anything until I've actually tried it, and won't take someone else's word for what I'll like.

4:42 PM  
Blogger AmyArtisan said...

Wow - lots to think about in that post! Since joining the knit blog world earlier this year it has been fascinating to see how quickly some folks will jump on assorted bandwagons.

I have all sorts of needles in my assortment - although I've never bought Inox yet. I recently discovered that the Susan Bates colored plastic sticks have been great for my cotton dishcloth addiction - the Sugar'n Cream yarn works swiftly on those sticks. (Who knew? I just picked them up when home with the folks because I didn't have anything to work on that weekend)

5:27 PM  
Anonymous mel said...

I've got to agree with you on the price point for the Options. They aren't a bargain. I'm all for buying them if you like them though. I'm terribly snotty about needles, I know what I like and have the option to buy what I like. After having jumped into a purchase of a set of Denise's however, I will not be buying any more needle sets untried. If someone I know has some Options and can loan me one to try, I'll give it a whirl, but I'm not popping $60 to see if they're any good.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

After the nightmare I had recently with KP (no tracking number, no reference to tell me WHERE my order was even though it stated that it had been shipped 2 weeks ago) and the 3 week wait for yarn, I will never order from them again. I could have slung the yarn on my back and WALKED from Ohio to Washington State faster...

8:12 PM  
Blogger noblinknits said...

That's a great post. I see myself as a status shopper, now, as I can't resist the ridiculous expense of ridiculously expensive things, especially if they are limited edition. Fortunately, I tend to dream about purchasing more than I purchase.

6:24 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Thanks for this thoughtful, thought-provoking post, Jen! You make excellent points. Everyone keeps saying that I absolutey must try the knitpicks needles, that I'll love them, etc. But... why? I have PLENTY of Addis. PLENTY. In face, I took advantage of the amazing knitpicks 1/2 price Addi sale to round out my collection...

11:55 AM  
Blogger mrspao said...

Bamboo and wood all the way for me. I found knitting with anything less flexible painful for my wrists.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Sara in WI said...

I looove Inox express circulars! Great point and join both. I have wood and plastic and balene and aluminum....you name it, I have it. I keep them in Circular Solutions and related storage. A lot of how I choose the needle for the project has to do with the yarn, though, too, as well as the type of knitting.

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Heather said...

Ok..so I have to chime in here, I partly agree with most stuff you said but the real reason I'm here is to give you my comment about the needles. I know that grumperina did a huge commentary about their weight, they're heavy, wrist strain, blah blah blah. Normally I think she is spot on but in this case, I'm not sure. The needles are heavier, that point cannot be dispusted but we are talking grams here, not ounces, little tiny grams. And just as a little test of my own, I weighed my wedding ring, it weighs more then most the neeldes. I don't take it off to knit, it doesn't weigh me down. I wonder with the weight thing how much is psychological and how much it really makes a difference. When you are knitting a full sized sweater with probably a lb of wool on the needles, does a couple grams really make a difference?

And the whole kpixie and knitpicks thing. What a freaking joke, do these big corporations have nothing better to do then pick on the "little guy." That just disgusted me.

And lastly although I do support knit picks, I like their needles and I like most of their yarn, some of their good deals aren't really all that great if you shop around and buy some of the off brands or smaller ma and pa brands. Some of their stuff reminds me of the "debbie bliss syndrome," well debbie bliss on clearance atleast. You know, you get excited because the ball of yarn is 3.99 instead of 8.99 but then you notice that the yardage is like 80 yds or something ridiculous like that.

I'm done rambling! :) Thanks for listening.

6:32 PM  
Blogger ellipsisknits said...

I know this is a late comment, but you linked this post today, so I was in the neighborhood. It's good to know thre are other people out there who don't think knit picks is the nicest company in the world. Other people can do whatever floats their boat, but they never seemed like the sort of place I wanted to give my money too. Good to know I'm not alone.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Another late post. You said:
"I think their other (main) advertising slogan offended a lot of people - not the "traveling the world" slogan "

Well, I'm offended, thankyou. As Peevish said, Knit Picks will not ship internationally. This is because *ahem*:Our primary reason for this is that we are not able to provide our international customers
with the same superior service we provide to our North American customers. We have
not been able to locate satisfactory shipping options that will work for all 75 countries
we were servicing for our other companies"

Exqueese me?

OK, I'm over it, whatever, don't ship to us, see if I care.

I can, however, order the options from a vendor - for $130.00!!! A set of Denise needles will set me back $85.50, and Addi Turbos will set me back $14-15 each, with Inox costing arouns $5.00. Plus postage, etc. I usually just go for whatever is in the local craft store, although I'm a bamboo/wood fan when it comes to straights.

The thing is, if you're going to splurge - fine. Knitting is a sensual experience, anyhow, if you want to enhance that, good for you. But I'm with you on the cheap-with-a-big-pricetag. It's like shopping in a discount store, and you forget that not everything is actually cheaper just because it has 'bargain' in the name.

Just looking at the photo of that case was enough to put me off. Yuck. Yuck for $130? No thanks.

9:49 PM  

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