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Are Discount Fabric Websites Really Bargains or Are They Scams?

By Jeff Frank

Do discount fabric websites really sell fabrics at 50% to 90% off?

I’m trying to reupholster a sofa sectional.

My interior design consultant is recommending a fabric that costs $50 per yard. She says I need about 40 yards.

I am always seeing discount fabric websites that advertise prices anywhere from 50% to 90% off.

Are these discount fabric websites legitimate or scams?

The answer is not a clear cut “Yes!” or “No!”

Online fabric discounters and stores really do offer 50% to 90% off on the fabrics they sell.

My background includes 15 years as the owner of an upholstered furniture manufacturing company.

I have purchased thousands of yards of fabrics from dozens of sources.

Do you really “get what you pay for” when buying fabrics?

The answer is not a clear cut “Yes!” or “No!”

Low-cost polyester and microfiber fabrics are often more durable and easier to clean than expensive fabrics costing 10x more.

High Performance fabrics, that are both durable and highly stain resistant, are available in a wide price range. They can start below $10 per yard with others exceeding $50 per yard (at wholesale prices.)

A surprisingly high percentage of a fabric’s selling price is determined by factors that have nothing to do with quality, durability, or even how much it costs to make the fabric.

A major cost factor is whether the fabric has been discontinued.

Thousands of discontinued fabrics are available for 50% – 90% off their original prices.

Fabric mills generate thousands of different patterns and colors each year.

Most never become big sellers.

Even the best eventually slow down and are discontinued.

Fabric rolls
Discount fabrics

Most fabrics are not sold at full price, even when they are currently running fabric designs still being made by the mills.

A real life example of how fabric pricing works:

This is based on an actual fabric I used to buy for my upholstered furniture manufacturing company.

The fabric was available in a dozen different colors.

2 of those colors were among my top 10 fabrics; 6 others were OK. 4 colors were very poor sellers.

The retail price of this fabric to the general public was $80 per yard.

Most purchasers paid far less.

Interior design professionals, who usually buy only partial rolls for each order, received a 50% off discount – $40 per yard.

Small manufacturers (like me) who could buy multiple full 50 yard rolls paid $15 per yard.

Larger manufacturers and wholesalers (including online fabric discounters and fabric stores) who purchased thousands of yards paid less.

Even at deeply discounted prices, fabric is highly profitable.

New fabric introductions do not always catch on with retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers.

Even when a new fabric is a big success, only a few colors will usually be big winners.

Every fabric is eventually discontinued, although a very few patterns have continued to sell for 20 years or more.

But even those long-lasting patterns are constantly dropping slow selling colors and adding new updated colors.

When a fabric is discontinued by a mill or manufacturer, left-over stocks become closeouts.

Discontinued fabrics from the mills are first offered, at a small discount, to customers who have already been buying the line at their regular prices.

When the mills have sold as much as they can for 10 or 20% off, the remaining stock is sold off in bulk at further discounts.

Fabric store

Closeout and discontinued fabrics originate from two primary sources.

Fabric mills do not have space to store slow-selling discontinued fabrics.

They need to clear space as quickly as possible to make room for new fabric introductions.

Most mills have pre-arranged deals with large wholesalers (or discount retailers) who purchase truckload quantities of discontinued fabrics.

Partial rolls (less than 50 yards) may be sold for as little as 50 cents per yard regardless of the initial selling price.

Full rolls of closed out high-volume fabrics are often sold for $1 – $2 per yard.

Expensive fabrics, made in limited quantities, may be closed out at higher prices or a close out fabric buyer may have a deal for a fixed price no matter how much the fabrics cost originally.

Higher priced “designer” fabrics that originally had a “retail price” of $100 or more per yard, and which are featured at deep discounts for $40/yd. or more, may have been purchased for less than $10 per yard.

Each mill clears out thousands of yards of excess fabric each year.

Manufacturers are another source of closeout fabrics.

Retailers are constantly changing fabric selections for furniture in their showrooms and websites.

When retailers change fabrics, manufacturers are often stuck with unsold inventory.

Left-over fabrics, that have been discontinued by retailers, get sold to close-out buyers, even if the fabric is still being made by the mill.

The $80/yd. fabric referenced at the beginning of this article was eventually discontinued by the mill.

When the fabric was discontinued, the mill still had several thousand yards remaining.

First, they offered the remaining stock to their customers (who had previously purchased it) for 20% off the wholesale price.

After they sold as much as they could at that price, they offered it to previous customers (like me) at 50% off wholesale.

I bought 1000 yards of my two best-selling colors at 50% off the price that I had been paying previously.

Two years later, sales of that fabric had slowed to the point I no longer wanted it in my inventory.

I still had two full rolls and 4 partial rolls – a total of 180 yards that I had purchased for 1/2 price at $7.50/yd..

I sold the remaining full rolls for $1.25/yd. and the partial rolls for $0.75/yd. to a closeout fabric buyer.

The partial rolls will probably end up being shipped overseas to a developing country and sold in a container mixed with hundreds of other fabrics, all sold at the same price.

Some manufacturers sell their excess fabrics like this by the pound. Although full rolls have the yardage marked on them, many manufacturers do not carefully track how much fabric remains on partial rolls.

Rather than take the time to unroll and count yardage on each of the dozens or hundreds of partial rolls, they just weigh them all on a big scale and get paid by how many pounds the fabrics weigh.

Meanwhile, larger manufacturers sell their excess discontinued fabrics to large discount fabric stores and online retailers.

The discounters may begin by offering the fabric to the public at very high prices based on how much they think they can sell it for. The starting price has very little relationship to how much was paid for it.

If the fabric doesn’t sell at the high price, they lower the price until it does sells. Everything sells if the price is low enough.

Even at 90% off the original $80 retail price ($8/yd.) the discount fabric seller is making a substantial profit margin.

 Discontinued specialty fabrics are made in smaller quantities.

These may be sold to closeout purchasers for prices that are higher than $2 per yard. But there will still be a very steep discount.

Regardless of the original price, closeout fabrics are a commodity that needs to be cleared out and disposed of rapidly.

A few of the available discount fabric websites are:

1502 Fabrics

Affordable Home Fabrics

Barn Fabric Center

Best Fabric Store

Buy Fabrics

Decorative Fabric Designs

Denver Fabrics

Discount Designer Fabrics

Fabric Guru

Fabric Mart

Fabric Outlet

Fabric Warehouse

Fabric Wholesale Direct

Fashion Fabric Club

House of Fabric

L.A. Fabrics Online

Nick of Time Textiles

Online Fabric Store

Pophome Fabric

Modern Fabrics

Toto Fabrics

Zarin Fabrics




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