Your LYS (Local Yarn Store) is so different than a big box store that sells yarn. It's like the difference between a public golf course and a private country club.
How do I come up comparing yarn shops to golf courses?
Well, I have held jobs as a waitress in numerous places. I loved waitressing. I worked at chain restaurants, family-owned, and corporate, private membership clubs. I never used to understand why anyone would want to pay to belong somewhere. But my job at the country club changed my attitude about that and set the standard for how I operate my own LYS.
Customer service was a priority at the country club. We were very well trained. Wait staff was instructed to call the member by name at least four times during the course of service. We were equipped with a crumber, to sweep the table cloth clean after a meal, and carried a lighter in our pockets to catch a member lighting a cigarette before he/she managed to get their own out (this, obviously, was in the days before non-smoking rooms). We loved to surprise them with our attentiveness.
I began to understand why someone would want to buy a membership and then continue to pay a monthly fee to such an establishment. It feels really good to be greeted by name, and your favorite beer deposited in front of you before you even order. It feels good to be known.
Someone browsing my yarn one day asked me why she should buy yarn from me rather than go to the large craft stores that carry yarn.
I think about her question a lot.
It seems to me a local yarn store carries the same misconceptions that a private club does. The attitude is it's exclusive, snobby, for rich people.
That's not really true.
A yarn shop is for everyone. For the doily maker that only uses crochet thread, the afghan knitter that likes washable worsteds, the artsy knitter that wants a luxurious fiber on their skin for that heirloom cardigan.
True, there are some yarns there that are expensive. Looking around at my own inventory, that is very true. But if you look around, you'll find some that are quite reasonable. Quite. Like, you could knit a blanket for $25. That's pretty good.
There's more variety at a LYS. Big box stores might look like they carry a lot of yarn, but it's really a lot of colors of the same kind. If you are an afghan knitter, you are most likely going to shop for washable and worsted. You'll exhaust your fiber options after the second blanket. At a LYS, you can make that afghan in a single spun, try superwash or acrylic, chain construction, core construction, hand dyed, hand spun, all different weights, fibers,etc, galore.
A LYS really knows their customers. I not only know who are my sock knitters, but I know their names. And I know the names of their husbands who receive the socks. I know the colors they prefer.
A yarn shop owner also has a lot in common with his/her customers. They both like to use yarn. The yarn shop owner might have years of experience in handling yarn, reading patterns, creating garments. They can be very informative and love to babble. A customer can get a lot of assistance there. Not just what aisle to find a yarn, but how much to purchase, how to perform a certain technique, how to finish the project for a professional look.
Yarn shops also want you to continue to be their customer. You are not anonymous. We are accommodating and will bend over backwards to help you out. On top of my desk is a hold pile. It's a stash for my customers who buy little at a time for the same project.
So consider becoming a member at your local yarn shop. It doesn't cost a thing, and you'll have a place to go where someone knows your name and understands your needs.