I've been lucky enough to visit a number of LYSes in different parts of the world. The main ones that stick out in my mind are WEBS in Northampton, Massachusetts, the Purple Purl in Toronto, Wooly Minded in Corning, NY, and the Wollmeise shop in Pfaffenhofen in Bavaria.
I must admit I tend to buy my yarn online, mainly for reasons of choice and cost. It's rare that I need yarn RIGHT NOW as I keep a stash, and I plan my projects far enough ahead that if I do need something I don't already have, I have time to order it. LYS purchases tend to be treats, souvenirs. Aside from my stashing habits negating the need for instant yarn acquisition, I don't actually have a really local shop (I don't count Hobbycraft!) The LYSes in London are all at least one train ride away and would need a special journey. I'm not going to make one for a single skein of sock yarn.
However, this is about a wishlist, a dream LYS, so what would I like from a LYS if dreams could be reality? Let's see....
1. Parking or public transport accessibility - if I'm going to have to travel to get to you, I need to a) be able to actually get there easily, and b) park when I find you if I can't walk from a train station. (Actually my dream LYS would be within walking distance but hey...)
2. Discreet staff - I know different customers like different things in shops, and unfortunately customers don't come into shops wearing T-shirts with their shop staff preferences emblazoned across them. Some want chatty friendly helpers who pass the time of day with them. Others want to know you're there if needed but otherwise to be left alone to browse and make their choices. This introvert is very much in the second category. If I need you, I'll let you know! This stand-offishness would not need to be clique-y or exclusive, though. Just because I'm browsing today or making a small purchase doesn't mean I won't come back for a bigger one in future, and I might look young (I got ID'd buying alcohol recently - I'm 40 but apparently look under 25!) but I know what I want to buy and how to use it.
3. Yarn displayed by weight, or by brand - My first preference is for weight. Please display your lace weight together, your 4-ply together, your double-knitting together, your aran together etc. If you're going to display by brand, then please display by weight within that. I have heard of stores where the yarn is displayed by colour although I've never seen it in person. Why would anyone do that?! I'm sure it looks amazing but how on earth a lay-person shopper would find anything without a map is beyond me!
4. Price - now this is where the dream bit really comes in. In the real world, it's very difficult, nigh on impossible, for a brick-and-mortar shop to compete with the internet. If I need yarn immediately I will pay the premium to buy it in person rather than ordering it online. I'm willing to trade off the extra cost of buying it in a "real" shop to be able to use it straight away against needing to wait for a cheaper internet purchase to arrive by post a day or more later. But in my dream LYS, prices would be comparable with internet prices. Dream on, me...
5. A wide range of yarns - the village where I grew up had a wool shop. In the days before the internet, if you wanted wool (and I mean that in the British colloquial sense, meaning anything you knit with that may or may not have been anywhere near a sheep!) you went to the wool shop, or possibly a market stall, or you went to John Lewis in town. The range of yarns available now is much much greater, and unless your store has elastic walls (or is the size of WEBS) you're going to have to limit what you can carry, but I am disappointed to see the traditional "wool shop" offering. A whole wall of pastel shades in 4-ply and DK, some of it entirely synthetic, some being wool blends, in 50g or 100g balls. Ideal if you want to make baby clothes or blankets, perfect for those, in fact. If you're lucky you might even get a small selection of solid coloured wool yarn suitable for socks. What I'd love to see would be the full range of yarn weights, in bright colours, multicolours, different fibre blends, dishcloth cotton (why is that so hard to procure in the UK? Does no one knit or crochet dishcloths here?!), stuff you want to squish and admire just for its beauty as wool first before you can bring yourself to finally knit with it.
6. Something to sit on - for my long-suffering-but-sneakily-enabling husband, and my generally-well-behaved-brought-up-respecting-yarn children if I'm making a short visit, or as somewhere to put things down so I can see two (or more) colours side by side to pick out combos or rule out too-similar shades. I don't mean enough sofas to rival DFS, but one or two sofas, or even a couple of dining-type chairs at a table or ledge would do.
7. Decent lighting - big windows or white artificial light. If I'm looking for navy, I want to be sure it is navy and not black or charcoal or dark brown or dark purple.
8. I don't need a cafe in my yarn shop - if you've got the space for drinks and cakes and the like, you've got space for more stock! I've never quite grasped why the purveyors of something as easily stained and damaged as yarn would allow spillables or sticky things near it.
I think that's enough for now. I'm sure I could think of more ideas but I realise I am dreaming the impossible dream. Off now to fight a windmill!
What would you like to see in your "perfect" LYS?