F+W is selling the Martha Pullen Company and its portfolio of books, patterns, teacher curriculums, in-person and online events, and online embroidery club to Hoffman Media. The sale includes the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo, a suite of eight consumer sewing, quilting and embroidery shows in the US.
The Martha Pullen Company was founded in 1981 in Huntsville Alabama. An entrepreneur in the sewing industry, Pullen founded Sew Beautiful magazine which was in print for more than 30 years and starred in the television show Martha’s Sewing Room which ran on PBS for 17 years. The company became a leader in fine sewing content and education. Hoffman Media bought The Martha Pullen Company in 2004.
F+W acquired The Martha Pullen Company from Hoffman Media in 2012 as part of a strategy to double down on ecommerce of “hard goods” such as buttons, beads, patterns, and fabrics, and move away from a dependency on advertising as a revenue model. F+W’s CEO at that time, David Nussbaum told Folio magazine that he wanted the company to become “the Amazon of passion markets.”Now, six years later, F+W is shifting away from ecommerce.
The Martha Pullen Company is now led by Kathy McMakin who will continue to lead this division under the new ownership. “We had a wonderful relationship with Hoffman Media before it was sold to F+W and we fully expect to have that relationship again, even better. We feel like we’ve come home,” McMaking wrote in an email. “All along Hoffman understood the Martha Pullen business, and how it succeeded as a business: that relationships matter the most. And I think in the sewing industry, that’s the number one thing.”
Marlene Ingraham (left), here with Rhonda Pierce of Euro-notions, Inc. in Kansas, City.
The Original Sewing & Quilt Expo was founded by Mark and Marlene Ingraham in 1995 in Cleveland, Ohio and grew from a single conference to the largest consumer sewing expo in the country. The family sold the show to New Track Media in 2011. F+W bought New Track Media in 2014. The Ingrahams have continued to manage the show throughout and will stay on under the new ownership.
“The value of the event to the magazine business was never fully leveraged at F+W,” says Marlene Ingraham. “People in our industry connect the person, the face, the name, the personality to the product. A live event offers you the chance to meet your end users, meet your customers and engender their loyalty. Hoffman Media is a real family, teamwork, relationship-based company and for that reason, I’m really excited for the team that we’re back home. When you’re in the hands of someone that loves it and understands it, the sky is the limit.”
About changing directioins, F+W’s General Manager, David Pyle, told Craft Industry Alliance In an interview on October 8, “One of the areas that we’re going to shift dramatically is ecommerce. That part of the business has moved in a direction over the last few years that is no longer viable and we’re having to make some changes around how we approach that part of the market. Making great content and being in ecommerce and billing and warehousing and shipping products, those are different businesses and we need to get smarter about how to do that.”
In April the company sold Keepsake Quilting, a catalog business and brick-and-mortar quilt shop they got in the acquisition of New Track Media in 2014.
Regarding F+W’s events business, Pyle said, “Parts of it are challenged. So that’s another part of the business we’re looking at. We don’t have any intention of getting out of the events business, but we’ll be looking at it in the same way that we’re looking everything else.”
Selling Martha Pullen back to Hoffman is a way for F+W to shed more of its ecommerce portfolio as well as pare down its events business.
Hoffman Media publishes 11 Southern interest magazines as well as Classic Sewing. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, the company is growing its print portfolio at a time when many magazine publishers are struggling. Chairman and CEO of Hoffman Media, Phyllis Hoffman DiPiano, said, “We are excited to add this tremendously successful group of sewing, quilting and embroidery shows to our family of brands, and having Mark and Marlene joining our company to continue building the business makes this even better.”
Note: This article was updated on November 13, 2018, to add quotes from Kathy McMakin and Marlene Ingraham.