Arts and crafts shops aren’t typically thought of as cutting-edge retail environments. But one chain of sewing and hobby supplies stores, Joann, is signaling it doesn’t want to be an afterthought in conversations about high-tech brick-and-mortar shopping experiences.
Joann said this week that it has invested an undisclosed sum in Glowforge, a Seattle-based startup that sells 3D laser printers for designers, artists, and other tinkerers.
Hudson, OH-based Joann also said it has forged a retail partnership with Glowforge. Printers have already been installed at a Joann “concept” store in Columbus, OH, and at a mall kiosk in Natick, MA, the company said. Joann said it plans to put more of the startup’s printers in some of the 865 Joann stores across the U.S., beginning in 2019.
“By investing in Glowforge and partnering to roll these amazing machines out to our stores, we’ll allow customers to test them out and create things they love,” Stephen Caution, Joann’s vice president of business development, said in a news release.
Glowforge sells 3D printers that use a laser cutter capable of slicing and engraving a variety of materials—examples include wood, fabric, leather, acrylic, paper, and even chocolate, according to the company. By contrast, many of the most popular 3D printer models fashion objects out of plastic fibers. The versatility of Glowforge’s printers may explain their high price point; its cheapest model costs a little under $2,500.
Joann stores with Glowforge printers can custom-make items like acrylic floor lamps and leather bags for shoppers, according to the release. (It did not contain information about the cost of custom orders.)
Customers can take a hand-drawn picture or printout of a digital image and, using software Glowforge has developed to work with its printers, position the image on a rendering before the fabrication process begins. This can be done in-person at participating Joann locations, or by placing an order online, the company said.
It’s not clear from the release whether Joann is paying Glowforge to purchase the printers Joann stores are using, or whether the terms of the partnership call for Glowforge to provide the machines at no cost. A spokesperson for Joann didn’t immediately return a message with questions about deal terms, including whether Glowforge will receive a portion of custom 3D-printed item purchases.
Joann said it also plans to work with Glowforge to “develop supplies and tools to help optimize machine capabilities.”
Glowforge said in April it had launched sales of its line of devices, following multiple delays. It sells the printers on its website and through resellers, including Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN). Glowforge previously raised nearly $28 million in pre-orders in what has been called one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever held on the crowdfunding site.