A few things have been brought to my attention over the past few weeks.
The best place to discuss such matters is here on my blog.
As you may or may not be aware I have been in the soap business for 6 years.
Over that time I have learned much and gained many friends and loyal customers (who have also become friends).
Every single part of what appears to be a small business is dealt with by me and me alone. Nobody else really gets a say in what goes on behind the scenes or at the forefront of the business.
So...let me put a few things into perspective and give you something to chew on.
1. I am a soap maker
2. I am a creator of complimentary bathing products and perfume oils.
3. I am a packaging designer and printer.
4. I am an accountant - not certified..but I am one. Nobody else does my daily entries or my tax returns.
5. I am a product analyst.
6. I am my own Public Relations consultant.
7. I am a social media professional (lol).
8. I am a cleaner.
9. I am a web designer and web maintenance person.
10. I am a post room supervisor.....which leads me onto my next subject.
After reading several comments on a certain forum I was a little miffed at some comments I had found with regards to the postage we charge via our on-line shop.
Before I begin please know that I could not have possibly researched more on this subject.
I use Royal Mail to send my parcels who in my experience are the most reliable - apart from a few select couriers.
The reason I use Royal Mail is because their prices and service are never matched...ever.
My packaging charges are as follows:
First item - £3, then 25p per item thereafter. (we just decreased it from 50p thereafter).
Europe - £3, then £1 per item thereafter.
Rest of World - £3.90, then £2.50 per item thereafter.
(bathing grains prices are a little more for the EU and ROW due to the weight).
It is apparent that the prices via Royal Mail for Rest of World delivery IS expensive. Royal Mail really upped their international prices this year, which left us with no option other than to increase our price.
On small packets I make 6p. 6p!
If I were to use a reputable courier at today's rates then the cheapest my customers would pay is £7.99 for UK deliveries...and that's only up to 1kg in weight! THAT is expensive! Don't even get me started on the international prices.
Sure there are the really unreliable couriers who can take up to 2 weeks to get a UK parcel to you...if at all. They charge £3.99 for parcels up to 2kg...but after many a bad experience of parcels going astray when using these couriers, there is no way I would ever deal with them again...no names mentioned for obvious reasons. If a parcel goes missing...a customers first point of contact is me...the business owner, not the bloody courier who may have 'misplaced' their order. Every aspect is on MY head.
I use a franking machine for my postage as it's easy, quick and convenient and for some reason far fewer items have gone astray...maybe it's the business postal stamp that puts the dodgy people off before they plan a heist! Hmmm?
Now then. Let's get down to the nitty gritty.
The price stated on the packet is indeed what we pay but what it doesn't include is the rental cost of the franking machine, the labels needed to print the postage for attaching to the parcel, the ink used when printing or the top up fee we are charged each time we need to increase the amount of postage we have remaining on the machine. You have to top it up...it doesn't just have a never ending supply of postage.
So, each time we top up we have to pay a fee of £7, which over the course of the month can mount up quite significantly. I must become more savvy at that I guess.
The price does not include the cost of the packaging I use (that's an envelope or cardboard box, which at today's rate is 25p per envelope or 50p per box) or the reams of tissue I buy to wrap each and every item in before they go into the parcel or the lovely mini cards we send with every order or the freebies sent with every order. We do not get free packaging from Royal Mail like they do in the states...we have to pay for ours because our little country likes to bleed each and every one of us dry.
The price also doesn't pay for my time taken to package an order. Some say 'your time', like wha?'.
Hell yes, my time!
I have been in the Mail Order business for almost 15 years...so when I say I know my stuff, I know my stuff. At one place I worked we lost that much via Mail Order sales that my boss (at the time) said we may as well throw a 'fiver' in the box with every order cos that's how much we're losing by doing this. A year later he shut down the mail order dept. of his business.
I hasten to add he set it back up again after re-assessing the REAL cost of running it and by real cost I mean the cost of people, product assessment and quality control but most of all....TIME. People take time, which costs a company money. OK? We got that? Good!
My business has upped it's game, no doubt about that. First and foremost I now have a workshop to work from, which gives me a sterile environment and a safe haven for my products...and myself!
Guess what? Yep....it costs money to rent it. It doesn't come for free.
If you have a small business you will know that you also have overheads. They may not be massive but they do exist...and if you don't account for each and every aspect of those overheads in the prices you charge for your products and for your postage, you may as well go out on the street and give your product away.
Being a small business owner should never mean cheap.
I know that I and many other soap makers take great pride in their hand-crafted products. They also take pride in the way they present them and the way they arrive at the doors of their customers.
When I order from large on-line companies I don't get the treatment I give to my customers. I can't speak to the owner of Boots one on one or the owner of Clinique but I can speak to the owner of Indie companies...because they exist. They don't hide behind the abrv. CEO - I know their names and I pretty much know where they live.
So...if you buy indie you are buying into a person's life. You are buying a person's vision and you can talk to them about it. If you like buying this way you will also appreciate what goes into it...or I'd like to think you do.
Remember just because larger companies (like Lush maybe) charge a flat rate of £3.95 for postage it means they probably have a great deal with their courier due to the volume of parcels they ship every single day...and not only that but let's assume I make bath bombs (I don't). I would probably do batches of say 20 bombs of any variety at a time. You think Lush make as few as that? Of course you don't. They make them in their hundreds, maybe thousands. This in turn means they get through a hell of a lot more raw ingredients than would a small company, which also means they'll be getting a much cheaper price for those ingredients and will be buying directly from the source unlike us small businesses who buy from many a middle man.
There is so so much to learn...but if you just asked the questions I would give you the answer.
To me there is nothing worse than a haphazard assumption.