Friday, February 5, 2010

Insights and Information from the Buyer

Recently we have been told by customers that unfavorable comments are being posted on independent sewing sites regarding our Early Spring “3-2-1 Fabrics” catalogs. This blog post will explain in great detail my thoughts on these very valid issues.

The three main issues being voiced are the omission of the Polar Fleece swatches, the omission of the widths on the rayon prints, the single price point of $3.99 for all the fabrics in this mailing, and the shipping rates on our site.

First, I was presented with a great price on polar fleece from our supplier. As a result, I was able to pick up an incredible amount of yardage for the season and wanted to pass on the savings to our “3-2-1” subscribers. As far as I know, no other fabric store is selling 400 gram wt. polar fleece in 15 fashion colors for $3.99 a yard. This isn’t just a great retail price, but it is a legitimate wholesale price for fleece. The Post Office would not let us mail all the fleece swatches due to size restrictions for bulk mail. To move into a larger envelope for this mailing would put the postage way above what we could allot for the mailing, since, after our members $5.00 merchandise credit, a paid membership is only $4.99 for the year which includes the swatches and postage. So, I made the decision to select the fleece for the “3-2-1 Fabrics” mailing knowing we would only be able to send one swatch for our members to feel the wonderful quality of this fleece. (I feel the quality is quite great.). I wrote a disclaimer on the mailing explaining why no swatches were included, and believed that the price savings would override their absence. We have the swatches all cut, and we have been mailing them for free upon request to those members who have called us. The fleece was too good of a value to not offer for our members, and I would not have been able to offer the low price is I had to pay the extra postage. The situation was a double edged sword. This was an experiment, and I will make sure that in the future, we stick to mailing out 30 swatches. It will just limit the offerings to a small degree.

It is also important to note that, as always, the color photos and a complete description is on the website in the “3-2-1 Fabrics” section. But you must be logged in to view them. This prevents non 321 Members from viewing and purchasing the $3.99 special. This is not the same as a swatch, but at the price point for the quality it offered makes up for it. And, again, we have been mailing out the swatches of the colors upon request at no additional charge to our members.

Also, please know that I am constantly trying to mix the catalog up and offer different things at low price points, we want to keep you sewing, and to do that sewing must be affordable. Competing against ready-to-wear discount retailers is very difficult, but specials like this make it competitive and exciting for fabric retailers.

The second issue was that the rayon challis widths were missing from the mailer. This was totally my fault and an over site. I sent out first draft .doc to be printed instead of the final draft. It was printed before I caught my mistake. I am very sorry. The widths and a complete description are always posted on the website, and if you call our Swatch Line at 1-800-433-4313, we will always answer any and all questions. Someone is available Mon thru Friday, 9:00-5:00PM CST.

The third issue is about price. When the catalog first started, 4 years ago, we did offer 10 swatches at each price point. But this limited the quality and yardage of many of the fabrics. We found we were sold out of many of the fabrics within the first few weeks of the mailing. Almost two years ago we changed the format of the catalog, we promoted this change on the website within its description online, and in our brochures and sign-up handouts, thus eliminating the 10 fabric offerings at each price point. We still promote all three price points, but when deals like the polar fleece come up or the 15 piece polyester print collection that can be offered at $1.99/yd., I wanted the flexibility to be able to offer it.

Thus, I changed the focus to become more on providing great deals of superior quality fabrics and less about trying to come up with 10 inexpensive fabrics we could sell for $1.99 a yard. I simply could not put out as high a quality offering each issue with the past price restrictions. I think was a positive move and as a subscription service the catalog provides a great value and is a wonderful complement to our Vogue Fabrics by Mail Swatch Catalog.

Pause….I know this is long and I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read this blog post. I just have one more issue- our shipping rates.

Lastly, I would like to address the shipping issues. We get feedback that our shipping prices are too high. This is not our fault. Our rates are attained directly from USPS and UPS thru their real time shipping calculators. The rates are based on weight, distance, and shipping method. We do not add a surcharge or handling charge for any of the packages or methods. In fact, clearly stated at the bottom of our homepage is this disclaimer,

“Shipping rates are based on weight, location, and shipping method. Rates are attained from UPS and USPS. We do not add handling charges to published rates. If we are able to provide an alternative to selected shipping method and there is a discount in postage, it will show up on in your payment method statement.
Wholesale full piece customers, we recommend purchases to be shipped via UPS.
International customers we highly recommend USPS as your shipper.
Any questions on shipping please email us.”

On a regular basis I am issuing refunds on shipping charges when we find we can ship packages for less, like when we can fit an order into a Flat Rate Box which the computer can not calculate. We are actually issuing shipping credits when we can.

We do not base our shipping charges on dollar amount like some fabric sites do. We are not owned by Amazon.com, allowing us access to incredible shipping incentive discounts provided to them. We also do not operate two different ecommerce fabric sites promoting the same inventory. We have low prices and high quality fabrics. At times the shipping rates will be more than the cost of 2 ½ yards of fabric. We are diligently working hard with our shipping companies and hope to one day soon to be able to offer flat rate shipping on all orders within the continental United States.

Thank you for your patronage, support, words of praise, and comments of discontent. Keep on Sewing!

Sincerely,
Sean

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