In the meantime, as long as I've been airing my neuroses on the blog, allow me to tell you about another. (At least you don't have to worry that I will stop writing the blog due to running out of things to say: I have enough neuroses to last us well into 2054...)
It is the dreaded question of pricing.
You may laugh at my earnestness, but I take pricing seriously. In a more traditional retail setting, say, a department store, the shop buys at wholesale and marks up the price, knowing that there is a traditional percentage or range that is the standard markup in the industry. (Anybody remember my post on keystone pricing?) But I'm not simply reselling a product as is. I'm adding something intangible to my fibers, something artistic if you'll pardon my pretension. It's hard to place a specific dollar value on what I add to each skein of yarn or batch of roving -- and it's also hard to calculate a dollar value to the "costs" of producing the yarn. (For example, how do you divide the cost of a small jar of dye among who-knows-how-many skeins of yarn that it helps to dye?)
I'm also painfully conscious of wanting to provide good value for knitters. I am a consumer as well as a seller. Like everybody else, I like getting my money's worth and I don't like overpaying. Sometimes, when I surf the 'net looking at other handpaints, I am kind of aghast that the prices have crept up so much. I want to price my stuff fairly and I want to keep it as affordable to the largest number of knitters as I can.* And honestly, I sometimes think it seems absurd to expect people to pay close to thirty dollars for enough yarn to knit a pair of socks, or twenty bucks for four ounces of fiber. Even though they may be perfectly fair prices, given the cost of what goes into them.
I also need to make money, and there's the rub. The cost of wool, especially merino, is rising. The post office raised rates last year. Rising oil prices means it costs more in shipping for me to get supplies. It's hard for me to figure out which costs to pass on to the buyer, and when, and which to suck up. For example, I charge actual postage with no handling fees, so when the Post Office raised rates, I passed that on to the buyer. But some of my wholesalers have raised prices, and I've tried to not pass them on to the buyer. (At least not yet.)
Other more intangible things concern me:
- Is my attempt to keep prices low a psychological undervaluing of what I do, a sort of self-punishing humility?
- Am I being unfair to other dyers, and thereby devaluing what they do, by not charging more?
- Am I being pennywise and pound-foolish when I try to do things to save costs, like not getting fancy labels printed up?
- Do people realize that the reason I use Priority Mail instead of first-class, or UPS, is because I can save a substantial amount of money by getting free Tyvek mailers from the post office and a substantial amount of time by using on-line postage and shipping functions on Paypal? Or do they just think my shipping costs are really high?
- Do I alienate customers by doing some things on cheap? How to decide what to do on the cheap and what to spend money on? Would it be better for me to, say, tie up my packages with fancy bows made of scraps of yarn, or use some kind of packaging, even if that takes away precious time from the dyepots?
- Should I consider more widespread wholesaling of BBF to yarn shops -- would the exposure to a wider customer base help overcome the fact that I'd be making half as much money per skein although my costs would remain the same?
Geez, it's hard being an overanalytical pointy-head who thinks too much.
Anyway, I'm throwing all of this out there so you can understand a little better where I'm coming from. People are very kind and send me lovely emails complimenting my yarns and fibers, and I appreciate that -- and they also throw suggestions at me. I want you to know that I do think about them all, really think about them. Right now, I'm going to continue selling on Etsy, and at Rosie's if they want to continue to stock me, and work on getting my BBF.com website up and running this spring. I may have to raise prices on a few of my items, but I'm going to continue to try to provide the best yarns and fibers at the fairest prices I can (fair to you and fair to me). I'm working on keeping inventory in the shop without sacrificing the individualized style of dyeing that I think makes it worthwhile.
Thanks for listening. I feel better now.
*This is why I get cranky when people resell my stuff on places like Ebay for more than they purchased them for. I have no problem with people reselling stuff, but I had a customer who was extremely high maintenance and after wringing my hands about trying to deal with her myriad of demands, I found out she had a sideline going on of buying knitting-related things and marking them up for resale on Ebay. She was taking the yarns she purchased from me for $20 and listing them with an opening bid of $26. (To add insult to injury, she was also adding a hefty markup for "handling and postage" after giving me a hard time for charging actual postage.) She was doing this with other handdyers' yarns, too, on an on-going basis, so it wasn't just a stash liquidation.