Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The REAL cost of what's in a kit....

This morning I should really be finishing off packing to go to Denman College to teach a sashiko course, but I got up to the following e mail -

I received the kit yesterday - finally! - but there is no sashiko needle! Surely a kit consists of more than one piece of material, a small bundle of thread and a few photocopied pages, not even in order! ... Not good value. Though I do appreciate I need to pay something for your design/idea.

I'm puzzled about the 'not even in order' part, as the kits are packed with the outer 'cover' page facing outward and the inner pages facing inward (as you would open a kit) and the pages are collated by my printer...

When I was at a recent quilt show, this visitor wanted to buy a kit for my sashiko book bag but had run out of funds (I can't process credit cards, the cost of setting up to do this being prohibitive for the number of times I would actually use the system). She wanted to make the book bag twice, in different fabrics from those in any of the kits on sale, so I suggested I could pack up a special kit with twice the amount of fabric and thread in it, but only one set of instructions, to save her money. I did warn her that I might not be able to get the kit done for a few weeks, as I would be away a lot (and finishing off a book, but don't they just write themselves?) The kit costs £8.50, postage and packing is £2 (I'm at the mercy of the Post Office there, and the padded jiffy bags are not free). I added on just £4.25 for the extra fabric and thread.

When I got back home after the show, I was away a lot and couldn't pack up the kit straight away (it meant unpacking and repacking a couple of boxes of stock which were buried in my storage space) but I got it sorted and sent out last week.

So I worked out the actual costs of what goes into that kit...

The striped tsumugi cotton fabric that goes into the kits retails at £8 per metre and there is half a metre in the kit. Unfortunately, the value of the £ to the Japanese Yen has almost halved in the last four years, from 220 Yen to 125 Yen to the £ over the last summer. When there were 220 Yen to £1, the tsumugi cotton cost £6.50 per metre. I have had to put the price up a little to cover the increase in the fabric costs but have not passed on the total increase on the sales price - if I had, the real price would be £11.44 per metre now, so the real retail cost of the half metre of tsumugi is £5.72. I have not been able to find a similar fabric which replicates the tsumugi's texture or strength outside of Japan.+ £5.72

The sashiko thread that goes into the kits costs £3.80 from Euro Japan links for 100 metres. Approx. 6 metres is needed for each kit. +23p.

The book bag kit has five pages of instructions printed in full colour. As I don't use the cheapest printer paper in the kits, that adds about 6p for paper. I also don't use cheap photocopied pages. +6p

Printer inks - I use genuine Epson Durabrite inks. I don't use cheap generic inks in my printer, as I want the pages in the kits to have a decent print quality. The cost of these inks has increased from around £22 for a four ink pack to £34 retail over the four years I have been printing the kit worksheets. Various Epson websites give the cost of printing a colour page using Durabrite inks at approx. 6.2p per page. 6.2 x 5 = 31p.

Cellophane bag to pack the kit = 4p

So the materials, printing and packaging come to £6.36.

So that leaves £2.14 per kit to pay for towards the design development, making the sample and my time packaging the kit. (The UK national minimum wage is £5.80 per hour, though I am aware that quilt designers are supposed to work for about 2p!)

In fact, now I've analysed the total costs of this £8.50 kit in such detail, it makes me wonder why I bother at all!

So the 'special' kit actually cost ((£5.72 fabric + 23p thread) x 2) + 6p paper + 31p printing +4p cello bag = £12.31 to put together. 'Profit' on the whole enterprise (by 'profit' I'm referring to the money left over to pay for my time cutting and packing the kit - oh and paying '
something for your design/idea') £3.94. Time taken to unpack and cut fabric, pack kit and take to post office = more than an hour.

It's the little things like this that make me wonder why I actually bother with making kits up at all. :-(


Anne said...


I am absolutely certain that the wider majority appreciate your skills, education, generosity and talents.

Don't let somebody like this put you off doing the things you do so well. You shouldn't have to explain yourself in this way!

I know that your love of quilting and all things Japanese has been borne from many years of study, an incredible amount of time and research and a passion for Japan which has taken you there many times.

Anybody who purchases from you will be buying into your knowledge and talent. The love for what you do is evident in all that you do.

Perhaps the writer of the e mail should take their chances and buy a pattern and fabrics from an un named high street retailer. I'm sure the results will be close enough for what they need.

Anonymous said...

You can't please everyone, so just concentrate on me... ::Hugs:: anthony

Anonymous said...

Well said Susan! I had a recent complaint that a FQ I had cut was not 20" was actually 50cm which is ever so slightly less!!! So I got a complaint....makes you wonder eh?? Enjoy the joyful customers and 'breathe and smile' at the others!!!

Ferret said...

I did a similar study of my kits when it was suggested I should drop the price from 15 pounds to 10 pounds. The materials alone were more than 10 pounds (and I forgot to add the bag and the pattern). I seem to recall I only costed at wholesale for some of the items too, so at retail it would probably be more than I sell it for. Yeah it's a great earner, no really.

I didn't drop the price. I like to offer the kit as it does make things a lot easier for my students, but the 'profit' doesn't cover the time and hassle.

Lis said...

I can see how an email like that could ruin your day but I do sincerely hope that for every "customer" like that one you have lots more very satisfied ones who appreciate what you do.
I am certainly in that group, having received my copy of Japanese Taupe Blocks today (I was going to put "finally" there but wasn't sure you'd find it amusing today!) The book is wonderful, so much information and detail, beautifully presented and I've barely had time to look properly yet. I'm away at the weekend and it's going to be my reading for the break and I'm sure it's going to be one of those books I'll wonder how I ever managed without, thank you and many congratulations.
I hope you have a good time at Denman :)

Minka's Studio said...

I hear you. Wish I had an answer to your predicament.

Woolly Bits said...

you know, even if you ripped out body parts in your efforts to try and be helpful, some people would still find something to complain about:(( I don't know how many times I've heard a comment like: why is this or that so expensive, I could make this myself far cheaper.... I wonder why they don't try that for a living - probably because they know that people would start nagging them!
some people are like that - it seems to make their day to complain - don't be disheartened and don't let them spoil your day!! (let's face it, you're probably extremely rich with all the books you've published and can afford a subsistence business on the side *wink*)

Susan Briscoe said...

Thanks for all the kind comments!

It felt a like I was perhaps going a bit OTT putting this post on my blog, but I wondered how many other quilters would think the same kind of thing about a kit, so it seemed about time I needed to do an explanation... Almost all of my kits are based on the workshops from earlier years at the Grosvenor quilt shows - I do a different 1 hour workshop every year and a kit version of it the following year. To keep the workshop costs down, the kits have to be priced very competitively (I think next year's is going to be a Yuza Sashiko pincushion!)

If I ever stumble upon a magical supplier of almost free sashiko threads and materials, I'll be sure to let everyone know - but alas, I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. Right now, I would be happy for the GBP to get a bit stronger against the Yen.


I was so relieved when the books finally arrived too...