I love sewing, I really do. I love how I can be stood on the escalator on the tube minding my own business a girl walks past and I spot her skirt in a lovely shape and colour, which sets me off dreaming about the endless variations that I could make. I love how it gives me ideas of how to reuse something I no longer wear rather than chucking it in the bin. I can finally appreciate the quality of an item of clothing, how it should fit me properly and the effort it takes to make something.
However, I am by no means such an accomplished pattern designer that I can do without the use of patterns. In fact I love patterns, whether they are vintage, indie or modern. What I hate is the price. I don’t understand why prices have to be so astronomical in the UK. Ladies and gents blogging in the USA rave about the regular sales at JoAnn’s and other stores where patterns can be found for 99 cents!
The best I can do in the UK is buying through a website like sewdirect.com where, as a member you can buy one pattern and get the other free. All for the princely sum of £11.95, which is equivalent to $18.80. So my US counterparts could have bought 9 patterns for the same amount that I am paying…
What’s that you say? Why don’t you buy your patterns direct from the US? Well, I would, but you see I get charged a ridiculous rate of $20 (for 2 patterns) from somewhere like Club BMV. Does it really cost $20 to package two lightweight patterns into an envelope and ship to the UK? In addition to this, if I get carried away and spend over $18, I am further penalised with importation tax.
So after all this, I am actually better off buying those 2 for 1 patterns…. Then there are the independent online retailers stocking my favourite patterns – Colette Patterns. When I look around I feel like some sort of price-fixing game is going on. All the retailers (at least here in the UK) are all selling them at the same price either £10 or £12 depending on the pattern.
I’m no accountant but I did do some simple maths (maybe I should get the BF to check this, I mean, after all he is the accountant!)
Colette patterns charge roughly $8 to $9 wholesale per pattern. Their recommended retail price is $16 to $18 respectively. That’s 50% profit. I understand that if you were to sell them in a shop you would need a higher profit margin as you have higher overheads than an internet company. So why is this not reflected in the price of online retailers.
What my two pennies worth amounts to is that surely if you market your product competitively by lowering your profit margin, in the long run you will sell more stock, more profit and those customers might also look at some of the other things that you are selling and buy that too.
Essentially, all this sums up my antipathy towards buying haberdashery, fabric and patterns. Whilst I love the act of buying and coming home with something exciting. I can’t help but feel ripped off. It is hardly encouraging to new sewers or people interested in crafting when prices are so exorbitant and off-putting.
John Lewis or big department stores are where a beginner might traditionally wander into because they aren’t particularly threatening and fairly friendly. Indeed when I first started sewing I bought most of my things there because I didn’t know where to go. But their prices aren’t exactly enticing… I realise that part of the reason notions and patterns in the US are much cheaper is because there is much much more in demand there. However, if we don’t price things more affordably, how are we going to encourage more people to get into dressmaking/quilting/crafting?
Susannah from CargoCultCraft showed a simple price comparison between snap fasteners in the US and UK. Yes, its Central London but I think £5.88 for a few snap fasteners is a little nuts too. I don’t like it but living here means I have to put up with that. Even Nancy K commented on the ridiculous prices in Europe comparing what Sigrid would usually pay for a zip in Holland and what it costs in the US.
Even in my local haberdashery, it’s not unusual for me to walk out of the shop having paid £30 to £50 for what amounts to a few buttons, thread and bias binding. This is also the shop where one of the sales staff told me ‘we don’t stock silk organza, it’s too pricey for our customers’. The irony is not lost on me.
Do you agree? Have you been shocked at the difference in prices between the UK and USA? Do you think shops should be more competitive and discount more? Where do you go to buy cheap supplies?